Evaluation Of Performance Of Doe Genetic Groups Of The Domestic Rabbit At The Ngong Farmers Training Center, Kenya
The domestic rabbit in Kenya is considered a non conventional livestock species despite the country having many rabbits of both local and pure exotic breeds and their crossbreeds. The Government through the Ministry of Livestock Development (MoLD) set up the National Rabbit Breeding and Multiplication Unit situated at the Ngong Farmers Training Center (NFTC) to supply farmers with breeding stock of rabbits of high genetic quality and also offer training and extension services in rabbit husbandry. However, there is little information concerning the performance of the different genetic groups of rabbits in the country. This study was therefore carried out with the aim of assessing and comparing the performance of doe genetic groups and factors (season and parity) affecting this performance of rabbits kept at the Ngong Farmers Training Center, Nairobi, Kenya. Production records (n=862) of 92 does of 6 genetic groups i.e. New Zealand White (NW), Californian (CC) ,Flemish Giant (FG), Kenya White (KW) and the crosses between NW and CC (NC) and NW and KW (NK) were used in this study. Statistical analysis using General Linear Model Procedure (GLM PROC) under Restricted maximum likelihood (REML) showed that there were significant (p>0.05) differences between the doe rabbit genetic groups in the open days, age at first successful mating, litter size at birth (LSB), and at weaning (LSW). The respective estimated means for gestation and weaning periods were 31.3 ± 0.05 and 35.6 ± 0.60 days while those for open days and kindling intervals were 40.6 ±0.87 and 65.5 ± 1.30 days respectively. The highest mean age at first successful mating was recorded in the FG at 6.69 ± 0.51 months and was significantly (p<0.05) different from the other DGG. Reproductive longevity was highest in the KW at 32.2 ± 6.85 months followed by the NC at 27.2 ± 10.2 months and both were significantly (p<0.05) different from the other DGG. Season 1 had the highest kindling intervals at 71.4 ±1.09 and was significantly (p<0.05) different from season 2 and 3 at 64.0 ±2.37 days. The mean number of matings per conception were 1.14 ± 0.02, 1.20 ± 0.02 and 1.18 ± 0.03 in season 1, 2 and 3 of mating respectively with no significant (p>0.05) differences between them. Litter size at birth (LSB) ranged from 7.15 ± 0.16 to 7.55±0.16 with no significant (p>0.05) differences observed between the seasons. Litter size at weaning (LSW) was lowest in season 1 at 4.76±0.18 and was significantly (p>0.05) different from seasons 2 and 3 at 5.24±0.16 and 5.45±0.18 respectively. LSB peaked at parities 3 and 6 at 7.86±0.26 and 7.80±0.33 which were significantly (p<0.05) different from parities 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9. Parities 3 and 5 had LSW at 6.21 ± 0.31 and 5.88 ± 0.34 which were higher than and significantly (p<0.05) different from parities 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9. Parities 4 and 9 had the highest open days at 49.1±2.35 and 47.7± 1.46 days and were significantly (p<0.05) different from parities2, 3 and 8. The kindling interval was high in parity 4, 9 and 6 at 80.5±2.38, 78.9±1.45 and 77.8±2.39 days respectively and they were significantly (p<0.05) different from parities 2, 3, 5 and 8. The NZW performed better than the other DGG in terms of LSB, LSW and doe productivity (number of kits weaned per doe per year) at 33.4 while CC and NK were lowest at 26.4 and 28.5 respectively. The CC and the NK performed poorly in comparison to the other DGG. Season of mating and weaning did not adversely affect LSB and LSW whereas Parities beyond parity number 6 had reduced LSB and LSW. This indicates that any of these DGG can be successfully raised at the center all year round and only those considered genetically superior be reared beyond parity 6. Studies involving litter sizes and their weights at birth and at weaning and the weights of the does at service, kindling and weaning of the litter need to be carried out. They will give more information and fair comparisons of the DGG in terms of productivity.