Effect of Lighting Schedule on the Maternal Behavior and Performance of Rabbit Does
This study was carried out to investigate the effect of lighting regime on performance and maternal behavior of rabbit does. Sixteen white New Zealand rabbits (14 doe and 2 buck) were randomly distributed into two equal groups (n=8, 7 does and 1 buck). The first group treated with 8 hours light and 4 hours dark as intermittent lighting (8L:4D). The second group reared on 16 hours light and 8 hours dark (16L:8D). Does of both groups were mated naturally to fertile bucks at 16 weeks of age (first breeding). Data from productive and reproductive performance and maternal behavior were collected and serum hormonal level of prolactin and melatonin hormones was assayed in the first three successive reproductive cycles. The results revealed that weight of rabbit does at kindling and reproductive index was significant higher under (16L:8D) than under (8L:4D) system. However, litter size at weaning was significantly better under (8L:4D) system. Nest building and nest lining as well as nest quality were improved under intermittent system and consequently kit mortalities from birth to weaning were reduced. Nursing frequency was significantly higher in (8L:4D) system than (16L:8D) at both light and dark periods. Lighting systems had no effect on prolactin and melatonin levels. It could be concluded that does performance and maternal behavior were affected by lighting schedule, and intermittent lighting system (8L:4D) as management practice is considered better for rabbit welfare and improved maternal behavior which was beneficial for survival and growth of kits.
Keywords - Lighting, Rabbit Does, Maternal Behavior, Performance, Hormones.