Behavioural and physiological responses of rabbits
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The profitability of a rabbit farming system must consider the thermal environment that the animal will be exposed during the productive period. The goal of this study was to evaluate the physiological responses and behaviours of 26 New Zealand rabbits during seven days of their lives at three times a day. The experiment was carried out in rabbit house in the Federal University of Lavras at Lavras, Brazil. To characterize the thermal environment sensors were used to measure the dry bulb temperature and relative humidity at 48 points inside the rabbit house, at 6:00 a.m., 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. In addition, the temperature and humidity index (THI) was calculated. The respiratory rate and the superficial temperature of the rabbits' ears were measured. Behaviour evaluations were monitored in punctual record, with duration of two min/cage. Later an ethogram was made with the main behaviours identified. Similar data of behaviour and data of physiological responses were identified by using Ward’s method of cluster analysis. It was observed the period of 6 a.m. showed more comfortable conditions of THI values than the others analysed. Besides, physiological responses presented better values at 6:00 a.m. in comparison to 12:00 and 6:00 p.m. Furthermore, in general, a similar behaviour was observed in the rabbits at 12:00 and 6:00 p.m., while at 6:00 a.m. was different. But rabbits demonstrated to be more comfortable at 6 a.m. maybe because at this time environment conditions were better than the rest of the day. Besides, it can be observed that rabbits were more active in sunrise and sunset than in the rest of the day.