Grass-fed Rabbits for Human Health?

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Treelove

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I actually just butchered 4 rabbits that were on 100% grass (tractor) - no pellets at all for about 1.5 weeks before butchering. They lost a little weight but when I butchered them, there was NO fat on them. They also tasted fantastic :)

I notice that in my normal pellets there is corn. I hate that because all commercial corn is GMO. I would think that pellets would cause an unnatural amount fat. Many pellets have molasses which encourages them to eat more than they would otherwise. I avoid those. But if you're just aiming at 'weight gain' and not overall health, they would work.

I am going to try to get enough going to feed 100% natural, no pellets, but that's a lot more work and having just brought home a lonely 3 1/2 week old bottle-baby goat, I've got a full plate right now LOL. So probably not happening any time soon.
I use Modesto Milling Organic Feed. All organic and no corn or molasses. The rabbits prefer it over the Purina Rabbit Chow my husband was buying before I took over. But it's expensive. Corn does make animals fat, but other grains do, too. That makes sense that your 100% grass fed rabbits would have no fat on them. Thanks for sharing your update.
 

jaxmarblebuns

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I soak the seeds for 12 hours in water with a teaspoon of white vinegar. Then I put the seeds in these 10x20 seed trays with drainage holes - 3 cups per tray. Water twice a day. By day 7 I have 5-6 pounds of fodder per tray. Put solid trays underneath to collect drained water. Takes less than 10 minutes a day. https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B08377R818?psc=1&ref=ppx_pop_mob_b_asin_title
i have wanted to do this to help feed coats, but i can never find answers to these questions. how many rabbits do you have? how big are the rabbits? how many of these trays do you go through a day? what other food/amounts of food do you have to use?
 

george8211

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I soak the seeds for 12 hours in water with a teaspoon of white vinegar. Then I put the seeds in these 10x20 seed trays with drainage holes - 3 cups per tray. Water twice a day. By day 7 I have 5-6 pounds of fodder per tray. Put solid trays underneath to collect drained water. Takes less than 10 minutes a day.
Wow, great idea, thanks!
 

JG3

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Thank you so much for sharing your findings! this information is GOLD! can I ask what percentage hydrogen peroxide you used and in what ratios. Also how large are your trays and how much seed do you soak for each tray? Sorry for all the questions: you seem to have this down so please share :)
LOL, definitely don’t have it down. On a small scale yes, as I’ll only be transitioning 4 breeders this summer and gotta go slow, but I have to figure out amount of grain to put in my bigger trays, which are the 10x20 like above. I’m not a big rabbitry and only have two litters at a time.

My small trays were about 5.5 x 9 inches.
I used 3% food grade hydrogen peroxide And between 1/2-1 tsp.
I did 1/2 cup grain per tray. I don’t believe I measured the soaking water. I just made sure it was a couple inches above the grain so It all stayed submerged.
My 1/2 cup grain weighed 3.2 ounces and approx 5 times itself and was 1lb when done.
I read on here to feed between 3-5% of the rabbits body weight in fodder. Whatever works for your rabbit so they don’t lose condition. So I’ll be growing small trays to introduce slowly and slowly increase amount they eat and then when I find what they eat, I’ll know better how to do the bigger trays.

Theres tons of threads on this forum about it and pics and what people do. They’re just hard to find. LOL. But if you use the search bar and try different keywords, they’ll come up, I spent a few days searching different keywords and read through thread for info.

Half Pint Homestead also has some ebooks on Amazon for fodder setups and instructions, even though the actual homestead doesn’t exist anymore, their stuff is still on Amazon.
 

Skai

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I like your question and would wonder the same thing. Animals will produce the healthiest meat, I believe, when they are on their *natural* diet. For cattle, this is absolutely grass, with maybe a small amount of grain (like when they would nibble on tall grass with seed in the field). Chickens eat a more varied diet with a lot more grain, so it's normal and healthy for them to have that, but pasture-raised chickens are healthier and taste better.

So what's the natural diet for rabbits? Mostly grass, right? I'm still new to raising rabbits and haven't read any real info on this, so I'm just speculating, but that's what makes sense to me. Commercial and pet rabbits are recommended to eat mostly grass/hay with smaller amounts of pellets, which are mostly alfalfa, but do have grain in them. It's my understanding that the pellets are supplement rather than the main bulk of their diet. I'm trying to offer lots of hay to mine so they don't need to eat as much pellets. My friend has hers in a tractor all day, but they get some pellets, too. I would aim for simply encouraging more hay/grass feeding but still allowing pellets until you have more information on the topic. (Please update if you do get more information!)

By the way, I thought rabbits were extremely lean, but when we raised meat rabbits before (I should say my husband raised them--I was busy raising little humans), he fed pellets only, and there was fat on those rabbits when he slaughtered them. I suspect it was from so much pellets/grain. But again I'm just speculating. I'd love to hear from anyone if that fat is normal.
I think it is preferable to have some fat on rabbits. On most meat, fat makes it more tender. There is also the issue of "rabbit starvation", something I read about recently. This happened to a group of explorers who only had "wild" rabbit as their meat, which I suppose is much leaner, and they had no other source of fat in the diet and although well fed, they eventually died of starvation. I am getting back into raising rabbits currently because of the issue with food shortages and would prefer to have a fatter rabbit. I am hoping to be able to do that by using the fodder method and supplementing with alfalfa pellets, for a little extra fat. All organic. Properly stored whole grains can last for years and be sprouted or fed as-is. I don't know how long you can store alfalfa pellets but I'm going to try putting it into sealed mylar bags with moisture/oxygen absorbents to see if that will work to extend the storage time. I've never seen a rabbit on our property so I'll be using grass clippings to dry for hay. Our "lawn" is a mixture of rye, fescue, clover and lots of plantain.
 

Ashes

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i have wanted to do this to help feed coats, but i can never find answers to these questions. how many rabbits do you have? how big are the rabbits? how many of these trays do you go through a day? what other food/amounts of food do you have to use?
How many rabbits varies - I have 3 breeders, and raise in a colony. The most I've had at once so far is 19. A ready tray of fodder weighs between 5-6 pounds. Rabbits should get 6% of their body weight in fodder. I process my growouts at 5lbs, so they get up to 0.3 lbs and my breeders get 0.5. I also give them as much timothy/orchard hay as they can eat without "wasting" too much. I also provide mineral licks but they don't seem to use them much.
 

Skai

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Has anyone already tried an experiment of raising meat rabbits in cages vs raising them in tractors with space to jump around? And then decided which way is better? My thought is that if growing rabbits for meat, meat = muscle, muscle is developed by exercise. I would be interested to know the pros and cons of each, what weights the same rabbits get to within the first 10-12 weeks if brought up one litter in cages and one litter on the ground? Also be interested to know if there was any difference in taste of meat as a result of exercise? Or is this more to do with diet?

I don't have a big farm, so would struggle to move tractors on a frequent enough basis (tractors are really out of the question, it would be more having a permanent grass space set up or a raised grow-out cage). I don't know how keen I am on having them on the same bit of dirt, no matter how big an area it is, as I am thinking it would become a breeding hotspot for all the parasites and things I don't want in my rabbitry?
I have thought of building my grow out pen up off the ground and having it slatted or solid wood floor, and a couple of layers so the buns can run around on each wooden floor and have space to jump and grow. First litter born yesterday, so still new to rabbits and still getting set up, hence I haven't already had a grow out pen.
I thankfully live in an area where there aren't wild rabbits in the immediate vacinity (that I'm aware of, but I wouldn't rule them out completely), but I know flies and mosquitoes can carry viruses and diseases and coccidiosis, so I am still a bit wary and careful about letting little buns out on the grass when they don't have as strong an immunity as an adult rabbit. I let the breeding stock rabbits out on the grass for exercise on a regular basis, but if I lived in a more rural area where coccidiosis was everywhere I wouldn't.
Be interested to know everyone's proven results and thoughts from their own experiences!
Thanks all :)
A lot of folks will vehemently disagree with this but (please don't shoot the messenger) I don't like the idea of raising rabbit grow-outs in a tractor. Cows are put in small pens before butchering because exercise creates tough muscles and because it can take up to a year longer to raise a grass fed cow to butchering age. Exercise makes animals need more feed because they are burning more calories. I have tried eating nothing but grass fed/grass finished beef for over 3 years now and have decided I'd rather not eat beef at all than to eat the tough, chewy stuff I've bought, from several different sources.
I have always pampered breeders and caged feeders comfortably but not with excess room to run around. My idea is to get them to fryer weight as quickly as possible to increase the return on investment.
I do think natural feeding is best for rabbits. Fodder from wheat/barley/oats, hay, grass, tree and shrub trimmings, weeds, clover, bread, past-their-prime veggies and peelings, and everything brought to the cages and delivered to waiting mouths.
I know I may sound really harsh to some but years ago I was in the situation where my rabbits, chickens and garden were my primary source of food. I want them to grow fast especially if/when the poop hits the fan and food is scarce and, in that case, I won't care if they have more fat on them, it can be trimmed off or you could probably render it and use it for cooking. I just don't see how you can quickly put weight on rabbits when they are running it off in a tractor, unless you are feeding a lot of pellets.
 

Rabbits by Accident

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At this point, my grow outs are reaching 5 lbs at about 9 weeks on pellets & LOTS of hay - and I use the term loosely, it's just a field full of weeds and random growth that is mowed & baled. So, I'm happy, and putting them on straight grass tractors worked out well. I mentioned that there was no fat just as info, not because I don't want fat. Fat would probably be good, but I'm not sure a 100% grass/hay diet will produce much fat. I'm thinking the next grow-outs will be fed grass-hay and random-hay-hay (both organic) and no pellets because they really destroyed the yard where I put the tractors. I do not want to eat meat produced by pellets with GMO corn/etc. That is assuming I have any to grow-out, generally they are all sold long before that.
 

Mini Lop Mama

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Not only is feeding your rabbit grass cheaper, it gives them more nutrients than hay, since it hasn't been dried out. I feed all of my rabbits grass during the summer and slowly transition back to hay.
 

Rabbits by Accident

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Not only is feeding your rabbit grass cheaper, it gives them more nutrients than hay, since it hasn't been dried out. I feed all of my rabbits grass during the summer and slowly transition back to hay.
Huh ... I dry mine in the sun a couple of days. It's still green-ish, though. I wasn't sure if I should feed them fresh cut grass. (not sure why LOL) So you feed it fresh? Do you cut it every day? What is your method for feeding? More info please :)
 

Mini Lop Mama

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Huh ... I dry mine in the sun a couple of days. It's still green-ish, though. I wasn't sure if I should feed them fresh cut grass. (not sure why LOL) So you feed it fresh? Do you cut it every day? What is your method for feeding? More info please :)
I feed them fresh cut grass that grows next to a neighbors field. No hay is harvested in that area, but it grows so stinking long! So I cut that back preferably before it goes to seed but, of course, I never have enough time to do it all. The rabbits almost always have grass available in their hutches, or they go on pasture. I cut it daily, then give them a HUGE 3-5 foot long handful of grass. They love it.
 

hotzcatz

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I have cages large enough for them to jump around :) That is one thing that is great about the long cages made from shelving, especially if you add a second story. At this point I only put my grow-outs on the ground. Although my buck has escaped a couple times and LOVES to be loose. I feel so sad when I have to put him in his cage (he is more sad than me LOL)

Not to take the topic off grass raised versus pellet raised, but cages made with shelving did cause a broken leg before we transitioned away from using the wire shelving for rabbit cage floors. It's excellent for walls and roofs, but no good as a floor since bunny feet can slip through the wires and if they're running about they can break a leg. Which, if it's a rabbit tractor on grass, wouldn't happen, but just in case someone was going to use it for rabbit cage flooring, I'd advise against it. Okay, now back to your regularly scheduled program.... (which, I'm guessing, grass fed is gonna taste way better!)

Hey, what if they were fed something like loads of rosemary or other tasty aromatic herb for the month before?
 

Bunnies4me

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Interesting to hear you say that about wire. I have big cages with hard wooden floors, although I sweep them night and morning, I do struggle to keep them nicely clean, if I have a messy rabbit. I don't like wire, it's not readily available here, and it's awfully expensive. Although it is tidy and clean. I have been wondering about using wooden slats, 1-2cm apart, for my next cage. Does anyone currently use wooden slats? @Preitler did I see somewhere you use wood only floors and no wire floors in your rabbitry? *AMENDED* - Article found here Some pictures of my hutch setup

And to keep this slightly on topic, I'm trying to feed grown wheat and barley fodder too😊
 
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Robochelle

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Sort of tying in the runaway topic with the grass feeding:

Having tried wooden slats for one of our rabbit tractors, I'd like to share a pic of what didn't work. Apologies, as the only good photo that shows the slat spacing was taken for insurance claim after a predator attack. The slat system worked fine enough for the chickens, but as a grow out cage it wasn't very good; the slats were too far apart, if the cage was on uneven ground we had escapees.

We also learned the lesson that slats, even ones that far apart, didn't let the grass through enough for buns to eat it.

And later, after we gave it to chickens, we also learned that joining the mesh at the top is not great for keeping out heavy predators.

For grass feeding, we had a couple more tractors where we used 1x1 hardware mesh. Better, but still not ideal. We have some 2x4 fencing, we are considering trying it out on a tractor... our yard's conveniently covered in their favorite food: crab grass, which I am allergic to, so two birds one stone for me!
 

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