Performance of rabbit does housed in collective pens and individual cages

L.C. Machado, E. Martínez-Paredes, C. Cervera

Abstract

In society today, there is increasing concern for the welfare of farm animals. New models of rabbit breeding are proposed, such as group housing of rabbit does in a semi-group system or environmental enrichment of individual housing. This work aimed to evaluate the reproductive performance and metabolic aspects of rabbit does housed in collective pens, comparing them to individual cages provided with a platform. Forty-eight animals were distributed in 24 individual cages (40×98×57 cm; width, length and height) and four collective pens (six does per pen; 240×100×65 cm) and remained during four cycles. The does previously housed in collective pens gained less weight and reached lighter weights by the first insemination day (3669 vs. 3872 g; P<0.01), but regained weight over the cycles and had a similar weight during the experiment (4306 vs. 4329 g). It was observed that there was a lower feed intake in the period before delivery in collective pens, which contributed to the lower kit birth weights (57.2 vs. 60.1 g/kit for collective pens and individual cage respectively, P<0.05). There were no differences in perirenal fat thickness, litter size at birth and milk yield, although does housed in collective pens had a lower feed intake (499 vs. 526 g dry matter/d for collective pens and individual cage, respectively; P<0.001) and lost more perirenal fat after grouping (–0.05 vs. +0.15 mm for collective pens and individual cage, respectively; P<0.05), and produced less milk the day after grouping (221 vs. 283 g for collective pens and individual cage, respectively; P<0.05). In collective pens, a higher number of inseminations to reach a pregnancy (1.43 vs. 1.24 for collective pens and individual cage, respectively; P<0.05) and lower number of weaned (56 vs. 66 for collective pens and individual cage, respectively; P<0.05) kits per doe per year were revealed for does in individual cages. Overall, the use of collective pens prejudiced some parameters and needs to be economically evaluated for adoption on commercial rabbit farms.


Keywords

rabbit breeding; welfare; housing systems; semi-group system

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 Universitat Politècnica de València

 

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