Skip to main content Accessibility help

Correlated response in body condition and energy mobilisation in rabbits selected for litter size variability

  • M. L. García (a1), A. Blasco (a2), M. E. García (a1) and M. J. Argente (a1)


A divergent selection experiment on litter size variability (high and low lines) was performed in rabbits over seven generations. The aim of this study was to evaluate the correlated responses to selection in body condition and fat reserves mobilisation. Litter size variability was estimated as phenotypic variance of litter size within female after correcting for the year-season and the parity-lactation status effects. A total of 226 females were used in this study, of which 158 females were used to measure body condition and energy mobilisation. Body condition was measured as BW and perirenal fat thickness. Females were stimulated with the adrenergic isoproterenol. Mobilisation capacity of fat reserves was measured by the lipolytic potential, defined as the increment in non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) levels from basal concentration until adrenergic stimulation at mating, delivery and 10 days after delivery of the second reproductive cycle. Females were classified as survivor or non-survivor when they were culled for sanitary reasons or died before the third kindling. Data were analysed using Bayesian methodology. Survivor females presented higher BW than the non-survivor females at delivery (238 g, P=1.00) and 10 days after delivery (276 g, P=1.00). They also showed higher perirenal fat thickness at 10 days after delivery (0.62 mm, P=1.00). At delivery, basal NEFA levels was lower in survivor than non-survivor females (−0.18 mmol/l, P=1.00), but their lipolytic potential (∆NEFA) was higher (0.08 mmol/l, P=0.94). Body weight was similar between lines in survivor females. Perirenal fat thickness was lower in the high line than in the low line at delivery (−0.23 mm, P=0.90) and 10 days after delivery (−0.28 mm, P=0.92). The high line exhibited higher NEFA (0.10 mmol/l, P=0.93) and lower ∆NEFA (−0.08 mmol/l, P=0.92) than the low line at delivery. The low line showed a favourable correlated response to selection on body condition and fat reserves mobilisation. In conclusion, the low line selected for litter size variability seems to adapt better to adverse conditions, as it has a greater capacity to mobilise energy reserves at delivery than the high line. Females that adequately manage their body reserves and perform energy mobilisation correctly have a lower risk of dying or being culled.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Amat, JA, Aguilera, E and Visser, GH 2007. Energetic and developmental costs of mounting an immune response in greenfinches (Carduelis chloris). Ecological Research 22, 282287.
Bareille, N, Beaudeau, F, Billon, S, Robert, A and Faverdin, P 2003. Effects of health disorders on feed intake and milk production in dairy cows. Livestock Production Science 83, 5362.
Blache, D, Terlouw, C and Maloney, SK 2011. Physiology. In Animal welfare (ed. MC Appleby, BO Hughes, A Joy and JA Mench), pp. 155182. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
Blasco, A. 2017. Bayesian data analysis for animal scientists. Springer, New York, NY, USA.
Blasco, A, Martínez-Álvaro, M, Garcia, ML, Capcarova, M, Zbynovska, K, Petruska, P, Ibáñez-Escriche, N and Argente, MJ 2018. Selection for genetic environmental sensitivity of litter size changes resilience in rabbits. In 11th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, 11–16 February 2018, Auckland, New Zealand.
Blasco, A, Martínez-Álvaro, M, Garcia, ML, Ibáñez-Escriche, N and Argente, MJ 2017. Selection for environmental variance of litter size in rabbits. Genetic Selection Evolution 49, 48.
Broom, MD 2009. Consequences of biological engineering for resource allocation and welfare. In Resource allocation theory applied to farm animal production (ed. WM Rauw), pp. 261274. CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
Chilliard, Y 1993. Dietary fat and adipose tissue metabolism in ruminants, pigs and rodents: a review. Journal Dairy Science 76, 38973931.
Feugier, A and Fortun-Lamothe, L 2006. Extensive reproductive rhythm and early weaning improve body condition and fertility of rabbit does. Animal Research 55, 459470.
Fortun, L, Prunier, A, Etienne, M and Lebas, F 1994. Influence of nutritional deficit on foetal survival and growth and blood metabolites in rabbit does. Reproduction, Nutrition, Development 34, 201211.
Fortun-Lamothe, L 2006. Energy balance and reproductive performance in rabbits does. Animal Reproduction Science 93, 115.
Friggens, NC 2003. Body lipid reserves and reproductive cycle: towards a better understanding. Livestock Production Science 83, 219236.
García, ML, Argente, MJ, Muelas, R, Birlanga, V and Blasco, A 2012. Effect of divergent selection for residual variance of litter size on health status and welfare. In Proceedings of the 10th World Rabbit Congress, 3–6 September 2012, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, pp. 103106.
Garnsworthy, PC 2006. BCS in dairy cows: targets for production and fertility. In Recent advances in animal nutrition (ed. PG Garnsworthy and J Wiseman), pp. 6186. Nottingham University Press, Nottingham, UK.
Gellrich, K, Sigl, T, Mayer, HHD and Wiedemann, S 2015. Cortisol levels in skimmed milk during the first 22 weeks of lactation and response to short-term metabolic stress and lameness in dairy cows. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology 6, 3138.
Geyer, CM 1992. Practical markow chain Monte Carlo (with discussion). Statistical Science 7, 467511.
Johnson, RW 1998. Immune and endocrine regulation of food intake in sick animals. Domestic Animal Endocrinology 15, 309319.
Martinez-Paredes, E, Ródenas, L, Martínez-Vallespín, B, Cervera, C, Blas, E, Brecchia, G, Boiti, C and Pascual, JJ 2012. Effects of feeding programme on the performance and energy balance of nulliparous rabbit does. Animal 6, 10861095.
Pascual, JJ, Blanco, J, Piquer, O and Quevedo, F, Cervera 2004. Ultrasound measurements of perirenal fat thickness to estimate the body condition of reproducing rabbit does in different physiological status. World Rabbit Science 12, 722.
Pascual, JJ, Castella, F, Cervera, C, Blas, E and Fernández-Carmona, J 2000. The use of ultrasound measurement of perirenal fat thickness to estimate changes in body condition of young female rabbits. Animal Science 70, 435442.
Pilorz, V, Jäckel, M, Knudsen, K and Trillmich, F 2005. The cost of a specific immune response in young guinea pigs. Physiology & Behavior 85, 205211.
Roche, JR, Friggens, NC, Kay, JK, Fisher, MW, Stafford, KJ and Berry, DP 2009. Invited review: body condition score and its association with dairy cow productivity, health, and welfare. Journal Dairy Science 92, 57695801.
Rosell, JM and de la Fuente, LF 2009. Culling and mortality in breeding rabbits. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 88, 120127.
Rosell, JM and de la Fuente, LF 2016. Causes of mortality in breeding rabbits. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 127, 5663.
Savietto, D, Cervera, C, Blas, E, Baselga, M, Larsen, T, Friggens, NC and Pascual, JJ 2013. Environmental sensitivity differs between rabbit lines selected for reproductive intensity and longevity. Animal 7, 19691977.
Sorensen, D and Gianola, D 2002. Likelihood, bayesian, and MCMC methods. Quantitative genetics, 1st edition. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY, USA.
Theilgaard, P, Baselga, M, Blas, E, Friggens, NC, Cercera, C and Pascual, JJ 2009. Differences in productive robustness in rabbits selected for reproductive longevity or litter size. Animal 3, 637646.
Theilgaard, P, Facila, S, Blas, E, Baselga, M and Pascual, JJ 2005. Time and dose response of blood non-esterified fatty acids to adrenergic stimulation in rabbit does. World Rabbit Science 13, 189195.
Theilgaard, P, Sánchez, JP, Pascual, JJ, Friggens, NC and Baselga, M 2006. Effect of body fatness and selection for prolificacy on survival of rabbit does assessed using a cryopreserved control population. Livestock Science 103, 6573.
Webster-Marketon, JI and Glaser, R 2008. Stress hormones and immune function. Cell Immunology 252, 1626.


Correlated response in body condition and energy mobilisation in rabbits selected for litter size variability

  • M. L. García (a1), A. Blasco (a2), M. E. García (a1) and M. J. Argente (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed