What do you look for in young breeding stock?

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by MaggieJ, Mar 30, 2006.

  1. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have a small rabbitry of terrific mutts. My two senior does currently have their second litters of 10 and 8 youngsters, now eight-weeks-old. There is one runt in the larger litter but otherwise the youngsters look very promising.

    I set aside one lovely little buck (farmed him out to my sister's friend as a temporary pet - and he may or may not come back...LOL.) Since I sold a young doe and buck from the first litters ($20 each - who could resist?) I do not have a back-up should something happen to my herd sire. My current buck (father of all the youngsters) is a bit smaller than average, but very chunky and he seems to pass this meatiness on to many of his offspring.

    There is a huge young buck in the larger litter - he must be half a pound heavier than any of the others! Is he desirable to save as a breeder or would I be better with an average sized buck?

    What characteristics do you look for in young meat rabbits when choosing future breeding stock? Size, conformation, disposition? What else... and what is most important? What undesirable characteristics should I watch out for?

    The one factor I don't have to consider is breed standards (and I love the variety of colours and patterns in each litter) but I do want to select for improvement of the herd and I am hoping for pointers from more experienced rabbit breeders. Thanks so much!
     
  2. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

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    Look for a rabbit that feels heavy for it's size, has full shoulders, midsection and rump. Tight flesh, and SMOOTH all over, no pin bones, no hippiness etc.

    Fast finish rate is another thing to watch for. Read some of the meat breed standards. A lot of them have similarities, and those are for carcass reasons. You might even want to go to a show, and feel up some bunnes (lol). Educate your hands as to what feels correct.
     

  3. JayinCT

    JayinCT Well-Known Member

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    How many in your rabbitry? If you only have 3 or 4 doe's, then it's easier to purchase another buck as needed from a local breeder than it is to maintain an extra one just in case something happens to the one you have. You might want to do that every couple years anyway, to keep the bloodline clean.

    If your rabbitry is large enough, you can split up the breeders and offspring into 4 groups, and rotate new breeding stock in as needed. Group 1 offspring never go back into group 1 as breeders, they go to another group, and offspring from that group never go straight back to group 1 as a breeder either, they go to yet another group. The object of the game is to have a breeder's offspring pass through 3 groups of different bloodlines before returning back to group 1. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.

    I run my rabbitry like this. It doesn't match the book, but it works for me and is reasonably easy to follow. Technically, my group 2 and 3 cross with only passing through 2 bloodlines, but I have never had a problem.

    Bucks first

    bucks from group 1 go to group 2.
    bucks from 2 go to 3
    bucks from 3 go to 4
    bucks from 4 goes back to 1

    Doe's
    Doe from 1 goes to 4
    doe from 4 goes to 3
    doe from 3 goes to 2
    doe from 2 goes back to 1

    Hope this helps.

    Jay
     
  4. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Seacrestkees, thanks for the helpful suggestions. I've been trying to find breed standards online, but haven't had much luck. Can you suggest a website? I guess I can't go too far wrong if I choose rabbits that resemble the pictures of Californians - that solid loaf-of-bread look.

    Jay, your system sounds like a good one, but my rabbitry is too small to implement it. It is just for home use and some to give to my brother and sister now and again. And yes, I can buy a new buck if I need one, but I prefer to do this as seldom as I can for biosecurity reasons. I have two proven does and one buck. I also kept one doe from each of the two first litters. They are ready to breed now, but I am waiting until they are settled in the outdoor rabbitry before doing so. If they are as good as their moms, I will have four working does, which is probably enough.

    I guess I likely won't save a buck (except for the one that is "boarded out") but all the same I want to save two young does out of the current litters in case either of my junior does turns out not to be a good breeder. What I need is some pointers on how to choose potential good breeders out of all the possibilities. I know to check their teeth for correct alignment and to look for a body shape like a loaf of bread, but what other characteristics should I consider?
     
  5. rabbitgal

    rabbitgal Ex-homesteader

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    Man, this is kind of a deep subject. :)

    I'll give you a quick run-down on what I do in my rabbitry (I have 32 adult and adolescent rabbits of two breeds primarily for show). It's not exactly the most scientific way, grant you that. You probably won't find show standards online because the ARBA owns the copyrights to the show standards and it's illegal to publish them anywhere without their consent.

    1. Watch the growing litter closely for any health problems. Cull sickly animals. Health and disease resistance should be your first priority.
    2. I *should* be weighing at 21 days and 56 days to check the growth rates. The basic standard is 4 lb. at eight weeks, although I've talked to commercial breeders who are getting 5 lb. and up at that age.
    3. Once the litter reaches 10 or 11 weeks old, I weigh the individuals and evaluate the litter for show type. By then they're big enough for the processor (5 lb., often more) and old enough for me to get a pretty good idea of their body structure and "type". I look them over from head to toe, looking for misaligned teeth, off-colored eyes, ruptures or hernias in the abdomen, both testicles (in bucks), straight legs with all the toenails there (and the right color), and finally a straight tail. I also check the lower hindquarter for smuts of color in the wrong place, although smuts or off-colored toenails doesn't mean I won't keep the rabbit for breeding. Those are some of the basic disqualifications if you were showing.

    My Californians are a breed with "commercial" type, so for showing, I look for animals that are compact and muscular. (Easiest way to evaluate type is to "pose" the animal: the front toes should be even with and just below the eye, and the rear toes should be even with the front of the knee joint. See www.geocities.com/cremerabbits/rabbits.html for pics.) The curve of the rabbit's back should be round, beginning at the base of the neck. For commercial-typed animals, there should be no dip or flat, level area over the shoulders. The shoulder area should be short, since you want meat in the loin and haunches. Continuing over the back, the back should feel firm and very muscular. It's a bad thing if it's easy to feel the rabbit's spine. The loin area should be broad and curve gently down to a nice big butt. The haunches should be broad and well-filled with muscle. From the rear, you should see roundness, no dips in the waist area or lower down by the rabbit's hocks.

    Here's some photos of a grand champion Californian doe from all angles: http://www.californianrabbits.com/pics1.htm. Pretty nice rabbit: she is a bit long in the loin area (space between the last rib and the knee joint), but that means she has more room for a litter.

    4. Once that's done, I still keep an eye on the animal watching for health problems. The next part of the selection process is once the rabbit starts breeding...then you'd want to cull if it has small litters, sickly litters, or slow-growing litters. that's a whole nother post...
     
  6. MaggieJ

    MaggieJ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thank you so much, Rabbitgal, this is exactly the kind of information I was hoping for! It was good of you to take the time to explain in such detail. Loved your website... beautiful rabbits!

    :goodjob:
     
  7. Terry W

    Terry W Duchess of Cynicism

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    And Rabbitgal also inadverdently answered a few questions I had, as well-- now I know my "bunnies" are also good meat potential! So they will be used as the foundation for pelt, pet and pet food production, while any Californians or NZ I get will be for meat sales for human consumption. CAn I help it if I believe in in having a broad base for my income and subsistence?
     
  8. rabbitgal

    rabbitgal Ex-homesteader

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    Thanks, glad it was useful! Again, my way isn't the best way, there's other breeders who are even tougher in their culling. They've been doing it a lot longer though. :p Hopefully that will give you an idea of where to start, and please do some reading of your own to help establish some of your own "selection criteria". Think about where you want to go with your rabbits and don't settle for second-best!

    Ditto. Mine are mainly for showing and eating, but lately I've been thinking we should get a couple of one of those adorable little pet breeds to show. :) Californians and New Zealands can make such sweet pets, but a lot of people don't want to deal with the large size.
     
  9. rabbitgal

    rabbitgal Ex-homesteader

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    One more thing, LOL. If you want to pick your future breeding rabbits by the standards show people use, getting an experienced rabbit breeder or even a judge to look your animals over is a valuable experience!