It's been a long time since I've talked about the FA as a dual (even multi) purpose rabbit, but today seems like a good time to bring it up what with breeding season, baby season, and show season all going on at the same time:).
There are many different breeds of Angora (as everyone is well aware:)), but I admit personal bias when I say that I believe the French Angora to be the hands-down champ when it comes to supreme, all-purpose utility. There is no other angora that is quite so low maintenance, versatile, and hardy, and I believe that it is this characteristic that will determine the survivability of the breed well into the future.
At the moment I am embarking on a 'study' to determine the profitability of the FA breed if rabbits are raised to age 12 weeks, sheared, and then culled as fryers at approx. $1.25 a lb. Since a small yield of 3 inch staples CAN be obtained from a good line of FAs at this age, I plan on shearing every cull before sending it to the processor, collecting the wool together to have it spun into yarn, and then totaling the profits from the sale of yarn combined with the sale of the meat.
If the theory of myself (and others) holds true, the French Angora may well turn out to be one of the most versatile and profitable rabbit breeds in existence. The strength of this rabbit is it's ability to reach the 5 lb. mark at 12 weeks or earlier making it widely acceptable for use as a meat rabbit. It has also been providing increasingly higher yields of low maintenance quality wool, and it is an exceptionally good breeder and mother, making it easy to perpetuate good lines and improve breeding characteristics. The other breeds of angora are wonderful in their own ways too, of course: The English Angora is the supreme show animal, the Giant (and German) Angora are supreme wool producers, and the Satin Angora, while a newer breed that does not yet have the size and yield of the French Angora, will likely be every bit as versatile as the FA in the future.
Angora rabbits are overwhelmingly viewed as pure wool animals and that is primarily what they are. In the case of the French and sometimes Satin Angora however, wool is an added plus when compared with the value of the overall rabbit as a whole. Giant (and many German Angoras) tend to be slower growing and do not hit fryer weight as consistently as the FA, but if that were to change at some point their overall value would be substantially increased as well.
It is important for people to view the Angora rabbit as more than just a 'pretty' face on a grooming table, IMO. Too often these breeds are regarded as almost irrelevant and little more than a beautiful (or even snobby) distraction that has no legitimate value in the "real" world of rabbits. Though the angora has proven itself for centuries on the world stage with the value of it's precious wool, it is high time that the French Angora, especially, be recognized for it's true multi-purpose function as a show rabbit, meat rabbit, and wool rabbit.
More again next week (and best of luck with the buns!:-)