Comparison of performance and welfare of single-caged and group-housed rabbit does

Z. Szendrő, A. Mikó, M. Odermatt, Zs Gerencsér, I. Radnai, B. Dezséry, É Garai, I. Nagy, K. Szendro, Zs Matics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although rabbit does are generally single housed on rabbit farms worldwide, it has been suggested by some specialists and recommendation of organic rabbit production systems that group housing of does is more comfortable and similar to the living conditions of the European wild rabbits. The aim of this experiment was to compare production of single-caged (S) and group-housed does (G). The S does were housed in commercial rabbit cages (floor area 0.32 m2 and 0.3 m high). In treatment G, four does and one buck were housed in four pens measuring 7.7 m2 (half of the floor was deep litter and the other half was plastic slat), with four nest boxes in each pen (n = 16). In treatment S, approximately half of the does (n = 18) were inseminated 2 days after kindling (S-33), whereas in the remaining does (n = 16) AI was done 11 days after kindling (S-42). A single-batch system (all of the does in the group were inseminated on the same day) was used in both S treatments. Kindling rates were 77.6%, 85.2% and 45.6% in treatments S-33, S-42 and G, respectively (P <0.05). During the experiment, the percentage of does that kindled 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 times were 17%, 25%, 17%, 25%, 17% and 0% (G); 0%, 0%, 0%, 8%, 69% and 23% (S-33); and 0%, 0%, 17%, 58% and 25% (S-42, in this treatment does had a maximum of four kindlings). There were no significant differences among treatments for litter size. In treatments S-33, S-42 and G, suckling mortality was 14.0%, 15.2% and 38.5%, respectively (P <0.001); survival of does was 71%, 81% and 50% (P = 0.084); and faecal corticosterone concentrations were 61, 54 and 175 nmol/g (P <0.001). The high mortality of kits was associated with stress and aggressive behaviour of does, including scratching, biting or killing the kits, which resulted in the high rates of mortality and culling, as well as shorter lifespan of does. Because of high stress, increased mortality and morbidity, and low productivity, group housing of rabbit does resulted in poorer animal welfare and increased production costs, and therefore is not recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-468
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

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rabbits
group housing
batch systems
culling (animals)
nest boxes
bucks
corticosterone
suckling
litters (young animals)
production costs
litter size
animal welfare
morbidity
aggression
production technology
cages
plastics
farms

Keywords

  • group housing
  • performance
  • rabbit does
  • single housing
  • welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Szendrő, Z., Mikó, A., Odermatt, M., Gerencsér, Z., Radnai, I., Dezséry, B., ... Matics, Z. (2013). Comparison of performance and welfare of single-caged and group-housed rabbit does. Animal, 7(3), 463-468. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731112001760

Comparison of performance and welfare of single-caged and group-housed rabbit does. / Szendrő, Z.; Mikó, A.; Odermatt, M.; Gerencsér, Zs; Radnai, I.; Dezséry, B.; Garai, É; Nagy, I.; Szendro, K.; Matics, Zs.

In: Animal, Vol. 7, No. 3, 03.2013, p. 463-468.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Szendrő, Z, Mikó, A, Odermatt, M, Gerencsér, Z, Radnai, I, Dezséry, B, Garai, É, Nagy, I, Szendro, K & Matics, Z 2013, 'Comparison of performance and welfare of single-caged and group-housed rabbit does', Animal, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 463-468. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731112001760
Szendrő, Z. ; Mikó, A. ; Odermatt, M. ; Gerencsér, Zs ; Radnai, I. ; Dezséry, B. ; Garai, É ; Nagy, I. ; Szendro, K. ; Matics, Zs. / Comparison of performance and welfare of single-caged and group-housed rabbit does. In: Animal. 2013 ; Vol. 7, No. 3. pp. 463-468.
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N2 - Although rabbit does are generally single housed on rabbit farms worldwide, it has been suggested by some specialists and recommendation of organic rabbit production systems that group housing of does is more comfortable and similar to the living conditions of the European wild rabbits. The aim of this experiment was to compare production of single-caged (S) and group-housed does (G). The S does were housed in commercial rabbit cages (floor area 0.32 m2 and 0.3 m high). In treatment G, four does and one buck were housed in four pens measuring 7.7 m2 (half of the floor was deep litter and the other half was plastic slat), with four nest boxes in each pen (n = 16). In treatment S, approximately half of the does (n = 18) were inseminated 2 days after kindling (S-33), whereas in the remaining does (n = 16) AI was done 11 days after kindling (S-42). A single-batch system (all of the does in the group were inseminated on the same day) was used in both S treatments. Kindling rates were 77.6%, 85.2% and 45.6% in treatments S-33, S-42 and G, respectively (P <0.05). During the experiment, the percentage of does that kindled 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 times were 17%, 25%, 17%, 25%, 17% and 0% (G); 0%, 0%, 0%, 8%, 69% and 23% (S-33); and 0%, 0%, 17%, 58% and 25% (S-42, in this treatment does had a maximum of four kindlings). There were no significant differences among treatments for litter size. In treatments S-33, S-42 and G, suckling mortality was 14.0%, 15.2% and 38.5%, respectively (P <0.001); survival of does was 71%, 81% and 50% (P = 0.084); and faecal corticosterone concentrations were 61, 54 and 175 nmol/g (P <0.001). The high mortality of kits was associated with stress and aggressive behaviour of does, including scratching, biting or killing the kits, which resulted in the high rates of mortality and culling, as well as shorter lifespan of does. Because of high stress, increased mortality and morbidity, and low productivity, group housing of rabbit does resulted in poorer animal welfare and increased production costs, and therefore is not recommended.

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