New Zealand × Californian rabbit does were offered ad libitum three diets: diet A, with 960 g lucerne per kg dry matter (DM), having 8•7 MJ digestible energy (DE) and 108 g digestible protein (DP) per kg DM; diet AF with 920 g lucerne and 50 g animal fat per kg DM, having 9•6 MJ DE and 105 g DP per kg DM; and diet C, as a control diet having 12•0 MJ DE and 122 g DP per kg DM. Productive parameters were measured for the first five parities, and food intake and milk yield during the first two parities.
In experiment 1, 79 does (342 parities) were housed in a cooled building, litters were standardized to eight kits and weaned at 28 days of age. DM intake during lactation was lower (P < 0•001) but DE intake, milk yield and litter growth were higher for group C. Values for does on diet AF generally were between those of groups A and C. Average results for groups A, AF and C were respectively: 59, 65 and 51 days for the parturition interval; 160, 170 and 193 g for daily milk output in the first two lactations; 3•7, 4•0 and 4•5 kg for litter weight at weaning.
In experiment 2, 64 does (294 parities) were housed in a climatic chamber at a constant temperature of 30oC, litters were standardized to six kits and weaned at 35 days of age. DM intake during lactation was lower (P < 0•001) but milk yield and litter growth were higher (P < 0•001) for C does. Average results for groups A, AF and C were respectively: 70, 70 and 56 days for parturition interval; 106, 128 and 128 g for daily milk output in the first two lactations; 3•7, 4•4 and 4•4 kg for litter weight at weaning.
Lucerne-based diets allowed a reasonable performance of reproductive rabbit does in the long term, even under hot conditions.