Placing females – Part 2

Partner(s): Hypharm
Industry(ies): Rabbit

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In this second part, you'll learn how to manage the start-up of a rabbit farm, following on from a tutorial on the procedures to be applied prior to populating a rabbit farm.


Claude Barré - Rabbit farming technical manager


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As we saw in the previous tutorial, the arrival of rabbit females is an important event that should be anticipated. In both cases, sanitary, environmental, feeding and disease control conditions must be mastered to optimise the genetic potential of the animals.

Technical support is therefore offered jointly by the vet, the breeding technician and the breeder as soon as the young rabbit females are set up. In this tutorial, we’ll talk about starting up rabbit females, followed by the breeding renewal objectives. Let’s start this second episode with the 3rd step: Starting up the flock.

Controls and records

The persistence of females in production is correlated with growth performance over the period between 10 weeks of age and the first insemination.

Individual weekly weight checks on a sample of animals are therefore necessary. These are used to check that growth rates are consistent and that the herd is adapting to its new environment, as well as to ensure that the feeding programme meets the animals’ nutritional requirements.

Daily records are also required. These include viability records, minimum and maximum temperature, water consumption and feed consumption. Each non-compliant result will be discussed with the technical teams to define corrective actions. 

Breeding procedure

The usual procedure for breeding is as follows:

6 days before insemination: Feed will be distributed as much as you like and the lighting time will be increased to 16 hours a day, by extending the end time.
For example, go from a 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. time slot to a 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. time slot.

On the day of insemination, in order to facilitate the work, for 10 to 15 minutes before insemination, the females will be put into groups.
They will then be placed into individual housing.

4 days after insemination, the feed distribution programme that was in place during the growth period will be reactivated, and the lighting time will be reduced to 12 hours a day.

Around 14 days gestation, a pregnancy check by palpation will validate this first phase of reproduction.

First production cycle

The first production cycle will be managed as follows:

At least 7 days before farrowing, pregnant females are placed in a mother cage. Maternity feed is then distributed as required.

Then, 6 days before farrowing, the nest is prepared by adding shavings and access is opened.

Over the following days, special monitoring will ensure that all the females have access to their nest.

During the 2 days before giving birth, the first step is to have the mother nurse the young rabbits. The nests are then checked and cleaned. Adoptions help to balance the number and evenness of the young rabbits in each nest.

From the third day after farrowing: controlled lactation can begin by opening the nests once a day at a fixed time for 6 to 8 hours. This technique wich is often used right up to insemination, allows you to check that breastfeeding is going well.

In the case of a 42-day rhythm, the preparation method for artificial insemination described above for the first insemination should be applied in the same way.

  • At around 21 days of age, the nest boxes are removed to give the youngsters more space and comfort.
  • Between 25 and 28 days of age, the pre-weaning feed is distributed in place of the maternity feed.
  • Between 32 and 35 days of age, the first weaning is carried out.

Breeding renewal objectives

To ensure the longevity and performance of the herd, it is essential to consider and plan this aspect from the very start of the breeding programme.

Renewal is possible in various ways, through the introduction of parental or grandparental females. Also at different ages with 3-day-old or adult animals.

The method of introduction chosen will be adapted to the context of the farm, taking into account its size and geographical location. Regardless of the method chosen for introducing breeding stock, the objective remains the same: to have enough OPTIMA Parent females (PS) in order to achieve an insemination target of 13 to 15 percent of young females in each flock.

By applying all these recommendations, the animals will be able to express their genetic potential right from the start of the herd.

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