Free Access
Reprod. Nutr. Dev.
Volume 46, Number 2, March-April 2006
Page(s) 205 - 210
Published online 06 April 2006
Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 46 (2006) 205-210
DOI: 10.1051/rnd:2006010

Effect of nursing methods and faeces consumption on the development of the bacteroides, lactobacillus and coliform flora in the caecum of the newborn rabbits

Melinda Kovács, Zsolt Szendro, Gábor Milisits, Brigitta Bóta, Edit Bíró-Németh, István Radnai, Roland Pósa, András Bónai, Ferenc Kovács and Péter Horn

University of Kaposvár, Faculty of Animal Science, 7400 Kaposvár, Guba S. u. 40, Hungary

(Received 21 February 2005; accepted 10 January 2006; published online 6 April 2006)

Abstract - The effect of nursing method and ingestion of maternal faeces on the development of the bacteroides, lactobacillus and coliform flora of the caecum in the first 10 days of life were examined in freely nursed pups having access to maternal faeces (Group FF), pups nursed once a day and having access (Group CF), or having no access (Group CN) to maternal faeces. Colonisation of the caecum by Bacteroides commenced already on day 3 after birth. On day 2 the bacteroides counts were below 100, while on day 4 they were already between 100 and 10 000. In Group CN, the Bacteroides counts were lower (by 14 to 40%) throughout the 10-day period studied than in the groups having access to maternal faeces. Differences between groups were significant only on days 4 and 6. The average number of maternal faecal pellets left behind the doe in Group CN was 3-4 (between 0.5 and 6.4 per doe). In Groups FF and CF the pellets became smaller, crumbled and finally disappeared from the nest box, they were consumed by the pups and could be found in their gastric content. The lactobacillus counts decreased in all three groups with age, from 6.0 to 3.5 log10 CFU·g-1 (FF), 4.6 to 2.8 log10 CFU·g-1 (CF) and 5.1 to 3.1 log10 CFU·g-1 (CN), respectively. The coliform counts were higher in the first 4 days in FF (5.6 log10 CFU·g-1) than in CF (< 2 log10 CFU·g-1) and CN (2-3.6 log10 CFU·g-1) animals. Bacteroides could be cultured from the surface of the vulvar labia (max. 1000 colony count) and the vagina (max. 190 colony count), so young rabbits could become "infected" by them already in the doe's vagina. Thus prevention of ingestion of maternal faeces only slightly influenced the development of the bacteroides flora, the faeces left behind by the doe did not play an exclusive role in their colonisation.

Key words: newborn rabbit / caecal microflora / bacteroides / controlled and free nursing

Corresponding author: Melinda Kovács

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2006