Linebreeding vs Genetic Diversity: What’s Your Breeding Program?

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Meadowlark22

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I have always been into rabbits, and was able to purchase a few really high quality, unrelated NZWs (a buck and 4 does) to start a little genetic project for myself. My goal is to create a closed herd with no additional sources based on the stock I currently have. Also, to be able to (with continued rigourous culling) produce consistent animals worthy of the show or dining table. I have always loved tracking genetics, and I have always followed the “One Ram Flock” suggested breeding program for other livestock. I am really a stickler for closed herds and genetic diversity, so I became rather conflicted when I found other articles and thread claiming that serious linebreeding (which is to some extent controlled inbreeding) is better than genetic diversity.

Which is truly better? Do I really only need 2 rabbits (linebreed) or is 5 rabbits (small herd with eventual linebreeding) a better place to start? What type of breeding program would you recommend?

Linebreeding: Linebreeding Meat Rabbits For Food and Profit
vs
Small herd: How to Grow Your Flock with Only One Ram
vs
Other?

TLDR; What is the best system to follow to 1) maintain a closed herd while 2) producing the most consistent stock with the least amount of rabbits needed overall (not for startup)? Is it worth maintaining genetic diversity in comparison to just linebreeding? Best breeding program?
 
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LatchawBriarPatch

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The rabbitry center has a great rabbit math breeding video about how to start with 4 rabbits and have 2 lines going to keep genetic diversity but still improve both lines. I don't need 12 breeding rabbits so I don't plan to go that route. I'm sticking with my two does and a buck and switching out who is the breeding stock if I can get my hands on better stock as I have money or from the offspring....but always keeping it to the three....we will see how it goes. I start breeding as soon as I finish my kindling totes.
 

MuddyFarms

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When I started with rabbits a number of years ago, I bought a nice trio of Californians. After learning additional info about breeding options, I decided to go with two bucks and three does when I got Rex. One reason was simply to have a good backup buck. I learned that when I had Cals and lost the buck to extreme heat that year (of course the year I got rabbits would present so much unusual heat!). I also really like starting out with 5 animals and then going from there since it is a little bigger base. It isn't that many more rabbits than starting with a trio, either.

Another thing that might influence the choices in this is how close one is to the breeder. I traveled 6 hours away to get my stock, so going back to the breeder if I lost the only buck I bought isn't a very good option. The breeder I got my Rex from had recently added in a buck from another breeder's line, so there was actually more genetic diversity there than otherwise. I do not intend to bring in any others, unless I discover a real need to do so.

I now keep more bucks than I truly need. One reason is that it doesn't increase the number of kits produced like if I kept more does, so I can have more color and type options in the bucks to influence my herd. :)
 

Meadowlark22

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The rabbitry center has a great rabbit math breeding video about how to start with 4 rabbits and have 2 lines going to keep genetic diversity but still improve both lines. I don't need 12 breeding rabbits so I don't plan to go that route. I'm sticking with my two does and a buck and switching out who is the breeding stock if I can get my hands on better stock as I have money or from the offspring....but always keeping it to the three....we will see how it goes. I start breeding as soon as I finish my kindling totes.
Thank you for the pointing me their way! While their breeding system isn’t for me, they have a lot of good info and I watched a lot of their videos!
 

Meadowlark22

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When I started with rabbits a number of years ago, I bought a nice trio of Californians. After learning additional info about breeding options, I decided to go with two bucks and three does when I got Rex. One reason was simply to have a good backup buck. I learned that when I had Cals and lost the buck to extreme heat that year (of course the year I got rabbits would present so much unusual heat!). I also really like starting out with 5 animals and then going from there since it is a little bigger base. It isn't that many more rabbits than starting with a trio, either.

Another thing that might influence the choices in this is how close one is to the breeder. I traveled 6 hours away to get my stock, so going back to the breeder if I lost the only buck I bought isn't a very good option. The breeder I got my Rex from had recently added in a buck from another breeder's line, so there was actually more genetic diversity there than otherwise. I do not intend to bring in any others, unless I discover a real need to do so.

I now keep more bucks than I truly need. One reason is that it doesn't increase the number of kits produced like if I kept more does, so I can have more color and type options in the bucks to influence my herd. :)
I get you! When we first got our rabbits (1 buck/3 does), our first buck, Blue, ended up being “infertile” and we couldn’t get him to breed! He was just not interested. So we had no buck and does that were older and had not been bred before. We have no folks locally that sell New Zealands, and the nearest reputable breeder I could find was over 6 hours away! Took another road trip just to get a replacement buck (and another doe) which might have been avoided if I got two bucks to begin with. Now I have 1 buck and 4 does.

Sold Blue as a pet when we got back, as he was more of a lap dog than an active breeder. Although when we went to breed our does with the new guy, we were surprised to find litters from two of our does that Blue was caged next to. So I’ve learned from experience that bucks can breed through wire.

And yes! I want a closed herd too, no outside sources after my initial stock. It might take me a while to learn/breed my rabbits according to the ARBA standards, but I’m hoping to still be able to. The breeders I got my rabbits from say buy new breeding bucks every other year (breed to mom and daughter, but never to granddaughter), no matter how big or small your rabbitry is. Sounds a bit excessive, and then you don’t know what you might be adding to your lines.

Nice idea about the multiple bucks, had not thought of that.
 

hotzcatz

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My first rabbits were a pair of English angoras sold to me as a 'breeding pair' in 2009. I didn't get their pedigrees until after the seller had left the state and they had already had a litter. Turns out it was a mother/son 'breeding pair' which is a bit more than linebreeding, IMHO. So three pairs of mostly unrelated English angoras were imported and that's pretty much what we've been working with ever since.

Kintracks pedigree program has a handy 'inbreeding' button which will let me know how inbred any particular pair may be to each other. I generally try to keep the coefficient of inbreeding below 25%, although sometimes it will go higher for special circumstances.

I did try to lower the levels of inbreeding with a Satin/German buck since that one was at least angora. The results were dismal and all the offspring from that buck has pretty much been removed from the herd. Not a similar body style and the wool quality suffered so that was an experiment that didn't work very well. Someone on another island brought in some 'wooler' angoras via a FB yarn spinning group. They also had a pair of purebred pedigreed does from me, so when one of those does met up with the unpedigreed brought in from the mainland buck, I got some offspring from that. At least the unpedigreed buck looked English and his offspring were much better than the hybrid German/Satin buck. Years earlier there had been another doe from my herd bred to an imported buck although that imported buck was related to the very first doe that I'd gotten from that person who sold me the mother/son pair.

There's finally getting to be some traction with other folks keeping English angoras around here, but finding quality breeding stock is still really difficult. None of them that I know of are keeping pedigrees nor actually keeping track of which buck was with which doe. Sometimes they are 'hybrid' angoras to where the other rabbit isn't even an angora so the offspring won't have the long angora wool.

There's pretty much always six bucks here along with anywhere from a dozen to two dozen does, so with careful breeding, the levels of inbreeding can be kept fairly low. I also make a point of keeping the dominant color genes since breeding a double recessive color to a double recessive color (REW to REW, Blue to Blue or Lilac, Tort to tort , tort to fawn, etc.) can really limit the options.
 

RabbitsOfTheCreek

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We've been slowly leaning away from family breeding, my two breeding bucks are only related to their kits, and one of my breeding Does isn't related to anyone
 
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I have always been into rabbits, and was able to purchase a few really high quality, unrelated NZWs (a buck and 4 does) to start a little genetic project for myself. My goal is to create a closed herd with no additional sources based on the stock I currently have. Also, to be able to (with continued rigourous culling) produce consistent animals worthy of the show or dining table. I have always loved tracking genetics, and I have always followed the “One Ram Flock” suggested breeding program for other livestock. I am really a stickler for closed herds and genetic diversity, so I became rather conflicted when I found other articles and thread claiming that serious linebreeding (which is to some extent controlled inbreeding) is better than genetic diversity.

Which is truly better? Do I really only need 2 rabbits (linebreed) or is 5 rabbits (small herd with eventual linebreeding) a better place to start? What type of breeding program would you recommend?

Linebreeding: Linebreeding Meat Rabbits For Food and Profit
vs
Small herd: How to Grow Your Flock with Only One Ram
vs
Other?

TLDR; What is the best system to follow to 1) maintain a closed herd while 2) producing the most consistent stock with the least amount of rabbits needed overall (not for startup)? Is it worth maintaining genetic diversity in comparison to just linebreeding? Best breeding program?
If you won’t be showing and don’t breed say sibling to sibling too often you should be fine honestly.
 

Meadowlark22

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If you won’t be showing and don’t breed say sibling to sibling too often you should be fine honestly.
I do plan on showing, and am actually entering a show next month (mostly to get a judge’s opinion on my initial stock than to compete). However, I do hope to learn from the experience and compete in future shows!
 

rockyhillrabbits

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My Rex all came from the same breeder and after looking at their pedigrees I found that they are all closely related, which is something I don't like. I prefer them to be unrelated or at least, distantly related. Both bucks I have are from my white doe and she was bred back to her sire. My blue doe is the white doe's niece. I understand that line breeding is a great way to retain those good qualities but I got good results with previous litters with unrelated stock. Once I get all my breeding stock purchased this time around I'll probably be happy with the same stock for a few years, until they start getting too old.
 

RabbitsOfTheCreek

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Until I got my new rabbit Russia in December, all but two of my breeding rabbits were related to almost everyone else. But now, we've been trying to lean away from them being related.
 

judymac

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I think the first question is, what are your priorities, and then, what are your goals? I'm a fan of closed herds, especially now with the rabbit virus spreading so quickly. But, you need to know what your goals are in order to know how much diversity you need to start with. For instance, I am working on improving several different color lines. They are each separate lines, so they each have their own minimum requirements. I, too, have had the sad situation where a buck for whatever reason cannot fulfill his destiny, and doesn't breed the does (fever, age, lack of drive, dies. . .) I always strive to have at least one spare buck for each program. Yes, it provides some diversity, although in the end they all become related anyway, but more importantly, it provides security for your line. It is so frustrating to have stock that no one near you raises, and your breeding program comes to a screeching halt because you don't have a serviceable buck.

Also, linebreeding is generally breeding back to the genetics of an outstanding individual or outstanding core herd. You need to HAVE an outstanding individual to consider line breeding. Otherwise, you need to bring in new stock that has better traits than your own stock to improve whatever area needs improving, before considering linebreeding.

Ideally, you would want to start with a core group that embodies all the traits most important to you, whatever they may be. Could be growth rate, or temperament, body structure, coat type, color, or something specific like ear carriage or toenail color or shoulder width. Whatever is important to you. Then, your linebreeding will be combining these traits as effectively as you can. Genetic improvement is best made with just one trait at a time, but in a closed herd, you need to actually have the traits that are important to you, so you can work on them as needed.

For instance, I raise Angoras, and in one of my color programs, I have a doe that produces twice the fiber of any of my other does. It is long, soft, and doesn't mat up, all important traits to me. However, she has poor color depth. So, she adds an important economic trait to the herd, but I need to be sure that I keep rabbits with exceptional color as well, so I can use them to improve the overall color in the long run, as her offspring inherit both the good and bad traits.

If you are working on a color that requires (or is improved by) having homozygous (two of the same gene allele, like two recessive dilute genes, or two harlequin alleles) traits, you are going to need enough breeding stock with that trait to perpetuate your stock in order to meet your breeding goals. If you only have a couple of animals to start with, and those with diverse genetic backgrounds, you may need to save a lot of offspring carrying that trait until you get it fixed in your herd.

If you choose to work on multiple lines, that multiplies the minimum number of animals you need to keep, in order to keep each separate line functioning properly. Of course, if you like surprises, and have no special color goals, then none of this matters. The only thing in linebreeding that is paramount, is being willing to cull, as linebreeding increases the incidence of bad traits as well as good, and you need to continually strive to select only the best stock in each generation, to weed out those bad traits.

There are problems with linebreeding, especially if you choose not to cull stock; but outcrossing can have pitfalls as well, such as bringing in an undesirable recessive trait you didn't have in your herd before--could be white toenails or stray white hairs, lack of disease resistance, inability to deal with your type of feed (be it the protein level, fiber type, fresh vs. pellets, etc.), buck teeth, breeding issues, a recessive color pattern that is not showable in your breed, etc. Many breeders line breed, until they discover a need in their herd that their current stock cannot meet. They then carefully select a rabbit or two with that specific trait, to add to their herd.
 

MuddyFarms

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I think the first question is, what are your priorities, and then, what are your goals? I'm a fan of closed herds, especially now with the rabbit virus spreading so quickly. But, you need to know what your goals are in order to know how much diversity you need to start with. For instance, I am working on improving several different color lines. They are each separate lines, so they each have their own minimum requirements. I, too, have had the sad situation where a buck for whatever reason cannot fulfill his destiny, and doesn't breed the does (fever, age, lack of drive, dies. . .) I always strive to have at least one spare buck for each program. Yes, it provides some diversity, although in the end they all become related anyway, but more importantly, it provides security for your line. It is so frustrating to have stock that no one near you raises, and your breeding program comes to a screeching halt because you don't have a serviceable buck.

Also, linebreeding is generally breeding back to the genetics of an outstanding individual or outstanding core herd. You need to HAVE an outstanding individual to consider line breeding. Otherwise, you need to bring in new stock that has better traits than your own stock to improve whatever area needs improving, before considering linebreeding.

Ideally, you would want to start with a core group that embodies all the traits most important to you, whatever they may be. Could be growth rate, or temperament, body structure, coat type, color, or something specific like ear carriage or toenail color or shoulder width. Whatever is important to you. Then, your linebreeding will be combining these traits as effectively as you can. Genetic improvement is best made with just one trait at a time, but in a closed herd, you need to actually have the traits that are important to you, so you can work on them as needed.

For instance, I raise Angoras, and in one of my color programs, I have a doe that produces twice the fiber of any of my other does. It is long, soft, and doesn't mat up, all important traits to me. However, she has poor color depth. So, she adds an important economic trait to the herd, but I need to be sure that I keep rabbits with exceptional color as well, so I can use them to improve the overall color in the long run, as her offspring inherit both the good and bad traits.

If you are working on a color that requires (or is improved by) having homozygous (two of the same gene allele, like two recessive dilute genes, or two harlequin alleles) traits, you are going to need enough breeding stock with that trait to perpetuate your stock in order to meet your breeding goals. If you only have a couple of animals to start with, and those with diverse genetic backgrounds, you may need to save a lot of offspring carrying that trait until you get it fixed in your herd.

If you choose to work on multiple lines, that multiplies the minimum number of animals you need to keep, in order to keep each separate line functioning properly. Of course, if you like surprises, and have no special color goals, then none of this matters. The only thing in linebreeding that is paramount, is being willing to cull, as linebreeding increases the incidence of bad traits as well as good, and you need to continually strive to select only the best stock in each generation, to weed out those bad traits.

There are problems with linebreeding, especially if you choose not to cull stock; but outcrossing can have pitfalls as well, such as bringing in an undesirable recessive trait you didn't have in your herd before--could be white toenails or stray white hairs, lack of disease resistance, inability to deal with your type of feed (be it the protein level, fiber type, fresh vs. pellets, etc.), buck teeth, breeding issues, a recessive color pattern that is not showable in your breed, etc. Many breeders line breed, until they discover a need in their herd that their current stock cannot meet. They then carefully select a rabbit or two with that specific trait, to add to their herd.


Thank you for articulating that so precisely!
 

ivybearfarms

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Thank you for articulating that so precisely!
I agree. Great job. You also helped me and my daughter with these questions. We have a heard of mini lops consisting of 6 does and 3 bucks. We are officially done collecting outside stock for awhile.
Not because of diseased or the virus. Just because I *think* we have enough genetic diversity to go where we want. 2/3 bucks have legs and are amazing show stock. For the does, they have enough color to go where we want and are out of good show lines.
 

GriffinBun101

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I show Satin rabbits rather competitively, and my rule of thumb is either the rabbits must be three generations apart in relation, or that a rabbit’s name shouldn’t be on the pedigree more than twice (only once ideally.) (I have 4 generation pedigrees.) The biggest problem with inbreeding for a long period of time is that you’ll lock in undesirable traits, and if you’re showing competitively, you’ll want to buy nice rabbits to improve your herd, but they might not “click” with your rabbits and it’ll be really hard to improve your lines once you’ve “locked” them in by inbreeding.
 

Meadowlark22

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I think the first question is, what are your priorities, and then, what are your goals? I'm a fan of closed herds, especially now with the rabbit virus spreading so quickly. But, you need to know what your goals are in order to know how much diversity you need to start with. For instance, I am working on improving several different color lines. They are each separate lines, so they each have their own minimum requirements. I, too, have had the sad situation where a buck for whatever reason cannot fulfill his destiny, and doesn't breed the does (fever, age, lack of drive, dies. . .) I always strive to have at least one spare buck for each program. Yes, it provides some diversity, although in the end they all become related anyway, but more importantly, it provides security for your line. It is so frustrating to have stock that no one near you raises, and your breeding program comes to a screeching halt because you don't have a serviceable buck.

Also, linebreeding is generally breeding back to the genetics of an outstanding individual or outstanding core herd. You need to HAVE an outstanding individual to consider line breeding. Otherwise, you need to bring in new stock that has better traits than your own stock to improve whatever area needs improving, before considering linebreeding.

Ideally, you would want to start with a core group that embodies all the traits most important to you, whatever they may be. Could be growth rate, or temperament, body structure, coat type, color, or something specific like ear carriage or toenail color or shoulder width. Whatever is important to you. Then, your linebreeding will be combining these traits as effectively as you can. Genetic improvement is best made with just one trait at a time, but in a closed herd, you need to actually have the traits that are important to you, so you can work on them as needed.

For instance, I raise Angoras, and in one of my color programs, I have a doe that produces twice the fiber of any of my other does. It is long, soft, and doesn't mat up, all important traits to me. However, she has poor color depth. So, she adds an important economic trait to the herd, but I need to be sure that I keep rabbits with exceptional color as well, so I can use them to improve the overall color in the long run, as her offspring inherit both the good and bad traits.

If you are working on a color that requires (or is improved by) having homozygous (two of the same gene allele, like two recessive dilute genes, or two harlequin alleles) traits, you are going to need enough breeding stock with that trait to perpetuate your stock in order to meet your breeding goals. If you only have a couple of animals to start with, and those with diverse genetic backgrounds, you may need to save a lot of offspring carrying that trait until you get it fixed in your herd.

If you choose to work on multiple lines, that multiplies the minimum number of animals you need to keep, in order to keep each separate line functioning properly. Of course, if you like surprises, and have no special color goals, then none of this matters. The only thing in linebreeding that is paramount, is being willing to cull, as linebreeding increases the incidence of bad traits as well as good, and you need to continually strive to select only the best stock in each generation, to weed out those bad traits.

There are problems with linebreeding, especially if you choose not to cull stock; but outcrossing can have pitfalls as well, such as bringing in an undesirable recessive trait you didn't have in your herd before--could be white toenails or stray white hairs, lack of disease resistance, inability to deal with your type of feed (be it the protein level, fiber type, fresh vs. pellets, etc.), buck teeth, breeding issues, a recessive color pattern that is not showable in your breed, etc. Many breeders line breed, until they discover a need in their herd that their current stock cannot meet. They then carefully select a rabbit or two with that specific trait, to add to their herd.
Thanks for the feedback, this is great info!
 

RabbitsOfTheCreek

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What's convenient about related-breeding is you can continue good traits and you don't need to buy a new rabbit every time
 
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