Your thoughts for a meat herd?

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KelleyBee

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I am wanting to make feeding a bit less confusing. Currently feeding 16% to bucks and non-working does, 18% to working does and growouts. It was suggested using 17% for everyone to simplify. Your thoughts? Also note the list of ingredients has alfalfa listed first. Is that considered good or not good as daily feed for all rabbits? See attached guaranteed analysis of a feed I am considering.20221204_152622.jpg
 
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ladysown

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is what you are doing working? Do you feel pressured to simplify? does the 17% match up fairly well with what you were already feeding? There's pros and cons to everything so thinking It through helps. :)
 
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I am wanting to make feeding a bit less confusing. Currently feeding 16% to bucks and non-working does, 18% to working does and growouts. It was suggested using 17% for everyone to simplify. Your thoughts? See attached guaranteed analysis of a feed I am considering.View attachment 32942
I'm with Trouble Maker Acres...after juggling different protein percentages for brood stock, growouts, bucks, and dwarf breeds, I also simplified to 16%, which does the job and is less expensive. I have discovered that increasing fat makes a bigger difference than increasing protein, especially for the milking does, which need the fat to make milk. So I usually give a little bit of BOSS and/or oatmeal (approx 1 Tbl total) to the doe as soon as she kindles, in a small treat cup attached to the side of the cage, because like TMA, I have rabbits that dig through the feeder to get the good stuff. :) I give them this treat every day, right as I'm pulling the box out to do a nest check, and even protective does quickly become quite happy to let me check on their nest! I've had no problem with the bunnies getting into it once they start coming out of the nest box, although I do not continue giving it to them once they're weaned and away from the dam, unless it is an unusually big litter and they need a little boost. I also give BOSS/oats to rabbits that need a bump in condition or need to gain a little weight for some other reason.
My only cautions are, first, it will put the weight on, so use it judiciously; and two, if you suddenly start supplementing fat and/or protein, prepare for a molt!
 

KelleyBee

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I feed 16% to everyone and adjust amounts according to their needs. I usually mix in BOSS as well, to the ones that don’t try and scoop them all out of the feeder. I had three different feed mixes going for a while there like you and I said enough.
The confusion of different feeds for different rabbits was mostly manageable for me when I feed, but on days when I need someone else to step in for me, using different feeds becomes problematic and I prefer being able to enlist help without so much confusion.
 

KelleyBee

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is what you are doing working? Do you feel pressured to simplify? does the 17% match up fairly well with what you were already feeding? There's pros and cons to everything so thinking It through helps. :)
I started off in my rabbitry using just 16% and supplementing boss and oars, etc for the working does and even for growouts, as I stated with rabbits who were below weight standards and have been trying to figure out how to improve growth rates, etc. So then I went to 18% for growouts and working dies with a marked improvement in weights and growth rates, but also a huge bit of confusion on days I needed someone else to feed for me. So, one of my helpers with decades of experience with rabbits suggested I switch to a 17% feed and no longer worry about it because 17% is nicely in the middle. My biggest concern, I think, going with the 17% feed I have pictured is the alfalfa ingredient listed first. Some people on this forum have said never feed alfalfa to rabbits, yet, why is it in the feed and why have I read elsewhere that alfalfa is ok? I know there are concerns with calcium content in the alfalfa, but if the feed is the only source of the alfalfa, g is it still too much?
 
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I started off in my rabbitry using just 16% and supplementing boss and oars, etc for the working does and even for growouts, as I stated with rabbits who were below weight standards and have been trying to figure out how to improve growth rates, etc. So then I went to 18% for growouts and working dies with a marked improvement in weights and growth rates, but also a huge bit of confusion on days I needed someone else to feed for me. So, one of my helpers with decades of experience with rabbits suggested I switch to a 17% feed and no longer worry about it because 17% is nicely in the middle. My biggest concern, I think, going with the 17% feed I have pictured is the alfalfa ingredient listed first. Some people on this forum have said never feed alfalfa to rabbits, yet, why is it in the feed and why have I read elsewhere that alfalfa is ok? I know there are concerns with calcium content in the alfalfa, but if the feed is the only source of the alfalfa, g is it still too much?
Wrestling with the same issue and thoughts here. I don’t think my lops and Lionhead rabbits need 17% protein but my angora rabbits certainly do. I’m also supplementing with Calf Manna since my doe kindled and the kits were small. They looked better immediately so it’s staying in the feed room. But I’m already feeding them blue seal show hutch 17 which is clearly not enough for my angora doe while nursing. First ingredient is alfalfa and the calcium issue concerns me as well. To top it off, my feed store is out for the next 10 days. I have enough for today. I’m looking for a supply on Amazon but this isn’t going to work long term...
Thanks for the great topic.
 

ladysown

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The "never feed alfalfa" comes from alfalfa being in pellets and people wanting to feed alfalfa hay as well. That leads to too much alfalfa and problems with calcium.

If you feed a timothy-based pellet, you can feed alfalfa. But with an alfalfa-based pellet you want to feed a grass-type hay.

17% is right in the middle. OR you could stick with 18% and if you measure feed, moderate the amount you feed the non-working animals. :) I find a 17% pellet requires me to moderate the amount I feed my non-working animals. I had to play around with it a bit to figure out the optimal amount to feed. Take your time and you'll get it figured.
 

Buknee

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I raise medium to large rabbits. Usually 3 bucks to 8 plus does and a passel of grow outs. I feed all 18%. I have not had issues with gaining too much weight. (except one doe that ate very little and continued to gain) I also give timothy hay to all and a tablespoon of BOSS/oat mix per day. My nursing and pregnant does also get half a tablespoon of Manna/Annimax per day.
 

BuffBrahmaBantam

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We have a low maintenance approach here and give local haystack pellets to everyone. The protein percentage of haystack pellets is 16% but because our rabbits get so much other outside food those percentages don’t mean much to us. They get oats (sometimes mixed with wheat, barley, or boss) as a treat to get them to come back inside in the evening. They have free access to both orchard grass and alfalfa hay. They get miscellaneous plants from our property and garden and eat what they want.

Our ‘rabbitry’ has been in flux since we started but it works for us. (I put rabbitry in airquotes because we are very small. At maximum we had 2 does and 1 buck. Now we have just 1 doe.) Our single breeding doe is giving more meat than we can handle on this system and we need to give her a break in 2023 to eat all the meat we have. We only weigh the dressed rabbit. At 12.5 weeks ours were on average 3.5 lbs dressed. These are American chinchillas. We eat about 1 lb per meal (dinner with lunch leftovers), which means a litter of 10 gives us 35 lbs of rabbit. We plan to stop feeding pellets eventually but for now they are convenient.

Is there a particular reason you want to maximize growth rates so much? Do you have a commercial rabbitry? There are trade offs and if it consumes a lot of time and energy to give multiple pellets, it may be worthwhile to sacrifice a little on growth rate, for a more relaxed feeding system. Just a suggestion.

Another way to improve growth rates is via climate control. Rabbits that need to keep warm in winter will (likely) have slower growth rates.
 

Skai

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I started off in my rabbitry using just 16% and supplementing boss and oars, etc for the working does and even for growouts, as I stated with rabbits who were below weight standards and have been trying to figure out how to improve growth rates, etc. So then I went to 18% for growouts and working dies with a marked improvement in weights and growth rates, but also a huge bit of confusion on days I needed someone else to feed for me. So, one of my helpers with decades of experience with rabbits suggested I switch to a 17% feed and no longer worry about it because 17% is nicely in the middle. My biggest concern, I think, going with the 17% feed I have pictured is the alfalfa ingredient listed first. Some people on this forum have said never feed alfalfa to rabbits, yet, why is it in the feed and why have I read elsewhere that alfalfa is ok? I know there are concerns with calcium content in the alfalfa, but if the feed is the only source of the alfalfa, g is it still too much?
The problem with alfalfa, as I understand it, is that it has too much calcium for mature rabbits if overfed, and it can make them too fat. I don't think alfalfa in the pellets is a problem as long as the protein, fat, and calcium are at appropriate levels. My concern with alfalfa is that it will be GMO if it doesn't state otherwise on the label. I feed organic Modesto Mills 17% organic pellets I get from Azure Standard. It's $44 for 50 pounds. Expensive but the rabbits are healthy and in good flesh. I am giving a tablespoon of BOSS with their evening feeding since it's so cold right now. I also provide timothy hay but my rabbits seem to like oat straw better than the hay. You can feed extra alfalfa, BOSS and oats to rabbits you want to put on weight faster (meaties) or reduce pellets and feed more hay to the fatties. That way you can feed the same pellet and still regulate the diet of different rabbits. I am only feeding breeders right now but in the spring when I have meaties I will be feeding lots more organic alfalfa, oats, fodder, leftover bread, etc so I can get them to the freezer faster. Faster turnover = lower cost meat and I think the younger the fryer the more tender the meat.
 

jaxmarblebuns

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Earlier this years I went from feeding 18% herd wide to 16% herd wide and there was no affect. Bucks, does, grow outs, elders, pets, etc. are all doing just the same as when they were on 18%.

I did this to try and fix overly fatty grow outs. I have yet to process any, though I hopefully am going to within the next month and will update when I do.
 

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I used to feed two protein levels (16% and 18%) that had the same fat level (1.5%). I had multiple people caring for the animals and decided that it was not worth the potential for GI upset due to it being done incorrectly. I tend to try to adjust feed amounts rather than type of feed, and I just go with 18% for my whole herd. Personally, I am more concerned about the fat percentage in some feeds being too high for non-working rabbits. It really does depend on how well your rabbits pack it on!

I do currently mix in a small amount of a different brand from another feed store for all the rabbits. This is a 16%, and I do this in case I cannot obtain my normal feed- their GI tracts are already somewhat used to the 16%, so if they have to eat that for a little while it should be easier on them.
 

Scooter1A

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I am wanting to make feeding a bit less confusing. Currently feeding 16% to bucks and non-working does, 18% to working does and growouts. It was suggested using 17% for everyone to simplify. Your thoughts? Also note the list of ingredients has alfalfa listed first. Is that considered good or not good as daily feed for all rabbits? See attached guaranteed analysis of a feed I am considering.View attachment 32942
I feed the Oren Reynolds to everyone, I add BOSS also but very small amounts and not daily. My buck is totally muscular and the doe seems just right. The little ones ate the heck out of it up until 12.5 weeks. They all get the same hay. I let mine out to run every day or I think the doe would be fat. Oh I give them fresh greens but not alot and not every day. So that doesn't tell you anything new I know ha but that's what I do. No shows for me, I don't think I would fit in at a show but I would like to go to one sometime, also a cat show lol
 

Buknee

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I don't think I would fit in at a show but I would like to go to one sometime, also a cat show lol
I don't show either but went to observe one a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed seeing all the different breeds first hand. There were many that I had never seen and some I didn't know existed.
I also walked away with a free pedigreed satin buck. He was disqualified because he had a white toenail. (good grief!) The owner doesn't eat rabbit and was just going to dispatch him and toss him. He offered, I accepted. I really don't care what color his toenail is for breeding meat rabbits.
 

ladysown

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I don't show either but went to observe one a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed seeing all the different breeds first hand. There were many that I had never seen and some I didn't know existed.
I also walked away with a free pedigreed satin buck. He was disqualified because he had a white toenail. (good grief!) The owner doesn't eat rabbit and was just going to dispatch him and toss him. He offered, I accepted. I really don't care what color his toenail is for breeding meat rabbits.
if you are breeding for show.... toenail colour is important and Genetic, ergo that rabbit would have been useless to that breeder. Culling and just tossing seems wrong to me.. at least use the rabbit for something even if supplying a zoo or rescue.
 

Buknee

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that rabbit would have been useless to that breeder
Yes, I totally understand. It is sad to just toss. The guy even has dogs. Why not use it for dog food. Anyway, I am happy with him. He is super sweet and runs to his cage door to greet me. Since he is solid black, I will be using him for some test breeding.
 

Plinsc

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The confusion of different feeds for different rabbits was mostly manageable for me when I feed, but on days when I need someone else to step in for me, using different feeds becomes problematic and I prefer being able to enlist help without so much confusion.
Color code the feed cans and put the matching color on the pen.
 

KelleyBee

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The "never feed alfalfa" comes from alfalfa being in pellets and people wanting to feed alfalfa hay as well. That leads to too much alfalfa and problems with calcium.

If you feed a timothy-based pellet, you can feed alfalfa. But with an alfalfa-based pellet you want to feed a grass-type hay.

17% is right in the middle. OR you could stick with 18% and if you measure feed, moderate the amount you feed the non-working animals. :) I find a 17% pellet requires me to moderate the amount I feed my non-working animals. I had to play around with it a bit to figure out the optimal amount to feed. Take your time and you'll get it figured.
Thank you for clarification. I thought that might be the full picture of the alfalfa story, but I didn’t want to assume. By chance, anyone have a photo to share of what alfalfa hay looks like as opposed to grass hay?
 

KelleyBee

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We have a low maintenance approach here and give local haystack pellets to everyone. The protein percentage of haystack pellets is 16% but because our rabbits get so much other outside food those percentages don’t mean much to us. They get oats (sometimes mixed with wheat, barley, or boss) as a treat to get them to come back inside in the evening. They have free access to both orchard grass and alfalfa hay. They get miscellaneous plants from our property and garden and eat what they want.

Our ‘rabbitry’ has been in flux since we started but it works for us. (I put rabbitry in airquotes because we are very small. At maximum we had 2 does and 1 buck. Now we have just 1 doe.) Our single breeding doe is giving more meat than we can handle on this system and we need to give her a break in 2023 to eat all the meat we have. We only weigh the dressed rabbit. At 12.5 weeks ours were on average 3.5 lbs dressed. These are American chinchillas. We eat about 1 lb per meal (dinner with lunch leftovers), which means a litter of 10 gives us 35 lbs of rabbit. We plan to stop feeding pellets eventually but for now they are convenient.

Is there a particular reason you want to maximize growth rates so much? Do you have a commercial rabbitry? There are trade offs and if it consumes a lot of time and energy to give multiple pellets, it may be worthwhile to sacrifice a little on growth rate, for a more relaxed feeding system. Just a suggestion.

Another way to improve growth rates is via climate control. Rabbits that need to keep warm in winter will (likely) have slower growth rates.
The growth rate answer is twofold: improve herd and reduce time from birth to the table. I started out with rabbits with poor growth rates and taking way past 8 months to finally reach senior weight. Some never did. So, I have been very focused upon learning how to improve growth overall. Now that I have improved the overall average size of my herd and have buns achieving senior weight by 8 months or sometimes a bit earlier, I am now focusing upon how to accelerate growth in the earlier weeks to bring the herd to excellent levels of weight as nearer to 8 weeks as possible. It had been taking 12 weeks to get a kit from birth to 4 to 5 pounds live weight. For meat production, that’s really too long….no, I am not a commercial rabbitry but I do raise commercial body type rabbits. The reason I want to achieve a 4 to 5 pound rabbit nearer to 8 weeks is to reduce many things, such as feed costs, time and effort raising and the length of time in cage use. Since beginning our rabbitry, I no longer purchase meat from grocery stores…..one of my goals….rabbits are now used in all recipes calling for chicken and I now buy red meat direct from local farmers who raise beef and lamb. I have just felt a very strong need to divorce myself from grocery store dependency.
 

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