Archive for August, 2012

Conditioning rabbits for show

August 21, 2012

How do you prepare a rabbit to do its best in a show?

Conditioning rabbits for show means a lot more than just giving them special foods.  Housing, sanitation, selection, genetics, primary diet, and handling each have just as much to do with a rabbit’s success on the show table as extra food supplements, maybe more.  So let’s cover some of those basics first:
Baxter - Black Polish Winning Rabbit
A fresh, good quality pellet and clean water are really the most important things you can give bunnies.  Many breeders have success on the show table feeding just pellets and water.

No supplements can beat a clean cage and the sanitary, well-ventilated environment that produces general health.  Proper ventilation is essential to keeping healthy bunnies.  A buildup of ammonia in the air will result in a suppressed immune system, making your rabbits vulnerable to snuffles and other illnesses.  In the warm months, rabbits rely on moisture evaporating off their noses to keep cool, and good air flow helps this process.  Empty trays often.  Use a product like Sweet PDZ to keep the smell down.

Temperature and daylight also play a role in conditioning rabbits.  A colder environment is better for fur condition than a warmer one.  Although does produce best if they have 16+ hours of daylight in a day, show rabbits have better color quality if they receiving only about 8 hours of daylight.   Light fades self colors such as black, blue, and chocolate most easily.  One time I heard a judge talk about how his daughter got perfect chocolate color by keeping her rabbits in a closet.  Of course then you have ventilation issues…

Cage size matters.  Rabbits should have enough room to exercise for good flesh condition.  Be careful not to overcrowd juniors; they grow into best condition if given individual cages  by eight weeks.

Does feeding conditioners help at all?

Without the basic requirements of diet and environment, adding supplements to the rabbit’s feed won’t do much good.  However, a lot of breeders add a little something extra in an attempt to get the best condition.  There are lots of different “recipes” out there, but oatmeal, black oil sunflower seeds (the kind you feed birds), barley, and wheat germ are common ingredients.  You can also buy commercial conditioners called “Showbloom” or “Doc’s Rabbit Enhancer” that work well for some people.  A feed rep once told me that one of the reasons Showbloom is effective is that it encourages rabbits to drink more, and lots of water keeps them in good condition.   So you can sometimes get the same effect by putting a tiny sprinkling of salt or a tiny bit of molasses on the feed.

But in every case, conditioners should be used with moderation, never fed in a quantity that would keep the rabbit from getting balanced nutrition through the pellets.  Also, the younger your rabbits are the more dangerous it is to feed them high-energy conditioners.  Young rabbits of course need lots of energy to grow, but it also has to be balanced with lots of fiber.  Fiber is essential to keep a rabbit’s digestive tract running smoothly.  Timothy hay is also a very good thing to feed bunnies because of its fiber content.   This article at the National Jersey Wooly Club highlights the importance of fiber in a growing bunny’s diet.

Also, feeding high-energy conditioners puts your rabbit at risk of getting overweight, which isn’t healthy for the bunny or good for its show condition.  You should always be able to feel the bumps of the vertebrae when you run a hand down the rabbit’s spine.  You should be able to feel individual bumps, but they should be smooth and rounded.  That indicates a healthy body weight.  If you can’t feel the individual vertebrae, the rabbit is probably too fat.
Top quality national winning broken chocolate polish
Fur growth is connected to the rabbit’s metabolism.  So if you need to get an adult rabbit to molt, feed a high-energy supplements such as calf manna.   You can continue the supplements to bring it quickly into fur condition.  Then once it is in condition, you want to cut out the supplements so it will hold that coat.  If your rabbit seems to be “always molting,” you are probably feeding too much energy.

Forget Not the Details: Tattoos, Posing, and more!

There are a few other important things.  One is keeping the cage clean.  This is not only important for health purposes, but also to keep white rabbits from staining fur and feet.  Use solid dividers between cages so rabbits cannot chew and spray each other.  If you have stackers, make sure the drop pans fit properly so rabbits on the bottom cannot be stained by those above them.  The tattoo is also important.  Tattoo WELL ahead of the show, in case you get ink on the fur.  Keep tattoos in good shape.  All your conditioning efforts will be completely wasted if your rabbit gets DQ’ed for an illegible tattoo.

Handle your potential show bunnies.  Train them to pose.  A rabbit should be accustomed to sitting for the judge, so that it will pose as soon as a judge touches it.  Some people also keep a talk radio running on low in the rabbitry to get the rabbits used to some background noise, so they won’t be as frightened at a show.  As you can see, feeding conditioners is a relatively small part of turning bunnies into winners!

Above picture:  Baxter, BOV Black 2009 Polish National Youth

Below picture: Rustic’s Forego, Broken Chocolate Polish rabbit with 25+ legs and multiple national wins including BOS in 2012.

Rabbits for Sale at ARBA Convention – Will they live up to expectations?

August 13, 2012

Some words of wisdom from Laurie, formerly of the Nature Trail rabbitry.  Some of these posts are just too insightful to let them get buried in the dust of time.

How To Be Happy With Your New Purchase

by Laurie Stroupe

Rio

It’s time for Convention again already – or finally, as the case may be. Whether you are going or not, you may still be planning to take advantage of the abundance of rabbits that will be for sale between now and then. Yes, many people will make poor purchases, get rooked, and so forth. But others will purchase fine rabbits and still be disappointed with them. But that disappointment might be avoidable.

Disappointment is related to expectations. When we purchase a nice rabbit from good stock, we expect to produce nice rabbits, especially when we pair it with our own nice stock. If your line crosses with the line you purchase, you may well get your wish right away (and hopefully not a fluke, but rather something repeatable). But I’m going to guess that’s the minority of the time.

First, many new breeders – and some that have been around for quite a while – haven’t really developed their own line of rabbits. What’s in the rabbitry already is not a tightly woven cloth but rather bits and pieces of nice fabric. These folks will continue their practice of buying nice pieces and throwing them into the mix – and the “mix” really is a mix. I can’t see how their rabbitry will progress beyond some lucky breaks.

If you have developed your own line and are purchasing from someone who has a well-developed line, the two may not cross well together – at least at first. Sometimes you can see that the foundations of each line are the same or compatible. Then you can make a good guess. But breeding programs are complicated and few totally replicate each other. Assuming that things will line up correctly off the bat may be unrealistic even in this situation.

So, what to do?

First, if you haven’t consolidated your own gene pool, don’t purchase new animals. Once you’ve bred for a few generations, then you can identify the problem you have across your barn. I have a friend who is just at that stage. She’s frustrated because she has identified a fault across her barn. I don’t think she realizes how far ahead of the game she is. I would guess that many (maybe even most) Holland breeders never progress past the experimentation stage, working with this and that, hoping for a good outcome.

The person who has bred for awhile and starts getting more predictable results, albeit with faults, knows what he or she is looking for and is ready to purchase that piece.

Second, if you don’t have a gene pool, that is, you are just getting started, please don’t purchase one from one breeder, the next from another, and so on. I have often sold rabbits to people who have a half dozen breeders they are meeting with to pick up rabbits from. Sure, they may be getting rabbits from different people with similar backgrounds. I can only hope so. But my guess is that they will end up with a mishmash that will take a long while to tease out.

So now we’ve got our breeder who truly does need to purchase a new piece. They’ve identified the shortcoming in their herd, purchased from someone who has a developed line that is strong in that quality. They buy, breed, and are disappointed with the outcome. What do they do next? Declare that they were sold a poor rabbit. Is that fair or accurate? Maybe, but probably not.

So what am I suggesting?

Be committed to a multi-generational plan.

Let’s take a characteristic that we can see easily and that involves just one gene as an example. Let’s say you have no dilute in your barn and you decide to buy that piece. If you breed the dilute with your rabbits, you will get ZERO dilutes the first generation. Would you declare that the new rabbit was faulty? No, of course not. You would know that you have to breed for a second generation – either back to the purchased rabbit, or siblings to each other – in order to see the change you desire in your herd.

Other characteristics work similarly, though in a more complicated way. Let’s say you want to improve shoulder width, crown placement, or lower hindquarter. You purchase that piece, breed it into your herd and don’t get the results you want. It doesn’t mean that the rabbit didn’t work. It just means you are only getting started.

I haven’t purchased a new rabbit in quite some time. I’m not ready for a new piece yet. When I am ready, this is what I will do.

I will purchase a buck from a line I suspect will be compatible. It will be a well developed line, meaning the breeder doesn’t constantly throw new lines into the mix. I will breed the buck to every doe in my barn (these breedings will be for juniors between Nationals and Convention – I’ll stick with tried and true for the big shows!). I will immediately be able to see which does cross well with the buck from the get-go, if any. Then I will breed doe offspring back to the buck, if they are even reasonably compatible. I may breed siblings, if they make a better pair. Since I will definitely be breeding only GC does by then, I will also breed sons back to their dams.

By this point, I will have a very nice gene pool established with the new characteristic. If, by the third generation, I don’t like the results, then might be the time to say it didn’t work. But I’m willing to bet that, if I made good decisions along the way, I will be pleased with the results by this time.

Project Wrap Up – Website Designs

August 12, 2012

It’s always nice to finish one project and move on to the next.  I’ve been able to wrap up a number of website designs lately.  I’ve got a long post scheduled for tomorrow about “How to be happy with your convention rabbit purchase,” but for now, let me introduce you…

Holland Lops in Minnesota

Check out Lops on the Lake, owned by Nicola near Rochester, MN.  The “lake” in question is Pepin, mentioned in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and also the widest naturally occurring spot on the Mississippi river.

Lops on the Lake- Click to Visit

National Silver Rabbit Club

The NSRC was the first website I did for someone besides myself, back seven years ago now.  This summer it got a new look; it’s best yet if I may state an opinion!
Silver Rabbit Club - Click to Visit

Hollands, Fuzzies, Polish — Oh my!

Meadowbrook Rabbitry in Colorado got a makeover.  She also recently got some Polish, Lionlops, Hedgehogs, and (primarily because of the hedgehogs) a USDA license.  Wow, busy!

Meadowbrook Rabbitry - Click to Visit

Hey, woah — a Leopard?  Is that Legal?

That was my first reaction when I was asked to redo the Enchanted Kits website.  Don’t worry though; they aren’t leopards — only leopard-spotted domestics.  Let me introduce you to some Aristocats:

Bengals in Tennessee - Click to Visit

 

Lots more in the works, particularly in the way of books…and video?