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What Do You Think?

Breeding Older Does


by Sherita Tabner

Note: reprinted with permission from the Long Island Rabbit Breeders Association newsletter, "Bunny Hutch News"

Increased exposure to strong light....give the doe at least 16 hours of light a day. The closer the light is to natural sunlight, the better. I don't use lights 24 hours a day, remember, rabbits are nocturnal creatures by nature.
Add apple cider vinegar to the water....add 2 tablespoons to a gallon of water; offer this as the only water source. This is a constant in my barn, it is in the water all the time. And it does work, I have a 98% conception rate in my barn and a 95% live litter rate and I have over 150 working does, so it is a fairly impressive number if you ask me. You usually see the greatest effect from this about 4 weeks after beginning treatment. There is a side benefit to this, I have noticed that the does treated with it seem to have larger litters, and all the animals (bucks & does, nursing or not) that receive it have the most wonderful coats I have ever seen, even in the worst of Texas summer. And, if you use this, you can always add it to the water at a show in order to "cover up" the smell or taste of the strange water from the show barn.
Put her on a diet....give her only half of what she normally gets for 10 days, give her lots of grass hay (timothy, coastal, praire....no alfalfa) to fill the void. Then try her with the buck. The object here is to get her thin (not to the point of death, but very thin) I know it sounds bad, but I have used this method many times. My theory is that the doe has internal fat built up, and it is interfering with ovulation. I have posted several older non breeding does, and have found an extraordinary amount of fat in the internal body cavities, and the fat seems to be clustered around the ovaries more so than anywhere else in the cavity. I have also posted older does that bred until the very end, and they lacked these fat deposits.
Run her with the buck....if you have a fairly gentle doe and buck, run them together for as long as it takes to get her bred. This method only works if you can palpate. I usually check the doe every week, and I have yet to have a doe that didn't get pregnant using this method. Be aware that the doe will look pretty scruffy if you do this, for some reason, bucks like to pull out their hair. Rabbit courtship is STRANGE! LOL
Wheat germ oil......give the doe several drops of wheat germ oil on her feed every day.
Breed her often.....if the doe is raising, but not conceiving, breed her to the buck as many times as you can over the course of 6-8 hours (I have bred a doe as often as every 15 minutes, aggravating, but it usually works). Rabbits are induced ovulators, and the continual breeding gives you a better chance of success, if you get enough sperm into the doe there is a good chance that a few will make it through. Usually, my bucks cannot hold up to this, so I use several on her during the day. Of course, if you can get her bred, the litter won't be any good (you won't know who the father is), but after you get the first litter, she will be much easier to breed the next time around. Another thing, I use younger bucks when using this method, IMO some older bucks seem to suffer from a lower sperm count, and if the doe is hard to get going, you don't want to take any changes.
Try her with a buck from a slightly larger breed....i.e. dwarf doe x mini rex buck. I don't know why this works, but it does. Really good with the doe that won't raise. I have seen dwarf does that won't raise for a small dwarf buck, but easily raise for a larger one. I have also seen the same phenomena in the other five breeds that I raise.
Give her parsley....I have had limited success with this, but you can try it. Give the doe one sprig of parsley daily for a week, then try to breed her.
Change locations....if you have a friend who is a breeder, try sending her there. Sometimes all they need is a change in location.
Never overfeed.....a fat doe is very difficult to breed, and a fat buck doesn't have the stamina to get the job done.
Allow the temperature in the housing area to come up....sometimes a "warm spell" really kicks them in the rear (so to speak). It stands to reason, in the wild, rabbits are seasonal breeders (spring/summer), it seems that some of our domestics have retained a minute trace of this, Belgian Hares are noted for being easiest to breed in the spring/summer months. I have found that a raise to 75 degrees for several days really does the trick. Works for my other breeds too.
Here are a few other things to consider if the does won't raise for the buck:
Take her to a show...this always seems to put my does in the "mood". I don't know why, but this REALLy works. Just ask any judge who has handled my open does, hard to pose a dwarf that has her rear up in the air. LOL
House the doe between two bucks...I think the close proximity of the boys gets the does going. Maybe it is the smell, visual contact, or both.
Try forced breeding...Hold the doe in position and let the buck breed her. Many times she will raise on her own for a repeat breeding after being force bred.

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