Reproductive response of prepubertal female rabbit to photoperiod and/or male presence
A study was undertaken to determine, in tropical breeding conditions, the effect of mate presence and/or photoperiod on age at puberty attainment, oestrous behaviour and breeding performance in prepubertal female rabbits. The study involved 3 treatment groups of seven does each, designated as A, B and C. Group A, rabbits were exposed to both extended light (+ 6 hours) and male presence. Group B, does were subjected to extended light only, whereas those in group C were treated to male presence only. Group D rabbits which were not subjected to any of the two treatment factors (photoperiod and male presence) servad as the control group.
The data obtained indicated that the does subjected to either one or both treatment factors attained puberty earlier (142.4 ± 2.0 days) than the control group (167.1 ± 5.0 days). Weight at puberty was also significantly (P<0.05) lighter (1.34 ± 0.04 kg) in the does exposed to male presence and/or photoperiod than the control group (1.50 ± 0.06 kg). Oestrous behaviour in terms of mean frequency and "intensity" of oestrus as well as length of the cycle were significantly (P<0.05) improved in the treatment groups than the control. The duration of oestrus (heat) was however shorter among the treatment groups. With respect to breeding performance, kindling rate was much higher among the treatment does (66.03 ± 2.8 %) than the control (50.00 ± 3.1 %). However, differences in gestation length, litter size and litter weight were not statistically significant (P>0.05). Pseudopregnancy in proportion of non fertile matings was significantly (P<0.05) higher among the treatment groups (50. 1 ± 2.3 %) than the control ( 33.33 ± 3.5 % ).
lt was concluded that the exposure of young female rabbits to male presence and/or photoperiod may serve as a useful and relatively inexpensive management tool in improving rabbit production in the tropics since the technique has the potential to induce early puberty, amplify behaviour eostrus and improve kindling ratas.
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