MEKARN Workshop 2008: Organic rabbit production from forages
Itís very important to enhance the survival rate of baby rabbit for the rabbit industry. The main reasons resulting low survival rate of baby rabbit include underdeveloped organs, low regulating capacity, poor adaptive ability, and so on. This article is to address the measures which could improve baby rabbitís survival rate.
Rabbit is a small economic herbivore. Raising rabbit has many merits, such as saving grain, low investment, fast return, and so on, it is very suitable to popularize in rural area. However, itís well known that rabbit is very easy to raise, but difficult to prevent from and cure diseases, especially the outbreak of infectious diseases will normally lead to great mortality rate of rabbits.
The gestation of female rabbit is 30~31 days, 90% fetal weight increases in the late pregnancy, so high quality feed must be added to pregnant rabbits in order to get high survival rate of baby rabbit. Meanwhile, special attention should be paid to prevent female rabbits from mastitis.
Newborn baby rabbit opens itís eyes in 9th~12th day, and it must suck enough colostrum in the first 3 days, which is an important link of tending and protecting baby rabbits in eye-closing-period. Colostrum is the latex which is secreted by laboring rabbits in first 5~7 days, and there are abundant natural antibody synthesized in maternal body, high-quality protein, vitamins, mineral matter and many other nutritional components. Colostrum can strengthen the capability of baby rabbits to resist various external unfavorable factors, can help baby rabbit accelerate meconium defecating to enhance the survival rate of rabbits. So it should be ensured that every baby suck enough colostrum in time.
At 2~3 days after rabbit kits opening eyes, new litter straw must be added in the production box to replaced the old ones. The upper part of the old straw should be kept and the rest be replaced when changing the litter straw, it will reduce discomfortable responses of baby. If the temperature is too high and the baby amount is too large, the babies should be feed in more boxes.
All nutrition comes from maternal milk before the baby rabbit can eat feed by itself. And most of the nutrition before lactation also comes from maternal milk, so it should be ensured that the baby suck enough maternal milk every day. The abdomen is full and pink after sucking milk, the baby rabbit like sleeping after sucking enough. Baby suckling should be at fixed time to ensure normal work of mammary system.
The keeper should often watch female and baby rabbit carefully，especially sucking and defecating condition of baby, changing condition of maternal breast, sanitary and temperature and ventilational condition in rabbitsí house so as to find timely any abnormal phenomenon and adopt measures to prevent and cure. The baby rabbit grows very fast, its metabolism is very strong, most maternal milk is absorbed and few is defecated, so the liveweight in 7th day is two times than that of its newborn day, and liveweight in 14th day will be increased by three times. If more and dilute defection be found, the baby rabbit is ill and need to be cured.
Some female rabbits lack enough maternity to suckle the baby, keeper should force lactation: fixing the female rabbit in the production box, keeping it quiet, putting baby rabbits beside the mother and let the baby suck freely. Force lactation should be done three to four times every day, and after three to five days, the female will accept sucking voluntarily. If the female is dystocia dead or suffers from mastitis or if too many baby rabbits to foster, the keeper should start artificial auxiliary lactation, using soybean milk maintained at 38 centigrade, with few sugar and glucose added, to replace the maternal milk, and fill it in injector or plastic eye drop bottle with robber tube and let baby suck freely.
When the female couldnít produce enough milk or have too many babies, keeper must adjust the babies and foster the excessive ones. First, collect excessive babies of similar born date from production boxes and assign the babies, by weight and physical fitness, in different group; Second, smear some garlic juice or menthocamphorate on the foster motherí nose. Put the foster babies in foster motherís cage with the motherís own babies for one to two hours. Then, put in the foster mother with foster babies, and watch her behavior. If any sign of abnormal are observed, isolate them in time, and repeat the above procedure.
In the first few days after born, there is little hair on the baby rabbitís body, so the capability of body temperature regulation is very weak. If the temperature is too low in production box, the female rabbit will litter out of the box, the baby rabbit will die because of cold temperature; if the temperature is too high in production box, and the litter straw is too much, it will result in baby rabbit death for hot. Temperature should be regulated in the following way: a bit more litter straw is needed in early spring and late autumn, dry fur are needed in addition to thick litter straw in winter, to keep the temperature at 30~32 C in the box.
Newborn baby rabbit opens its eyes in 9th~12th day, starts to ingest after 15th day. Then we should feed additional food that is easier to be digested and richer nutritional. The feedstuff must be clean and safe, and feed amount should gradually increase day by day, it should be fed six times per day at least in the beginning, and the baby rabbits chose the food freely, and gradually increase the quantity and decrease to four times per day.
Baby rabbit can stop sucking milk in 35th day, and then its weight reaches 500~600g, some large varieties may reach 1000~1200g. Physical fitness of baby rabbit is weaker in winter, weaning will be later. If the babies in the same brood grow and develop even, they can be weaned at the same time; if not, they should be weaned in different time. Reduce the milking frequency and prolong the time between suckling three to five days before weaning, in order to weaken discomfortable response of the babies and enhance the survival rate.
Leave the babies in the cage and isolate the female rabbit. Donít change babiesí feed and management mode, feed formula and environment in 7~14 days after weaning in order to prevent stress and low appetite or resistibility. Changing the adult feed gradually ( started from 7days before weaning) after babies meet weaning.
The resistibility of baby rabbit is very weak, it is very easy to be bitten death by rats especially in first 7 days. Special attention should be paid to seal and close the rabbitís cage. In case the cage could not be sealed, the keeper should identify the production boxes with numbers in order to protect together at night.
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