Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access
Cover Image

Effect of genotype and some non-genetic factors on weaning weight in rabbits

Never Assan


The rabbit meat producers have a strong desire to improve productivity in order to maximize on financial gains. There has been a deliberate move to target improved weaning weight, which is thought to be a critical component in influencing total meat yield and economic returns. However, it has been acknowledged that weaning weight is partly influenced by individual kit genetic potential at the same time its overwhelmed by various non genetic factors. In this respect, weaning weights a complex character which reflects the influence of many biological processes namely fertility, maternal instinct, growth and viability. For the purpose of increasing production, it is reasonably to suggest that the complex inter-relationship among known various non genetic factors that influence weaning weight and the degree of their interactive effects need to be ascertained and understood in different production systems. While, genotype is a major contributor to weaning weight, environmental, nutritional and management practices also play significant roles in influencing weaning weight. There are several known environmental factors that influence weaning weight and these include feeding practices, birth weight, parity order, sex of kits, management, etc. The rabbit producers’ attention to the aforementioned factors is likely to improve weaning weight at enterprise level. It is important to note that selection for increased litter size have an adverse effect on average litter birth weight which subsequently reflects on weaning weight. The enhanced prolificacy in does has resulted in an increase in within litter variation and a larger number of kits born light. From the farmer’s performance point of view, genetic diversity utilization in crossbreeding has been the focus in improving weaning weight in commercial rabbit meat production. However, the complementary role played by nutritional status in optimization of performance in selected genotypes has been tremendous in the past two decades. Crossbreds have performed at levels consistent with different targeted rabbit meat market expectations. Generally, it is pronounced that improved nutritional regime and patterns for lactating does and their suckling kits had a positive effect on weaning weight. On the other hand, unbalanced parity structure and distribution in rabbit enterprise results in unreasonable variation in weaning weight, which impacts negatively on subsequent kits management after weaning. The purpose of this review is to discuss the influence of genotype and some non-genetic factors (litter size, birth weight, parity) on weaning weight in rabbits.


Abdou, A.M., Khattab, A.E., Abou-Zeid, A.E., 2006. Genetic and phenotypic parameters of productive and reproductive traits in five rabbit breeds. Egypt. Poult. Sci., 26(3), 1241-1252.

Abou-Khadiga, S., Youssef, Y.M.K., Saleh, K., Nofal, R.Y., 2009. Responses to selection for litter weaning weight in two lines of rabbits raised in Egypt. 5th International Poultry Conference, 10-13, March Taba, Egypt. 250-258.

Akinsola, O.M., 2012. Genetic and physiological evaluation of Hyla rabbits in guinea savannah zone of Nigeria. Zaria: M.Sc. dissertation submitted to the department of Animal Science, Ahmadu Bello University. 66-70.

Akinsola, O.M., Nwagu, B.I., Orunmuyi, M., Iyeghe-Erakpotobor, G.T., Abanikannda, O.T.F., Shoyombo, A.J., Louis, U., 2014. Factors influencing litter traits and body weight at pre-weaning ages among temperate rabbit breeds in the tropical conditions of Nigeria. Ann. Exp. Biol., 2(2), 58-60.

Al-Saef, A.M., Khalil, M.H., Al-Homidan, A.H., Al-Dobaib, S.N., Al-Sobayil, K.A., García, M.L., Baselga, M., 2008. Crossbreeding effects for litter and lactation traits in a Saudi project to develop new lines of rabbits suitable for hot climates. Livest. Sci., 118(3), 238-246.

Argente, M.J., Santacreu, M.A., Climent, A., Blasco, A., 2006. Influence of available uterine space per fetus on fetal development and prenatal survival in rabbits selected for uterine capacity. Livest. Sci., 102, 83-91.

Attalah, G.E.Y., 2005. Performance of some economic traits in Bauscat and Baladi Red rabbits. The 4th International Conference on Rabbit Production in Hot Climates, Sharm El-Skeikh, Egypt. 101-110.

Babilé, R., Cabdau, M., Auvergne, A., Fhari, R., 1982. Effets de l’environnement post natal sur la reproduction des lapines. Premiers resultats. Proc. 3émes Journ. Rech. Cunicole; Paris, France. Comm., 30.

Bautista, A., Mendoza-Degante, M., Coureaud, G., Martinez-Gomez, M., Hudson, R., 2005. Scramble competition in newborn domestic rabbits for an unusually restricted milk supply. Anim. Behav., 70, 1011-1021.

Blasco, A., Santacreu, M.A., Thompson, R., Haley, C.S., 1993. Estimates of genetic parameters for ovulation rate, prenatal survival and litter size in rabbits from an elliptical selection experiment. Livest. Prod. Sci., 34, 163-174.

Casado, C., Piquer, O., Cervera, C., Pascual, J.J., 2006. Modelling the lactation curve of rabbit does: Towards a model including fit suitability and biological interpretation. Livest. Prod. Sci., 99, 39-49.

Chineke, C.A., 2005. Genetic and non-genetic effects on weaning and post-weaning traits in rabbit breeds and crosses. Pakistan J. Biol. Sci., 8(10), 1402-1410.

Chrastinova, L., Sommer, A., Rafay, J., Svetlanska, M., 1997. Avotan exploitation in rabbit nutrition. II. Nutrient digestibility and lactation performance of does rabbit. J. Farm Anim. Sci., 30, 80-86.

Chrystosome, C.A.A.M., Gbangboche, A.B., Houangni, M.S.M., 2011. Evaluation of reproduction performance of Hyla rabbits in hot and humid region in Benin. Res. Opin. Anim. Vet. Sci., 110, 669-672.

Cowie, A.T., 1969. Variations in the yield and composition of the milk during lactation in the rabbit and the galactopoietic effect of prolactin. J. Endocrinol., 44, 437-450.

Das, S.K., Yadav, B.P.S., Sikka, A.K., 2007. A note concerning effects of genetic and non-genetic factors on weaning weight of rabbits in Eastern Himalayan region of India. Livest. Res. Rural Dev., 19(7).

Di Meo, C., Gazaneo, M.P., Racca, C., Bovera, F., Piccolo, G., Nizza, A., 2004. Effect of birth weight and litter size on productive performance of rabbits. Asian-Aust. J. Anim. Sci., 17(8), 1158-1161.

Eady, S.J., Prayaga, K.C., 2000. Factors affecting litter size and birth weight in rabbits. Proc. Assoc. Advmt. Anim. Breed. Genet., 14.

Elamin, K.M., Yousif, I.A., Elkhairey, M.A., Mekki, D.M., 2011. Heritability estimates and genetic correlations for post-weaning body weight traits in Sudanese rabbits. Livest. Res. Rural Dev., 23(11).

El-Kholya, S.Z., 2011. Effect of litter size on post-weaning ingestive behavior, mortality rate and productive performance of rabbits kits. Benhav. Vet. Med. J., 22(2), 161-168.

El-Maghawry, A.M., Soliman, A.M., Khalil, H.H., 1993. Doe milk production as affected by some genetic and environmental factors in New Zealand White and Californian rabbits under the Egyptian conditions. Egypt J. Rabbit Sci., 3, 141.

Fayeye, T.R., Ayorinde, K.L., 2008. Effect of weaning litter size and sex on post-weaning body weight, mortality and carcass characteristics of domestic rabbit in the humid tropics. Proceedings of the 9th World Rabbit Congress, 1535p.

Ferraz, J.B.S., Johnson, R.K., Eler, J.P., 1991. Breed and environmental effects on reproductive traits of Californian and New Zealand White rabbits. J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 14, 172-179.

Fortun-Lamothe, L., Gidenne, T., 2000. The effects of size of suckled litter on intake behavior, performance and health status of young and reproducing rabbits. Ann. Zootech., 49, 517-529.

Fraga, M.J., Lorente, M., Carabano, R.M., De Blas, J.C., 1989. Effect of diet and of remaining interval on milk production and milk composition of the doe rabbit. Anim. Prod., 48, 459-465.

Gyovai, M., Maertens, L., Nagy, I., Biró-Németh, E., Radnai, I., Princz, Z., Gerencsér, Zs., Szendrő, Zs., 2004. Examination of factors influencing rabbit survival (preliminary results). Proceedings 8th World Rabbit Congress; Puebla City, Mexico. 1128-1133.

Hamouda, M., Salwa, K., El-Gaied, J., 1990. Crossing of local rabbits with the Hyla strain: Growth and reproductive performance in the first generation. Options Mediterraneennes Ser A., 8, 103-108.

Hassan, A.M.M., 1993. Production performance of the rabbit does. M.Sc. Thesis, Faculty of Agriculture. Mashthour, Zagazig University, Banha Branch, Egypt.

Jimoh, O.A., Ewuola, E.O., 2017. Milk yield and kit development of four breeds of rabbits in Ibadan, Nigeria. J. Anim. Sci. Technol., 4(59), 25.

Kaliowski, T., Rudolph, W., 1978. Reproductive performance of intensively reared rabbits. 1. Litter size (Total live born and weaned) in the first to sixth litters of New Zealand White rabbits. Anim. Breed. Abstr., 46(11), 5644.

Karikari, P.K., Darkoh, G., Deku, G., 2011. Evaluation of millet residue meal based diets as feed for the domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Res. Opin. Anim. Vet. Sci., 1(3), 144-149.

Khalil, M.H., 1993. Diversity of repeatability between parities for litter traits and reproductive intervals in doe rabbits. World Rabbit Science, 1(4), 147-154.

Khalil, M.H., 1994. Lactational performance of Giza White rabbits and its relation with pre-weaning litter traits. Anim. Prod., 59, 141-145.

Khalil, M.H., Afifi, E.A., Emara, M.E., 1987. Doe litter performance at weaning for two breeds of rabbits with special emphasis on sire and doe effects. J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 10, 12-18.

Lebas, F., 1969. Milk feeding and weight gains of the rabbit before weaning. Anim. Zootech., 18(2), 197-208.

Lukefahr, S.D., Hohenboken, W.D., Cheeke, P.R., Patton, N.M., 1981. Milk production and litter growth traits in straight bred and crossbred rabbits. J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 4(2), 35-40.

Lukefahr, S.D., Hohenboken, W.D., Cheeke, P.R., Patton, N.M., 1983. Characterization of straight bred and crossbred rabbits for milk production and associative traits. J. Anim. Sci., 57, 1100-1107.

Maertens, L., Vanacker, J., De Coninck, J., 2006. Milk yield and milk composition of 2 commercial hybrids and a selected strain fed a high-energy lactation diet. Proc. 18th Hungarian Conference on Rabbit Production, Kaposvar, 24 May. 35-41.

McKay, R.M., Rahnefeld, G.W., 1990. Heritability of teat number in swine. Can. J. Anim. Sci., 70, 425-430.

McNitt, J.I., Lukefahr, S.D., 1990. Effect of breed, parity, day of lactation and number of kits on milk production of rabbits. J. Anim. Sci., 68, 1505-1512.

Moreki, J.C., 2007. Commercial rabbit production. Rabbits Today, RAB 01, June.

Palos, J., Szendro, Zs., Kustos, K., 1996. The effect of number and position of embryos in the uterine horns on their weight at 30 days of pregnancy. Proceedings of the 6th World Rabbit Congress, Toulouse, France, July. 2, 97.

Parigi-Bini, R., Xiccato, G., 1998. Energy metabolism and requirements. In: De Blas and Wiseman (Eds.), The nutrition of the rabbit. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK. 103-131.

Partridge, G.G., Allan, S.J., 1983. The effect of dietary protein concentration on the lactation performance of the rabbit. Anim. Prod., 37, 119-123.

Pascual, J.J., Fonfria, M.J., Alqedra, I., Cervera, C., Fernández-Carmona, J., 2000. Use of lucerne-based diets on reproductive rabbit does. In Proc.: 7th World Rabbit Congr., Valencia, Spain. C, 379-384.

Pasupathi, K., Sakthivel, M., Gopi, H., Balasubramanyam, D., Babu, M., 2014. Factors influencing pre-weaning growth of rabbits under farm condition. Int. J. Sci. Eng. Technol. Res., 3(9), 2278-7798.

Patial, K.K., Manuja, N.K., Gupta, K., Sanjeet, K., 1991. The effect of season on litter size of broiler rabbits in Himachal Pradesh (India). J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 14(4), 257-259

Patton, N.M., 1991. Rabbit herd management: Techniques to reduce production costs and increase profits. J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 14, 136-139.

Peinado, E., Zamora, M., Gallego, J.A., Sanchez, M., 1988. Growth of rabbits born in extensive conditions. World Rev. Anim. Prod., 24(1), 15-19.

Poigner, J., Szendrõ, Z., Lévai, A., Radnai, I., Biró-Németh, E., 2000. Effect of birth weight and litter size on growth and mortality in rabbits. World Rabbit Science, 8, 17-22.

Poigner, J., Szendro, Zs., Levia, A., Radnai, I., Biro-Nemeth, E., 2000. Effect of birth weight and litter size at suckling age on reproductive performance in does as adults. World Rabbit Science, 8, 103-109.

Pumfrey, R.A., Johnson, R.K., Cunningham, P.J., Zimmerman, D.R., 1980. Inheritance of teat number and its relationship to maternal traits in swine. J. Anim. Sci., 50(6), 1057-1060.

Rao, D.R., Sunki, G.E., Johnson, W.M., Chen, C.P., 1977. Postnatal growth of New Zealand White rabbit. J. Anim. Sci., 44, 1021-1025.

Rashwan, A.A., Yamani, K.A., Abd El-Ghani, A.I., 1997. Performance of 3 rabbit strains and their reciprocal crosses in Egypt during summer. World Rabbit Science, 2, 55-60.

Reddy, K.V.G., Rao, V.P., Reddy, C.E., Prasad, V.L.K., Gupta, R., 2003. Pre-weaning performance of three way cross rabbits. Indian J. Anim. Sci., 73(1), 97-99.

Rochambeau de, H., 1998. La femelle parentale issue des souches expérimentales de l’INRA: évolutions génétiques et perspectives. Proc. 7émes Journ. Rech. Cunicole, Lyon, France, ITAVI Ed., 3-14.

Rollins, W.C., Casady, R.B., Sittmann, K., Sittmann, D.B., 1963. Genetic variance component analysis of litter size and weaning weight of New Zealand White rabbits. J. Anim. Sci., 22(3), 654-657.

Rommers, J.M., Kemp, B., Meijerhof, R., Noordhuizen, J.P., 2001. The effect of litter size before weaning on subsequent body development, feed intake and reproductive performance of young rabbit does. J. Anim. Sci., 79(8), 1973-1982.

Saleh, H., Nofal, R., Younis, K., Abou-Khadiga, G., 2005. Evaluation of Spanish Synthetic V, Baladi Black rabbits and their crosses under Egyptian conditions, 2-Litter weight and mean kit weight. The 4th International Conference on Rabbit Production in Hot Climates, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. 31-37.

Sanchez, W.K., Cheeke, P.R., Patton, N.M., 1985. Effect of dietary crude protein level on the reproductive performance and growth of New Zealand White rabbits. Nutr. Abstr. Rev. B., 55(11), 675.

Sedki, A.A., Kaiaty, A.M., Ashour, G., 2002. Physiological performance indices of rabbit adaptability under untraditional housing conditions. In Proc.: 3rd Scientific Conference on Rabbit Production in Hot Climates. Hurgada, Egypt. 351-365.

Sorhue, U.G., Mmereole, F.U.C., Irikefe-Ekeke, E.P., Nwakwo, S.U., 2014. Genetic analysis of some economic traits in a composite breed of domestic rabbits reared in a tropical environment. Niger. J. Genet., 28(2), 34-37.

Szendrő, Zs., Kenessey, A., Jensen, J.F., Jensen, N.E., Csapo, J., Romvari, R., Milisits, G., 1998. Effect of genotype, age, body weight and sex on the body composition of growing rabbits. World Rabbit Science, 6(3-4), 277-284.

Szendrő, Zs., Láng, M., Szabó, J., 1989. Performance of does in dependence of litter size in which they were born. (in Hung.) Állattenyésztés és Takarmányozás. 38, 159-164.

Szendrő, Zs., Maertens, L., 2001. Maternal effect during pregnancy and lactation in rabbits (A review). Acta Agraria Kaposváriensis, 5(2), 1-21.

Szendrő, Zs., Mohammed, N.M.A., Biro Nemeth, E., Radnai, I., 1993. Heritability of teat number in rabbits. Coniglicoltura, 30(2), 33-35.

Szendrő, Zs., Szendrő, K., Zotte, A.D., 2012. Management of reproduction on small, medium and large rabbit farms: A review. Asian-Aust. J. Anim. Sci., 25(5), 738-748.

Tag-El-Din, T.H., Ibrahim, Z.M., Oudah, S.M., 1990. Studies on live body weight and litter size in New Zealand White Californian, Baladi rabbits and their crossbreds in Egypt. Rabbit production and genetics in the Mediterranean area, Zagazig, Egypt, 67-74.

Taranto, S., Di Meo, C., Stanco, G., Piccolo, G., Gazaneo, M.P., Nizza, A., 2003. Influence of age at weaning on caecal content characteristics and post-weaning performance and health of rabbits. Asian-Aust. J. Anim. Sci., 16(10), 1540-1544.

Xiccato, G., Trocino, A., Boiti, C., Brecchia, G., 2005. Reproductive rhythm and litter weaning age as they affect rabbit doe performance and body energy balance. Anim. Sci., 81(2), 289-296.

Xiccato, G., Trocino, A., Sartori, A., Queaque, P.I., 2004. Effect of parity order and litter weaning age on the performance and body energy balance of rabbit does. Livest. Prod. Sci., 85, 239-251.

Yahaya, H.K., 1993. Performance of New Zealand White, Californian and Chinchilla rabbits and their crosses in a warm tropical environment. M.Sc. Thesis. Dept. Anim. Sci. A.B.U. Zaria.

Yamani, K.A., 1994. Rabbits meat production situation in Egypt. Cairo: 1st International Conference on Rabbit Production in Hot Climates. 57-64.

Youssef, Y.M.K., Omara, M.E., Farid, A., 2008. Genetic evaluation of some litter and lactation traits in New Zealand White and Baladi Black rabbits. Egypt Poult. Sci., 28(4), 1203-1216.

Yuan, T., Zhu, Y., Shi, M., Li, T., Li, N., Wu, G., Bazer, F.W., Zang, J., Wang, F., Wang, J., 2015. Within-litter variation in birth weight: Impact of nutritional status in the sow. J. Zhejiang Univ. Sci. B., 16(6), 417-435.

Zeferino, C.P., Komiyama, C.M., Fernandes, S., Sartori, J.R., Teixeira, P.S., Moura, A.S., 2013. Carcass and meat quality traits of rabbits under heat stress. Anim., 7(3), 518-523.

Zerrouki, N., Chibah, K., Amroun, T., Lebas, F., 2012. Effect of the average kits birth weight and of the number of born alive per litter on the milk production of Algerian white population rabbit does. Proceeding of the 10th World Rabbit Congress, September 3- 6, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. 351-355.

Zotte, A.D., Paci, G., 2013. Influence of rabbit sire genetic origin, season of birth and parity order on doe and litter performance in an organic production system. Asian-Aust. J. Anim. Sci., 26(1), 43-49.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.