Energy balance and body reserves in rabbit females selected for longevity

H. Garreau, C. Larzul, F. Tudela, J. Ruesche, V. Ducrocq, L. Fortun-Lamothe


The aim of this study was to compare the energy balance and dynamic of body reserves in rabbit females divergently selected for longevity. One hundred and twenty-nine females from a high longevity line (HL) and 131 females of a low longevity line (LL) were studied from the 1st to the 3rd kindling. Litter size and weight and female body weight were measured at kindling (1st, 2nd and 3rd), insemination (2nd and 3rd) and at weaning (1st and 2nd). The total body electric conductivity (TOBEC) method was used to estimate the body reserves in all females at artificial insemination and at weaning, and at kindling in females that achieved parturition. Energy balance between the 11th and the 21th d of lactation was also calculated for these females. No significant difference was found for fertility or for the number of offspring born alive and weaned. However, the total number of offspring born was higher in the LL line than in the HL line at the 2nd parturition (+1.12±0.46 g; P<0.05). Consequently, the number of stillborn offspring was higher in the LL line. LL females were 4% heavier than HL females at the first parturition (P<0.05), but then HL females had a higher live weight gain than LL females from the 1st parturition to the 2nd artificial insemination (+107.0±29 g; P=0.049), leading to a similar weight between the lines at the 2nd artificial insemination. There was no significant difference between lines for estimated energy used for growth between the 11th and the 21th d of lactation, or for estimated milk production (2365±30 g in HL line vs. 2398±30 g in LL line), estimated using the weight gain of the kits between the 11th and 21st d of lactation, for feed intake measured during this period (351±5 g/d in HL line vs. 359±5 g/d in LL line) or for energy balance (–6.11±0.3 MJ in HL line vs. –6.30±0.3 MJ in LL line). However, body energy content was higher in HL females than in LL (+2.72±0.64 MJ; P=0.001). In conclusion, selection for higher functional longevity results in a better ability of females to use body reserves in their early reproductive life.


rabbit; selection; longevity; energy balance; body reserves

Full Text:



Bolet G., Fortun-Lamothe L. 2002. Relationship between body condition and reproductive performances in rabbit does. Proceedings of the 3rd meeting of workgroups 3 and 4. COST action 848, Communication n° 23. Ispra, Italy.

Bonanno A., Mazza F., Di Grigoli A., Alicata M.L. 2005. Assessment of a method for evaluating the body condition of lactating rabbit does: preliminary results. Italian J. Anim. Sci., 4: 560-560.

Castellini C., Dal Bosco A., Cardinali R. 2006. Long term effect of post-weaning rhythm on the body fat and performance of rabbit doe. Reprod. Nutr. Dev., 46: 195-204.

Castellini C., Dal Bosco A., Arias-Álvarez M., Lorenzo P.L., Cardinali R., Rebollar P.G. 2010. The main factors affecting the reproductive performance of rabbit does: A review. Anim. Reprod. Sci., 122: 174-182.

De Blas J.C., Mateos G.G. 2010. Feed formulation, in: De Blas J.C., Wiseman J. (Eds.), The Nutrition of the rabbit. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK, 222-232.

Feugier A., Fortun-Lamothe L. 2006. Extensive reproductive rhythm and early weaning improve body condition and fertility of rabbit does. Anim. Res., 55: 459-470.

Fortun-Lamothe L. 2006. Energy balance and reproductive performance in rabbit does. Anim. Reprod. Sci., 93 : 1-15.

Fortun-Lamothe L., Sabater F. 2003. Estimation de la production laitière des lapines à partir de la croissance des lapereaux. In Proc: 10èmes Journées de la Recherche Cunicole, 19-20 november, 2003, Paris. 69-72.

Fortun-Lamothe L., Prunier A., Bolet G., Lebas F. 1999. Physiological mechanisms involved in the effects of concurrent pregnancy and lactation on foetal growth and mortality in the rabbit. Livest. Prod. Sci., 60: 229-241.

Fortun-Lamothe L., De Rochambeau H., Lebas F., Tudela F. 2000. Influence of the number of suckling young on reproductive performance in intensively reared rabbits does. In Proc: 7th World Rabbit Congress, 4-7 July, 2000. Valencia, Spain. 126-132.

Fortun-Lamothe L., Lamboley-Gaüzère B., Bannelier C. 2002. Prediction of body composition in rabbit females using Total Body Electrical Conductivity (TOBEC). Livest. Prod. Sci., 78: 133-142.

French Ministry of Agriculture. 2013. Decree no 2013-118 of the 1st February 2013. Journal officiel no 0032 of the 7th February 2013, page 2199.

Gidenne T., Fortun-Lamothe L. 2002. Feeding strategy for young rabbit around weaning: a review of digestive capacity and nutritional needs. Anim. Sci., 75: 169-184.

Larzul C., Ducrocq V., Tudela F., Juin H., Garreau H. 2014. The length of productive life can be modified through selection: an experimental demonstration in the rabbit. J. Anim. Sci., 92: 2395-2401.

Lopez S., Chretien L., Salaün J.M., Wacquez P.A. 2013a. Etude descriptive des mortalités des femelles reproductrices en élevage cunicole. In Proc : 15èmes Journées de la Recherche Cunicole, 19-20 November, 2013. Le Mans, 189-192

Lopez S., Chretien L., Salaün J.M., Wacquez P.A. 2013b. Etude descriptive des causes de réforme des femelles reproductrices en élevage cunicole. In Proc : 15èmes Journées de la Recherche Cunicole, 19-20 November, 2013. Le Mans, 193- 196.

Nagai J., Lin C.Y., Sabour M.P. 1995. Lines of mice selected for reproductive longevity, Growth Dev. Aging., 59: 79-91.

Nicodemus N., Pereda N., Romero C., Rebollar P.G. 2009. Évaluation de la technique d’impédance bioélectrique (IBE) pour estimer la composition corporelle de lapines reproductrices. 13èmes Journées de la Recherche Cunicole, Le Mans, France.

Parigi-Bini R., Xiccato G. 1990. Répartition de l’énergie alimentaire chez la lapine non gestante pendant la première lactation. 5èmes Journées de la recherche cunicole en France, Paris, France.

Parigi-Bini R., Xiccato G., Cinetto M. 1990. Energy and protein retention and partition in rabbit does during first pregnancy. Cuni-Sci., 6: 19-29.

Parigi-Bini R., Xiccato G., Cinetto M., Dalle-Zotte A. 1992. Energy and protein utilization and partition in rabbit does concurrently pregnant and lactating. Anim. Prod., 55: 153-162.

Pascual J.J., Motta W., Cervera C., Quevedo F., Blas E., Fernández-Carmona J. 2002. Effect of dietary energy source on the performance and perirenal fat thickness evolution of primiparous rabbit does. Anim. Sci., 75: 267-279.

Rosell J.M., de la Fuente L.F. 2008. Health and body condition of rabbit does on commercial farms. In Proc: 9th World Rabbit Congress, 10-13 June, 2008. Verona, Italy. 1065-1069.

Rosell J.M., de la Fuente L.F. 2009. Culling and mortality in breeding rabbits. Prev. Vet. Med., 88: 120-127.

Sánchez J.P., Theilgaard P., Mínguez C., Baselga M. 2008. Constitution and evaluation of a long-lived productive rabbit line. Anim. Genet., 86: 515-525.

Savietto D., Cervera C., Blas E., Baselga M., Larsen T., Friggens N.C., Pascual J.J. 2013. Environmental sensitivity differs between rabbit selected for reproductive intensity and longevity. Animal, 7: 1969-1977.

Savietto D., Friggens N.C., Pascual J.J. 2015. Reproductive robustness differs between generalist and specialist maternal rabbit lines: the role of acquisition and allocation of resources. Genet. Sel. Evol., 47: 2.

Theilgaard P., Sánchez J.P., Pascual J.J., Friggens N.C., Baselga M. 2006. Effect of body fatness and selection for prolificacy on survival of rabbit does assessed using a cryopreserved control population. Livest. Sci., 103: 65-73.

Theilgaard P., Sánchez J.P., Pascual J.J., Berg P., Friggens N.C., Baselga M. 2007. Late reproductive senescence in a rabbit line hyper selected for reproductive longevity and its association with body reserves. Genet. Sel. Evol., 39: 207-223.

Theilgaard P., Baselga M., Blas E., Friggens N.C., Cervera C., Pascual J.J. 2009. Differences in productive robustness in rabbits selected for reproductive longevity or litter size. Animal, 3: 637-646.

Xiccato G., Trocino A. 2010. Energy and protein metabolism and requirements, in: De Blas, J.C., Wiseman, J. (Eds.), The Nutrition of the rabbit. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK,. 83-

Xiccato G., Trocino A., Sartori A., Queaque P.I. 2004. Effect of parity order and litter weaning age on the performance and body energy balance of rabbit does. Livest. Prod. Sci., 85: 239-251.

Abstract Views

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


Cited-By (articles included in Crossref)

This journal is a Crossref Cited-by Linking member. This list shows the references that citing the article automatically, if there are. For more information about the system please visit Crossref site

1. Reproductive Diseases in Farmed Rabbit Does
Joan Maria Rosell, Luis Fernando de la Fuente, María Teresa Carbajo, Xosé María Fernández
Animals  vol: 10  issue: 10  first page: 1873  year: 2020  
doi: 10.3390/ani10101873


 Universitat Politècnica de València


Official journal of the World Rabbit Science Association (WRSA)


e-ISSN: 1989-8886     ISSN: 1257-5011