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Breeding Issues

by Kevin Hooper

Hope some of you are having better luck with your litters than I! I raised one out of my first eight litters once December hit, and have only been running about fifty percent survival since then. Seems the does will build a great nest, and then not set foot in it to feed the young. It is not due to them being first litter does or bad mothers as these are all proven does that have been good mothers in the past.
I resorted to enclosing two of my stalls on the east side of the barn. My rabbits are under a 159 year old bank barn. The west side is one long open area that is 14' by 56'. Then there is a raised center area the same size. This is where they used to keep all of their feed and they would hay the stock from center of the barn. The east side has six stalls about 7'x9' and one that is 14'x14'. After having the issues with losing that many litters in December, it got me thinking, what have I done that was the most successful in the past? That answer was having an enclosed heated nursery. That is what I used at our old place. It was heated to about 38 degrees, but there was no wind and the temperature was constant.
Then the dilemma of how to get an enclosure built in the few days before my next batch of does were due? I have the space for an enclosed nursery on the main floor of the barn. This would be just up the stairs from the bottom floor where the rabbits are (yes, the barn has a set of stairs!) This can be done, but there needs to be a bit of repair to that section of floor, and there is the cost of building and insulating a room.
So, I decided to go the shanty route. I bought six sheets of foam insulation and enclosed two of the stalls. Using the insulation in combination with some heavy tarps, I am able to keep each stall well above freezing with a few heat lamps. The lamps are only providing indirect heat to the nest boxes, but at least I have some live litters!
I recently won Best Opp Dutch at the fall Ohio State Dutch show. This is the same black buck who was Best Dutch at the 2006 NDS, and Best opp at the 2007 NDS. He never has been the most prolific breeding buck with a lower conception rate and small litters. I believe the largest litter I ever had out of him was five, with most being three or four.
I had not been able to get anything bred to him since last winter, even though I would breed and breed to him. So, I quit using him. I was talking to Dr. Scott Williamson in Louisville this fall, and Scott said I should do what they do to get their old boars in production again. He said since I had the buck's sperm checked and there were sperm present, but they had no motility, he was still producing sperm, but something was killing them. He said it was probably a gram negative bacteria, and I should use Batril injected sub-q for three days. I did this. I then expected that even if it did work, I would have to flush out the bad sperm with a few breedings?
I had two does I was holding to breed to him. I bred one doe to him two days apart, with the other doe bred on the off days. The first doe bred the first time, only three days after his last injection! She has a litter of five. The other doe did not conceive the first two times, but did breed two weeks later and has a litter with seven babies. Once I saw does were conceiving when bred to him, I started breeding others. I new have another litter of seven out of him, with other does bred.
I have had other bucks in the last few years which I could not get any litters from, and those were culled. Makes you wonder what could have been had they been given the Batril as well? I may start doing this on my bucks once a year? Sue Hill did caution that the site where the injection was made could have a reaction and cyst may form. This did not happen for me.
So, if you have a buck which you can't seem to get any does bred to, try the three injections of Batril, sub q, three days straight!

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