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In summer, heat and humidity can cause problems on rabbits, this is called heat stress. The rabbit will fight the heat by breathing rapidly and dilating the vessels in its ears to eliminate latent heat. The animal’s body is therefore under great strain. During this period, feed consumption decreases significantly and proportionally to the average daily temperature level of the farm.
The repercussions on zootechnical performance can be numerous. Thus, for the maternity part, it is often observed :
- A drop in fertility and prolificacy,
- A decrease in the general condition and viability of the reproducers, particularly around the period of birth,
- A decrease in the weight of the young rabbits
- A deterioration in milk productivity.
For fattening animals, we also observe a decrease in growth. It is therefore important to anticipate the summer season in order to do everything possible to limit these numerous zootechnical consequences.
The control of equipment, and in particular ventilation equipment, is essential for the good management of the farm during the summer period. Check the air inlets at animal level regularly and ensure that they are not blocked or obstructed. If they are, airflow may be reduced, or the air velocity increased too much for animals.
In a vacuum ventilation system, “stray” air inlets, especially at the pit outlets, considerably reduce the efficiency of the coolings. It is therefore essential to make the building as airtight as possible. Cooling systems are the most commonly used equipment for summer temperature control. They should be put into operation in the spring. To do this, the correct functioning of the probes and the cleanliness of the installation should be checked. Sometimes, after several years of operation, it is necessary to change all the cardboards.
The ventilation setpoints are generally increased by 1 to 2°C during the summer period. The maximum flow rate will be set between 2 and 3.5 cubic metres per hour per kilogram of live weight for buildings with sufficient cooling.
We consider 2 periods, an inter-season period where the cooling is used only during the warm afternoon period and a hot period when the cooling is used relatively early in the morning so that it operates before the ventilation rate is at its maximum. In hot weather, accesses to the nest are left open all day to facilitate air circulation to the young rabbits.
Applying all of these recommendations will allow you to manage your farm during the summer months. This video on equipment management is followed by a tutorial on the overall approach to nutritional support in the summer period.