Replacing rabbit pellets??

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by organicfarmer, Aug 11, 2006.

  1. organicfarmer

    organicfarmer Well-Known Member

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    My son has a meat rabbit business. We are organic farmers and have lots of oats/peas mix that we could feed along with the hay. Would a salt/mineral block for them be enough to supplement so that we could get rid of the pellets. I remember reading an article in Countryside about raising rabbits in Croatia and they did not use commercial feed. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Thank you.
     
  2. KSALguy

    KSALguy Lost in the Wiregrass Supporter

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    if you dont feed pellets you will need to have a larger variety of differint feeds to give them, Oats, Peas, Black Oil Sunflower seed, grass, alfalfa hay, some sort of grass hay maybe also, carrots, cabbage, apples, Dandilion greens, etc. give them "some" of each dont over do any one thing but keep a good mix so that they can eat what they want/need.

    a salt block would not be a bad idea
     

  3. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I agree with KSALguy about the need for variety in a homemade rabbit diet. Homestead Organics here in Ontario produces an organic rabbit feed. It is 15% protein and contains wheat, oats, barley, roasted soybeans, flax meal, peas, minerals and salt. I believe you can purchase the mineral premix separately. They recommend supplementing this feed with "forage or alfalfa pellets." I assume they mean straight alfalfa and not the "complete" feed pellets.

    http://www.homesteadorganics.ca/products.htm

    Ann Kanable's book "Raising Rabbits" contains good information on what to feed rabbits instead of or in addition to pellets. It is geared more to homesteaders than to commercial producers. Which brings me to another point: young rabbits raised on organic foodstuffs may or may not reach market weight as quickly as pellet-fed fryers. This could affect profits. On the other hand, organic rabbit meat is a premium product and could command higher prices in the right market.

    Another source of information about non-pellet feeding of rabbits is vintage books about animal husbandry that date to a time before the introduction of pelleted foods. Books of this type can be located from a used book website like abebooks:

    http://www.abebooks.com/

    As I am sure you are aware, any changes in a rabbit's diet must be made gradually to avoid serious digestive problems. Some people believe that because domestic rabbits have been eating pellets for generations that they may have problems switching to a non-pellet diet. I personally do not think this is so -- to me it seems doubtful that fifty or sixty years could have that effect -- but I do think that a slow transition would be safer and would allow troubleshooting of any nutritional issues that may arise.

    Certainly your son could safely supplement the pellets with small quantities of oats and peas as well as greens such as dandelions, plantain, clover and chicory. If this goes well, he could reduce the amount of pellets further and introduce other seeds and grains slowly. Hay -- grass, timothy or alfalfa -- is very good for rabbits and they also relish twigs of apple, willow and maple trees. Chewing the branches is very good for their dental health.

    I have considerable interest in this topic and -- over the next year or two -- would like to get my own rabbits off pellets. I do not, however, feel that at this point I have sufficient experience or information to make a complete change-over yet.