Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access
Cover Image

Factors influencing does milk production and their implication for kit performance in rabbits

Never Assan


Rabbit milk yield and chemical composition is determined by various factors. Growth rate and body weight gain are good indicators of kitsdoe’s maternal behavior, especially in milk production. Generally, it is pronounced that growth and survival of kits towards weaning is the most important stage related to does milking potential. However, it is important to note that lactation curves vary with breed, notwithstanding milk production being influenced by various factors. Clearly, it has been observed that apart from genotype being a dominant factor in influencing milk production in rabbits, there are other factors such as nutrition, parity, stage of lactation, litter size etc. which have also been implicated. In this aspect, appropriate knowledge on factors that influence does milking capacity is essential for improved performance in rabbits. Provision of adequate nutritional requirements of nursed kits through dam’s milk is essential for maximum growth, development and survival. In the early stage of growth until weaning, does milk is the exclusive source of nutrients to support the pertinent needs for maintenance and growth in rabbits. The accelerated growth preceding weaning can be ascribed to the doe’s energy rich milk that is significant in both fat and protein and low lactose. An increase in milk intake, can improve kits growth traits and may also transcribe to heavier final market weight and financial gains. It is reasonable to suggest that to enhance kits nutritional intake, the mother should produce adequate milk. On the other hand, milk production increases with increased litter size, while high total milk yield is registered in winter followed by autumn. Milk production increase firmly during the seven parity and decline from that time forward. Crossbreeding promote favorable and positive heterotic influence on milk yield and composition. There is a predictable positive correlation of does milking capacity and productive traits. The purpose of this review is to discuss the factors that influence milk production in does and their implication for rabbit performance.


Abd El-Aziz, M.M., Afifi, E.A., Bedier, M., Nayera, Z., Azamel, A.A., Khalil, M.H., 2002. Genetic evaluation of milk production and litter weight traits in Gabali, New Zealand White rabbits and their crosses in a newly reclaimed area of Egypt. In Proceeding 3rd Scientific Conference on Rabbit Production in Hot Climates, Hurgada, Egypt. 103-116.

Al-Sobayil, K.A., Al-Homidan, A.H., Khalil, M.K., Mehaia, M.A., 2005. Heritabilities and genetic analysis of milk yield and components in crossing project of Saudi rabbits with Spanish V-line. Livest. Res. Rural Dev., 17(10).

Bignon, L., Bourin, M., Galliot, P., Souchet, C., Travel, A., 2013. Impact du nombre de lapereauxlaissés au nid sur la carrière des femelles et les performances des jeunes. Proceeding of the 15th Journées de la Recherche Cunicole, 19-20 November, Le Mans, France. 101-104.

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.

Castellini, C., Dal Bosco, A., Cardinali, R., Mugnai, C., Sciascia, E., 2004. Effect of dietary N-3 fatty acids on the composition of doe’s milk and tissues of suckling rabbits. Proceeding of the 8th World Rabbit Congress, September 7-10, Puebla, Mexico.

Cifre, J., Baselga, M., Garcia-Ximenez, F., Vicente, J.S., 1998. Performance of a hyperprolific rabbit line II. Maternal and growth performances. J. Anim. Breed. Genet., 115(1-6), 139-147.

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

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.

EL-Nagar, A.G., Sánchez, J.P., Ragab, M., Mínguez, C., Baselga, M., 2014. Genetic comparison of milk production and composition in three maternal rabbit lines. World Rabbit Sci., 22(4), 261-268.

El-Sabrout, K., Aggag, S., El-Raffa, A., 2017. Comparison of milk production and milk composition for an exotic and a local synthetic rabbit lines. Vet. World, 10(5), 526-529.

El-Sayiad, G.A., Habeeb, A.A.M., El-Maghawry, A.M., 1994. A note on the effect of breed, stage of lactation and pregnancy status on milk composition of rabbits. Anim. Sci., 58(1), 153-157.

Fernández-Carmona, J., Alqedra, I., Cervera, C., Moya, J., 2003. Effect of lucerne-based diets on performance of reproductive rabbit does at two temperatures. 76(2), 283-295.

Fernandez-Carmona, J., Alquedra, I., Cervera, C., Moya, J., Pascual, J., 2004. Effect of lucerne based diets on performance of reproductive rabbit does at two temperatures. Anim. Sci., 73, 283-295.

Fleischhauer, H., Schlolaut, W., Lange, K., 1984. Influence of number of teats on rearing performance of rabbits. J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 8, 174-176.

Fortun-Lamothe, L., 2006. Energy balance and reproductive performance in rabbit does. Anim. Reprod. Sci., 93, 1-15.

Fortun-Lamothe, L., Bolet, G., 1988. Relations entre le format, l’évolution des réserves corporelles et les performances de reproduction chez la lapine primipare: comparaison de deux types génétiques. In Proc.: 7èmes Journ Rech Cunicole, Lyon, ITAVI Ed., Paris. 27-30.

Fraga, M.J., Lorente, M., Carabaño, R.M., De Blas, J.C., 1989. Effect of diet and of remating interval on milk production and milk composition of the doe rabbit. 48(2), 459-466.

Hall, A.J., 1971. Fatty acid composition of rabbit (Oryctolaguscuniculus) milk fat throughout lactation. Int. J. Biochem., 2(10), 414-418.

Hassan, N.S., El-Feel, F.M.R., Sallam, M.T., Ahmed, M.F., 1992. Evaluation of milk production and litter milk efficiency in two and three-way crosses of three breeds of rabbits. Egypt. J. Anim. Prod., 29, 307-319.

Iraqi, M.M., Shenana, M.E., Baselga, M., 2007. Some factors affecting production and milk composition characters is a crossbreeding experiment involving Gabali and V-line rabbits in Egypt. World Rabbit Sci., 15(3), 151-159.

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

Kacsala, L., Matics, Zs., Kasza, R., Gerencsér, Zs., Szendrő, Zs., 2015. Milk supply of rabbits. Sci. Rev. Poljoprivreda, 21(1), 90-92.

Khalil, M.H., Mehaia, M.A., Al-Homidan, A.H., Al-Sobayil, K.A., 2004. Genetic analysis for milk yield and composition and milk conversion ratio in crossing of Saudi Rabbits with V-line. World Rabbit Sci., 13, 54-55.

Kolawole, S.O., Kikelomo, A.M., Taiwo, O.J., Sunday, F.S., 2013. Yield, intake and chemical profile of milk of commercially available rabbits at first parity. J. Agr. Allied Sci., 2(4), 1-7.

Kowalska, D., 2008. Effect of essential unsaturated fatty acids in fish oil on litters and composition of milk of rabbit does. Nutrition and Digestive Physiology 9th World Rabbit Congress - June 10-13, Verona, Italy.

Lebas, F., 1987. Influence de la taille de la portée et de la production laitièresur la quantité d’aliment ingérée par la lapine allaitante. Reprod. Nutr. Dév., 27(1B), 207-208.

Lukefahr, S., 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(5), 1100-7.

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.

McNitt, J.I., Lukefahr, S.D., 1990. Effects of breed, parity, day of lactation and number of kits on milk production of rabbits. J. Anim. Sci., 68(6), 1505-12.

Mehaia, M.A., Khalil, M.H., Al-Homidan, A.H., Al-Sobayil, K., 2002. Milk yield and components and milk to litter-gain conversion ratio in crossing of Saudi Gabali rabbits with V-line. In Proc.: 3rd Scientific Conference on Rabbit Production in Hot Climates, Hurgada, Egypt. 139-150.

Mohamed, M.M.A., Szendrõ, Z., 1992. Studies on nursing and milk production of does and milk Intake and suckling behavior of their kits. In Proc. 5th World Rabbit Congress, Oregon. 708-716.

Nasr, A.S., 1994. Milk yield and some associated traits as affected by season of kindling intervals in New Zealand White doe rabbits under Egyptian condition. Egypt. J. Rabbit Sci., 4, 149-159.

Pascual, J.J., Cervera, C., Blas, E., Fernández-Carmona, J., 1996. Milk yield and composition in rabbit does using high fat diets. Proc. 6th World Rabbit Congress, Toulouse, France. 1, 259-262.

Pascual, J.J., Cervera, C., Blas, E., Fernández-Carmona, J., 2016. Effect of high fat diets on the performance, milk yield and milk composition of multiparous rabbit does. Anim. Sci., 68, 151-162.

Pascual, J.J., Cervera, C., Fenandez-Carmona, J., 2000. The effect of dietary fat on the performance and body composition of rabbits in their second lactation. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol., 86, 191-203.

Peaker, M., Taylor, J.C., 1975. Milk secretion in the rabbit: Changes during lactation and the mechanism of ion transport. J. Physiol., 253(2), 527-545.

Piles, M., Bakr, M.H., Tusell, L., Blas, E., Sánchez, J.P., Ramon, J., Rafel, O., 2012. The effect of environmental high temperature on doe performance during lactation. World Rabbit Science Association Proceedings 10th World Rabbit Congress, September 3-6, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. 1009-1013.

Ramadan, S.I.A., 2005. A study on the performance of rabbit doe for some litters, reproduction and milk production traits. MSc. Thesis, Faculty of Veterinary Med., Moshtohor Zagazig University, Benha Branch, Egypt.

Sheffield, L.G., Anderson, R.R., 1985. Relationship between milk production and mammary gland indices of guinea pigs. J. Dairy Sci., 68(3), 638-45.

Szendrö, Z., Jovánczai, Z., Theau-Clement, M., Radnai, I., Biró-Németh, E., Milisits, G., 1999. The effect of doe-litter separation on production performance in rabbit does and their kits. World Rabbit Sci., 7, 165-169.

Theilgaard, P., Baselga, M., Blas, E., Friggens, C., Cervera, C., Pascual, J.J., 2009. Differences in productive robustness in rabbits selected for reproductive longevity or litter size. Anim., 3, 637-646.

Vidjannagni, D.S., Toleba, S.S., Sina, H., Mahamadou, D., Adenile, A., Natonnagnon, U., Daga, F.D., Harouna, H., Moussa, L.B., 2018. Appetibility and effect of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaf foods on weight performance and viability of pre-weaning rabbits. Int. J. Livest. Prod., 9(1), 1-8.

Villalobos, O., Guillen, O., Garcia, J., 2010. Effect of breeding system, cycle and cage size during fattening on rabbit doe and growing rabbit performance under heat stress. Anim., 4, 1568-1576.

Volek, Z., Marounek, M., Volková, L., Kudrnová, E., 2014. Effect of diets containing whole white lupin seeds on rabbit doe milk yield and milk fatty acid composition as well as the growth and health of their litters. J. Anim. Sci., 92(5), 2041-2049.

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, 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., 239-251.

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.

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.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.