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

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

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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.