Realistic Expectations for Doe Productivity and Behaviour

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Tom in Kingman

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Question from the new guy . What are the odds ? That is to say , for every sad story of lost kits or even full litters , how many cycles go through until fruition without any big problems ? When I drove truck I hauled meat out of and lived in Iowa . Livestock was all around me and so was death . It was , strange as it sounds , part of life . So what I'm asking is , what is the ratio or success rate for that fact ?The "perfect scenario" seems to say that one doe "can" produce 320 pounds of meat a year . Is that for real or just "the math" ? I don't want to make light of any death but it seems to happen in all growing operations and one would have to be a sadist for it not to bother them at least a little .
Now for another "slant" on this . Shara said that the doe did some awful things . Is that grounds for termination ? I mean , do you get rid of that doe and move on or does this happen now and again with the doe being "Mother Theresa" the next time . The eating of young happens in hogs . That's why they have farrowing pens . They have virtually no physical contact other than feeding through a protective cage . Since this would not be possible with rabbits it seems that one must wait and see how the doe will act . Looks like there is a lot more to rabbits than putting the 2 together and waiting for a big happy litter .
 

MaggieJ

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Tom, I split off your post because it does not pertain directly to hand-raising kits. Also, it is more of a Meat Rabbit topic, so it belongs in the Meat Rabbit forum. If you are having problems starting a new topic, PM me and I will help you out.

I think expecting a doe to raise 320 pounds of meat a year is unrealistic. Say your doe raises six litters of eight a year... That is 48 fryers weighing about 5 pounds each at butchering. That would be 240 pounds "on the hoof". But rabbits dress out at only about 50-60% so the actual meat on the table would be more like 120 pounds. While these figures are not beyond possibility, they do not take into account that there will be some losses... a litter chilled, a few runts lost along the way, perhaps the occasional loss from other causes.

Regarding your second questions about doe mothering abilities, many people give a young doe three strikes before terminating. First timers are often totally clueless, especially if they are bred early. They may make any number of rookie mistakes and lose the entire litter. Most of these does do better the second time, but a few require a third pregnacy to get it right. If they don't figure it out by then, they usually end up going to freezer camp.

Truly cannibalistic mother rabbits are mercifully few and far between. Usually what one is seeing when finding half-eaten kits is the doe's attempt to clean house when a kit is stillborn. Dead kits soon decompose, attracting predators and flies that endanger the living kits. This is why most people check the kits and do a count, removing any dead ones the first day.

Occasionally, a mother rabbit will be a bit overzealous when cleaning a kit after birth. This can result in her inadvertantly nibbling off ears, tail, toes. It doesn't happen often... Never seen it in my rabbitry, but you do hear of it from time to time. This is not cannibalism... It is just poor judgment.

Hope this is helpful to you and to others beginning with rabbits. I think raising rabbits is much like raising other livestock... When all goes tickety-boo, you get great results, but there are usually some disappointments along the way as well.
 

cereshill

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I expect to net 100lbs of rabbit meat per hole; that is consistant with MaggieJ's comment above. Anything greater would be an anomally and or be the result of unbelieveable talent in operations, productivity, feed conversion etc.
 

ottersatin

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Tom,I agree with Maggie one hundred percent on this one.
There always seems to be a fly in the ointment,
when things start going to well I start wondering WHY?
Though you try to do everything in your power to
have everything remain on an even keel, it's always something!
I try not to expect too much out of my rabbits and they have been
very good to me. I like to believe that you always get rewarded
for your effort. Rabbits are FUN! But not always! :mbounce:
Ottersatin. :eek:ldtimer:
 

SaratogaNZW

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One thing I can always tell people is that starting with good quality commercial-grade livestock in the first place is priceless when it comes to preventing problems like those mentioned above. Maybe some will disagree because they have had better experiences with mixed breeds, or I may have just been extremely fortunate for this run at meat rabbits. I started with commercial grade purebred and pedigreed new zealand whites ($40 for a 6 month old breeder) and I can honestly say:
* I have never had a doe, even a first timer, loose an entire litter, especially for lack of nesting.
* I have never had a doe not come into milk, or not feed her litter.
* I consistently wean 9-12 from each litter, average 10. A "Dirty Dozen" is not uncommon in the early summer.
* I have even had 2 does that went their entire breeding lifetime (6 months to 2.5 years) without loosing a single kit (that I know of)

There is also a few other tips I learned from a very good commercial breeder in the state, one to prevent cannibalizing is to keep a small 8"x8" piece of gypsum board in the pen for her to chew on while shes pregnant. She will get trace minerals she needs from it, and wont be as tempted to eat the babies to replenish herself.
 

Rock'N 4 Rabbitry

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You can always remove the nesting box after she gets done feeding them to help prevent that. Take the babies to the mom 2 times a day. Morning and then Night so she can feed and only remove them after they have fat bellies.
 
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