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Welfare and performance results in meat rabbits during their lactation and fattening. A review

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Authors: Marina López, Concha Cervera y Juan José Pascual
Issue: 117-2 (108-129)
Topic: Animal Production
Keywords: welfare, nest, enrichment, platform, pens, aggressiveness, hygiene

This review summarizes the main scientific works focused on the welfare of rabbits in lactation and growing periods. A suitable material for building the nest has a positive impact, improving kits' welfare by reducing their mortality. A careful and regular daily handling of newborns during lactation, such as habituation to the farmer, can provide less fearful and stressed rabbits even in adulthood, showing lower mortality in the group period and higher fertility later. At a similar density, fattening in conventional cages (6‑9 rabbits) enriches specific behaviours (locomotor, social, exploratory) and provides bolder rabbits, reducing their daily growth and consumption, the slaughter weight and the muscle:bone ratio compared to individual cages. If locomotion is promoted by specific stimuli or with a larger area and group size, it increases the resistance and weight of the leg bones and can increase the hind part percentage. Physical activity and bone resistance are also increased in rabbits from large groups fattened in pens, but growth performance deteriorates and it is not sure that welfare is improved because rabbits show more injuries, higher glucocorticoids level and worse hygienic-sanitary conditions. Adding wooden objects (sticks or blocks) for gnawing in fattening cages does not have negative effect on growth performance traits, and could even improve them with blocks with trace elements, besides reducing the aggressiveness in larger fattening groups. Inclusion of a platform can enrich behaviours even though deteriorates several growth traits and the hygiene of these enclosures will be worsened.


López M, Cervera C, Pascual JJ (2021). Bienestar y resultados zootécnicos en conejos de carne durante su lactancia y engorde. Revisión bibliográfica. ITEA‑Información Técnica Económica Agraria 117(2): 108‑129.

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