Intake of different hays with presence of Colchicum autumnale by rabbits


  • T. Eve Université de Lorraine
  • L. Nief Université de Lorraine
  • S. Gonçalves Université de Lorraine
  • C. Fontfreyde Université de Lorraine
  • S. Jurjanz Université de Lorraine



colchicine, hay intake, meadow saffron, rabbit, toxicity


The ingestion of 3 hay types by growing rabbits and the consequences on animal performance were studied in a first part. Two kinds of hay from high nature value grasslands [CFP (Colchico-Festucetum pratensis) and SBR (Senecioni-Brometum racemosi)] differentiated by their botanical composition were compared to a classical agricultural hay (control). The 3 hays, offered ad libitum, were ingested at 30.6, 34.8 and 36.1 g/kg body weight (BW) respectively for SBR, CFP and the control, where the consumption of SBR hay was significantly lower. (P<0.01). The type of hay distributed did not affect the consumption of commercial feed or growth (44 g/kg BW and 36 g/d, respectively). The effect of meadow saffron concentration (Colchicum autumnale) in CFP hay was tested at 3 doses (absence, 2.75 and 15% of the distributed hay mass) with respect to their effect on ingestion and animal health. Again, no effect of the presence of meadow saffron (MeS) in the hay on these parameters was observed, even at the highest dose. However, during this second part, rabbits preferred to consume meadow saffron instead of the rest of the distributed hay (hardly any MeS was refused by rabbits at the representative dose, whereas 12% of the rest of the hay was refused, and 3.4 and 20% respectively at the maximal dose). The intake of the toxic alkaloid colchicine corresponded to 30 to 44% of the median lethal doses (LD50) at the representative and maximal doses respectively. The real exposure of the rabbits was probably lower, as the absorption of ingested colchicine is reported to be around 50% of the LD50 values which are established after an intravenous injection. Nevertheless, the absence of any effect should be interpreted with caution. The colchicine content of MeS varied greatly depending on the time of harvest and the parts of the plant taken into consideration. A late harvest (mid-June or later) would ensure (very) low concentrations of colchicine in the aerial parts of MeS. The presence of cloves on this plant should be completely avoided, due to the very high concentration of colchicine in the seeds. Moreover, long term exposure of the animals to this toxic plant may increase the risk of adverse effects. The study shows that hay distribution can aid digestion without altering the animal’s performance. Moreover, the valorisation of hay from high nature value grasslands would not only add real value to the commercialisation of rabbit meat by commercial breeders, but also to pet owners on the condition that hay quality would be guaranteed.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

T. Eve, Université de Lorraine

ENSAIA, Spécialisation « Développement durable des Filières agricoles »

L. Nief, Université de Lorraine

ENSAIA, Spécialisation « Développement durable des Filières agricoles »

S. Gonçalves, Université de Lorraine

ENSAIA, Spécialisation « Développement durable des Filières agricoles »

C. Fontfreyde, Université de Lorraine

ENSAIA, Spécialisation « Développement durable des Filières agricoles »

S. Jurjanz, Université de Lorraine

INRA, UR Animal et Fonctionnalités des Produits Animaux


Brvar M., Ploj T., Kozelj G., Mozina M., Noc M., Bunc M. 2004. Case report: fatal poisoning with Colchicum autumnale. Crit Care, 8: R56-R59. doi:10.1186/cc2427

Cortinovis C., Caloni F. 2015. Alkaloid-containing plants poisonous to cattle and horses in Europe. Toxins, 7: 5301-5307. doi:10.3390/toxins7124884

De Blas C., Wiseman J. 1998. Nutrition of the rabbit, 2nd Edition, ed. CABI international, Wallingford: UK.

Farruggia A., Martin B., Baumont R., Prache S., Doreau M., Hoste H., Durand D. 2008. Is floristic diversity of permanent pastures important for ruminants and animal products? Productions Animales, Paris, Institut National de la Recherche

Agronomique, 182.

Gidenne T. 2015. Dietary fibers in the nutrition of growing rabbit and recommendations for digestive health: a review. Animal, 9: 227-242. doi:10.1017/S1751731114002729

Gaujour E., Amiaud B., Mignolet C., Plantureux S. 2012. Factors and processes affecting plant biodiversity in permanent grasslands - A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev., 32: 133-160. doi:10.1007/s13593-011-0015-3

Grüebler M.U., Schuler H., Horch P., Spaar R. 2012. The effectiveness of conservation measures to enhance nest survival in a meadow bird suffering from anthropogenic nest loss. Biol. Conserv., 146: 197-203. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.12.019

Humbert J.Y., Pellet J., Buri P., Arlettaz R. 2012. Does delaying the first mowing date benefits biodiversity in meadowland? In: Environmental Evidence: The official journal of the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence, 2012: 1-9. doi:10.1186/2047-2382-1-9

Jager C., Muller S. 1999. Les groupements végétaux des prairies alluviales du massif vosgien occidental (Lorraine). J. Bot., Soc. Bot. France, 9: 43-54.

Korva J., Tuori M. 1986. Prediction of the digestibility of silage and hay from the crude fiber and crude protein content. J. Agric. Sci. Finland, 58: 175-183.

Kupper J., Rentsch K., Mittelhozer A., Arthos R., Meyer S., Kupferschmidt H., Naegeli H. 2010. A fatal case of autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale ) poisoning in a heifer: confirmation by mass-spectrometric colchicine detection. J. Vet. Diagn. Invest., 22: 119-122. doi:10.1177/104063871002200125

Lord B. 2014. Management of dental diseases in rabbits. Vet. Nursing J., 27: 18-20. Plantureux S., Amiaud B. 2010. e-FLORA-sys, a website tool to evaluate the agronomical and environmental value of grasslands. In: Proc. of the 23th General Meeting of the European Grassland Federation. Kiel, Germany, 29 August-2 September, 732-734.

Poutareau A., Girardin Ph. 2002. Alkaloids in meadow saffron Colchicum automnae L. Journal of Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants, 9: 63-79. doi:10.1300/J044v09n01_08

Pozet C. 2009. Pathologies respiratoires du lapin de compagnie : Etude bibliographique et élaboration de fiches pratiques. École nationale vétérinaire de Lyon, Lyon, 36.

Prebble J.L., Meredith A.L. 2014. Food and water intake and selective feeding in rabbits four feeding regimes. J. Anim. Physiol. Anim. Nutr., 98: 991-1000. doi:10.1111/jpn.12163

Prebble J.L., Shaw D.J., Meredith A.L. 2015. Bodyweight and body condition score in rabbits on four different feeding regimes. J. Small Anim. Pract., 56: 207-212. doi:10.1111/jsap.12301

Scherrmann J.M., Urtizberea M., Pierson P., Terrien N. 1989. The effect of colchicine-specific active immunization on colchicine toxicity and disposition in the rabbit. Toxicology, 56:213-222. doi:10.1016/0300-483X(89)90134-0

Semler C. 2015. La valorisation des prairies remarquables du Parc Naturel Régional de Lorraine : un nouveau débouché économique dans la filière foin. Mémoire de master FAGEFGE, Université de Lorraine, 33p.

Spilberg I., Mandell B., Metha J., Simchowitz L., Rosenberg D. 1979. Mechanism of Action of Colchicine in Acute Urate Crystal-Induced Arthritis. J. Clin. Invest., 64: 775-780. doi:10.1172/JCI109523

Stainmesse M. 2015. Rapport technique de l’étude sur la valorisation du foin des prairies remarquables du Parc Naturel Régional de Lorraine. Rapport de fin d’études, ENSAIA de Nancy, 28 p.