I’ve been running my numbers and records for the succesful first-stage of my bunny-plan. I think it’ll work out for me. I think I have picked up one consistant meat customer and the taxidermist was pleased with how little blood there actually was and is interested in getting more when I have more colorful rabbits. I am back down to six rabbits now (four breeder and two pets) although that will change again by the end of the month.
When all is said and done I made $110 off of the one litter of seven, two of which were eaten by myself and my friends the night of the processing making for a practically free meal for six. If I can produce one litter a month this way I’ll be turning a legitimate profit of $80ish a month and some meat from three does. Profitable but not exactly a quit-your-day-job living. If it keeps going well then we’ll expand and profitablility will go up.
The most exciting part was when I went to sell my meat fryer rabbit. I weighed the animals before I butchered them. Each and every baby rabbit came out at 4lbs almost exactly. I was a little disappointed because they were so small, and I expected to get about 2.5lbs carcass weight out of them tops, more likely 2. When I went to weigh the fryer post-processing it was 3lbs.
I checked the scale again. 3lbs. I know I didn’t mis-weigh any of the rabbits pre-processing… I weighed them on empty stomachs the same way I have for weeks now, using a 50lb capacity hanging scale and a basket.
The man who was buying the rabbit checked too. It was 3lbs. He handed me my asking cost of $5/lb and shook my hand. I smiled and told him I’d let him know when we had more ready to process. He left and I sat down to look up dressage precentages online.
The average percentage of dress-down for a New Zealand White rabbit is 55%. Upper ranges for well-cared for animals top out around 60%-65% at peak size of 12 weeks. I could find few to no reports of any higher than that. Mine dressed down to 75%. WOW. I guess I have been doing it right after all!
In the end there are a few things I think I’d like to change for the future and do differently.
- I’d like to add alfalfa to my hay routine. My hay is 14% protien and that’s low, very low for a breede (fine for a pet). If I add alfalfa to the mix it becomes a more viable source of a complete feed for breeding animals. It also may encourage even more growth in fryers.
- Pregnant does need to me monitered better, especially in the winter and a pre-prepped nest box should be given well in advance even if they don’t start nesting. I think this may be why we’ve had so many out-of-box and cold births.
- Learn to palpate better. I still don’t have a good feel for what I’m looking for in a pregant doe. I need to palpate regularly at 14-20 days and get better at knowing if there’s kits or not.
- Plan ahead and try to breed two does at once until I get a steady routine out of them of consistant, live litters.
- Grow the kits to 12 weeks. I was disappointed by the 4lb size the kits had until I saw the dress-down rate. Dress-down rates are supposed to go up (percentage-wise) until 13 weeks. If I can get 80% I will start entering meat pen competitions and see if I can win some prizes!
- Open-top cages work until about 8 weeks. Then you need a netting cover. I don’t have one and this was bad.
- Have 2 spare secure cages, not just one.
Some things I think I did REALLY right;
- Cage size. I think having room to move constantly really helped my kits grow and convert the protien and fat and carbs from the feed into solid, strong muscle that pays off in weight. Even if that’s not correct, I feel they lived better lives for being in larger cages!
- Feed. I think the way I feed my rabbits also contributed to greater size since the rabbits litterally ate hay CONSTANTLY, even if they were only consuming an average of 15% protien or so. Rabbits are natural born grazers and the best way to help them grow is give them something to eat all the time. By using hay as a bedding the rabbits could always eat. Always. And hay costs less than half what pellets do.
- Finding lots of different ways to market my rabbits. Pets, pet food, 4H, taxidermists, meat, furs, skulls, feet, organs… All are legitimate sources for getting value from your animals. And people knowing they lived a good life helps.
- Giving my animals enrichment through toys and treats. These aren’t expensive… Toys can be an empty pop-tart box or a toilet paper roll. Treats can be a pound of collard greens from the grocery at less than a dollar. There’s a world of play-things out there for rabbits… Find them and give them something to do!
Next month I may end up drowning in rabbits. We made the call to re-breed Evo after her failed pregnancy. She is now due on the 14th.
Then we bought our new breeder that we have named Kibbles. She is a pedigreed standard otter rex that is about 6-7 months old. She comes from a line of early-breeding rabbits that produce an average of 9 per litter. She herself came out of a six month old mom and a litter of 12. When she came to us we were going to breed her about a week or so after she arrived along with Purina. It’s good to breed two rabbits at once with a first-time mom in case the first time mom fails to care for the litter and you need to foster. I tucked her into our second spare cage (whipped together out of scrap material) and the breeder told me that she had accidentally bred Kibbles to her purebred, pedigeed castor standard rex buck the day before. Oops. Well I guess I might be getting a litter of purebred rex out of her, not only that but in the color that I so wanted HER to be! Which meant breeding Purina along side her was extra important because the purebred rex will be worth more than any of the other kits. They’re both due at the end of the month now.
Yeesh. So much for a litter each month! I hope I can handle a potential 16-36 baby rabbits!