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breeding for meat--how much is enough?

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breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#1  Unread postby Rainey » Thu Jan 03, 2019 4:07 pm


Have to start by acknowledging that some folks welcome rabbitosis, even try to spread it and the answer to my question about number of rabbits would always be More! But I just don't want to have more rabbits than we know what to do with. Ideally we'd have 7 litters averaging 8 per litter each year. This year we only had 5 from 4 does, the same number we had our first year when we just had 2 does.
We've breed all our does in early spring and then try for 2 or 3 litters in the fall. I'm trying to figure out how many does we should keep as breeders. We have 4 does overwintering to breed in spring. Casco has given us 11 good litters over 4 years, Hollis had a good litter last spring but refused to breed in the fall, and the last 2 are youngsters kindled last June.
I have trouble reconciling different things. We keep trying new youngsters because we don't know how long the proven does will last. Casco's sister was just as good but she just stopped producing in her 3rd year. We ought to have extras ready for whoever fails, but the more does we have the less often any one is bred and that can be a problem. Is there any good research on how often a doe needs to be bred to remain productive? We've bred does 2 or 3 times a year--is that often enough? And is there any way to predict the productive life of a doe? We try to watch their weight by feeling along the backbones, but when Berwick stopped having litters she didn't feel fat, but had lots of internal fat that couldn't be felt.
How well do the rest of you do at getting the number of rabbits you want--not too many, but just enough?

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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#2  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Thu Jan 03, 2019 4:55 pm


For me... if I do not rebreed for more than 4 months [between breedings] ,- I often have some trouble getting them back on track.
I would be a poor one to ask about the right number of rabbits, - I always have more than is practical.. I keep backup rabbits, "just in case.."
meat-mutt rabbits, a few laying hens.

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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#3  Unread postby Dood » Mon Jan 07, 2019 5:12 pm


I think just 2 does should easily produce 7 litters of 8 each year

Because there are numerous causes for rabbits to have reduced production, I don't think there is a specific number to keep on hand. I'm always growing out 1 or 2 or 3 replacement does as I'm always trying to improve growth rate and feed conversion, health, etc... but I promptly cull out an older doe once the young one is confirmed pregnant.

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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#4  Unread postby MaggieJ » Tue Jan 08, 2019 1:06 am


I think the hiatus between your breedings may be part of the problem. When I had rabbits in cages, what worked best for me was to breed for litters born from early April to mid-June and then a short break, breeding again in August for early September litters right up to the last litters being born in late November or early December. Even then, I sometimes had misses early in the spring.

For me, this was one more plus to having the rabbits in an indoor colony. The nest tunnels meant kits survived even in the coldest weather, and with good ventilation and the occasional use of a box fan, the rabbits did fine in the heat too. Breeding was unpredictable since the buck lived in the colony and the does decided when they'd allow him to breed, but on the whole it worked well for me.
Sojourning in 1894 . . .

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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#5  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:20 am


MaggieJ wrote:I think the hiatus between your breedings may be part of the problem. When I had rabbits in cages, what worked best for me was to breed for litters born from early April to mid-June and then a short break, breeding again in August for early September litters right up to the last litters being born in late November or early December. Even then, I sometimes had misses early in the spring.

For me, this was one more plus to having the rabbits in an indoor colony. The nest tunnels meant kits survived even in the coldest weather, and with good ventilation and the occasional use of a box fan, the rabbits did fine in the heat too. Breeding was unpredictable since the buck lived in the colony and the does decided when they'd allow him to breed, but on the whole it worked well for me.

[Off topic]
For home meat production.... It is hard to beat a "small" colony situation , the labor requirements are so much less.
When I lived in N. California, the high summer temperatures would often reach, or exceed 120 [F] .. Keeping rabbits in the "Rabbitry" [an insulated building with big evaporative coolers] , was expensive, and also I lived in fear of power outages. I had to leave my job several times to run home and start the generator, to cool the rabbitry back down before all the rabbits died. [I did lose some that way] The pregnant does near their kindling date were the most prone to heat distress.
......................................
When I built a concrete retaining wall with holes in it for rabbits to go into , it solved the problems I had with high electric bills and heat sick rabbits .[my design had some flaws] The top section of the wall had holes behind where cages attached.
The bottom of the wall also had holes in it with compartments for the rabbits to live in/ nest in.
The rabbits on the bottom were a colony contained inside a fenced yard. I only allowed 2 bucks in the colony, with 10 to 15 does. My production numbers [per litter] ,were a little less than with cages, but the costs and health of the rabbits was greatly improved [ compared to living in the "rabbitry"] . Even in the hottest part of the summer I had no "heat-sick rabbits. Breeding continued year round, i just had to watch carefully and make notes about who was pregnant and or nursing, so i could cull unproductive does.
anyway... the rabbits bred year round, with no breaks, and very few problems. Since I am no longer interested in commercial production , ... I may "revisit " this colony raising situation...
meat-mutt rabbits, a few laying hens.

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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Rainey » Wed Jan 09, 2019 9:16 am


Dood wrote:I think just 2 does should easily produce 7 litters of 8 each year

Because there are numerous causes for rabbits to have reduced production, I don't think there is a specific number to keep on hand. I'm always growing out 1 or 2 or 3 replacement does as I'm always trying to improve growth rate and feed conversion, health, etc... but I promptly cull out an older doe once the young one is confirmed pregnant.


I guess where I get stuck is not knowing whether one of the 2 does will fail in some way. And I want to keep trying out young does, but I also don't know until they've had at least a couple litters whether a young doe is an improvement over the older. So I just get caught--not wanting to stop breeding a dependable doe and wanting to find a youngster as good to replace her and knowing I have to breed often enough to keep them producing and not wanting to have more rabbits than I can use.
Guess I'm just a control freak dealing with too many variables :?

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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#7  Unread postby Psybird » Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:21 am


michaels4gardens wrote:
MaggieJ wrote:I think the hiatus between your breedings may be part of the problem. When I had rabbits in cages, what worked best for me was to breed for litters born from early April to mid-June and then a short break, breeding again in August for early September litters right up to the last litters being born in late November or early December. Even then, I sometimes had misses early in the spring.

For me, this was one more plus to having the rabbits in an indoor colony. The nest tunnels meant kits survived even in the coldest weather, and with good ventilation and the occasional use of a box fan, the rabbits did fine in the heat too. Breeding was unpredictable since the buck lived in the colony and the does decided when they'd allow him to breed, but on the whole it worked well for me.

[Off topic]
For home meat production.... It is hard to beat a "small" colony situation , the labor requirements are so much less.
When I lived in N. California, the high summer temperatures would often reach, or exceed 120 [F] .. Keeping rabbits in the "Rabbitry" [an insulated building with big evaporative coolers] , was expensive, and also I lived in fear of power outages. I had to leave my job several times to run home and start the generator, to cool the rabbitry back down before all the rabbits died. [I did lose some that way] The pregnant does near their kindling date were the most prone to heat distress.
......................................
When I built a concrete retaining wall with holes in it for rabbits to go into , it solved the problems I had with high electric bills and heat sick rabbits .[my design had some flaws] The top section of the wall had holes behind where cages attached.
The bottom of the wall also had holes in it with compartments for the rabbits to live in/ nest in.
The rabbits on the bottom were a colony contained inside a fenced yard. I only allowed 2 bucks in the colony, with 10 to 15 does. My production numbers [per litter] ,were a little less than with cages, but the costs and health of the rabbits was greatly improved [ compared to living in the "rabbitry"] . Even in the hottest part of the summer I had no "heat-sick rabbits. Breeding continued year round, i just had to watch carefully and make notes about who was pregnant and or nursing, so i could cull unproductive does.
anyway... the rabbits bred year round, with no breaks, and very few problems. Since I am no longer interested in commercial production , ... I may "revisit " this colony raising situation...


I honestly didn't think that keeping rabbits in that kind of heat was possible. I live in an area that gets to around 120 degrees F for about 3-5 months and I've put off having rabbits as a dream because of the heat and the high cooling costs. when you say concrete retaining wall, what exactly do you mean? going off of what you wrote it sounds like you had a wall with holes in it for the rabbits to retreat into, but also cages that were attatched in some way to that wall?

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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#8  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:03 am


Psybird wrote:
I honestly didn't think that keeping rabbits in that kind of heat was possible. I live in an area that gets to around 120 degrees F for about 3-5 months and I've put off having rabbits as a dream because of the heat and the high cooling costs. when you say concrete retaining wall, what exactly do you mean? going off of what you wrote it sounds like you had a wall with holes in it for the rabbits to retreat into, but also cages that were attached in some way to that wall?


I will try to further explain..

I had a hillside near the barn, .. I cut out [dug out] about 30 feet of the lower part of the hill, we then built a "poured concrete" retaining wall where the "cut" had created a 6 foot high bank. The wall held back the hillside, and created more flat working space in front of the wall. [we needed the retaining wall anyway,for more space, and to reroute drainage water..to keep rain water from running down into the barn area]
-before I poured the concrete into the wall forms, I made holes through the wall by sandwiching pieces of plastic pipe between the plywood forms., [I think i used pieces of 8 or 10 inch plastic pipe] -- after the wall was poured, I stripped the forms off ,and the pieces of plastic pipe remained in the wall. I then fastened galvanized metal framing material the back of the wall [toward the hillside] at top and bottom of where i wanted to have the cages, - I built the cages from metal framing and commercial grade metal roofing sheets. The floor ,and roof was sloped toward the back ,so pee ran through the cracks between floor and back wall, and into the dirt. -any water that seeped through the dirt on top of the cages ran toward the back also and didn't get the inside of the cages wet .. -after the cages were built, I filled dirt and gravel, back in behind the retaining wall, and a little over a foot of dirt on top of the cages . In the bottom of the wall I did the same thing, except that the concrete footing was the bottom of the compartment, so there were "metal cages, or compartments", top and bottom, behind the wall.
On the top part of the wall i built cages on the front side of the wall also, the only difference was a 1/2 by 1 inch wire mesh floor, and the roof was sloped to the front. The rabbits in the top cages, could go through the hole in the wall and into the "compartment" that was under the hillside.
An area in front of the wall was fenced with roofing metal at the bottom[buried 18 "] and 1"x 2" wire above that. Inside the fenced area in front of the wall was for a colony, and the rabbits were free to go in and out of any bottom compartment they chose. The compartments behind the wall and under the hillside, stayed cool enough for the rabbits. I planted sweet potatoes along the top of the wall, they grew down and shaded the wall, and the top and front of the cages, The rabbits kept the vines trimmed anywhere they could reach them.
The way I built this, I could not adequately reach into the compartments behind the wall, that made it impossible to check on litters or check for sick rabbits. however,-- I actually had very few problems.
I am sure my description is lacking in some details.. if you have questions I will try to answer..
meat-mutt rabbits, a few laying hens.

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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#9  Unread postby Psybird » Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:48 pm


thank you, your explanation is perfect! makes me wonder if the same thing could be done with terracotta pots and pipes.
regardless, what an ingenious idea. way better than air conditioners or replacing frozen water jugs all day haha

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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#10  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Tue Jan 22, 2019 5:43 am


Psybird wrote:thank you, your explanation is perfect! makes me wonder if the same thing could be done with terracotta pots and pipes.
regardless, what an ingenious idea. way better than air conditioners or replacing frozen water jugs all day haha



I had friends that had a big pile of dirt [like an 8 yard dump-truck load] dumped in their fenced backyard, he [mostly she] shoveled the dirt into a 6' x6' bin about 4 feet tall, -made with RR ties,[built like a log cabin,- I helped them build the bin] they stomped the dirt into the bin with some terracotta type pipes going into the bottom of the bin,[through holes cut through the bottom timber] .. the rabbits dug their own holes into the dirt pile, every once in a while , they would shovel the dirt the rabbits dug out, back into the bin.. I can't remember if they put a tin roof on the bin... or just talked about it. I don't know how it worked out long term.. but it the short term, it sounded like it was working great...
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Re: breeding for meat--how much is enough?

Post Number:#11  Unread postby GBov » Tue Jan 22, 2019 8:14 pm


When I had a colony set up I loved it and it taught me that rabbits can breed back to back to back with no problems at all. Good food + happy rabbits = lots of meat.

And often bred rabbits breed much more easily, in cages or colonies, than those with long gaps between breedings.

Does of only 3 or 4 years of age should be fine producers, my older does have always been my favorites, rock solid dependable. Have had 6 to 8 year olds giving me good litters every 11 weeks and while their numbers at that age do drop off a bit, sometimes it is better for me to have 4 or 5 kits raised to butcher age meat bricks on time than younger does with litters of 9 or 10 kits that fail to reach a good weight.

The retaining wall/underground housing to keep buns cool is one I have been wanting to do for a long time but so far deep shade has done the trick for me. Looking hard at making a double walled cinder block bunker between each cage after the move though, rest one end of the cages on the side of the bunker, have a hole in the cage bottom to let the bun into the inside bunker bit and have a lid to give access to the inside for care and attention, if needed.

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