Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quick Holiday Post:)

There's a ton of stuff going on this weekend (in the barn and the garden---especially the garden) so I am going to have to make this entry short. Once school ends in 3 weeks I will try to get back to posting more often, but for now the spring workload must take precedence:-):-).

I went to a show in Harford, PA this Saturday but it didn't go well at all, so I have decided to definitively call it quits this season and breed the does who were going to enter one more show next week. Bunny numbers have been quite low this season so it has been next to impossible to keep a show and separate breeding string going. It makes more sense at this point to simply say the heck with it and get the next wave of does bred for the Fall, LOL.

I do have a few fun pictures to share that were taken this past week:). Sadako's babies (aged 5 months now) both got their first haircuts, and I posted a few before and after pictures, which always shock those who do not raise angoras because they never realize how skinny these rabbits really are without all the wool:). The first shot is of a little white buck that I am contemplating keeping (A 'Before' picture with his messy sprayed coat and an 'After' pic in which he is much, much cleaner:)). The second is of Kitka, whom I have fairly well decided to keep pending the quality of her first Sr. coat, which seems like it should work out okay:

Here is the

And this is the

More stuff again next week once I get ahold of more baby pictures (both young and old litters), and a few other things printed up about wool and other subjects:). I hope everyone out there is enjoying their holiday weekend and getting a whole lot of work done (or not!) HAPPY SPRING/and SUMMER:-)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wool Facts

I am currently in the process of revamping my website, and while flipping through old blog entries last night looking for stuff to add, I came across this article on Wool Facts from the 'Rabbit Production' book that I had posted several years ago and thought I would post again FYI. Enjoy!

I was just flipping the 'Rabbit Production' book today and found some interesting facts on Wool growth, Molting, and adjusting feed to manipulate holding time. This is a wonderful book that encompasses ALL aspects of rabbit raising, and I learn something new every time I read it:). Here are a few notes on angoras:

-"Females produce about 20% more wool than males"--p.441

-"Angoras reach their peak of wool production between 18 and 36 months of age. After three years of age, wool production and reproduction abilities begin a rapid decline."--p.441

-"There is an apparent antagonism between the amount of wool produced and reproductive performance"--P.441

-"Genetic selection is very important in the improvement of wool density and texture. Wool production and quality are highly heritable traits."--p.441

-"The rabbit's coat is prime when the hairs have a good sheen, are tight, and have attained their maximum length. The skin is white and the hair flows back into place evenly when the coat is rubbed from the rump to the shoulders".--p.105

-"Unprimeness is indicated by a dull, uneven coat and loose hair. The hair does not flow evenly when the coat is rubbed from the rump to the shoulders. Patches of new fibers can be seen, and these new fibers will appear in a growth pattern that varies from animal to animal. The skin of these new hair growth areas is dark and easily detected on rabbits with colored coats."--p.105

-"Heavy feeding of the young tends to cause the molt at an earlier age----Rabbits may be thrown into molt by disease, going "off feed", the sudden occurrence of unseasonable high temperatures, or other stresses."--p.106

-"Shedding first occurs on the sides of the rump and the thighs, followed by the back, then increasingly in areas down over the sides."--p.106

-"A high quality diet and high feed intake promote molting. The growth rate of hair is more rapid with a high nutrient intake, so the rate of turnover of hair is greater."--p.106

-"Restricted feeding of adult show animals reduces the amount of hair shedding and keeps the fur in prime condition for a longer period."--p.106

These facts seem to demonstrate what so many good conditioners of rabbits already know----that you cannot feed the same rabbit in exactly the same way year round regardless of climate or coat condition. A meticulous meat breeder that I know begins adding a top dressing to his rabbits' pellet ration as soon as a molt is over. He continues feeding this mix until just before the rabbits hit prime, and then he pulls them off it and gives them nothing but pellets and a pinch of horse sweet feed while they finish building and prime out completely. The withdrawal of grain mix at this point ensures that the growing cycle slows down and the rabbit holds prime condition longer, and the addition of sweet feed (only) makes the rabbits thirstier and improves flesh condition by increasing fluid intake.

Once a molt begins this breeder feeds his rabbits black oil sunflower seed to push them through it faster. He then begins the process all over again once molting is finished and the new coats begin. This same formula could also work with angoras, though the sunflower seed may not be necessary because we clip our rabbits and get rid of the excess wool that way. Pellet rations also need to be increased in the winter, restricted in summer, increased when the coat is coming in, and decreased when the coat peaks and begins to go out (or increased again as the coat slips in order to get through the molt faster).

These are just a few fascinating facts about wool and conditioning. Check them out this season and see how they work!

P.S. I also have some new pictures to post today after alot of grooming and clipping got done, and there are also 4 new litters to report from the previous week:). Nereida/Pierre produced a litter of 8 kits---2 Black, 1 Fawn, and 5 REW, and Devaki/Dijon also produced a litter of 8 (with 1 stillborn) including 1 Black, 1 Chestnut, 3 Tort, 1 Fawn, and 1 REW. Neva and Sadako both had litters as well but there were very, very small, LOL! Neva gave birth to 1 Pearl and 1 Tort, and Sadako had 2 Pearls and 1 REW (as far as I can tell so far). I fostered Neva's babies to Sadako and rebred her again today to see if I could get a few more babies out of her before she retires from breeding, and I also bred Echo to Pierre once again in the hopes of getting some more Sables. Tomorrow I will breed Pascha to Pierre also for an additional litter in June.

Here are some pictures of Oomi that I took this afternoon after grooming. The wind was blowing her coat all over the place except for one picture where it looked neat (LOL), and it looks as though she will make probably it to the Harford, PA show and maybe even Frankfort if she stays on feed and isn't slipping too horribly:(.

And this, below, is a picture of Juno who just weaned a litter 2 weeks ago (!!) and is already ready to go back to the showtable:-):-). She is not in full coat at the moment but it looks as though she will definitely be able to enter PA this weekend and Frankfort on June 6, after which I will shear and breed her again for another great litter (I hope:)).

More again next week as I make sure to remember my camera next time to report on the Harford show, haha. Best of luck with the buns!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Babies and the North Haven, CT show

This was an extremely busy week that just ended with separating the oldest litters out into separate cages today and slipping nestboxes in with 4 does that are due next Wednesday. Breeding season is clearly in full swing, but it is peppered with shows and all sorts of other activities in between, making life a little more hectic than usual:). Last Thursday I did an Angora presentation for the local spinning guild which was alot of fun, and then on Saturday I went to the North Haven, CT show, while today was spent cleaning the barn and grooming/evaluating/separating babies.

I meant to take pictures of the show this weekend to post but as soon as I pulled into the fairgrounds I realized that I had left my camera on the kitchen counter:(. As a result, the idea of photosnapping was nixed, LOL. This show was one that I had never before attended but decided to give it a try because it was only 2 hours away, but it was a single show and there were very few angoras in the building---only about a dozen FAs and 3-4 exhibitors. I did get the chance to talk to alot of interesting people about their breeds, there were 3 Belgian Hare shows going on and I enjoyed watching them and talking to their breeders, and I also had a long talk with Paul Becker who is the CD holder for the Amber (Standard) Rex.

I attended this show because Oomi was in full coat and I didn't want to waste it (LOL!), but I also brought my two REW juniors out of Sadako who were used as fillers I'm afraid, because both bunnies are past baby prime and need to be sheared, and I had no idea who else would be entered:). The judge for our table was Bob Shaftoe, and Oomi earned a BOB and her first leg under him, while the BOS went to Nancy Platte with a CSB. There is another show in Harford, PA in approx. 2 weeks that I may try to get to if Oomi can last awhile longer. She has been slowing down with eating lately and I have been giving her extra hay and dandelions to keep her appetite up, but we will see how it goes and if she can make 1-2 more shows before the coat comes off.

Also, the big excitement today was that I took my oldest litters out for grooming and first evaluations, and I was thrilled with how the majority of this bunch looks so far:-). Juno's, Pascha's, and Echo's litters are all 8 1/2 weeks old right now, and I took several pics of them here and there to post tonight.

Juno's 4 babies are beautiful, and I am especially thrilled because there is a fabulous Tort buck in her litter along with a really good Sable Pearl (who also happens to be a buck:)). I took pictures of both below, but for some reason my camera is putting a funky yellow stripe in my pictures lately, and I am hoping that it is not about to bite the dust as I speak--argh!!:(:(.

This is a Tort doe from the same litter, also with wonderful wool. Aren't those little helicoptor ears cute??

And this is a Fawn doe from the same litter as well. She is an active little girl who only sat still ONLY ONCE (just long enough for me to take this picture:)), and then said, "The heck with this. Go find some other unsuspecting baby to pose".

These are the 2 Sables that I fostered over to Pascha who also got their own cage today, originally out of Echo and Pierre. Below is the buck who is the better of the two and you can see that he has GREAT wool and color, although both are large and unusually well-boned. One of these bunnies will go to Elaine Harvey as a trade for CCR's Echo, the F2 doe who was their dam, and one will stay here to perpetuate a fabulous, all-Sable line:):).

This is the little Sable doe:

Next are two pictures of bunnies from Pascha's litter. This is a Black doe with very good, rich color, and below this is the pick of the litter, a REW buck (who unfortunately looks as though he is about to roll over or so, LOL). There is also a Fawn doe in the bunch who looks promising, but she was not cooperative on the table today, so I will save her for another time.

Here are just a few more pictures of babies from Echo's litter, which I have to say turned out absolutely WONDERFULLY. I have definitely decided to repeat the breeding--these babies are HUGE with incredible bone and wool, and one doe in particular seems to have inherited her mother's precise type, while several others are not that far behind:). These results are very surprising to me because I used a buck on her this time that was inferior to the first one I tried, but obviously it was a better fit genetically and the parents have thrown good qualities in more than one baby. Below is a Sable Pearl doe, a nice rabbit with great density at 8 weeks already.

And this is the pick of Echo's litter, an absolute carbon copy of the doe typewise who seems blessed with her sire's great density on top of that. I am dying to see how this girl develops over the next several months. If she stays this solid and grows a nice senior coat, she will make an excellent showrabbit indeed:-).

And this is one more picture of another doe from the same litter, also well- typed and with a good bit of wool:

There are two more litters in the barn who are still too young to check over at 7 weeks, but there are bunnies in both who look promising so far. Also, there are 4 does due with litters this week and it looks like all are pregnant (we hope:)). Devaki has been bred to Dijon, Neva was bred to Dijon (not a compatible breeding colorwise but unfortunately there were few options in her case), and Nereida and Sadako were bred to Pierre.
More again next week when life is calmer and there are new litters to report. I will leave now with 2 last pictures of chicks that our kids put outdoors into the main coop today. Since the mink invaded our henhouse and left nothing but carnage last winter we were forced to order a whole new batch of chickens this Spring. Hopefully they will last longer than the first ones did:-).
Have a wonderful week!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Building a Bunny

Building a bunny (or a herd) is very much like building a house. First you need to have a great foundation, a good underlying framework, and last of all the finishing touches such as a roof, siding, and paint.

The foundation of a bunny of any breed is it's skeletal structure. Even the smallest breeds in the rabbit fancy require excellent bone and mass in order to fill out what type they have completely and properly. Without good bone and a solid skeleton a rabbit will not be in vigorous health, and it will not have the ability to pass inherent strength onto future generations.

After good bone comes comes good type, which can mean many different things depending on what category the breed belongs to. Any rabbit, whether it is commercial, compact, arched, or cylindrical must fill out it's type and be well-fleshed out. Sometimes meat condition is a matter of conditioning and sometimes it is genetic, but good genes play a large part in the ability of any rabbit to flesh out. A genetically disadvanted animal is much less able to reach it's potential regardless of what it is fed or how it is cared for.

Good type is important in every breed (even the wool breeds), because a poorly typed rabbit will be prone to health problems, and an angora cannot carry it's coat properly if it is flat on top or low over the shoulders, etc. A wool coat can part in places where it shouldn't as a result of poor type, and it can lose the oval/rounded effect that is so important to the French and Satin breeds, and to the English and Giant breeds as well which also rely heavily on an even, 'high' shape.

After a good foundation of bone and type, wool or fur can be considered, followed by color. Of course, incorrect color can get a rabbit disqualified immediately, but of all the traits a rabbit possesses, color is more or less the easiest to fix unless a particularly difficult gene is present. The usual consensus among breeders is that type and bone are the most difficult traits to fix, followed by wool/fur, followed by color. For this reason, a good breeding program should focus on the skeleton (foundation) first, followed by the wool (siding), and finally color (of the house:)). Once the biggest characteristics have been taken care of, you can begin to focus on nitty gritty details such as increased wool yield, richness of color, and overall balance of the coat, etc. Building a herd is a long process at best but it goes much more quickly when a long term plan is in place, and it helps when a plan can be compared to something rational and sensible such as building a house from the ground up:).

More stuff next week (and hopefully some baby pictures), but first here are several pictures that I shot a few days ago of 2 different things. One is a little doe out of Sadako's last litter that I will hopefully be adding to my herd over the summer (if all goes well with her first Sr. coat), and the other is a sight for sore rabbit breeders' eyes everywhere-----a FIELD OF DANDELIONS in the spring!!! I was so happy to see these beautiful little things the other day that I took a picture of the most populated spot in my yard immediately. Finally the herd can go back to a nice supplementary diet of greens several days a week in addition to everything else, and I am sure they will have no problem with this whatsoever:0).

This is my little 4 1/2 month old doe (who will be named 'Kitka' if I keep her):

And this is the luscious field of weeds that will be providing untold joy and nourishment to zillions of bunnies here before this summer is through.

More again next week. I hope that wherever you are you have not been enduring harsh weather conditions this week, and best of luck with the bunnies at this wonderful start to the season:-).