It’s the joy of every farmer to see his or her rabbit gives birth, nurse them to weaning stage and begin selling at 1kg or more to earn a projected income. The joy of some farmers is usually short-lived because they got carried away by counting the number of kits to calculate the projected profit instead of concentrating on proper management of kits and Weaners. It is saddening when rabbit kits or weaners die in the farm; although, there is no way that a rabbit will not die in a farm even if the farm owner is a Professor of Rabbitry because some rabbits are born to die. It becomes an issue when the rate of mortality is alarming. Some international literature and farms put the acceptable mortality rate in the range of 15-20% but this can be minimized under a proper management to a single digit percentage.

To minimize mortality in weaners, a farmer needs to identify major and common root causes of mortality in any rabbit farm. Let me itemize them below, then we can discuss the way out:

1. Feeds-Mash or Pellets

2. Liver coccidiosis.

3. Infection

4. Use of antibiotics during pregnancy.

5. Stepping on the kits by the mother.

6. Poor lactation of Breeding Does, poor milk secretion.

7. Abandonment and neglect of kits by the Breeding Does

8. Urinating on the kits by the breeding Doe.

9. Natural deformity from pregnancy through competition for survival.

10. Old age of the Breeding Doe

11. Poor feeding and lack of necessary minerals during pregnancy.

12. Complications and difficulty during labour may weaken the kits and die later.

13. Nonchalant attitude of the farmer towards inspection and monitoring of the kits.

14. Wrong palpation and poor handling during pregnancy.

15. Heat stroke

16. Feeding on very fresh and wet grasses.

17. Sudden change of feeds and introduction of new feeds in large quantity may affect.

18. Natural death despite proper management.

**Generally, use of either organic or inorganic antibiotics during pregnancy should be totally discouraged apart from the fact that it can lead to abortion, it can also lead to deformity which may be seen physically or not in kits. There are some deformities that cannot be seen physically, they are internal but they can result to high mortality after birth. We should also be careful in indiscriminate use of strange grasses that may have antibiotics properties in them.

1. Coccidiosis is a great killer of weaners and kits. Wise farmers don’t give chance to cocci because they can make a farmer cry and lose interest in rabbit farming. Coccidiosis are basically of two types. One of them can be caused by contaminated water but the most difficult one which is very common and stubborn to exotic rabbit is Liver coccidiosis.

This is one of the bitter truths about exotic rabbits that some farmers may not like to talk about. Liver coccidiosis is transferable from parents to the kits.

It is not about a dirty environment or water. It is hereditary.

This is one of the reasons that some experts in rabbitry do advise farmers to treat coccidiosis before mating in order not to transfer it to their kits.

The question is how can a farmer treat coccidiosis? It can be treated organically and inorganically.

Liver coccidiosis is very stubborn, and it may look like it defies inorganic medications because when you use it, the symptoms increases and it may not cure it fast but not that it is not curing it. It flushes out some things in its system. During this period, you may lose some of your kits in the process because prevention is key in rabbitry.

You don’t need to wait for manifestation of liver cocci before treating it. This is a word of wisdom. A wise and knowledgeable farmer knows that there is liver cocci which may manifest at anytime especially in the life of young rabbits and make attempt to wipe off the farm.

“The best thing is to get Tridax Grass and Bitter Leaves.”

Give them to your young rabbits at least twice in a week. This will address high mortality in your farm. Some wise poultry farmers are also using Tridax grass’ juice by adding it to their chicken water to prevent coccidiosis. “Wise farmers don’t fight coccidiosis, you prevent it”.

Just like a wise farmer that will never fight soldier ants but rather prevent its attack. Rabbit farmers need to change their mentality in fighting cocci. You rather prevent it. When it attacks your farm, it becomes very difficult to fight and win its battle without claiming at least the life of one kit or weaner.

In short on the issue of cocci, it is a good idea to feed Tridax grasses and Bitter leaves twice in a week.

In addition to these grasses, you can be adding little of different types of anti-cocci in their water from time to time till they are over 2 months of age.

You can try the use of

Don’t make a mistake of adding anti-cocci drug in their formulated feeds because the drug will become ineffective when their system gets use to it. It is also not good for human consumption to be eating rabbit meat that is loaded with synthetic drugs without considering the withdrawal period before slaughtering.

Let me talk about the symptoms of coccidiosis.

a. One of the symptoms of cocci is retarded growth. They won’t grow fast no matter what you feed them.

b. Mucus discharge is one of the symptoms. An affected rabbit may also be stooling and have a protruding stomach that may look like bloating. Avoidance is very key.

Infection is another killer of rabbits be it young or old. The level of neatness of the environment is a great determinant for spread of infection. Dirty environment serves as a fertile ground for spread of infection. Let your environment be clean including the Nest box. Dirty nest box is a great killer of kits before coming out of box.

If your rabbits’ kits die before coming out of nest box, check the level of neatness of the nest box and the environment. Rabbits kits should be seen like premature babies that deserve a very clean environment. Any little infection, they will die, and you begin to count losses on a daily basis.

At times, all of them may even die in a day.

If you are not a neat person, you don’t have business in rabbitry.

Otherwise, they will keep dying and you may attribute it to witches and wizards in your neighborhood.

One farmer used to have this kind of issue and he called me one day to visit his farm, he said my rabbits are dying inside the nest box and he thinks his formulated feeds is responsible for it. He opted to change to Bella Feeds but I told him that they will still be dying because the issue has nothing to do with his feeds but the nest box was very dirty. He complained that over 90% the kits born in those boxes die before they open eyes. If I was after selling feeds and to promote Bella Feeds, I would have suggested change of feeds which he will later know in future when the problem is not solved and it will affect my reputation. The best thing is to wash nest box after every litter. Wash it with ordinary detergent and dry it under sun. Then keep it safe for next litter.

The above was a statement made by CEO Bella Feeds.

2. Another reason for high mortality in kits is poor lactation (low or delayed milk secretion).

This is a silent killer of kits. Some breeding Does are naturally poor milk secreting rabbit and are not good for breeding purposes. This is the reason to check your foundation stocks very well. No matter what you feed such rabbits, they wont secret milk very well until like 3rd day when the kits are already dying, weak and cold. Some bad Does will lactate same day but it will be very small to satisfy the kits.

They may be ready to breast feed their kits even in your presence yet, the kits will start dying before day 7.

Another cause of poor lactation is poorly formulated feeds.

Feeds that are not rich in necessary nutrient requirements for breeding Does will give room for poor lactation and high mortality. Tridax is a good option for boosting milk secretion in rabbitry. Oxytocin Injection can also boost it but not advisable because it makes the mammary gland get infected. Culling is the best option if a breeding Doe is known for not lactating well despite the good feeding. Farmers are advised to check if the newly delivered breeding Doe has enough milk by day 2 or not.

3. Old age of the breeding Does may also lead to poor quality kits that may die at early stage.

At old age, a Doe may start having miscarriage, giving birth to still kits, runt or unhealthy kits that may result to high mortality.

4. Another cause of high mortality is poor mothering instinct of the breeding Doe.

Some Does urinate on their kits inside the box. This automatically contaminates the box and the kits may begin to die. The box should be changed immediately, and a towel or cloth should be used to clean the urine from the kits. Some farmers are using wooden next box with net as the base instead of wood.

“The use of a wooden base, and, in most cases, putting of face towel under it to absorb urine if it happens from the kits or from the mother can be used. You are free to choose any design that pleases you.” – Bella Farms

Some Does also abandon their kits, they don’t have the instinct to breastfeed them. This results in high mortality. A well-fed kit always has a protruding stomach, with milk seen across the stomach if not hairy yet. The body of a healthy kit is always warm. It is very difficult to revive a cold kit.

Experience has shown it that cold kits can hardly survive. Some Does also step on their kits when breast feeding them. Some bad Does have turned the nest box to a resting place. Personally, I am not a fancy of too heavy breeding rabbit. Any attempt to step on their kits may lead to death or serious deformity.

Any bad breeding Does should be eliminated. There is no point in keeping many poorly performing breeding Does.

I have been blaming breeding Does since I started my write-up but what about the farmer that his or her rabbits give birth and he didn’t check the nest box to remove any uneaten placenta or dead kits?

Farmers are expected to check the nest box after delivery latest on the 2nd day. Then, on a daily basis, check that the kits are healthy and well breastfed. If not, you can hold the mother down for like 10minutes once in a day till the babies are out of the next box.

A good rabbit farmer should be able to do this. Forced feeding is also down in some international farms. Don’t leave everything in the hand of the poor breeding Does. Otherwise, be ready for high mortality. If you adopt this system to assist bad mothers, you will soon smile to the Bank. Many farmers don’t share the basic routine in their farms. Forced feeding is very necessary for poor mothers if you don’t want to cull them or foster their kits. Experience has shown that some poor mothers sometimes turn to good mothers after 2 to 3 deliveries.

Some farmers wrongly palpate unborn kits and in the course of it, the kits are born with deformity or health issue which later give rise to high mortality.

Learn how to palpate and do it with due care.

5. A badly formulated feed can also lead to high mortality when the kits get out of the box and start eating, they may begin to die because of feeds.

Bad feed is not a respecter of a particular kit or weaner. When kits are fed with bad feeds, majority of kits and weaners die in different cages from different mothers or same age group. The death happens simultaneously when it comes to bad feeds. Farmers need to be a good observant in order to know the root cause.

6. Heat stroke can also kill kits and weaners if the weather is too hot.

During hot condition, kits don’t gather under the nesting materials, they get out and stay outside the removed furs but some ignorant farmers use nesting materials to cover them up. Funny enough, the kits cannot talk to tell the farmers that why are you killing us with heat lol.

During cold condition, kits gather together to use their bodies to generate heat and be under the removed furs and nesting materials for insulation purpose. Farmers are advised to study these beautiful creatures and learn how to manage kits in order to get good returns on their investments.

7. Let me briefly talk about use of multivitamins. Some multivitamins are not very good for a breeding Does because they cause excess fat in a breeding animal and also lead to too heavy kits which become dangerous for the kits and the mother during labour. Difficulty in giving birth may eventually lead to death of the kits after some days or the mother may later die while nursing the kits.

We should be very careful of the types of liquid multivitamin that will use. I don’t want to mention any brand of multivitamins, but some are good for weaners and bad for breeding stocks.

In summary, having read all the aforementioned, you are advised to give wilted Tridax grasses and bitter leaves to your rabbits’ kits when they start eating like twice in a week.

Thank God, Tridax grows all year round. They even grow better and more visible during dry season.

You are also advised to add little of multivitamin, any anti-cocci drug and Tylodox inside their water at least twice in a week till the weaners are up to 2months of age.

Thank you for reading.

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Reference:

  1. Bella Rabbit World
  2. Google News & Articles.