Grouping of breeding rabbit does at different time points: effects on fertility, mortality and weight

Michèle Braconnier, Chiara Munari, Yamenah Gómez, Sabine Gebhardt-Henrich

Abstract

Semi-group housing in breeding does has been shown to reduce production and breeding success in comparison to single-housed animals. One reason for this reduction could be stress and aggression when grouping does only 2 d after artificial insemination. The aim of this study was to test different time points of grouping on fertility of does, body weight of both kits and does, and mortality rates. Hence, does were separated and housed individually one day before giving birth to their kits. The does were then artificially inseminated on day 10 postpartum (dpp) and regrouped according to the treatment (time point) on 12 (TG12), 18 (TG18), or 22 (TG22) dpp, respectively. In total, five trials with three groups pertaining to the three treatments (eight does per treatment group) were conducted. Non-pregnant does were replaced with pregnant does before each new trial (57 different does needed). Data were analysed with (generalised) linear mixed effect models and survival analysis. There were no significant differences in fertility, body weight or mortality of does among the treatments. The average fertility rate (number of kindling events/number of artificial inseminations×100) was low (40.92%) and seasonal effects may have partially masked treatment effects, as most trials took place during winter. Likewise, the survival rate of kits was not influenced by the treatment (survival test: χ2=2.3, df = 2, P = 0.3). Body weight of the kits was also not affected by the time point of grouping (average weight: 447.70±46.42 g (TG12), 452.20±55.30 g (TG18) and 460.06±89.23 g (TG22); P = 0.33). In conclusion, grouping does at a later time point in the reproductive cycle did not show any significant improvement in the breeding or productive success in a Swiss semi-group housing system. An elongated separation from conspecifics did not enhance the welfare of semi-group housed rabbits.


Keywords

rabbit; reproduction; survival rate; semi-group housing; management; body weight

Full Text:

PDF

References

Albers P.C.H., de Vries H. 2001. Elo-rating as a tool in the sequential estimation of dominance strengths. Anim. Behav., 61: 489-495. https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.2000.1571

Al-Saef A.M., Khalil M.H., Al-Homidan A.H., Al-Dobaib S.N., Al-Sobayil K.A., García M.L., Baselga M. 2008. Crossbreeding effects for litter and lactation traits in a Saudi project to develop new lines of rabbits suitable for hot climates. Livest. Sci., 118: 238-246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2008.01.025

Andrist C.A., Bigler L., Würbel H., Roth B.A. 2014. Masking odour when regrouping rabbit does: Effect on aggression, stress and lesions. Livest. Sci., 170: 150-157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2014.10.017

Andrist C.A., Bigler L.M., Würbel H., Roth B.A. 2012. Effects of group stability on aggression, stress and injuries in breeding rabbits. Appl. Anim. Behavi. Sci., 142: 182-188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2012.10.017

Arias-Álvarez M., García-García R.M., Torres-Rovira L., González-Bulnes A., Rebollar P.G., Lorenzo P.L. 2010. Influence of hormonal and nonhormonal estrus synchronization methods on follicular and oocyte quality in primiparous lactating does at early postpartum period. Theriogenology, 73: 26-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.theriogenology.2009.07.017

Bates D., Maechler M., Bolker B., Walker S. 2019. lme4: Linear Mixed-Effects Models using “Eigen” and S4. Available at https://cran.r-project.org/package=lme4 Accessed March 2020.

Bench C.J., Gonyou,H.W. 2007. Effect of environmental enrichment and breed line on the incidence of belly nosing in piglets weaned at 7 and 14 days-of-age. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 105: 26-41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2006.06.010

Braconnier M., Gómez Y., Gebhardt-Henrich S.G. 2020. Different regrouping schedules in semi group-housed rabbit does: Effects on agonistic behaviour, stress and lesions. Appl. Anim.Behav. Sci., 228, 105024. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2020.105024

Buijs S., Maertens L. 2015. Impact of housing system (cage vs. part-time housing) and floor type on rabbit doe welfare. In Proc.: 19th International Symposium on Housing and Diseases of Rabbits, Fur Providing Animals and Pet Animals.

Canty A., Ripley B. 2019. boot: Bootstrap Functions (Originally by Angelo Canty for S). Available at https://cran.r-project.org/package=boot. Accessed March 2020.

Cardinali R., Dal Bosco A., Bonanno A., Di Grigoli A., Rebollar P.G., Lorenzo P.L., Castellini C. 2008. Connection between body condition score, chemical characteristics of body and reproductive traits of rabbit does. Livest. Sci., 116: 209–215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2007.10.004

Castellini C., Bosco A.D., Mugnai C. 2003. Comparison of different reproduction protocols for rabbit does: effect of litter size and mating interval. Livest. Prod. Sci., 83: 131-139. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0301-6226(03)00070-8

Chu L.R., Garner J.P., Mench J.A. 2004. A behavioral comparison of New Zealand White rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) housed individually or in pairs in conventional laboratory cages. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 85: 121-139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2003.09.011

Coureaud G., Schaal B., Coudert P., Hudson R., Rideaud P., Orgeur P. 2000. Mimicking Natural Nursing Conditions Promotes EarlyPup Survival in Domestic Rabbits. Ethology, 106: 207-225. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1439-0310.2000.00521.x

Dal Bosco A., Mugnai C., Martino M., Szendrő Z., Mattioli S., Cambiotti V., Cartoni Mancinelli A., Moscati L., Castellini C. 2019. Housing Rabbit Does in a Combi System with Removable Walls: Effect on Behaviour and Reproductive Performance. Animals, 9: 528. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080528

DiVincenti L., Rehrig A.N., Rehrig A.N. 2016. The Social Nature of European Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science: JAALAS.

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority). 2005. The impact of the current housing and husbandry systems on the health and welfare of farmed domestic rabbits. EFSA Journal. 267: 1-31. https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2005.267

Gerencsér Z., Matics Z., Szabó R.T., Kustos K., Mikó A., Nagy I., Odermatt M., Atkári T., Szendrő Z. 2019. Aggressiveness, Mating Behaviour and Lifespan of Group Housed Rabbit Does. Animals, 9: 708. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100708

Graf S.B.A.B. 2010. Aspekte des agonistischen Verhaltens weiblicher Zuchtkaninchen in der Gruppenhaltung 127.

Graf S., Bigler L., Failing K., Würbel H., Buchwalder T. 2011. Regrouping rabbit does in a familiar or novel pen: Effects on agonistic behaviour, injuries and core body temperature. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 135: 121-127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2011.10.009

Harned M.A., Casida L.E. 1969. Some postpartum reproductive phenomena in the domestic rabbit. J. Anim. Sci., 28: 785-801. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas1969.286785x

Højsgaard U.H.S. 2017. pbkrtest: Parametric Bootstrap and Kenward Roger Based Methods for Mixed Model Comparison. Available at https://cran.r-project.org/package=pbkrtest. Accessed March 2020.

Holst D. von, Hutzelmeyer H., Kaetzke P., Khaschei M., Rödel H.G. 2002. Social rank, fecundity and lifetime reproductive success in wild European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Behav Ecol Sociobiol., 51: 245-254. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-001-0427-1

Holst D. von, Hutzelmeyer H., Kaetzke P., Khaschei M., Schönheiter R. 1999. Social rank, stress, fitness, and life expectancy in wild rabbits. Naturwissenschaften, 86: 388-393. https://doi.org/10.1007/s001140050638

Hudson R., Shaal B., Bilkó Á., Altbäcker V. 1996. Just three minutes a day: The behaviour of young rabbits viewed in the context of limited maternal care. In Proc. 6th World Rabbit Congress, 1996 July, Toulouse, France. 2: 395-403. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2007.01447.x

Hudson R., Shaal B., Martínez-Gómez M., Distel H. 2000. Motheryoung relations in the European rabbit: physiological and behavioural locks and keys. World Rabbit Sci., 8: 85-90. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2000.424

Kermabon A.Y., Prunier A., Djiane J., Salesse R. 1995. Gonadotropins in Lactating Sows Exposed to Long or Short Days during Pregnancy and Lactation: Serum Concentrations and Ovarian Receptors1. Biol. Reprod., 53: 1095-1102. https://doi.org/10.1095/biolreprod53.5.1095

Kulik L., Neumann C. 2019. EloRating: Animal Dominance Hierarchies by Elo Rating. Available at https://cran.rproject.org/web/packages/EloRating/index.html. Accessed September 2019.

Machado L.C., Martínez-Paredes E., Cervera C. 2019. Performance of rabbit does housed in collective pens and individual cages. World Rabbit Sci., 27: 227-235. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2019.11540

Maertens, L., Buijs, S. 2015. Production performances of semigroup housed rabbit does. In Proc.: 19th International Symposium on Housing and Diseases of Rabbits, Furproviding Animals and Pet Animals. Celle, Germany, pp. 22–31.

Manteca X. 1998. Neurophysiology and assessment of welfare. Meat Sci., 49: 205-218. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0309-1740(98)90049-3

Mugnai C., Dal Bosco A., Castellini C. 2009. Effect of different rearing systems and pre-kindling handling on behaviour and performance of rabbit does. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 118: 91-100. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2009.02.007

Munari C., Mugnai C., Braconnier M., Toscano M.J., Gebhardt-Henrich S.G. 2020. Effect of different management protocols for grouping does on aggression and dominance hierarchies. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 104999. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2020.104999

Pratt N.C., Lisk R.D. 1991. Role of progesterone in mediating stress-related litter deficits in the golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus). J. Reprod. Fert., 92: 139-146. https://doi.org/10.1530/jrf.0.0920139

R Core Team. 2019. A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. https://www.R-project.org/

Rödel H.G., Starkloff A., Bautista A., Friedrich A.C., Von Holst D. 2008. Infanticide and maternal offspring defence in European rabbits under natural breeding conditions. Ethology, 114: 22-31. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2007.01447.x

Rommers J.M., Boiti C., De Jong I., Brecchia G. 2006. Performance and behaviour of rabbit does in a group-housing system with natural mating or artificial insemination. Reprod. Nutr. Dev., 46: 677-687. https://doi.org/10.1051/rnd:2006038

Rommers J.M., Kemp B., Houwers H.W., Gunnink H., De Jong I.C. 2012. Description of nestbox visits and suckling events in a group housing system for rabbit does as compared to individual cages. World Rabbit Sci., 20: 231-240. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2012.1231

Schlolaut W., Hudson R., Rödel H.G. 2013. Impact of rearing management on health in domestic rabbits: A review. World Rabbit Sci., 21: 145-159. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2013.1029

Szendrő Z., Trocino A., Hoy S., Xiccato G., Villagrá A., Maertens L. (2019). A review of recent research outcomes on the housing of farmed domestic rabbits: reproducing does. World Rabbit Sci., 27: 1-14. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2019.10599

Szendrő Z., Mikó A., Odermatt M., Gerencsér Z., Radnai I., Dezséry B., Garai É., Nagy I., Szendrő K., Matics Z., 2013a. Comparison of performance and welfare of singlecaged and group-housed rabbit does. Animal, 7: 463-468. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731112001760

Szendrő Z., Mikó A., Odermatt M., Gerencsér Z., Radnai I., Dezséry B., Garai É., Nagy I., Szendrő K., Matics Z. 2013b. Comparison of performance and welfare of single-caged and group-housed rabbit does. Animal, 7: 463-468. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731112001760

Theau-Clément M. 2000. Advances in biostimulation methods applied to rabbit reproduction. In Proc.: 7th World Rabbit Congress, 4-7 july 2000, Valencia, Spain, 8: 61-79.

Therneau T.M. 2019. survival: Survival Analysis. Available at https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/survival/index.html. Accessed September 2019.

Vella D., Donnelly T.M. 2012. Basic Anatomy, Physiology, and Husbandry, 3rd ed., Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents. Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-4160-6621-7.00012-9

Abstract Views

1030
Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM




 

 Universitat Politècnica de València

 

Official journal of the World Rabbit Science Association (WRSA)

 

e-ISSN: 1989-8886     ISSN: 1257-5011   https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs