Hi, does anybody know how to exercise meat rabbits for show or fair? Like do you put them in large areas so they could build up their back muscles? Well, if anyone could help me out and share what you do to build up their flesh that would be great!
Interesting. Does anyone deliberately exercise show rabbits at all?
I think, not being performance animals, most rabbits are fed up to weight, rather than exercised up, so I think their round/muscular shape is a result of breeding and feeding rather than exercise. In fact, I think the whole meat rabbit industry in the US has mostly been focused on not allowing exercise, via limiting the rabbit's movement through caging, so that the rabbit just eats and grows...
In my experience, successful meat animals, like other show animals, are the result of a combination of genetics and management. It's true that unless an animal naturally has a wide loin, no amount of exercise is going to produce it; similarly, firm flesh and rock-hard muscle is something that can come naturally through selective breeding. I have a particular genetic line in my Satins that naturally have such tight, solid muscle tone that it is difficult to get hold of them (in combination with their silky coats, it can be like trying to grab a fish...good thing they're friendly
However, good husbandry is critical to enhancing what the rabbit brings with it from good breeding. Proper nutrition (I cannot overemphasize that a key to this is constant clean water!), and appropriate hutch size and cleanliness will take a good rabbit into the "excellent" category. The ARBA standard for meat rabbits allots 30 - 40 points out of 100 to "condition of flesh" (30 points in a meat pen, 40 for single fryers, stewers and roasters). According to the standard:
"All fryers in a pen must be in good condition. This reflects the care and management practices of the breeder. The fryers must be firm and solid. They must not show any signs of flabbiness, softness, looseness or pottiness..."
So, while I do not know any meat breeders who have a rabbit exercise program per se, allowing the rabbits room and reason to use their muscles is definitely part of good management. My meat pen grow-outs actually get large cages, and they do get time in an outside pen at various intervals, dependent on the weather; be aware, though, that outside penning seems to come with a higher risk of injury. I prefer to pen them all together for a few reasons, including the interactions/increased activity levels of a group, and also because they'll have to live harmoniously in a single pen at the fair/show, which tends to go better if they're used to living together (though not always). Some rabbits, though, either do not get along or do not thrive in a group; those I pull out and put in their own cage.
Building up their flesh, though, is mostly something you need to do by selective breeding. Finding outstanding brood stock - especially a superb brood doe, or a herd buck that passes on solid muscle tone to his offspring (I'd look for a NZ or Californian) - can go a long way in improving your meat rabbits. That's actually where I got my rock-hard Satins: five generations ago I got a Cal doe from a national-winning-level meat breeder and crossed her into my Satins, then kept only the best muscled animals with the widest loins in succeeding generations. It was completely
worth the three-generation wait for fully-pedigreed descendants that win Best in Show in both
the purebred show and the meat show at the Fair, in both Open and 4H shows.