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Health, performance and use of medication in professional Swiss meat rabbit production


Schwarz, J; Schädler, J; Albini, S; Peter-Egli, J; Probst, S; Schüpbach-Regula, G; Wiederkehr, D (2021). Health, performance and use of medication in professional Swiss meat rabbit production. Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde, 164(10):623-634.

Abstract

Health, performance and use of medication in professional Swiss meat rabbit production

Husbandry conditions for rabbits in Switzerland are at a high animal welfare level in international comparison. Wire mesh flooring is prohibited and group housing is mandatory up to the age of eight weeks. Despite these animal-friendly husbandry standards, animal losses seem to be a significant problem, although reliable data on professional Swiss meat rabbit production is lacking to date. A herd survey was carried out in 52 rabbit farms to address this situation. At the same time, each new litter and each fattening group was documented with a standardized form focusing on animal death and the use of medication by the farmer over a one year period. In the case of increased mortality or new health problems, dead rabbits were sent to the National Reference Center for Poultry and Rabbit Diseases (Zurich) for pathological examination including bacteriological and parasitological diagnostics. Data from 32 farms were evaluated. The average mortality of young animals (birth to weaning) was 14.9% (1.0–30.0%) and of fattening rabbits (weaning to slaughter) 17.3% (4.3–31.8%). Intestinal diseases, mainly dysentery, intestinal coccidiosis and mucoid enteropathies, were the primary cause of death (68.2%). Eimeria spp., Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens were identified as the most frequent pathogens. Respiratory diseases were found in 18.7% of the examined rabbits, with Pasteurella multocida identified as the most common pathogen. 60.0% of the farms used antibiotics during the study period and a third (34.7%) of all the fattening animals were medicated with at least one antibiotic. The present results confirm that despite high animal welfare standards infectious diseases and mortality rates represent a considerable problem in professional Swiss meat rabbit production. Risk factors of increased morbidity and mortality should be identified to improve rabbit health, to reduce the high mortality rate and the extensive use of antibiotics in professional Swiss meat rabbit production. Practicable management improvements with specific prevention strategies should be developed.

Keywords: Causes of death, antibiotics, rabbit diseases, fattening rabbits, mortality rates, farm animal rabbits

Abstract

Health, performance and use of medication in professional Swiss meat rabbit production

Husbandry conditions for rabbits in Switzerland are at a high animal welfare level in international comparison. Wire mesh flooring is prohibited and group housing is mandatory up to the age of eight weeks. Despite these animal-friendly husbandry standards, animal losses seem to be a significant problem, although reliable data on professional Swiss meat rabbit production is lacking to date. A herd survey was carried out in 52 rabbit farms to address this situation. At the same time, each new litter and each fattening group was documented with a standardized form focusing on animal death and the use of medication by the farmer over a one year period. In the case of increased mortality or new health problems, dead rabbits were sent to the National Reference Center for Poultry and Rabbit Diseases (Zurich) for pathological examination including bacteriological and parasitological diagnostics. Data from 32 farms were evaluated. The average mortality of young animals (birth to weaning) was 14.9% (1.0–30.0%) and of fattening rabbits (weaning to slaughter) 17.3% (4.3–31.8%). Intestinal diseases, mainly dysentery, intestinal coccidiosis and mucoid enteropathies, were the primary cause of death (68.2%). Eimeria spp., Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens were identified as the most frequent pathogens. Respiratory diseases were found in 18.7% of the examined rabbits, with Pasteurella multocida identified as the most common pathogen. 60.0% of the farms used antibiotics during the study period and a third (34.7%) of all the fattening animals were medicated with at least one antibiotic. The present results confirm that despite high animal welfare standards infectious diseases and mortality rates represent a considerable problem in professional Swiss meat rabbit production. Risk factors of increased morbidity and mortality should be identified to improve rabbit health, to reduce the high mortality rate and the extensive use of antibiotics in professional Swiss meat rabbit production. Practicable management improvements with specific prevention strategies should be developed.

Keywords: Causes of death, antibiotics, rabbit diseases, fattening rabbits, mortality rates, farm animal rabbits

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinärwissenschaftliches Institut > Institute of Food Safety and Hygiene
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > General Veterinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Veterinary
Language:German
Date:5 October 2021
Deposited On:02 Mar 2022 08:18
Last Modified:26 Jun 2024 01:54
Publisher:Gesellschaft Schweizer Tierärztinnen und Tierärzte
ISSN:0036-7281
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.17236/sat00317
  • Content: Published Version