rabbits on pasture

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by Paul Wheaton, Jun 19, 2004.

  1. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    I'm trying to get into the farming thing, but there always seems to be roadblocks. Seems to be getting past a lot of them. Now have chickens, goats, pigs and cows. Trying to get some life back in my pastures.

    I've always been a bit off about rabbits because it seems that most folks keep them in cages. I still think it might be nice to try a few that way, but nothing big.

    Then I saw something in a magazine the other day about pastured rabbits. I really liked that idea.

    And then I saw this: http://www.acresusa.com/tapes/closeup.asp?prodid=648&catid=40&pcid=3 where it says "Due to increased disease pressure, Daniel no longer pastures rabbits in moveable pens, but rather "chops" pasture and brings it to his rabbits in cages."

    Can anybody tell me what this is about?
     
  2. james dilley

    james dilley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The problem is preditors and escapees .
     

  3. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Predators and escapees do not fall into the "disease" category, as those are strictly management problems. There are many bacterias in the ground and this is the main reason why pasturing rabbits works only on a limited basis and for a limited time. It only takes one sick rabbit to contaminate the soil and spread through the entire herd and/or colony when using this method. I'm surprised his venture lasted for 8 years, as most attempts don't last that long. In addition, there will be increased incidences of fleas, ticks and mosquitos, which also carry disease. He is simply admitting to better disease control by keeping the rabbits caged and bringing the "chopped" pasture to them, instead of taking them to the pasture.

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/
     
  4. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Pat.

    So lots of individual cages is really the way to go then?

    I kinda like the idea of the animals having lots of space and sunshine. Which is why I've always thought that rabbits might not be for me.
     
  5. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Like many before you, perhaps you have an inaccurate view of the rabbit. If left to their own devices, they tend to spend most of their time underground where they are protected from predators and the weather... so much so, that at one time, rabbits were thought to be "evil denisons of Hell" and were feared because they lived beneath the earth.

    May I suggest reading "The Private Life of the Rabbit" for a more complete understanding of the natural lifestyle of the rabbit.

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/
     
  6. dv cowboy

    dv cowboy New Member

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    I HAVE RAISED RABBITS BEFORE BUT NOT TO ANY LARGE SCALE. HAS RABBIT PRODUCTION BECOME MAINSTREAM ENOUGH NOW THAT A PRODUCER CAN HAVE A CHANCE OF MAKING A GOOD PROFIT ON THEM? OR SHOULD A PERSON JUST FIGURE THAT IT IS A HOBBY AND ENJOY IT THAT WAY?
     
  7. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yes and no.... the profit margin in raising specifically for the rabbit meat industry is still slim and requires constant monitoring on the economics of raising in order to realize a profit. You won't get rich, but you can make a living from raising meat rabbits. For example, if you get into the trap of feeding supplements, have too few rabbits to warrant buying feed by the ton for qualifying for discounts, and travel to lots of rabbit shows, then, you are eating up your profits. However, there are now new markets to cater to and many growers are successfully catering to more than one market and doing quite well.

    In addition, with the advent of the Professional Rabbit Meat Association (PRMA), the sharing of *helpful* and experienced information for avoiding mistakes and pitfalls is now much more prevalent.

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/
     
  8. dv cowboy

    dv cowboy New Member

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    ARE PRODUCERS DEVELOPING THEIR OWN MARKETS, OR ARE LARGE PROCESSORS CONTRACTING PRODUCTION? I KNOW A LOT OF SWINE AND POULTRY OPERATIONS ARE LIKE THAT

    THANKS FOR THE INFO
     
  9. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Both. However, there is still a larger demand than there is supply, so it is mostly the growers who do not have easy access to an existing processor who are developing other markets. Rabbit processors are always in need of year-round *consistent* producers. Only a few will "contract" growers.

    Now, if you are meaning something like the processor provides the rabbits, equipment, etc., and you simply grow them for the processor, then no, this is not yet available in this industry, although many processors will have their own herds or may have a partnership with a grower. It is entirely up to the individual processors. Sorry... we just don't have any Tyson rabbit operations, yet, heheheh.

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/
     
  10. cowboy joe

    cowboy joe Hired Hand

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    The cost of all domestic meats continues to rise and rabbit is no exception. One of the larger supermarkets in western NY was selling rabbit meat for $3.99 / lb (Pel-frez) last week. I would think that the recent black clouds over the beef & poultry industry might open the door for an increased demand for rabbit meat in the market place, especially if some of the larger processors actively advertised. Then again, how do you advertise cute & cuddly for the dinner table?

    I have a small but diverse operation, raising rabbits along with chickens & quail. I find that my 'biggest' profit margin comes in the form of cost avoidance. I provide a commercial feed ration for all of my stock but the availability of fresh cut pasture grasses in the summer helps reduce feed cost, bringing meat cost to an inexpensive level in comparison to store bought, especially with the soaring cost of beef. With some careful planning and management over the summer, I can typically fill the freezer with enough meat to last the family through most of the year. It’s still too early to calculate my cost per pound but I’ll post towards the end of summer.

    BTW, all of my stock is raised in cages. Despite warnings from others (read this as I should have listened to the folks in PRMA), I opted to build a colony pen for the rabbits last year thinking the setup would be closer to a natural setting for the rabbits. It was a near disaster…how I avoided complete disaster I’ll never know. Every kit that was born either died shortly thereafter or was killed by the adults. Some of my best stock was lost to injury (nasty wounds from fights) and disease along the way. It was nearly five months after returning the breeders to cages before the first litter was born. Lessons learned and one worth not repeating, at least for me anyway.
     
  11. leaping leon

    leaping leon Well-Known Member

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    I plan to get back into raising rabbits, this time for meat, later this year. I was raising them in cages before.

    I intend to experiment with pasturing rabbits, but I plan to use some sort of pasture rotation with them, like is used with cattle. If I can work out the logistics I hope to rotate between gardens for human food, pasture for rabbits, and MAYBE also rotate with the chickens (I know about the parasite problem)and potbellies I plan to get. I plan to build raised bed gardens with sheet metal sides that extend at least 1 foot below ground level and fencing to keep critters out and keep livestock in when I plant a pasture for them. I hope to plant a cafeteria type of pasture that includes grass, vegetables such a beets, and legumes, and I have been saving seeds of various native plants that are know to be nutritious.

    I will keep your (plural) comments in mind and not risk valuable breeding stock until I have tested this out. I have assumed that pasturing in the same spot would cause problems for rabbits just like it does for cattle, goats, pigs, etc. I guess you would call this a "partial pasture" system, as I will be using cages also. I may run two rabbit herds so that I don't get parasites in with the whole herd if the pasture program doesn't work.

    I may place the bred doe in the garden/pasture pen and remove her when the kits are weaned and let the kits stay until they are slaughtered (or put into the breeding program.)

    I also may experiment with moveable cages similar to the "chicken tractor" concept but with a wire floor (I haven't decided what type of wire, rabbit or chicken or fence) that the rabbits can graze through.

    I have only seen articles in magazines about permanent-type pasture for rabbits. Has anyone tried a pasture rotations similar to what I plan to try?
     
  12. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    >One of the larger supermarkets in western NY was selling rabbit meat for $3.99 / lb (Pel-frez) last week. I would think that the recent black clouds over the beef & poultry industry might open the door for an increased demand for rabbit meat in the market place, especially if some of the larger processors actively advertised.<

    Looks like you missed the below part of my post:

    >there is still a larger demand than there is supply<

    Surveys have been performed regarding advertising, and the overwhelming majority of processors say "no way!" Why? Because advertising would create a monster of a demand that cannot be filled and which would, in turn, literally destroy the rabbit meat industry. Without consistent supply, processors are extremely hesitant to increase their markets. Distributors are such that if the processor cannot fill the order, then the processor is literally "blackballed" and they never come back, again. "Cute & cuddly" isn't the problem! We just can't provide enough supply. Through the years, major food companies and fast food chain restaurants have wanted to be able to offer rabbit meat, but we just can't supply that much, yet.

    The price of rabbit meat in stores varies across the nation. Even before the 9/11 disaster and BSE, rabbit was actively selling for $3.99/lb. in my own town. It often sells for over $7.00/lb. in larger cities like New York. Remember... this is *not* the price that the processor receives, but rather, the retail price that the store meat manager sets. How many hands that meat had to go through to reach the store has a direct influence on the pricing, as well. As such, rabbit meat remains to be a "specialty meat."

    Sorry to hear about your near disaster regarding colony raising. No matter how many people tell you, nothing quite matches the wisdom of actual experience, eh? It's just human nature to be that way, and it is sooooo tempting to think we're actually providing a better environment for the rabbits. It works for other animals, but not for rabbits (except on an extremely small basis or very limited length of time). Thanks for sharing that experience with us... perhaps you have saved others from the same heartaches you had to suffer.

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/
     
  13. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    >and MAYBE also rotate with the chickens (I know about the parasite problem)<

    Which "parasite" are you referring to? Rabbits cannot contract coccidiosis from chickens as it is a different form which is species specific... the *real* danger is salmonella, and of course, mites which may carry disease.

    Your plans sound really labor intensive, and which would not be economically feasible for a commercial operation (e.g., your time and labor = $$$$). I'm not going to say it won't work... just be extremely cautious.

    >. Has anyone tried a pasture rotations similar to what I plan to try?<

    Yup. To be able to "rotate" is the whole idea behind the "tractor" theory, isn't it? What you missed in one of my previous posts is:

    >There are many bacterias in the ground and this is the main reason why pasturing rabbits works only on a limited basis and for a limited time.<

    This is over and above pasturing on previously used pastures. This is just fact, as *all* soil carries bacterias. Predators are not the only reason why rabbits in the wild tend not to live very long... and they can even move to different areas, too. In addition, the grasses, etc., can likewise harbor a variety of insects which can carry disease. Has nothing to do with whether or not the rabbits were "rotated."

    I'm not trying to criticize your plans... just giving you food for thought which you may be able to integrate into your plans. By all means, *do* keep us informed as to how it works out. Wishing you luck!

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/
     
  14. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Oh, I don't know. If the demand were greater, I suspect that there would be the economic incentive to provide more areas with processors. I considered raising meat rabbits, but I would have to drive many hours to deliver them to market, and it would burn up any profit.

    So, as it WOULD be unprofitable, we will continue to keep a rabbit as a pet, and concentrate on expanding our bee hives and veggies.
     
  15. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I think you misunderstood... it's not a lack of processors, but a lack of year-round consistent growers! Several new processors have started up within the past two years, but are having considerable difficulty in obtaining the rabbits to fill their orders. Meanwhile, even the existing processors are likewise suffering from a shortage of rabbits. This time of year usually results in overflowing freezers, since everybody and his uncle has rabbits to sell, but this year, processors are complaining of empty freezers!

    Not knowing where you are located, then, I have no idea how far away from any rabbit processors you might be. Usually, it is only a matter of contacting the processor and asking for the contact information for a runner servicing your area. Very few growers are actually able to deliver their fryers themselves and depend heavily on voluntary bunny runners. Processors know who is providing this service for them and what areas they come from. For more information on selling to processors, please visit the "Commercial Rabbit Industries" web site at:

    http://www.3-cities.com/~fuzyfarm/

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/
     
  16. Tracy

    Tracy Well-Known Member

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    Well my 2 cents worth as a grower and a processor [i process for pet food but still process] is that it is the growers that cause this industry not to be able to be competitive. As Pat said, every one and there brother wants to raise rabbits in the summer when it is EASY but come winter very few put out the effort.

    I am fed up with peoples excuses. I decided it is much easier to hire full time help, put up more of my own barns and rely less on others. If you wnat to be profitible in this industry you have to have the MIND SET TO WORK. YES< WORK, year round, even when it is -10 degrees out and you dont feel like freezing your but off.

    There is absolutley no reason that rabbits can not be bred year around with the proper management and I am not talking a climate controlled barn. Rabbits are adaptable. It takes good record keeping, and the desire to succeed.

    I have people contacting me now that I havent heard from since last summer. All of a sudden they have rabbits to sell. My quesion to them was where were you all winter? I wont buy from people anymore that do not supply on a year long basis.
     
  17. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I live west of the Kansas City, Kansas, area and the nearest processor is in Arkansas. That's about 6 hours, if you obey the speed limit.

    No matter. My available cash is now tied up in other enterprises.
     
  18. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    >I live west of the Kansas City, Kansas, area and the nearest processor is in Arkansas. That's about 6 hours, if you obey the speed limit. <

    There's a rabbit processor in Arkansas City, Kansas. Is that the one you are referring to, or do you mean the state of Arkansas?

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/
     
  19. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I meant Arkansas the state, didn't know about the one in Arkansas the city!

    It's a bit tempting, actually. I will keep it in mind for about 3 years from now, when currant enterprises are established and I am ready to turn my attention to something else.
     
  20. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well, whenever you are ready, be sure to ask for the most current "Market Report" listing of participating rabbit processors and buyers. Then, you'll know for sure, eh? ;)

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/