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General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

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General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#1  Unread postby ladysown » Wed May 20, 2015 4:53 pm


Blaming you for this post Grumpy. :)

You mentioned in another post how you'd seen a general decline in rabbit health over the past 20 years.

I have to say...so have I...and I'm not that old.
(I cull
But I do know the rabbits I raised a teen had ZERO health issues beyond ear mites and it seems all I hear about these days are health issues in rabbits.

I know I fight a seasonal thing here which I can't get rid of for nothing! Babies in the fall, does in the spring ONLY does on kits. What it is, I don't know, just a general "gut thing" I just can't rid of it completely...mostly, but not completely.

But that's neither here nor there. I cull for health quickly in my herd as I don't want to sell sick rabbits and I don't want to deal with sick rabbits. That's got me down from losing babies almost every litter (I cull for nestbox eye as well) to ONLY twice a year for one-two week each time (depends on how hard the seasons change). Perhaps with time I'll get rid of that as well. :)

BUT back to my question....
Let's say I have a kit who has an "OFF" day... just one where I think oh...that's one's going to be on my hit list. Mopes around acts not quite right. Recovers well enough...is good happy healthy eating... Should I still cull OR do what I do... I've had a bunny that acted like it was GOING to be sick but never actually GOT sick. I've given it ample recovery time and it's currently fine.

What I do currently is I sell it as a PET. Advise DO NOT breed this rabbit.

Have I just then contributed to the decline in the overall rabbit population???

Interesting to note: I sold a meat kit (along with a few others) to FILL A MEAT order for a young fellow. I know he occasionally keeps meat order kits back to breed so I specifically told him DO NOT BREED this animal. She'd never been sick other than being the runty one of the litter. He did. She lost first and second litter though she outwardly appeared as healthy as a horse. He gave up on her and she came back to me to fill my dog food order. Found that interesting.... :pancake:
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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#2  Unread postby MaggieJ » Wed May 20, 2015 5:19 pm


I'm sure Grumpy will have some very helpful observations, but I have a thought or two that I'd like to share. It seems to me that your instincts are excellent and when you see a rabbit in your herd that isn't quite "right" you are correct not to let it be a breeder. A problem may develop when the people you sell to ignore your advice. Maybe it would be best to only sell such rabbits as food for other people or their pets -- and not to let them off your place alive. I quit selling live rabbits to go quite a few years ago. After that, I sold live rabbits but they were dispatched by me, here. That way I could be sure what happened to them. (That said, it has never been a big thing for me to sell rabbits. Most were raised for our own table.)

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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#3  Unread postby grumpy » Wed May 20, 2015 9:49 pm


Gee..Thanks..Ladysown :x :x

Short story:
In 1958 I bought 8 Morris Gordon homing pigeons from an older Italian man
named Ciro. These birds were renowned for their abilities to come home
through horrendous conditions. Originally bred to fly from mainland Europe
across the English Channel to England, these birds were some of the
toughest birds I'd ever seen. I had one little hen #584 "Lady" get lost on
a 300 mile race. 18 months later......she landed on the loft roof. Her last
two primary feathers were smattered with crude oil. She stopped somewhere
in the Oklahoma oil fields to get a drink and got covered with crude. It took
her a year and half to molt out enough so she could fly the distance back
to the loft. Lady "never" had a sick day in her life. See below:

I know, that's got NOTHING to do with rabbits, but Ciro told me something
when I was still a youngster that has stayed with me nearly a half/century.
"A homing pigeon is only as good as its "worst" day as a youngster."

The same applies to rabbits, or any other animal for that matter. I live by
that idiom. Over the years, the acceptance of less than a perfect rabbit
for breeding has affected the overall health of rabbits in general. It's
obvious to me, that the species has far more issues now than in decades past.

When I say, "Perfect"......I mean perfect health. Not some written show
standard. Vitality is an intrinsic part of the foundation we all seek in the
breeding stock we use. If I see a "hole" of any form in the overall vitality
of an animal.....they're gone to the freezer or they've got a ticket on the
next Snake-Train outa here. How many folks do this? How many will take
that mediocre doe to the auction house to get a few bucks, rather than
putting her where she should really go? To the freezer. I've seen it
hundreds of times.

Often stock is chemically supported for long periods of time then sold
and the new owner wonders "why" the stock isn't what was advertised.
Again, they've created a "false-sense" of health within the rabbit. Once that
source of support is removed...the "health" takes a nose dive. We've
created "super-bugs" by this chemical support over the years. Not everyone
mind you...but more than there should be. Hence the reasoning behind so
many "CLOSED" rabbitry's. I get antsy just having someone strange enter
the rabbitry. I still try to accommodate the curious beginner but it does
make me nervous because I know they've been elsewhere around other
rabbits.

What's in store for the future?? That's anybody's guess. I know years ago,
you'd have to smack 'em with an axe to hurt 'em. Now, they can sit in a
corner and get a bug up their butt and be dead in 12 hours.

Times have changed. BTW: I kept that family of Gordon's until 1996 before
I sold them to a gentleman from Japan. Every bird in my loft traced back to
those original 8 birds.

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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#4  Unread postby ladysown » Wed May 20, 2015 11:09 pm


I suppose the problem for me is two fold
1. Almost every rabbit breeder I know pets out their inferior stock.... Having an off day being part of that. So how do i stand against that expectation?

2. Pets go without a pedigree.... Ergo with the thought they shouldn't be bred.... So do i need to accept responsibility for someone's decisions? I don't think so. People are accountable for the decisions they make. If i sell a rabbit and say do not breed this one haven't i covered my bases?

I can work hard toward the standard i want for my rabbits. I can fight for health. I can promote my thoughts to other people but i can't make them do as i do.

Sometimes it seems pointless.....
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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#5  Unread postby 3mina » Wed May 20, 2015 11:21 pm


I have noticed that I have a vanishingly small number of issues with my stock compared to the breeder who works to save everything in their herd. I can only think it's because I won't sell it live if I wouldn't breed it. That's my very first rule for sales. Ironically, I have people clamouring for my stock and usually less stock than customers.
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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#6  Unread postby grumpy » Thu May 21, 2015 7:14 am


It would take some time, but......The one common thread I've preached
since my first post is: If the stock's not good enough for me, I won't sell it.

A good example: Three years ago, I had three full sisters off of my #1 pair.
They were juniors and coming close to breeding age. I didn't need all 3 so
I decided to sell a couple/or at least one. I had a fella show up and want to
buy one of the sister's. Without a second thought I grabbed, what I felt,
was the better of the three. He didn't want that one. "Naw, that one's got
a bitten ear. I'll take the other one." I let him choose the doe he wanted,
knowing I'd keep the other two.

The raggedy eared one was tattooed #RK-017. She's a coming 4 year old
now and delivered her 13th litter that had nine kits a couple weeks ago.
Everyone of the kits survived and are doin' just fine. #17 had a late-winter
miss in 2012. She's not missed since.

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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#7  Unread postby Dood » Thu May 21, 2015 8:23 am


I agree that livestock health has SERIOUSLY declined over the years as breeds have been moved from the pastures into climate controlled barns and regularly fed antibiotics to keep them alive rather than being bred for resistance as it might compromise egg or meat or milk production :(

I also think the temperaments and intelligence of livestock animals has taken a turn for the worse - dumb animals are more likely to tollerate the confining conditions of most modern farms and mechanization means a farmer never has to touch his livestock so being easy to work with is not a trait they select for :( also with 100's if not 10,000's of animals on these farms they cannot get to know their stock individually to even select the mild mannered ones as breeders

It's a real shame, especially with so many people trying to get back to the land and starting up hobby farms and all they have to work with are these psychotic breeds who are too stupid to know how to care for their young; or to not stay out in the rain; or that hawks and foxes are dangerous; or are so aggressive they are constantly fighting and even murdering each other; or they attack the farmer and their kids :x

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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#8  Unread postby grumpy » Thu May 21, 2015 9:29 am


Dood wrote:I agree that livestock health has SERIOUSLY declined over the years as breeds have been moved from the pastures into climate controlled barns and regularly fed antibiotics to keep them alive rather than being bred for resistance as it might compromise egg or meat or milk production :(

I also think the temperaments and intelligence of livestock animals has taken a turn for the worse - dumb animals are more likely to tollerate the confining conditions of most modern farms and mechanization means a farmer never has to touch his livestock so being easy to work with is not a trait they select for :( also with 100's if not 10,000's of animals on these farms they cannot get to know their stock individually to even select the mild mannered ones as breeders

It's a real shame, especially with so many people trying to get back to the land and starting up hobby farms and all they have to work with are these psychotic breeds who are too stupid to know how to care for their young; or to not stay out in the rain; or that hawks and foxes are dangerous; or are so aggressive they are constantly fighting and even murdering each other; or they attack the farmer and their kids :x


Couldn't agree with you more, Dood.

Mass production of anything isn't conducive to selection of the traits you
mentioned. I believe, that as small farmers with small numbers, we can
make a difference on a lesser scale. Keystone in my rabbits is the gentle
temperament that good mothers have. I've used "aggressive" behavior as
a "call-sign" for culling but, I think the proper way to approach this would
be breeding for "acceptance" in the mother's nature. Accepting us, as their
keeper and knowing/sensing we offer no harm to them or their young.

It's the same ideology, but approached from a different mindset.

Grumpy
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My newest work: Now in publication. Redemption Road.
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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#9  Unread postby cmfarm » Thu May 21, 2015 9:46 am


This is true for chickens too (and people as well). There are so many chronic respiratory illnesses in chickens you have to watch out for. I was talking to my FIL about it a few years ago and he asked me where all these diseases came from. When he was a kid his mom kept chickens and they never had to worry about stuff like that.

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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#10  Unread postby LPH_NY » Thu May 21, 2015 9:50 am


While I totally agree that chemical enhancing and raising stock in overcrowded, inappropriate and impersonal environments has done a lot to harm the hardiness of livestock species.... I also personally would place some blame on another factor.

As "factory farming" has basically "taken care of" the national meat supply (as in ensured that meat is always available at every supermarket), it has enabled us as a society to become detached from the actual food producing animals... It has enabled us to instead look at the animals as cute individuals worthy of extra attention. (I'm an animal lover myself, so I'm not trying to harshly judge everyone that thinks animals are cute - I'm part of the problem, for sure.) Without the NEED to select animals for hardiness, food production and excellent self-sufficiency, we are ALLOWED to select for other things - pretty colors, odd body shapes, weird coat mutations, miniature and giant versions, etc. For hobbyists, particularly those who make money off selling living stock, those other priorities trump the original priorities of a food producer where the demand or rarity of certain appearances will earn a higher price.

Factory farming harms a handful of breeds in the name of faster production. But backyard breeding of all the other breeds without the right goals is probably worse because it's harder to track those genes as they move across the nation from one family to the next. I'm not lumping all hobbyists into that category, though, because I've met some very responsible breeders as well. I'm just saying that factory farming is only half of the problem with declining health overall.

Throw on top the overwhelming increase in pesticide/herbicide use (pesticides/herbicides on ALL commercially available feed) and you're bombarding these poor animals with toxins that accumulate over time... possibly turning otherwise hardy animals into ones that have been compromised by long-term exposure. That's harder to fight against, unless you can opt out of commercial feed altogether and use instead locally and sustainably grown feed.

We can make a difference in our own herds, for sure. But I feel strongly that until there is actually a crisis affecting food production, individual efforts at re-creating hardiness in livestock will remain isolated. As long as people CAN ignore health for the sake of PROFIT, many simply will.

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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#11  Unread postby alforddm » Thu May 21, 2015 11:25 am


I already tried to reply to this. I was almost done with my post when I hit the wrong button on my keyboard and lost it. :evil:

Anyway...

I was thinking about this (well sorta this) the other day. If you have a rabbit with say snuffles (in any of it's various forms), and it is asymptomatic, is it because it's got a great immune system or because you feed it weeds (ie medicines) that boost the immune system?

Do our rabbits get sick more often because we don't feed them weeds like most used to do before the pellet or because we pamper them and try to reduce stress (ie fans and ice bottles for the heat)? Would we be better off to TRY to stress them?

Are rabbits from lines that are shown healthier overall (assuming antibiotics are not used to keep them healthy) because they are continually stressed and/or exposed to disease and remain healthy?

Just some things I was randomly wondering about but felt it applied to this post.

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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#12  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Thu May 21, 2015 12:11 pm


All very interesting things to think about, and I agree that mass farming has really taken things the wrong direction :( . I am getting so much flack from so many people for raising rabbits for meat (How can you kill those cute bunnies?!?) Even had one lady talk to her dog who was sniffing me out when I delivered eggs. She said, Don't worry Sarah, she likes animals. She has lots of them! Although, she kills some of them" then turned up her nose and shuddered. She is very much a meat eater :? . I first read about breeding for hardiness on the Backyard Chickens board a couple years ago and thought it was such a simple yet brilliant idea! In terms of rabbits, for our area that tends to get pretty hot and humid in the summer, that means breeding for big ears. Angoras and smaller eared rabbits just aren't cut out for the heat...

I was also reading about how chicks raised by broody hens tend to have fewer health issues and one theory was that they were on the ground early on, pecking and scratching through potentially infected ground, and doing it from day 1 helped their immune systems fight off those bugs. One suggestion for brooder chicks was to use dirt from the adult chicken run so they could get early exposure. Just a scoop on the floor or in a bowl for them to scratch through. Maybe the same could be said for rabbits? Rather than shelter the babies, expose them early? I am a total newbie to rabbits though so who knows...
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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#13  Unread postby Zass » Thu May 21, 2015 2:54 pm


heritage wrote:
I was also reading about how chicks raised by broody hens tend to have fewer health issues and one theory was that they were on the ground early on, pecking and scratching through potentially infected ground, and doing it from day 1 helped their immune systems fight off those bugs. One suggestion for brooder chicks was to use dirt from the adult chicken run so they could get early exposure. Just a scoop on the floor or in a bowl for them to scratch through. Maybe the same could be said for rabbits? Rather than shelter the babies, expose them early? I am a total newbie to rabbits though so who knows...



The thing with rabbits, is that they are naturally designed for high mortality rates. In a wild colony most of the kits not surviving to adulthood is expected.

Our wild cottontails are heavily affected by disease and parasites.

When we raise our domestic rabbits for meat, we must control certain factors to reduce mortality in order to be at all efficient. It doesn't mean we have to pump them full of antibiotics though. And in truth, rabbits don't really handle most broad spectrum antibiotics very well anyway
(anything that kills off gi bacteria will kill rabbits).

Hmm... one can't really compare rabbits to chickens when it comes to raising the babies, as there is absolutely no efficient way to hand or mechanically raise baby rabbits like we can with chicks other livestock.

The mothers must raise the babies themselves, and the babies must eat some of their mothers feces. So true sterility isn't really even a possibility...


As for the feed...well, my suspicion is that most of the problems with rabbit health lie there.
Last edited by Zass on Thu May 21, 2015 2:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#14  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Thu May 21, 2015 2:55 pm


Zass wrote:
heritage wrote:
I was also reading about how chicks raised by broody hens tend to have fewer health issues and one theory was that they were on the ground early on, pecking and scratching through potentially infected ground, and doing it from day 1 helped their immune systems fight off those bugs. One suggestion for brooder chicks was to use dirt from the adult chicken run so they could get early exposure. Just a scoop on the floor or in a bowl for them to scratch through. Maybe the same could be said for rabbits? Rather than shelter the babies, expose them early? I am a total newbie to rabbits though so who knows...



The thing with rabbits, is that they are naturally designed for high mortality rates. In a wild colony most of the kits not surviving to adulthood is expected.

Our wild cottontails are heavily affected by disease and parasites.

When we raise them for meat, we must control certain factors to reduce mortality in order to be at all efficient. It doesn't mean we have to pump them full of antibiotics though. And in truth, rabbits don't really handle most broad spectrum antibiotics very well anyway
(anything that kills off gi bacteria will kill rabbits).

Hmm... one can't really compare rabbits to chickens when it comes to raising the babies, as there is absolutely no efficient way to hand or mechanically raise baby rabbits like we can with chicks other livestock.

The mothers must raise the babies themselves, and the babies must eat some of their mothers feces. So true sterility isn't really even a possibility...


Very valid points - I mean, they are totally different species! Chicks are relatively self sufficient from day one... hence hatcheries and feed store chicks...
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Re: General Decline in Rabbit Health - grumpy?

Post Number:#15  Unread postby Rainey » Thu May 21, 2015 5:53 pm


Zass wrote:
The mothers must raise the babies themselves, and the babies must eat some of their mothers feces. So true sterility isn't really even a possibility...

That's where we're feeling stuck with our meat rabbits--haven't had any trouble with does not getting pregnant and they have decent size litters but we're losing too many in the first week--either the doe doesn't have enough milk or the kits have some problem so they don't take hold and nurse. With other livestock, it is often seen as routine to take the young off the mother and feed them some formula. Doesn't work so well for rabbits. (and isn't how we raise our goat kids either, but one could


As for the feed...well, my suspicion is that most of the problems with rabbit health lie there.



Could you explain what you mean about rabbit health problems being related to feed? Because we're not doing the normal thing--feeding pellets--I wonder if our problems are (or are seen by others to be) related to our feeding choices.
And we did realize late this winter or early spring, after we'd started breeding that some of the cages didn't have any mineral block left. We'd put them in and they didn't seem to be used much and we forgot to watch them while we were struggling with water and other problems of a very cold winter. :oops: Maybe they used them more when they didn't have as much variety or as much fresh stuff as they had in the green time. Anyway they all have salt/mineral block again and we won't make that mistake again.

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