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Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

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Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#1  Unread postby allymeagan » Wed Apr 04, 2018 1:36 pm


I just started raising harlequins, and the plan was to eat whatever I don't sell or keep to breed/show. I've read for new zealands at least that 12 weeks of age is the optimal time to butcher, as after that the weight gain/feed input ratio drops significantly. Is that the same with most breeds? And what would be an ideal weight at that age? My plan was to keep one kit with the best markings, and also one with the best weight, and weigh them all and start tracking. Breed standard is 6-8 lbs, so I don't want to breed for giant Harlequins, but up near the 8 lb mark would be ideal!

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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#2  Unread postby Zass » Wed Apr 04, 2018 2:55 pm


I raise harlis, and honestly, they are definitely not the best breed for meat production.

Mine grow more slowly than any meat breed or mutts I've raised no matter what I feed. :lol:
Growth rate isn't part of the breed standard, and won't win points on the table, so there isn't too much demand for breeders to work on fast growing harlis. The same goes for type, it's just not an important part of the breed.

I still raise my harlis primarily for meat, because they are pretty, very hardy, and I appreciate that they have been allowed to be more natural in their growth and type than most breeds. In other words, I like them, so that's what I raise. :)

I've had silver foxes and crosses that could get to 5 lbs by 8 or 9 weeks, up to 8 lbs at 16 weeks old. Good meat breeds are out there; I've just never seen a harli litter come close to a commercial meat breed.

I butcher anything I'm not keeping by 12 weeks, because slower growing kits are too highly inefficient in feed for a meat program. Most kits will be over 4lbs by that time, and some up to 5. Anything smaller isn't a keeper anyway...so..


If you want to breed for sale to show breeders, clarity of markings is the main thing breeders want, along with an absence of white marks on japs, and no genetic nonsense like curled tails or pinched hips.

For brood animals, where the markings fall isn't nearly as important as the darkness and clarity of the lines.

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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#3  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Wed Apr 04, 2018 2:57 pm


Welcome to Harlequin

I also raise Harlequin and find 16-18 weeks is about it for growth... They will get larger after that, but it just takes too much feed to get that extra growth for meat.

I love the rabbit and the growth rate has never been an issue for me as I have lots of buyers for pelt and meat, who will buy them at 12-16 weeks and finish them.

Have fun with this beautiful breed!
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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Rainey » Wed Apr 04, 2018 3:04 pm


Sounds like if you want to raise harlequins to show and breed, eating is your plan for what to do with what doesn't sell or isn't showable. If you wanted to raise rabbits for meat, sounds like other breeds (or mutts) might be more practical. I find it's best for me to be clear in my own mind what my priority is--then the choices are simpler.
Best of luck with your rabbits.

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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#5  Unread postby allymeagan » Thu Apr 05, 2018 9:37 am


Thanks so much for the replies! I'm looking forward to raising and breeding harlequins! Having them for meat is definitely just as an aside, I've raised meat rabbits in the past and know they won't reach the same size. Just thought it'd be interesting to know what others experiences are, as we don't have any other harli breeders here. Thanks!

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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#6  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Thu Apr 05, 2018 9:48 am


I just processed 2 rabbits last night

Doe born 29 Nov2017- 6lbs live weight - 3lbs dressed
Buck born 25Sept2017 - just shy of 7lbs - 3-3/4 lbs dressed

not sure if this helps at all
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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#7  Unread postby ladysown » Thu Apr 05, 2018 6:52 pm


i used to breed harlequins... started with some AWESOME rabbits from a guy who did meat rabbit exclusively and bred for it with his rabbits. They had GOOD type (best in Ontario when I got into them) and grew well. I had decent sized kits at 10 weeks which was my marker. I primarily sold them to the pet market. They finished consistently at 8 lbs. LOVED THEM.

Then...

I bought a buck in that was a touch on the small size for his age when I bought him but he was keeping up with his siblings and growing well so figured he'd come out a 7.5 lbs.. he FINISHED AT 6. HE came from big lines and took a chance his genetics would pull through let's just say it wasn't a good fit. I could not find another buck of good quality, I kept getting thin crappy rabbits so Sold out. hated the smallness. Hated the lack of type.

If I ever get into harlequins again I'll be looking for big animals with good type...cause you get a harle with good type and average markings... they will WIPE out the competition cause they will be rocking their markings. :)
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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#8  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:58 am


Ladysown.....

My goal is to get some great typed Magpie Harlequin rabbits!!
I have a doe that appears to be producing exactly that... It is a struggle...
I try and pick the litter based on clean clear markings and I'll sell a better marked rabbit in exchange for keeping the better typed sibling.

It is really an uphill battle....

The Harlequin community doesn't seem very concerned with type....
My goal is to have a Harlequin get Best in Show!! That will require a rabbit with good type. The only way to compete with the other breeds is to have great type.

Give me another year.... we can talk about getting you back into the breed then! (I'm hoping I get some consistency in size and type by then.. :x ) :lol:
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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#9  Unread postby allymeagan » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:45 am


I'd definitely like to breed for type and size more so than just for colouring! I have my first litter coming up to 8 weeks, I'll get some pictures taken of each of them and some weights and maybe start a thread and get some input.

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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#10  Unread postby alforddm » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:20 pm


I believe, with harlequins, type only counts for 40% while markings are 60% on the show table?

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Re: Harlequins for meat, optimal weight/age

Post Number:#11  Unread postby Zass » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:36 pm


I've spoken pretty extensively with a breeder who has placed at convention with her harlis.
One quote from her has really stuck with me.

"Occasionally a harlequin will place on type, if you get a judge who really hates the breed."

I think, that's what really changed my breeding outlook with them.
There are dozens of breeds that will place on type, but harlequins are fairly unique in the way they are judged.

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