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Feed, environment... What factors influence rabbit mating success? Logo Feedia

Unlike most domestic mammal species, a doe’s menstrual cycle is not marked by regular heating periods. Therefore it is up to the farmer to find the best time for mating rabbits. In addition to this difficulty is which feeding program to apply as it will have a definite impact on bucks and does’ breeding performances.

One of the main features of breeding rabbits compared to other mammals lies in the fact that rabbit does do not go through specific heating periods. A doe is in fact more or less in permanent oestrus. The mating process is therefore likely at any time to trigger an ovulation. Yet the act of mating naturally two rabbits together is time-consuming. Mating success requires that farmers interfere on a daily basis in order to help rabbits mate together, particularly in small and medium-sized farms. Therefore a few precautions must be taken to perform this difficult task.

How can we ensure that the doe is sufficiently receptive before mating?

A doe ready for mating must be at least four months old and have reached about 75% of its adult weight. Mating must absolutely take place in the male’s cage, preferably early in the morning or in the evening, during the coolest hours (especially in hot countries such as those). To do this, the doe must be placed in the male’s cage. Breeding performances will depend on the doe’s health and her receptivity. Her vulva should be dark pink. If her vulva is pale, white or purplish pink, it means that she is not fully receptive. The female’s acceptance of the male should be quick and natural. Take caution because the slightest sign of reluctance can lead to a fight. Also check that the female is not already pregnant, otherwise she could turn down the male. Our experts advise that the rabbit and the doe be mated twice before removing the male from the cage. This action can be repeated 10 days later to maximize the chances at success.

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What feeding behavior should we implement for maximizing does’ fertility?

Feed quality. The breeding rate should be adjusted depending on the seasons, the litter size, the female’s age and her physical condition. Feed quality also plays a major role in this respect. If the doe has access to a rich diet (forage, a complete feed used in a very restricted way), it is better to wait until weaning to put them back to mating. With a well-balanced and complete feed, the mating delay must be adapted depending on the size of the previous litter: up to 7 days for a 1 to 3- rabbit litter; 10 days for 4 / 6 baby-rabbit litter and 15 days for a 7-baby-rabbit litter.

Restricted feeding. Does may be subject to restricted feeding during the maintenance and gestation phase (minimum 150 g if they are pregnant). It is important to feed them ad libitum at the beginning of lactation because their requirements are doubled during this period (minimum 350g only for suckling does). A nutritional deficiency before mating may reduce the ovulation rate and embryonic viability. A nutritional deficit around the lactation peak will have a negative impact on milk production and hence, on baby rabbits’ weight and viability.

Completementary feed. Using a highly concentrated complementary feed (energy, protein, amino acids, vitamins, trace elements) can help to improve the breeding results. When given at key periods of the cycle, it will contribute to match the doe’s requirements and result in a flushing effect. It can also be distributed to breeding bucks in order to improve their semen quality.

How many mating acts should be done per male a day?

Semen characteristics vary a lot from male to male. It is important to note down the performance results on separate record sheets. That way we will be able to select bucks based on their breeding potential. Young bucks are able to breed from 5 or 6 months old, but they should only start mating gradually. It is recommended however, that not more than one mating be performed per day for each male as usually, the second ejaculation often contains much more sperm. It is also important to observe a time delay of one day between two mating acts.

How can we feed bucks to optimize fertility?

The way bucks are fed impacts their semen quality but also their libido. A buck’s voluntary feed intake when less than 5 months old is approximately 170 g / day. If a buck is given a fairly low energy feed, for instance a fattening feed, it is better to feed him ad libitum. Take caution, however, that he does not become too fat as this could negatively impact his breeding performance. With a maternity type of feed or a specific feed designed for males, bucks can be submitted to restricted feeding (around 160 g / day) in order to limit their weight gain. Yet we must ensure that the ingestion level is not too limited otherwise this could reduce their libido, their semen volume and affect the quality of spermatozoa.

Many other factors, such as consideration of the post-gestation period, hormonal methods and lighting programs, can influence the breeding success rate. Are you a feed miller willing to help farmers maximize the breeding potential of their rabbit farms? If so, our rabbit experts will provide guidance on the most efficient nutritional programs to implement. Please contact us if there is any way we can help you!

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