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Decreased litter sizes

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Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#1  Unread postby hotzcatz » Fri Apr 14, 2017 3:19 pm


Aloha Rabbit folks!

We're experiencing significantly decreased litter sizes and litters not showing up at all. This has been for the last several years and we're not sure why. At the moment, I'm suspecting it may be feed related since I was just chatting with another local rabbit breeder and she had the same problem show up after she switched to the feed I've been using. We are both using Nutrena's 18% rabbit pellets along with green forage for their diets. She also feeds some hay, but I can't keep hay without it getting mildew so ours get green forage instead. She raises Netherland Dwarfs and Holland Lops and I raise English angoras, if breed matters.

The age ranges of the does here are from five months to four years, the age ranges of the bucks are about the same. There's three working bucks and one retired seven year old buck, his last litter was a litter of two, but that may have been because he was six years old at the time.

For awhile, I'd thought it was heat sterility in the bucks since we'd had a hot summer, although for us a hot summer is temps that reach ninety. It rarely gets to ninety because of the tradewinds coming in off the ocean keeping temperatures pretty steady throughout the year. But the bucks should have gotten over that for the November, January and February matings.

Herd size in the past few years has gone from around thirty to currently seventeen. I've kept all but one of the females born and still can't keep the numbers up. These are angora bunnies so we breed them for their wool and their litter sizes are usually from four to ten, with an average around five or six but the litter sizes have dropped and the size of the last litter was ONE. Who ever has a litter size of one? There'd been a litter of two previous to that and I've never seen small litters like that. These were two different does with different sires, not the same pair.

That one bunny was five months ago and she's been the last baby born here. There has constantly been bred does but litters just aren't appearing. Anyone have any idea why?

For this current round of bred does, we just got a two year old buck back from someone who hadn't been able to keep up with his coat and he's been on a different brand of pellet. I'm keeping him on the different brand and have bred him to five does. They're still on the Nutrena 18%, though. This was before my conversation with the other breeder, I'd hoped the 18% would increase the chances of a litter as well as a bigger litter. If the five does bred to the returned buck have a litter, then it would indicate that it's something to do with the bucks here and the only difference between them and the returned buck is what the returned buck has been eating. Two does have been bred to the bucks here as a control group. If they all have litters, then maybe it was heat sterility? If none of them have litters, then perhaps it's the feed to the does?

I'll probably be switching to another brand of pellets, but what if it's something widespread through the entire alfalfa crop? We can't get organic feed here and if we could it'd be too expensive most likely. I'm setting up a garden for bunny forage to increase the forage amount and may switch over to entirely forage fed. Anyone else have any good ideas?

A hui hou,
Catz
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Re: Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#2  Unread postby SixGun » Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:41 pm


Well, definitely something is going on. You're at a production stand still to the sounds of it. What does your wool look like? Have you had any changes there in production or texture?

It sounds like if the buck you got back produces a litter, its a food issue... but only one that would be somehow be effecting your bucks. If it is a food issue, your buck back may be fertile as all get out, but if its effecting the does, you'll still get nothing for litters.

What are your other commercial feed options?

I just switched to Purina Show, which I can't stand that I'm doing because I dislike Purina as a company, but... I am finally getting better growth rates and my picky eaters go whole hog on this stuff.
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Re: Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#3  Unread postby UFCreel » Sat Apr 15, 2017 8:00 am


How much do you feed them? As a fat rabbit will have smaller litters. Just saying.

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Re: Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#4  Unread postby hotzcatz » Sun Apr 16, 2017 2:48 am


No differences in wool production or texture, although we did just have a doe do a clean molt. She molted down to quarter inch hair all over, usually they molt in patches and look like a raggamuffin or end up with mats. Had one come back for a clipping with six inch dreadlocks on her, which was the worst I've seen but this new doe molted clean. I'm hoping for a litter from her to get more clean molting ones. Have to see what the texture of her adult wool will be, though, that was her baby coat she threw off. But that's new in the wool department.

There's two other feed stores within easy driving distance (less than 20 miles). Neither one of which reliably has rabbit feed. The nearby feed store has the 18% Nutrena, but that is the suspect feed. I'll see what brands the other stores carry.

Do you get the usual litter sizes on Purina Show?

I wish the rabbits were fat, UFCreel, it's been almost hard to keep them up to minimum weight sometimes. One of my foundation bucks was on the small side and his offspring are all pretty much on the minimum allowable size for a show bun. I've increased the feed and have been supplementing the bred does with a bit of calf manna. The does in the herd hutch have to be monitored since if the doe is shy or last on the pecking order, she will not get as much as the rest. Usually the herd hutch gets more feed than the rest but they don't always share equally. If one of them is underweight, then she'll go out to a single hutch until she gets into condition again.
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Re: Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#5  Unread postby SixGun » Sun Apr 16, 2017 10:33 am


hotzcatz wrote:Do you get the usual litter sizes on Purina Show?


Since switching I've had a litter of 10 and a litter of 9. The does were on it for about a week prior to breeding, and throughout gestation. However, they may be good sized litters, the litter of 9 was from a doe that had 9 on her last litter as well. So, there was no decrease in numbers.
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Re: Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#6  Unread postby hotzcatz » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:17 pm


I'd planned on asking my friend to check the two feed stores in Hilo on his next trip through there this week, but he just got a flat tire on his car so he may not be making the trip over to Volcano this week. Those are probably the largest feed stores on the island and may have more than one brand of bunny feed. But, they're also 42 miles away along a slow road. If not this week, then next week. I've still got a several week supply of the 18% so that'll be used up and then it will be switched to a new brand. They do fine on the feed, they just don't seem to have litters. At least, that's the suspicion, I'll not say that definitively until doing some experimentation.

How long would the bunnies have to be on the new feed before any difference would appear? They have fast metabolisms, would a month do? Oh well, I'll switch brands and keep the does bred and see what happens.

I need to plant some sugarcane for them, although that will take awhile before it's big enough to feed. Probably some more papaya, too, although there's already some of that. I've also got some pigeon pea seeds and some dwarf moringa, so eventually, they should have a lot more forage choices with hopefully denser nutrition. The Guinea grass isn't as nutritional as I'd hoped and I haven't been able to find any nutritional numbers on ti (cordyline terminalis). They love ti and it's really easy to harvest and feed, but I don't know how nutritional it is.
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Re: Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#7  Unread postby SixGun » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:32 pm


I would think a month would be a good time frame.

I wonder if the ti, cabbage palm, etc is an issue. As a part of the Asparagus family, it is "safe" to feed, but I've heard many rabbits won't eat Asparagus.
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Re: Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#8  Unread postby hotzcatz » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:26 pm


University of Vermont puts it in the 'Agavaceae, Agave' family and lists it as 'Cordyline terminalis' which is what I've heard it referred to. Not sure where the 'cordyline fructiosa' or whichever came from? It looks like the same plant, though.

I did finally find a reference to it's nutritional value which put the proteins at 13% which isn't bad for something they will joyfully chow down on.

Image

The long green leaves in front of the hutch are the ti leaves and it's really easy to feed them when the leaves are so handy. Gotta plant more, though, they'll eat that up within a week if they only ate ti leaves.

__________ Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:26 pm __________

AHA! The feed store in Waimea has ORGANIC alfalfa pellets! Woot! Now the breeding herd will be on organic alfalfa and we will see if the litters show up again. They're half way through gestating on the suspected GMO feed, so these currently hoped for litters may not show up. However, since everybunny (well, the breeding herd, anyway, until all the other feed is used up) is on the organic stuff now, by the next round they should be all fertile.

We got a bag of organic alfalfa pellets, a bag of whole oats, some BOSS and calf manna. Along with all the forage I can stuff down them. Hopefully they will start picking up weight and have litters now. Hopefully big litters.

The Waimea feed store was very informative about which feeds could have GMO and which weren't likely to. I'm guessing more folks than just me have been asking. The Timothy pellets don't have GMO and the barley and oats aren't GMO either. So, we will feed them this new stuff and see what happens.
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Re: Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#9  Unread postby GBov » Tue Jun 20, 2017 4:12 pm


Do your does make nests and no babies show up in them? Or just one or two kits in the nest?

If so we had that at 4H.

Turns out our problem was rats taking the new born kits away for dinner. :angry:

Glad you found organic alfalfa, I am looking for a source of organic pellets but no luck so far.

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Re: Decreased litter sizes

Post Number:#10  Unread postby hotzcatz » Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:30 am


Yeah, we had a problem with rats once. Now I put out rat bait the week before the kits are due. I haven't seen any rats around the new hutches but when feeding grain as a supplement, that will frequently encourage them to show up. The last hutch had rat proof nesting areas, but this new hutch has large wire space than that.

We've been feeding the organic alfalfa pellets and we had one doe have a litter out of five bred. The next round we had one doe have a litter out of four bred. So that's much better than it was before although still not as good as it could be. I'm hoping to get some more bred later this week to see if it improves now that they've been eating organic longer. It will also be interesting to see litter size and how often they show up from the offspring of these litters that will have been eating organic their entire life. We still have to wait about six months for them to get old enough to breed, though.
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