Sunday, February 22, 2009

FA Conditioning Regimen??

--Another post from the old blog:

After lots of reading and lots of time spent wracking my brain about what a good conditioning regimen might be for an Angora rabbit, (AARGH!!) I have finally come up with something to try with my rabbits that may provide a slightly increased holding time and an enhanced condition during the Prime period.

The problem with figuring out how to condition an Angora vs. any other short haired breed seems to be that A) the composition of the coat is very different from that of a short haired rabbit, and B) the growth and molting schedule is also different and often more frequent. Some people feel that Angora is susceptible to 'wool breaks' just like sheep wool is when the nutritive content of the feed is changed dramatically, and others believe that Consistency is the key overall and the same supplement/ration level should be used year round regardless of wool, growth, or molt cycle. Most short-haired rabbit breeders change feed schedules abruptly depending on coat phase and season, but since a sudden change can have an adverse effect on Angora wool, whatever gets added or taken away from the diet must be added and withdrawn slowly, and the feed schedule that is in place must be followed consistently so that negative effects on the coat can be minimized.

What I did to work out a usable formula for angoras was to read different accounts of conditioning programs used by short haired and angora breeders alike, and I talked to a few experienced breeders of both in order to get their opinions. What all articles and people said in common were the things that I tried to include in my own formula, and here is the diet I came up with that I am going to institute with my own herd:

1) Up until the age of 6 months give plain pellets only, with Oats mixed in or fed separately each day. Do not overfeed pellets----make sure that your babies always have plenty to eat but try to make sure that they clean their dishes out completely before giving them more (overfeeding at this age can prevent them from developing good skeletal structure and muscle before the conditioning process begins)

2) After the main growing period is over (6-9 months for an FA, depending on line and genetics), begin supplementing pelleted ration with a grain mix containing barley, oats, milk pellets, horse sweet feed, black oil sunflower seed, OR roasted soynuts, birdseed, barley, oats, OR any other combination of grains that you have found to work with your rabbits. Offer the Mix in the morning and Pellets at night or vice versa, and try to spread feeding the two approx. 12 hours apart. It is important to reduce your pellet level to accomodate this supplement, so if you feed 1/4 cup grain mix, you need to reduce your pellets to 3/4 cup later on.

3) Feed normal Pellet plus Supplement ration until RIGHT before the rabbit hits Prime (in many angoras this will work out to be about the third month of growth), and then slowly reduce the pellets about 1/4 cup, feed plenty of hay, and ADD MORE OATS to the grain mix so that the energy level goes down and you can shift the coats from 'growth' to 'maintenance' mode.

4) Keep the ration amount lowered to about 3/4 cup total until your coats slip and molt. Afterward, begin the whole process over again once the coat has been harvested and you are sure that the molt is completely finished. In addition to this, remember to adjust your feed program according to the season and individual needs. In hot weather be sure to scale back grain mix and feed somewhat, but in cold weather remember to add more to maintain coat and flesh condition. Also, disregard all of the above when feeding pregnant and nursing does, and also realize that you will occasionally have rabbits who will just eat more or less according to their own constitutions, and prepare to treat them accordingly no matter what the 'norm' may be.

I realize this formula is not much different than most of the other ones out there, but the main difference when feeding an angora is simply that changes need to be made gradually to accomodate the needs of a unique coat. I will give this regimen a try for a year or so through approx. 2 growth cycles in my own breeding program, and if it works I will jump around and celebrate, LOL, but if it doesn't I will scrape together the pieces and look for something else that does.

Til next time.....:)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

PA Convention 2009

I meant to post about this show much earlier but work got in the way and after a huge windstorm the internet went down too, making this week a wash and forcing me to wait til Saturday, LOLOL.

The PA Convention last weekend was a wonderful and incredibly fun show, as always:). The showing part is always fun but it is never quite as great as seeing tons of friends and fellow breeders that you never get to see during the year, in addition to new people that you meet on the net but never put a name to until this show comes along:). Since the PA Convention is two days long there is plenty of time for catching up with friends, going out to dinner, and hanging out to talk rabbits ad nauseum, which is never acceptable in any other place but is actively encouraged with fellow angora nuts:).

There were 2 Open shows this year, and one Specialty. I only managed to bring 2 bunnies this year because the rest of my show string had fallen by the wayside due to woolblock or less- than- ideal condition. Fabrice, my REW Sr. buck, was one of the entries, but while he won his class and did well in the first show he was beginning to mat up seriously underneath, so rather then risk embarassing (but well deserved, haha) comments, I pulled him out of the last two shows:). The only other rabbit left then was Juno, who is 3 now but who seemed able to maintain flesh and wool condition despite the bad winter, and who had a fabulous weekend with BOBs in all three shows and a BIS in the Specialty!

The numbers for this show were lower than usual, the total angora entry being somewhere around 70-75 with approx. 20 FAs being shown, 25 EAs, and fewer entires in the other two breeds (GA and SA). The UARC Specialty went very well also, though it will certainly be better next year when we have more time to prepare and our entry info. is listed in the main PaSRBA catalog. All in all there were approx. 6 exhibitors in the FA class, and the judges for each show were Bill Patrick, Chris Hayhow, and Jay Hreiz.

Here are some pictures that I (or my ever-helpful mother:)) took over the weekend. The first is of the Show Hall/Wool Room on Friday afternoon, before everyone came:

The second is one corner of the grooming area (with many more tables behind me and along the other wall) on Saturday:

Next is the showroom on Saturday morning, with everyone frantically grooming and getting ready for the AM show:

This is the other end of the showroom, from the judging table side. PaSRBA is absolutely fabulous at arranging their shows so that there are tables set up in every hall for people to put their carriers on and store supplies underneath. Nothing is ever too crowded here and there is always plenty of room for people to go up and down the aisles as much as necessary.

This is Lisa Rodenfels and Annette Boose (on the left) writing for the UARC show. Both did a fabulous job and are hyper organized people= great writers:)

This is the UARC show also with Chris Hayhow judging and the FA people looking on.

And here is Julie George, our wonderful Secretary, chatting with Charlotte Schweikart and holding her FA boy in prep. for the Wool judging:

This (fuzzy:)) picture is of me holding Juno after the first or second show-- I can't quite remember which. I hate having my picture taken (as you can see here) and I will do anything I can to avoid it, LOL:). Unfortunately I was painfully trapped in this situation and had no choice, but next time I will be sure to find a closet or something to hide in and leave the rabbit on the table or so, hahaha!

Below is Linda Cassella with two of her beautiful EAs before the BISS. The BOB for this show was her REW buck (or doe:).

And this is Lisa Rodenfels with her winning SA doe, who won her 7th leg at this show and was sold to an excited new owner when the whole thing was over:). This rabbit had fabulous, smut-free color:

And this is Terri Robertson, who won the BOB with her Giant Angora. She had a fantastic day:).

This picture is of all the BOB Winners from the UARC Specialty show. The results were as follows:

Giant Angora:

BOB--Terri Robertson

BOS--Janet Gruber

Satin Angora:

BOB--Lisa Rodenfels

BOS--Trina Dunn

French Angora:

BOB--Amy Spang

BOS--Charlotte Schweikart

English Angora:

BOB--Linda Cassella

BOS--Alex Stepnoski

BIS--French Angora/ Amy Spang

This is a really great prize that I got at the end of the first Open show. It's a standard ceramic crock with 'Best of Breed' etched onto the side. A really creative award I thought, and one that litters of bunnies will certainly appreciate:-)

This is part of the UARC gang hanging out at the check-in table. That's my mom on the left who always travels with me and knits socks while I tear around the showroom like a crazy person, LOL! Next to her is Janet Gruber, Lisa R, and Julie:

Here are some EAs sitting in their carriers waiting for the show:

Here is more grooming going on on the other side of the room:

And this is Julie with her CUTE new little baby EA Wooler named 'Peanut'!

This is me grooming Fabrice on Fri. night:

This is Janet grooming her GA buck on Sun. morning:

This is Trina taking a well-deserved rest at the end of the day:)

This is Jay Hreiz judging the last Open show on Sunday, looking at Juno in the Colored Sr. doe class:

And this is Jay again at the beginning of the CSD class, waiting for all bunnies to arrive at the table.

All in all this was a spectacular weekend and a very fun way to break up a long and depressing winter:) . Now that everyone is home I have spent the better part of this week grooming, clipping, and breeding, and soon the Spring String will be ready to hit the tables while the Fall bunch takes a break and goes on hiatus:).

Have a Fantastic Week!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


There is nothing like a litter of bunnies to brighten up a long, dark, winter:-). Here in NY we have been enduring one of the worst winters in almost 20 years, with abnormally low temps for our area and a whole lot of precipitation. The bunnies for the most part have held up well with lots of running back and forth to thaw and refill water dishes, add hot water to 'almost' frozen dishes, and scrape cage pans with ice scrapers and rinse them off in hot water in the absence of a working hose, LOL. Winter is tough under any circumstances if you have livestock, but the nice thing about angoras is that you can pretty much be sure that no one is cold in any temperature as long as there is a 1/2 inch of wool on them, and the water is liquid and warm (bunny tea is the beverage of choice in sub zero temps:)).

Breeding-wise it has been a different story, with much more difficulty. I bred three does a month ago and all seemed receptive at the time, but unfortunately only one kindled. I switched back to my trusty Heinold feed so hopefully this will help, but the lack of litters are mostly due to the awful weather conditions IMO, and are being shared by most of the rabbit breeders in my area from what I have heard.

Anyway, so a litter of 6 was born to Morwenna and Henryi on 1/25 with one stillborn. When I got out to the barn to check her, she had buried 4 of the babies in the back of her nestbox to keep them warm, but 2 were exposed in the front of the box in 5 degree temps:(. I grabbed the box and ran it into the house. One of the kits was already gone and the sac still covered it's face, but the other was cleaned and moving very very slightly, so we set up a heat lamp and laid the baby on a towel beneath it.

*Just a word about heat lamps, btw. As anyone who has ever raised chicks or other animals knows, a heat lamp is a potentially dangerous 'tool' because it can start fires and overheat a baby or litter to the point of death. I have used heat lamps in the past to heat entire litters who were scattered at birth, and I use it to heat individual babies too, but very, very carefully. It is extremely important not to heat a cold baby too quickly when you first find it. The core body temperature must be raised slowly in order to avoid shock, and I began by putting this baby in a warm place in the sunshine at first until it began to take deep breaths. At that point I turned the lamp on but mounted it very high above the kit, and as the baby became more active I moved it closer still (constantly checking the heat levels). I sat at the table next to the baby while it was rehabilitating so that I could keep very close tabs on it, and once it became active I began flipping it from side to side to warm it evenly (as one might a little bunny burrito, LOL!). I took a warm, wet washcloth at one point and briskly rubbed it down also until it squeaked, and then left it alone again to keep heating.

After about an hour of recuperation the baby was very warm to the touch (which it needed to be before putting it back in the nest), and I put it on the bottom of the bunny pile in the nest of clipped up wool and hay. It is important to mention here (just for those who have never have done this before), that a kit can appear absolutely 100% dead with no signs of life whatsoever, but still come back to life if the right treatment is used and you are willing to wait. I have to admit that I practically wrote this baby off because it didn't move for a solid 10 minutes, but with a little more time it began to come around again, and after an hour of slow warming it was ready to join it's littermates.

Here is a picture of the 'dead' kit taken about a half hour after coming inside. In this photo it is just beginning to stretch it's front legs:

This is the bunny nest after each kit was taken out, checked, and counted, and the wool was clipped, cleaned, and replaced.

And this is the sleeping bunch as of this morning at 1 week old. Everyone is nursing well and looking fabulous, and Mom is doing a wonderful job of keeping everyone clean and full:). At this point it looks as though there are 3 Torts and 2 Fawns, which was what was expected given the color of the parents. Once the PA show is over we will breed 5-6 more girls, and hopefully many more litters will join the herd.

More next week after the Lebanon show, where I will be sure to take lots of pictures and post them here, LOL:-).
Have a great week!