Rabbits: Common problems and their solutions.

By Taruvinga Magwiroto

Today, we talk about everyone’s favourite micro-project in livestock. That’s rabbit keeping. In more than ten years of day-to-day rabbit management, there are certain issues and problems that I have observed when keeping rabbits. Read on…

Problem:              Animals refuse to mate (breed) – this is one of the number one problems. It is a costly problem because every day that a female refuses to mate is a waste of time, feed and eventually, money.

Solution:               There are no easy solutions, but I have found that the following helps: First, make sure that you are giving adequate diet, in terms of a balanced pelleted ration and greens.

Secondly, ensure that your buck is physically developed (big) and experienced. I have found that the more forceful the buck’s thrusts, the more likely the doe is stimulated to mate.

Don’t leave the female in the male’s cage and hope for the best. Always ensure that your bucks are well-rested before mating.

Problem:              Post-weaning mortalities (deaths). This is a common problem with most rabbit producers. The most common causes are:

Gut stasis (kuzvimba chitumbu): This condition is a sure killer. An animal is off-colour, off feed, showing discomfort and extended tummy and the following day the back may be soiled and your animal is dehydrated and soon dies. Weaners are coming from a predominantly wet food (milk) and their digestive system (enzymes) is not yet acclimatised to dry food. The food does not move fast enough along the G.I.T, there are disturbances to acid/base balances and dehydration sets in. Next stop: death.

In my experience, I have seen that this condition is associated with excessive feeding with rabbit pellets after weaning. We also had a suspicion about the quality of pellets that we were using. The solution that we tried at our rabbit establishment (and seems to work) is minimise rabbit pellet feeding to a handful/weaner/day. The rest is greens/dried star grass/hay. That seems to do the trick.

Coccidiosis: This is a protozoal disease. It is associated with poor floor hygiene and wet bedding. The disease is facilitated by the faecal-oral route. This means that the coccidia parasite is voided together with faeces. Animals are infected when they take in the coccidia parasite with food. If your weaners are housed in a heavily contaminated environment, they will succumb to coccidiosis. The solution (if you are floor-rearing), is to change bedding twice or thrice per week.

Do not mix weaners with adult stock. Rabbits do eat their soft faeces (coprophagia), and faeces from mature stock are always contaminated with coccidial parasites because they are normal inhabitants of rabbits gut.

Till next time, folks. Your feeback is welcome as always.

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