The mortality and the culling rates of females are very high in rabbit breeding. In many cases, the dead or culled females show low reproductive performances and poor body conditions. Energy deficit leads to body mobilization and reduced reproductive performance. Consequently, energy balance and lifespan are closely linked. Two in vivo methods to estimate body composition were recently validated for rabbit does. Ultrasounds and TOBEC methods permitted the evaluation of the changes in energy balance and their relationship to reproductive performance of females. Influence of intrinsic (parity, litter size, genetic line, ...) and extrinsic (reproduction rhythm, temperature, ...) factors on the energetic balance of females are discussed. Energy deficit and depletion of body stores occurring during lactation lead to a decrease in reproductive performance and the physiological mechanisms implicated in these effects were presented. Interest and limitations of several strategies to reduce the body energy deficit in reproducing does and to improve their fertility and thus lifespan are discussed: rearing, feeding, management, genetic selection. A multi-facetted approach, combining these various strategies seems to be required to meet these objectives. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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