rabbit food

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by kdalton324, Feb 7, 2016.

  1. kdalton324

    kdalton324 Well-Known Member

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    So my wife and I are getting ready to start breeding rabbits in the spring to raise to help offset our cost of meat. I am looking for some suggestions on what to use as far as food goes. We live with a pretty restrictive diet because my son had a lot of medical issues and sensitivities to food. My wife and son eat all organic and all the meat is either grass fed beef or organic chicken. So I was looking for an organic feed, not soy or dairy based.

    Thanks
     
  2. Fire-Man

    Fire-Man Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I personally do not see raising rabbits as a way to "offset" my meat cost. When I say this, figure your start-up expence(housing/cages/waterers/etc/etc as well as future expence and feed cost. I personally do not see it as a cheaper meat unless you grow most of your feed which involves ALOT of Labor. I raise my rabbits for a BETTER Meat not really cheaper. There is several things you can do to off-set their cost which takes more of your time----Selling them, adding worms and selling them, selling worm casting as well as selling some rabbit poop. As far as selling them, its according to where you live, I bought 2 5 week old Californian/new zealand rabbits at Auction yesterday---could have bought alot more---they were selling for $2 each---the seller lost bad on this. They have been selling at Auction like this for a long time. Raising some at Easter here might work but the rest of the year---its bad in my area. Good Luck!!
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2016

  3. stockdogcompany

    stockdogcompany Well-Known Member

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    I have $40 per pen in my doe cages, and around $60 in my finisher cages.
    The pen's are pennies a pound depreciated over a 5 year life and hundreds of rabbits produced.

    I used to finish over 3,000 rabbits a late spring through late fall this way. I now feed us all the rabbit we want, and swap excess with friends/family for other meats or vegetables I don't want to grow.

    I now produce most of our protein needs with 3-4 does targeting lactating and growing periods to the growing season, and into fall frost grazing. I like to get 8 finished rabbits a litter and 12-15 kindlings total between April 15 and Halloween. I buy one to two bags of alfalfa cubes for funky weather/emergency events/thin doe recoveries a year.

    You can just put the does on the ground and graze when it isn't standing water or deep snow.

    I kindle on the ground, cardboard r boxes for disposable kindling boxes. Kits are grazing by day 12.

    I graze blue grass, white clover lawn. There is plenty of dandelion, fescues, ryegrass, and now orchard grass and other clovers and forbs showing up.

    I hay off my yard for winter. I bag grass, dump onto tarps in the drive way, stir until it's dry, check moisture with the microwave/gram scale method until it's 12% moisture or less, and stuff it into 55 gallon drums with a ton of 4" hole saw holes in them until they are more hole than plastic, lined with screen, with a plywood follower and a couple of salvaged, free, rusted up 50 lb weight lifting plates to smoosh it down. I feed this compressed hay only when it's very wet or too snowy for the rabbits to dig into snow/ ice to get feed. I also feed rootcrops all late summer into winter. You can make a literal ton of rutabaga's with very little work or space. Feed the tops and store the roots in a basement, or cover them with woodchip or straw mulch and dig out of ground all winter.

    If you aren't a townie, or can grow attractive garden like strips, you can easily do rows of medium red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, etc, as well as plantings of daikon radishes, rutabagas, grazing rapes and kales. Often a hunting or farm store deer food plot seed selection has really productive plants for grazing rabbits. Grazing rapes and kales can get 3-4' tall. Cut and carry, or drag over top and graze through. I use 2" x 2" 14 gauge woven wire red brand yard/pet fence for the bottoms. They will eat huge leaves right through it. I have 1x2" standard rabbit wire floors I use under the does with little bunnies until they are 3 weeks old, then swap to the 2x2 floor panels. I made them interchangeable with 6 bolts/wingnuts. Growers have permanent 2x2 floor.

    Go to a feedmill and buy 50 lb trace mineral blocks, and break off chunks with a hammer. You can buy 50 lbs of livestock mineral blocks for the price of a dozen of those little ridiculous spools. I use plastic pellet feeders to feed the chunks of salt/mineral.

    Buy Boyd Craven's book about rabbit keeping.
     

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  4. jwal10

    jwal10 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Oats from a friend right off his combine and grass/clover hay from my pasture, here. I grow oats in my raised beds and garden areas as cover crop, cut it as needed, a lot goes to head. I cut and dry it for hay....James
     
  5. bassmaster17327

    bassmaster17327 Well-Known Member

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    Stockdog, Did you raise your 3,000 rabbits a year using the cages on the ground? How long is it taking for your rabbits to reach five pounds without any pellets?
     
  6. stockdogcompany

    stockdogcompany Well-Known Member

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    Yes. 12-14 weeks. I have a few friends who have started this program with conventionally bred new zealand reds, Californians, and crosses thereof, and it takes at least one or two generations of breeding to get this performance. Many of them report 14-18 weeks to finish on their first generation of grazing. Of course, their forage quality and grazing/mowing management had to develop as well.

    Late spring and fall gains are best. High moisture early spring grass and hot summer, semi dormant forage gets less performance, same as grazing any other livestock. Late summer/early fall litters with full access to large root crop bulbs can finish in 8 to 10.

    Water needs are extremely low with this method when on lush, wet feed.

    Here are a few forage money shots for you. My hand spans 9" from pinky to thumb tip for reference height in the bluegrass/medium red clover shot
     

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  7. stockdogcompany

    stockdogcompany Well-Known Member

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  8. Lookin4GoodLife

    Lookin4GoodLife Well-Known Member

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    Very informative posts Stockdog!
     
  9. sammyd

    sammyd Well-Known Member

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    We fed ours out on grass as well
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    I did keep the does in cages and fed hay and pellets though. Tried tractors for the does but once I went to cages they bred much better.
    Cage cost was nil. I found a mink farm and they gave me a bunch of older cages with the nest boxes for free. The smaller tractors were built using lumber from the cheap bin at
    the local big box hardware place. The big tractors were my biggest expense.
     
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  10. Ziptie

    Ziptie Well-Known Member

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    Stockdogcompany you keep them on the ground in the winter in those tractors? What is your winter weather like? How cold,snow amounts, ect?

    I am thinking about doing something like what you have but I have heard all the scary stuff about the rabbits keeling over from diseases picked up off the ground? Have you had any unexplained die off's?
     
  11. stockdogcompany

    stockdogcompany Well-Known Member

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    ZipTie, rabbits love the cold. When snow gets too deep for this to be logical, I just put the boxes up on saw horses or wire hangers or straw bales and feed hay or pellets and hay as necessary. They just need to stay dry, be able to get out of the wind and into some bedding, and have adequate calories. I only kindle and graze feeder/finisher in the growing season. I don't kindle and grow kids in the cold.

    If you move the box once or twice daily, and don't come back for 45-60 days there are no disease issues to worry about. If you have lots of other animals defecating all over you grazing space, you may have various parasite issues. I have had very low mortalities for a long time.
     
  12. Bluehare

    Bluehare Member

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  13. Bluehare

    Bluehare Member

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    If you have any Amish or Menonites in your area they often have their own feed co-ops and mills