In Switzerland, group-housing for breeding rabbit does is not explicitly required by law, but label programmes, as well as the general public and animal welfare groups, are advocating it. Although group-housing is of great benefit to the gregariously living rabbits, the establishment of a social hierarchy within the group might lead to stress and lesions. In the present epidemiological study, lesions were scored twice on 30% of the breeding does on all 28 commercial Swiss farms with group-housed breeding does. Additionally, a detailed questionnaire was filled out with all producers to determine risk factors potentially associated with lesions. Data were analysed using hierarchical proportional odds models. About 33% of the does examined had lesions, including wounds that were almost healed and small scratches. Severe lesions were counted on 9% of the animals. Differences between seasons in lesions score were identified, with the extent of lesions being higher in summer than in spring. Fewer lesions occurred on farms on which mastitis was more common. More lesions were found on farms where the does were isolated between littering and artificial insemination than on farms without isolation. According to the producers, most of the aggression occurred directly after the isolation phase when the does were regrouped again. We conclude that lesions in group-housed breeding does might be reduced by appropriate reproductive management.
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