Scoring One for Good Reproductive Management
By Maggie Robertson, Research Coordinator
Because of their rapid reproductive rates, it is essential to carefully monitor doe health and nutritional status.
Nutritional status, which affects doe fertility, can be efficiently measured by assessing a doe’s body condition and assigning it a score on a scale of one (thin) to five (obese). Best completed at 11 days post-kindling, body condition scoring is the best way to gauge the doe’s fertility, which allows the producer to alter the breed-back schedule where necessary.
Does that score one or five on the body condition scale have limited fertility.
Very thin does do not have the energy resources to successfully carry a litter to term. Does who rapidly lose condition throughout pregnancy are digesting stored fats, resulting in an increase of blood ketone levels, which circulate to the growing fetuses and can cause fetal death and early pregnancy losses.
On the other hand, obese and over-conditioned does pose problems with fertility because of metabolic changes which alter hormonal levels in the system. These hormones are responsible for the development and release of eggs from the ovaries. Additionally, the hormones provide maintenance of necessary reproductive processes for establishing pregnancy.
Conducting a Body Condition Score
First, make sure the doe is standing freely and comfortably in front of you. Run your hands along the spinal column and feel for the vertebrates. The spine should be easily felt, but is rounded by a sufficient coverage of fat. Then feel down the sides of the rabbit; the hip and rib bones should be easily felt, again rounded by sufficient fat coverage. When feeling for the ribs, spine, and hips, you should not need to apply any pressure to feel the bones. If pressure is required, there is too much fat coverage. If the points of the bones are easily felt, there is too little fat coverage.
From the side-view, the topline towards the doe’s tail should neither bulge out nor curve in. Rather, the rump should be flat towards the tail to indicate an ideal body condition. The ideal body condition also should not have an abdominal bulge, and loin muscling should be apparent to the touch.
The Ontario Farm Innovation Program is funded through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.