What age to start rationing feed for juniors?

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ThunderHill

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Hi! I was just curious when you stop free-feeding junior rabbits and ration their feed. I have a 17 week old buck and doe I am growing out to be future breeders, so I don't want them to get fat, but I also don't want to stunt their growth by feeding too little too soon. I'd say they are both close to 80% of their adult weight at this point. These are New Zealands, and they get a few small branches of forage a day, unlimited Timothy hay and pellets. Thanks for any advice!
 

eco2pia

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Generally watch for actual fat gain. I watch for the development of a "beard" on the buck and a dewlap on the doe as signs of maturity. I generally free feed until I see the buck over gaining in the neck/throat region. A doe should have a dewlap but a buck should not. He will get a little "beard" under his chin as he stops growing, and that is when I slow feeding. The doe's dewlap will be more pronounced at adulthood, but should not be so excessive that she looks like her head is dissappearing. To me those signs say growth phase has slowed down, and food should slow down. However I tend to free feed pregnant and lactating does. They should be passing the calories to their offspring--this is something you have to tailor to the individual doe, some will need more food to maintain condition.
 

KelleyBee

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Hi! I was just curious when you stop free-feeding junior rabbits and ration their feed. I have a 17 week old buck and doe I am growing out to be future breeders, so I don't want them to get fat, but I also don't want to stunt their growth by feeding too little too soon. I'd say they are both close to 80% of their adult weight at this point. These are New Zealands, and they get a few small branches of forage a day, unlimited Timothy hay and pellets. Thanks for any advice!
I agree with eco2pia, activel working does free feed. As for a 17 week, I would be weighing food daily and rationing as follows: let’s say your buck currently weighs 6 pounds. You first day of rationing should be 6 ounces of pellets (you can continue free feeding hay). After 24 hours, look at what is left in the feeder. If empty any your rabbit seems excited because he knows you’re feeding (must be hungry) feed 6.5 ounces this day. If, however, pellets still remain in the feeder, reduce your daily ration by the estimated amount in the feeder. In other words, if after 24 hours there are about 2 ounces left in the feeder, then this day feed only 4 ounces, making a total of 6 ounces in the feeder again. Repeat the observations each day at feeding time and always adjust accordingly. Weigh your buck every two weeks to see how he is doing on daily rations.
 

MuddyFarms

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Generally watch for actual fat gain. I watch for the development of a "beard" on the buck and a dewlap on the doe as signs of maturity. I generally free feed until I see the buck over gaining in the neck/throat region. A doe should have a dewlap but a buck should not. He will get a little "beard" under his chin as he stops growing, and that is when I slow feeding. The doe's dewlap will be more pronounced at adulthood, but should not be so excessive that she looks like her head is dissappearing. To me those signs say growth phase has slowed down, and food should slow down. However I tend to free feed pregnant and lactating does. They should be passing the calories to their offspring--this is something you have to tailor to the individual doe, some will need more food to maintain condition.

I don't want to sidetrack this thread, but this may go with the original question a little. With those feeding guidelines, when do you start breeding them? Not wanting them to get fat, do you find it easier to manage them by breeding them once the growth phase has slowed down, or do you wait until they have completely stopped growing, or some other guideline you find helpful?
 

eco2pia

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I don't want to sidetrack this thread, but this may go with the original question a little. With those feeding guidelines, when do you start breeding them? Not wanting them to get fat, do you find it easier to manage them by breeding them once the growth phase has slowed down, or do you wait until they have completely stopped growing, or some other guideline you find helpful?
I genearally breed at around 5-6 months for does. I have to use a calendar for this because I am impatient, and impulsive. :LOL:

Bucks I will offer a doe to slightly before if he is interested, though he won't likely have acheived full adult size, and I might still be free feeding. I think "full size" age is a little breed specific. My current buck finished growing his bones but still had filling out to do when I first bred him. He is heavier and more solid now. I was still free feeding when I first bred him at about 6 months. He is 9 months now and just starting to slow down enough that my feeding had to slow down.

Mostly, I am actually likely to UNDER breed my rabbits due to space concerns. So really my above comment should say I use a calendar to be sure I wait until AT LEAST 6 months. Because I am impatient and impulsive...
I agree with eco2pia, activel working does free feed. As for a 17 week, I would be weighing food daily and rationing as follows: let’s say your buck currently weighs 6 pounds. You first day of rationing should be 6 ounces of pellets (you can continue free feeding hay). After 24 hours, look at what is left in the feeder. If empty any your rabbit seems excited because he knows you’re feeding (must be hungry) feed 6.5 ounces this day. If, however, pellets still remain in the feeder, reduce your daily ration by the estimated amount in the feeder. In other words, if after 24 hours there are about 2 ounces left in the feeder, then this day feed only 4 ounces, making a total of 6 ounces in the feeder again. Repeat the observations each day at feeding time and always adjust accordingly. Weigh your buck every two weeks to see how he is doing on daily rations.
In a way this is MEASURED free feeding. You are providing the exact amount that they can eat in a day, each day. Good for record keeping, but not so much for weight control, which is sometimes a concern with adults, and more work than just filling a hopper every few days. Also if the goal is a cost/benefits ratio, you may want to record how much you are feeding each growout and then check to see how those animals look at harvest, and this method would work very well for that.

My most recent kits have gotten a bit fatter than my old nz, but I am not unhappy with this. I am also harvesting at an older age, which is a factor. It does tell me that I COULD feed more hay and less pellets and likely get good fryers for less cash. I will shift accordingly on the next batch, watch how they grow and then cut out, and then adjust again. With this new strain I am adjusting old patterns, but it is minor tweaks instead of starting over from scratch, so I am pretty laid back. I appreciate that newer rabbit keepers are around to give more precise guidelines!

Admittedly, for all that I am in a data driven profession, with some parts of my life (rabbits, gardening, fish breeding, cooking, etc) I kind of enjoy a more relaxed going by the "feel" of a thing, which works if you are good at being observant, and have a certain level of experience/confidence. In all my endevours I have found the key to success is finding out what kind of person YOU are and what works for YOU. If it is not sustainable for your lifestyle, then no matter how well it works on the internet it won't work in your hands. Work with your own personality as much as possible!:D
 

KelleyBee

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In a way this is MEASURED free feeding. You are providing the exact amount that they can eat in a day, each day. Good for record keeping, but not so much for weight control, which is sometimes a concern with adults, and more work than just filling a hopper every few days. Also if the goal is a cost/benefits ratio, you may want to record how much you are feeding each growout and then check to see how those animals look at harvest, and this method would work very well for that.
I agree with you, in a way this is free feeding. But if they eat all pellets, they are going several hours each day without them, as I feed only once per day. I rarely going higher than their actual weight. I do write down all feeding ounces each day for my breeders, unless they are working does who are kept topped in their J feeders daily. The bucks, non-working, are always rationed as described. My growouts growing for dispatch are all caged together and fed from one J feeder, so I only know how much a pen is eating each day, divided by how many in the pen. Growouts for dispatching, I don't worry about fat accumulation. I actually give them BOSS each day because I want some of their own fat on them to use with cooking them.
 

SableSteel

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I'm late to the thread, but as soon as I separate the jrs out into individual holes (usually about 3 months, but it can be sooner or later depending on how well they get along with their siblings) I put them on the same amount of food I feed adults. When they are together they are free fed (I dont want any competition for food)
 

Olbunny

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I open feed working does n grow outs. Wintering over right now so no friers. They get 1 cup pellets open feed timothy hay. On colder days I will give our does some sunflower seeds for a snack n extra protein. These rabbits have all gone through minus 15-20 for weeks on end and doing great. We lost 2 of the 30 friers we had from the cold. We had heated water bowls. 1 go to wet n froze to pens floor one got caught in the hay bin wire. This was out of 130 born this year.
 

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