Forage-only diet; what if I exclude grain completely from my rabbits' diet?

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Bike guy

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My foraged diet for my rabbits is going well for the last 50 days, I can find herbs, fruits, veggetables, leaves and barks, but it is not easy to find grains in nature. Wild versions of the grains such as millet and oat have very limited amount of grains and they are restricted to a few months, so I buy grains. Actually grain is the only thing that I buy. I might consider to exclude grain from bunnies diet, in this way I can upgrade to a forage-only diet which is my passion and main target in my rabbit experiment.

Would it be healty for my rabbits? I always takes notes about the crude protein contents of the plants that I foraged, many of them have considerable amount of protein. So I do not worry about protein, but how about fat and other minerals?

I read different informations about the importance of the grain for rabbits, some says grain is vital some says it is not. Some even claims grains are not good for rabbits.

What do you think happens if I exclude grain completely, any negative effects on my bunnies' health?
 

kusanar314

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If you're looking for fats, BOSS in low quantities should be able to handle that. You could also grow that in very limited space depending on if you CAN grow food or you actually HAVE to forage for them or buy.
 

Bike guy

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This is my passion too. I've been successfully feeding my buns 100% forage for some years. Lots of locust, mulberry, and maple, comfrey, plantain, grass, bamboo, etc. They grow more slowly for sure, but seem healthy. If I want to speed them up I give them organic 100% alfalfa pellets.
So you do not give them grains right?
There is no alfalfa (medicago sativa) in my area but there are 4 other subspieces of medicago, the most commons are medicago arabica and medicago polymorpha. Their protein content is similar with alfalfa.
 

Estrella

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My foraged diet for my rabbits is going well for the last 50 days, I can find herbs, fruits, veggetables, leaves and barks, but it is not easy to find grains in nature. Wild versions of the grains such as millet and oat have very limited amount of grains and they are restricted to a few months, so I buy grains. Actually grain is the only thing that I buy. I might consider to exclude grain from bunnies diet, in this way I can upgrade to a forage-only diet which is my passion and main target in my rabbit experiment.

Would it be healty for my rabbits? I always takes notes about the crude protein contents of the plants that I foraged, many of them have considerable amount of protein. So I do not worry about protein, but how about fat and other minerals?

I read different informations about the importance of the grain for rabbits, some says grain is vital some says it is not. Some even claims grains are not good for rabbits.

What do you think happens if I exclude grain completely, any negative effects on my bunnies' health?
I just purchased a book that is solely based on this! It’s a preorder but she’s sending them out 10/1. Whenever I see these topics I like to let others know about it she recently shared some of it on her YouTube and I’m pretty excited about it. Here’s the links
YouTube
Book
 

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hotzcatz

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Wild rabbits don't really get any grains, so I don't see that you'd need to feed them grain. Most rabbit pellets are alfalfa based and that's a green leafy plant and not a grain, isn't it?

If you're doing meat rabbits, you could get scientific about it and have several litters and then split them half and half into two groups. Weigh each rabbit and feed one group pellets and grain and feed the other group forage. I'd guess the grain fed ones would bulk up faster and have more fat on them, but that's just a guess based on cattle feed lots.

There may be a flavor change, it is with grass fed versus grain fed beef. If you have two groups, you'd be able to make a recipe using some of each group and give us a report on if there's a flavor difference?
 

HTAcres

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I just purchased a book that is solely based on this! It’s a preorder but she’s sending them out 10/1. Whenever I see these topics I like to let others know about it she recently shared some of it on her YouTube and I’m pretty excited about it. Here’s the links
YouTube
Book
Thank you, haven't seen that one yet and I am always learning. I want to get to over 50% forage by next summer.
 

MaggieJ

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I transitioned my rabbits to a pellet-free diet back around 2007. It wasn't as popular back then, and I took a lot of flak for it on another forum. I did feed small quantities of grain -- usually wheat, but sometimes oats or barley -- because the rabbits always seemed ravenous on just forage.

When my rabbits were fed on pellets and some forage, they grew a bit faster but had much more fat by butchering weight. I didn't see any point in finishing them quickly if it meant a larger portion of their weight was fat that I had no use for. My overall cost per pound was about $1.50.

On a natural diet, the fryers took a couple of weeks longer to reach butchering weight, but the cost per pound was about 75 cents, and the meat had a fresher, more pleasant flavour. All rabbit meat regardless of diet is good eating, but I found I preferred the naturally-fed rabbit meat.

I did buy hay -- an alfalfa/grass mix -- from a local farmer and that seemed to satisfy the rabbits better than forage alone. It cost about $3-4 per square bale and the buns went through about 20 bales in a year. The stemmy parts that they wasted doubled as bedding in a deep litter system. Fresh forage is difficult here in winter because of the temperatures and snowfall, so the hay really helped. I also dried forage like raspberry and blackberry canes with the leaves, willow branches, and assorted weeds.

I think it should be quite possible to feed a natural diet that does not include grain. Grain, like pellets, can make the rabbits develop a lot of internal fat, and it can happen without any outward sign. Wild European rabbits, from which our domestic rabbits are descended, would rarely eat grain, unless they found a farmer's grain field. My feeling is that one should be guided by the condition of the rabbits and I paid close attention to the amount of fat on the carcasses. A little fat around the kidneys is desirable, but much more than that is not.

I'm very pleased to see so much informed interest in natural feeding. Not only can it give us better meat, it also has applications in the poorer countries of the world. A trio of rabbits fed on forage can provide over a hundred pounds of quality protein yearly on feed that is not usable by humans. It can make a huge difference to people struggling to feed their families in troubled times.

~ MaggieJ
 

MsTemeraire

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Wild rabbits don't really get any grains, so I don't see that you'd need to feed them grain.
This is true, but wild rabbits are small, only 3-4 pounds in weight (1.3-1,8kg) and have the freedom to graze all day long.
 

HTAcres

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I am in the midst of transitioning to a larger percent of forage and my rabbits are doing well and love it. Like Maggie, I don't mind if they grow out a little slower although at the percent that I am at - about 40% hay/forage, I can't tell a difference.
 

HTAcres

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I transitioned my rabbits to a pellet-free diet back around 2007. It wasn't as popular back then, and I took a lot of flak for it on another forum. I did feed small quantities of grain -- usually wheat, but sometimes oats or barley -- because the rabbits always seemed ravenous on just forage.

When my rabbits were fed on pellets and some forage, they grew a bit faster but had much more fat by butchering weight. I didn't see any point in finishing them quickly if it meant a larger portion of their weight was fat that I had no use for. My overall cost per pound was about $1.50.

On a natural diet, the fryers took a couple of weeks longer to reach butchering weight, but the cost per pound was about 75 cents, and the meat had a fresher, more pleasant flavour. All rabbit meat regardless of diet is good eating, but I found I preferred the naturally-fed rabbit meat.

I did buy hay -- an alfalfa/grass mix -- from a local farmer and that seemed to satisfy the rabbits better than forage alone. It cost about $3-4 per square bale and the buns went through about 20 bales in a year. The stemmy parts that they wasted doubled as bedding in a deep litter system. Fresh forage is difficult here in winter because of the temperatures and snowfall, so the hay really helped. I also dried forage like raspberry and blackberry canes with the leaves, willow branches, and assorted weeds.

I think it should be quite possible to feed a natural diet that does not include grain. Grain, like pellets, can make the rabbits develop a lot of internal fat, and it can happen without any outward sign. Wild European rabbits, from which our domestic rabbits are descended, would rarely eat grain, unless they found a farmer's grain field. My feeling is that one should be guided by the condition of the rabbits and I paid close attention to the amount of fat on the carcasses. A little fat around the kidneys is desirable, but much more than that is not.

I'm very pleased to see so much informed interest in natural feeding. Not only can it give us better meat, it also has applications in the poorer countries of the world. A trio of rabbits fed on forage can provide over a hundred pounds of quality protein yearly on feed that is not usable by humans. It can make a huge difference to people struggling to feed their families in troubled times.

~ MaggieJ
The guy that developed the Tamuk, Dr Lukefahr, worked a lot on the forage applications around the world. The composite variety at least was developed to do well on local forages. So I am trying to take advantage of that. My tree hay is usually the most dependable though the drought hurt my willows this summer, the mulberry actually did better under irrigation which surprised me.
 

HTAcres

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We raise pigs, cows and chicken in addition to the rabbits and while we like having all of them, you can't beat rabbits for sheer meat production that can be done with a variety of feeds and in a small space.
 

birdhands

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Silverfox.
They always have organic grass hay free choice, otherwise I'd have to work a lot harder. If I didn't have hay, I'd have to take them through the winter on bamboo.
Black locust. They love the leaves, bark, and thorns. So do my guinea pigs. They leave the branches smooth and white. I have locust coppice and hedging all over. This year I tried "shredding" a few small trees and it worked really well. Shredding is when you prune the tree to a 6-8 foot bare pole in the spring, so it sends shoots out the sides in every direction.
 

BuffBrahmaBantam

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I transitioned my rabbits to a pellet-free diet back around 2007. It wasn't as popular back then, and I took a lot of flak for it on another forum. I did feed small quantities of grain -- usually wheat, but sometimes oats or barley -- because the rabbits always seemed ravenous on just forage.
MaggieJ, thanks so much for sharing your experience.

We would like to transition to pellet-free with growouts, but being new to rabbits I am feeding them pellets for now. Maybe next year we will make the transition. Can you answer the question of whether you measured out the grain that you fed? How much grain did you feed each rabbit?

Also, did you feed grain to all rabbits, or just the growouts?
 

MaggieJ

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I fed working rabbits about 1/4 cup of grain daily when they were in individual cages. I didn't exactly measure -- my hands are small, so just a small handful. They had hay free choice and I usually fed the greens at the same time as the grain, knowing they would chow down on the greens first and only want a bit of grain. It seemed to work fine.

Later when I had the rabbits in a colony in half the goose house -- an enclosure 8 feet square -- I would just put the grain in a crock. Some would eat more than others, I suppose, but it wasn't until my mobility issues surfaced, and my son, who was living here at the time, took over the feeding that we encountered any problems. He had an overly-generous hand with the grain.

Soon after that I had to quit rabbits and we sent everybunny to freezer camp. Amazingly, the buck (named Pudge because he was a singleton kit and huge as a kit) had no interior fat, but I'm sure I took a full pound of fat from the interiors of the does. Keep this in mind if you feed grain as part of a natural diet. A little can be beneficial, but too much is a real problem.
 

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