Free Access
Anim. Res.
Volume 55, Number 2, March-April 2006
Page(s) 153 - 164
Published online 27 April 2006
Anim. Res. 55 (2006) 153-164
DOI: 10.1051/animres:2006005

Reproductive performance of capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) in captivity under different management systems in Argentina

Martin R. Alvareza and Fernando O. Kravetza, b

a  Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, Facultad de Cs. Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
b  in memoriam

(Received 18 February 2005 - Accepted 13 December 2005 ; published online 27 April 2006)

Abstract - The capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris Linnaeus, 1766) is a wild rodent of great economic interest and is easily domesticated. Variations in reproductive parameters for the capybaras depend on both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which modulate the different stages of its reproduction either in captivity or wildlife. In captivity, an intensive production system is feasible, offering an economical profit under certain reproductive conditions. This work evaluates the reproductive performance of capybaras under different management systems in captivity, interpreting the results biologically and giving management guidelines to optimize their intensive production. The study was carried out at the Capybara Breeding Station, located in the Agricultural Experimental Station "Delta del Paraná", belonging to the National Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA; Campana, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina; 34°08'S; 58°12'W), from August 1997 to December 1998. Three different management systems were tested: System I "Isolated pens" (IP), composed of three different types of outdoor enclosures for "reproduction", "maternity" and "growth". System II "Isolated females" (IM), formed by a central enclosure ("reproduction pen"), communicating with 12 paddocks ("maternity pen") and "growth pens". System III "Mixed pens" (MP), an enclosure of 35 $\times $ 10-m divided in "reproduction area" and "maternity pens"; the offspring were moved to "growth pens" elsewhere. A temporary weaning technique was tested for the "mixed pens" system. The variables analyzed for all systems were litter size at birth and at weaning, nursing and interbirth periods, and survival rates (at birth, weaning and total). The reproductive efficiency of each adult female was calculated as the total number of individuals weaned alive in a one-year period. During the study, 348 young were born in 104 births, from a total of 59 adult females. We conclude that the system that performs the best for capybara reproduction is the "mixed pens" system, including temporary weaning. Under this management strategy the following parameters were registered: mean litter size of 3.8 newborn per birth; 85% of live offspring at weaning; two births per year per female; all resulting in a reproductive efficiency of 6.5 young weaned alive per year $\times $ female. These reproductive parameters provide the necessary conditions to obtain economical profit of captive-bred capybaras.

Key words: breeding management / capybara / captivity / production / reproduction

Mots clés : systèmes d'élevage / cabiaï / captivité / production / reproduction

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2006