Your thoughts for a meat herd?

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KelleyBee

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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.
I pull the fat and freeze it. Once I have a gallon freezer bag full of rabbit fat, I render it for use in cooking. I have drastically reduced my butter purchasing by learning how to render my own fat. Now I use butter only for unique instances where the flavor of actual butter is desIsabel in the recipe, such as a vegetable dish, or upon a slice of toast, buttered noodles, potatoe,etc. I have found most often baking and roasting recipes calling for butter (or oil for that matter) work just fine when I substitute with my rendered fats instead.
 

KelleyBee

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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.
I like the idea of always streaming a second feed through just in case the main feed is not available. I just had that happen and is one of the reasons I thought I would switch things up since I am being forced to do so anyway due to unavailability of the feed I had been using.
 

Scooter1A

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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.
that's great, that's a nice bunny you got for free!! You saved his little life.
 

Scooter1A

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I like the idea of always streaming a second feed through just in case the main feed is not available. I just had that happen and is one of the reasons I thought I would switch things up since I am being forced to do so anyway due to unavailability of the feed I had been using.
i better hit the feed store today and grab an extra extra bag. Lord I wonder what's going to happen this winter and next, could get tough.
 

jaxmarblebuns

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I pull the fat and freeze it. Once I have a gallon freezer bag full of rabbit fat, I render it for use in cooking. I have drastically reduced my butter purchasing by learning how to render my own fat. Now I use butter only for unique instances where the flavor of actual butter is desIsabel in the recipe, such as a vegetable dish, or upon a slice of toast, buttered noodles, potatoe,etc. I have found most often baking and roasting recipes calling for butter (or oil for that matter) work just fine when I substitute with my rendered fats instead.
I don't mind having a bit of fat to help keeping the meat moist, but it was too much fat. It got to the point of health concerns, especially for my breeders. So, along with feed change I also started giving them a little more time in pens for exercise.
 

ladysown

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to help further your goal to getting closer to 8 weeks, bringing in one doe or one buck (or a combination) from a herd achieving the standards you want to reach will give a boost.
 

KelleyBee

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to help further your goal to getting closer to 8 weeks, bringing in one doe or one buck (or a combination) from a herd achieving the standards you want to reach will give a boost.
Good suggestion and I have just recently done this for various reasons in addition to accelerating ear weight gain.
 

Skai

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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.
I think leaving the kits with the doe longer, even until butcher date, helps get them to fryer weight faster. For one reason they don't get stressed from being moved to a grow out pen. That may mean you won't be able to rebreed your doe as quickly if that is your plan. I don't do this now but did in the past because I had much larger cages and had very good luck doing that.
 

Scooter1A

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I think leaving the kits with the doe longer, even until butcher date, helps get them to fryer weight faster. For one reason they don't get stressed from being moved to a grow out pen. That may mean you won't be able to rebreed your doe as quickly if that is your plan. I don't do this now but did in the past because I had much larger cages and had very good luck doing that.
I'm going to leave my next kits in longer next time...took them out at around 4 weeks last time. Unless the queen Lulu doesn't like it then they go to the nursery. She's the boss.
 
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I'm going to leave my next kits in longer next time...took them out at around 4 weeks last time. Unless the queen Lulu doesn't like it then they go to the nursery. She's the boss.
Yes, I'd say definitely leave them longer than 4 weeks! The only time I wean bunnies at 4 weeks is if something has gone wrong. They can survive at that age, but usually one would hope for better than just survival. I have found that 6-8 weeks works the best, both for their health and their growth rates. You can re-breed the doe at 4-6 weeks after kindling, wean the bunnies at 6-8 weeks, and she'll have 2 weeks to recover and gestate.
If you have a large litter, you might think about weaning the biggest bunnies first and leaving the smaller ones for another week of milk; that can even things out a bit.
Another option for weaning, which I like and use sometimes depending on how many does and growouts I have in play, is to move the mother and leave the bunnies where they are. That definitely minimizes the stress of weaning. Of course that means that you have the doe kindle in the grow-out pen, but I find it works very well when you have the capacity to do it. The doe can go back to a smaller pen while she waits for her next litter.
 

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I use 17% pellets, alfalfa based and 3.5% fat. I have Flemish, Rex, New Zealand and Giant Chinchilla. They are all at a good weight, except for a few I recently got and my white Rex doe but I think a little dose of Ivermectin will go a long way in helping them. They get timothy/orchard grass hay nearly every day also. I never measure their feed. The bucks either have a small 3" feeder, or a small bowl. Does get a 5" feeder and I never completely fill the feeders. The only ones who are ever out of feed are the ones with smaller bowls. My growouts get lots of hay and pellets. I haven't butchered any yet because they sell before that time but I do plan on butchering the NZ babies when I get them.
I add a small amount of oats to nursing does or those who need to add a little.
 

Scooter1A

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Yes, I'd say definitely leave them longer than 4 weeks! The only time I wean bunnies at 4 weeks is if something has gone wrong. They can survive at that age, but usually one would hope for better than just survival. I have found that 6-8 weeks works the best, both for their health and their growth rates. You can re-breed the doe at 4-6 weeks after kindling, wean the bunnies at 6-8 weeks, and she'll have 2 weeks to recover and gestate.
If you have a large litter, you might think about weaning the biggest bunnies first and leaving the smaller ones for another week of milk; that can even things out a bit.
Another option for weaning, which I like and use sometimes depending on how many does and growouts I have in play, is to move the mother and leave the bunnies where they are. That definitely minimizes the stress of weaning. Of course that means that you have the doe kindle in the grow-out pen, but I find it works very well when you have the capacity to do it. The doe can go back to a smaller pen while she waits for her next litter.
I did 4 weeks because they were eating so much food but yes I'll wait longer next time. They all were very healthy and processed at 12.5 weeks.
 

KelleyBee

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I think leaving the kits with the doe longer, even until butcher date, helps get them to fryer weight faster. For one reason they don't get stressed from being moved to a grow out pen. That may mean you won't be able to rebreed your doe as quickly if that is your plan. I don't do this now but did in the past because I had much larger cages and had very good luck doing that.
At 4 weeks I always move mom with the kits to the grow-out pen. She stays there with them for 24 to 48 hours which “sanctifies” the new cage as safe territory for the kits, then mom goes back home. No shock, ever. Also, the kits are fully eating by 4 weeks and moms are ready to be done with their pestering for milk they no longer need. I don’t like needlessly stressing a breeding doe. I am including a few photos of pages from the book, Rabbit Production, that discusses weaning. CD17496E-A570-4C11-AFDD-4DC6AF6803DE.jpeg E56E43E7-0773-4501-BCB9-7ECAC83E68F7.jpeg D000E93A-0A17-4667-8DA5-F350FC75EB80.jpeg A076DB1E-EDF4-4BC6-93E1-6E585266002A.jpeg
 

Scooter1A

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My nursery is 8 feet long and 34 inches wide and has stairs and bunny hideouts. It's just a few feet from mom and dad and all can see each other. Quite the pad if I say so myself. My buck and doe are so in love he gets pretty stressed if she is not where she is supposed to be and she likes her area. They are side by side. It seems to work out great. I spent a lot of money building it so I'm using it. So thankful for the easy weather we are having. Makes life a little easier.
 

KelleyBee

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My nursery is 8 feet long and 34 inches wide and has stairs and bunny hideouts. It's just a few feet from mom and dad and all can see each other. Quite the pad if I say so myself. My buck and doe are so in love he gets pretty stressed if she is not where she is supposed to be and she likes her area. They are side by side. It seems to work out great. I spent a lot of money building it so I'm using it. So thankful for the easy weather we are having. Makes life a little easier.
I'd love to see pictures of it!
 

Zee-Man

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...[All very informative]...
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!
I want to focus on the supplement. Given that rabbits are vegetarian, has anyone thoughts on Black Soldier Fly Larava as rabbit supplement. BSFL is rich in protein and fat. It is often dried and ground to put into other feeds. But it is clearly a meat food. Chickens and fish thrive on them. BSFL are also incredibly easy to raise and harvest. I have plans for them simply to use for composting/gardening. I had plans to dry them and give them to my homesteader friends. But, if hind gut can handle some animal source protein/fat that might be something I could add.

oh, for those that are wondering BOSS = Black Oil Sunflower Seed
 

Zee-Man

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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?
Alfalfa is broad leaved. Meadow grass is thin stalked darker green and varied in seed heads since it is usually comprised of several grasses. The really easy way to tell is by price, Alfalfa hay goes for $8 to $14 per bale while meadow grass is $2 to $5 per bale. You could buy a small amount of Oxbow alfalfa to compare to other hays.

I got to try the rabbits on sudex at the end of the summer. Dosiedoe and Krolik (B) loved it. Jack was less enthusiastic but also enjoyed it. Krolik is sometimes picky with green forage. I am eager to try corn plant with them next year. Sudex is not usually harvested for hay but tilled in for green manure. So I will have to experiment on making hay with it. Corn is usually preserved as silage so another experiment in hay making.

They all are happy with meadow grass and not so keen on alfalfa.

Alfalfa
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KelleyBee

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I want to focus on the supplement. Given that rabbits are vegetarian, has anyone thoughts on Black Soldier Fly Larava as rabbit supplement. BSFL is rich in protein and fat. It is often dried and ground to put into other feeds. But it is clearly a meat food. Chickens and fish thrive on them. BSFL are also incredibly easy to raise and harvest. I have plans for them simply to use for composting/gardening. I had plans to dry them and give them to my homesteader friends. But, if hind gut can handle some animal source protein/fat that might be something I could add.

oh, for those that are wondering BOSS = Black Oil Sunflower Seed
I would think, no, this would not be good for rabbit’s. Since they are herbivores they may not possess the ability and enzymes necessary to digest animal protein and fats and that may put them at a huge risk of gastro intestinal upset and who knows what else would follow.
 
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I would think, no, this would not be good for rabbit’s. Since they are herbivores they may not possess the ability and enzymes necessary to digest animal protein and fats and that may put them at a huge risk of gastro intestinal upset and who knows what else would follow.
I would tend to agree, but it does occur to me that some does ingest quite a bit of animal tissue as they clean up afterbirths and/or dead (or sometimes living) kits. For sure, it's not a high percentage of their intake, and it's not for an extended period of time, but their systems do seem to handle it, in fact as I understand it the doe needs to eat the afterbirth to stimulate lactation and brood-rearing behaviors.

I've also seen two other herbivore species eat animals in the wild, though they were both ruminants, rather than hindgut fermenters like rabbits. In the first case, several times I have seen wild caribou eat eggs and young chicks from nests they encounter in their wanderings on the tundra. In the second, for several weeks we had a white tail deer "grazing" our mist nets, eating every small passerine that was caught in the nets until we figured out what was happening (we set up game videocams). There are also long-running discussions of horses eating small animals, in particular chicks. See some here (but be careful about watching the videos if that sort of thing bothers you):

Using BSFL as a supplement for rabbits might be a pretty interesting subject to look into, especially since it is not really "meat" per se, with all the attandant health risks. But it seems like more natural sources of fat and protein might be just as easy to secure.
 

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