Rabbits - an alternative to large meat animals?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Paranoid, Jan 4, 2006.

  1. Paranoid

    Paranoid Homebrewed Happiness

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    One way of homesteading is to have large animals to supply your meat, cows, goats etc. The problem though is for a small operation, oftentimes a steer is just too big. too much meat all at once, too much waste, too much everything really.

    do you think rabbits would be a good alternative? they are probably more efficient feed/meat wise right?

    has anyone here already gone down this route and decided to get rabbits instead?

    ps. in the world of chickens they have the hybrid meat bird thats in all the markets, they got it to 2lbs feet per 1lb meat in efficiency, is there a rabbit that is as good as this or better?

    i didnt post this in the rabbit forum because i wanted views from the poulty, goat, sheep and cow people and didnt want to crosspost :)
     
  2. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If you don't get tired of eating rabbit all the time, it is a very good alternative to the large animals. They take the least space and are easy enough to handle that most people could do it even with certain disabilities.
     

  3. bob clark

    bob clark A man's man

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    my rabbits feed conversion is about 4:1

    I think it would depend on what you have to work with

    do you have pasture ,ect

    each homestead has diff. resourses
     
  4. Paranoid

    Paranoid Homebrewed Happiness

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    thanks bob, what rabbit is that? and is 4:1 a good ratio? worse than chickens but they probably eat a lot of free food like weeds though
     
  5. bob clark

    bob clark A man's man

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    they are NZ ,but i dought that the breed makes that much diff. the best way would be pick a meat breed ,then do production testing and save females from the best ratio. better yet buy breeding stock from prducers that has done the testing. feed conversion is one of the more heritable traits

    the best that I have seen is 3.65:1
     
  6. sdrew

    sdrew Well-Known Member

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    I have chosen to raise meat rabbits for some of my families meat needs. The meat is very good, "tastes like chicken", except better. It is all white meat. Now, I haven't done any feed / meat conversion analysis, so I can't offer you any recommendations in that regard. I have 2 does and 1 buck, and have all the meat I need for a family of 4 to eat rabbit once or twice a week. It may be more expensive than store-bought chicken, but I know it's healthy meat, fed good food, and handled properly throughout the entire process; from birth to freezer. It is very rewarding to be able to supply food for the table from your own efforts. AND it's incredibly easy. I have a purebred Californian buck, a purebred Californian doe, and a purebred New Zealand doe. The cross of the cal buck with the nz doe results in far larger babies at 10 weeks of age. So, when the Cal doe is beyond her productive days, I will replace her with another NZ doe. I say go for it,... it's fum, easy and rewarding !
    Steve in Maine
     
  7. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I don't eat rabbit myself, but am raising some in a colony situation to supplement my Livestock Guardian Dogs food. So far it has worked out really well and they have been very easy to keep. So far only two does and a buck but I plan on keeping a couple does from the latest litter for breeding purposes.
     
  8. Paranoid

    Paranoid Homebrewed Happiness

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    is there anything faster growing, more efficient feed conversion than rabbits or chickens in the same size category?

    trying to go over options i might not have heard of or considered.
     
  9. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    We have raised rabbits in the past and still have a buck and doe. The thing is with rabbits you must really breed them all the time for it to be worth it. My wife and I just don't keep after them enough to "make a profit". For meat you should use a meat breed like CAL. or NZ. The other breeds take too long to grow. The meat price per pound of rabbit is like around a dollar. So it is cheap. But it isn't cheaper than chicken. Thats buying all the feed at the feed store. hope this helps. :)
     
  10. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    Also raising chickens costs a about a dollar a pound also. As a small producer you can't get the feed nearly as cheap as the large producers do. But compairing chickens to rabbits. I'd go with rabbits if you want to be really selfsuffient. If you prefer the taste of chicken I'd go with them. They are both about the same trouble and the same overall cost to the small producer.
     
  11. Denise K.

    Denise K. Well-Known Member

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    Generally the average feed conversion with rabbits is the 4:1 ratio. I really don't worry about trying to change that. It works well for me calcualating out my feed consumption. I know my rabbits provide me with food for the family and the meat rabbits I sell pay for my hobby of showing rabbits. Actually much of the time they do better then breaking even on the expenses. It all depends on what your priorities are. I would like to eventually go to a commercial scale, but until I move that won't be happening. But I enjoy raising the rabbits and the hobby. I like my chickens but would prefer any day to clean the rabbit barn to the chicken barn! :p A buck and 2-3 does will easily keep you in meat for your family. We like rabbit but family doesn't want it every night!
    Denise
     
  12. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

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    Depending on your homestead situation, rabbits can be very efficient. We chose to go with a lower conversion rate and raised our own feed in the form of alfalfa hay and small grains and veggies. We kept a bigger herd than you would if you were feeding commercially grown feed because our litter size and growth rate was smaller and slower, but it was very sustainable......which is what we were after.
     
  13. doninwis

    doninwis Active Member

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    You didn't say how large or small your place is, and what it might accomodate, nor did you mention the size of your family. It all works together in many ways. Ideally, one or two beef animals works well, find a way to sell or exchange some of that beef when you harvest them for something else that you might want or need. Maybe having a small dairy type cow would work to provide the family with daily milk,cream, butter, ice cream etc. ( of course you would have to have the desire to do all of this by hand). Additionally, any surplus milk could be fed to chickens, pigs,ducks,dogs,cats.The manure that you get from the cow/calf has benifits for you as well in the form of fert. for a garden, can also be sold to other gardeners, or composted.

    Chickens aren't just meat animals either. Almost everyone uses eggs sometime during a week, either to eat in a variety of ways, or for cooking/baking. When those hens reach the end of their usufullness, they can then be harvested, by you,or a friend, (in exchange for some of those other products you are getting from your livestock), and put in the freezer. Selling them from home or farmers markets,depending on how many you have available. If they are free ranging, they are not going to cost you as much as those that are penned up.

    Rabbits, can be raised in cages or colony style, but either way, will do better with some grain or pellets to suppliment their feed. Grass fed rabbits will take longer to finish than grain fed, just like cattle. Additionally the manure you get from those rabbits, regardless of the amount you have, has a very good use in your garden or someone elses. Again it is barting or selling materials.

    If you are on less than five acres, any or all of these animals should be a good resource for meat,milk, and eggs,and help support any vegies that you raise from a small garden.

    Home sweet home. Hard to beat a good life.
     
  14. I admit a whole steer is a little too much for one small family. If you can find another family to go in halves with you each year it would be much better. I get my beef from a local rancher who will sell you a half a beef. All he has to do is wait till he gets another half a beef order before he sends in a steer to the butcher shop. Usually we put in our order when we file our income tax return and by the time we get our check in the mail our beef will be ready to pick up.

    Since I have recently became diabetic I am trying to switch some of my foods for better choices. So recently I am getting into the rabbit business myself so I can have a little leaner meat to eat. Am also contemplating raising quails for my consumption as well. Hope everything works out for you.
     
  15. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    I raise lots of meat rabbits, lots of meat chickens, lots of egg chickens, meat hogs, an occasional beef, and we hunt deer with a passion. I suppose I should die of boredom if I had to choose only one type of meat to live on; I don't eat vegetables, at least not on purpose.

    Meat rabbits are way less work than meat chickens. The doe will raise her kits without lights or any tomfoolery on the part of the crofter. Even if one were to hatch their own chicks one has to tend them very closely or lose the lot of them. I seldom ever have a kit die, but I can figure on a 10% to 15% loss on our meat birds; I'm talking about Cornish X Rocks here.

    The best I can average when butchering meat rabbits is 1 very 5 minutes, but that is when workng alone. With meat chickens the whole family comes out to help and we can have a bird from the coup de grace to freezer bag every 2 minutes; there are usually a half dozen of us workng together, and we use an old drum plucker.

    I haven't seen enough difference in feed consumption between rabbits and meat birds to turn my hand for the difference.

    There is more nature varieties in flavors of meat on a chicken than on a rabbit. One can make pillows and tie flies from chicken feathers, but then one can tan rabbit hides.

    In the end it's what the individual prefers, and in the end I prefer both.
     
  16. bob clark

    bob clark A man's man

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    this is my goal aswell. we have plenty of alfalfa. but I will still have to purchace oats
     
  17. Ann Mary

    Ann Mary Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Another thought to consider: raising up butcher chickens is only an 8- week- out- of -the- year commitment if you get you total number wanted all at once-for us it is 30 chicks.. Raising rabbits is a year long commitment. We too thought of raising up rabbits to fill up the freezer-I've had rabbits for 30 years now so we went and bought a trio of NZ/CAL rabbits. Waited the long months for them to mature only to find the buck was sterile ( this was proven by another buck) so we were out the time and $ to wait for them. That's when we decided we'd go with the 8 fast weeks of raising up butcher chickens and just "get it over with" for the year.....but I still have my pet rabbits! :)
     
  18. bob clark

    bob clark A man's man

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    if you are without a freezer or only have a small one rabbits supply year round meat
     
  19. tyusclan

    tyusclan Well-Known Member

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    Rabbits are excellent for all the reasons stated above. We had a commercial rabbitry for a few years with an average of 125 breeding does. During the times that marketing was a problem, we ate a LOT of rabbit. So, for that reason, none of us care for it much anymore, and don't raise any anymore.

    Typically, NZ does will have better milk than the Cals, but the Cals usually have better muscle. So, I always liked crossing a Cal buck with a NZ doe. That usually gave the fastest growth rate.
     
  20. Paranoid

    Paranoid Homebrewed Happiness

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    I bet.
    milk??? people milk rabbits??? or am i misinterpreting what you're saying?


    eww rodent milk! :D