Sunday, May 30, 2010

Current Events

Busy, busy, busy! Oh my gosh,the last few weeks have been insane with three kids playing baseball (on different teams!), my job, end of year school testing, garden chores, litters being born and weaned, and as usual, too many other things to count and keep track of:).

Yesterday and today two litters were born to Bijou and Carmen, and I am waiting for two more over the next day or two from Diana and Kimba. Bijou gave birth to 6 kits yesterday (1 Black and 5 REW), and Carmen had the same exact number with some Black in her litter also, combined with a bunch of regular Torts. I can't wait to see the quality of these babies since I used a REW buck for both that is probably one of the best typed buns I have ever bred out. Spang's Diego is a REW F4 cross with fabulous type and density, but I have not been able to get him to the show table as yet due to his unfortunate tendency to spray himself and all others, LOL. With an incoming coat he has been moved to 'solitary confinement' in a corner of the barn with no neighbors to the top, bottom, or sides of him. He seems to be neater as a result, but we'll see how far it gets and if the temptation to hose something winds up getting the better of him anyhow, haha:).

Aside from this there is not much else going on, except that we are having warmer days and summer is on it's way along with heat, fans, ice packs, and all the other things that make this time of year a living hell for rabbit breeders:(. I weaned all the first litters of the year now and they are doing well at 7-8 weeks. In a little while I will begin taking them out and seeing how everyone looks (who seems to have potential and who doesn't) and begin the sorting process that peaks at week 12 when I decide who will stay and who will be sold to new homes and new breeding programs.

And as if all this weren't enough, a friend who is a 4-H Poultry leader emailed me recently about some ducklings who had been hatched in a Manhattan classroom and needed new homes. Although I have never owned ducks before (and wouldn't have minded keeping it that way), my dh and kids thought differently and decided to build a new place here for them to stay:). Needless to say we now have 9 little ducklings in our yard (one of whom is pictured below). There were 2 Cayugas and 7 Welsh Harlequins in the bunch, so hopefully they will provide lots of eggs and entertainment:).

More again next time and have a great week!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Disease Factors in Rabbits

--another post from the old blog

I was browsing through the Rabbit Production book again today (which I have said time and time again is my favorite rabbit resource:)), and I found an excellent description of the three most important factors in preventing disease in a rabbit herd. As everyone knows, illnesses such as Pasteurella (aka Snuffles) are among the most feared health problems in rabbits, and since there are virtually no vaccines available for rabbits, it is imperative that our herds are genetically sound and that we pay continual attention to the three factors mentioned in RP's 'Rabbit Diseases and Health Problems' chapter.

According to the book on pages 198-199, the three most important factors involved in disease control are Ventilation, Sanitation, and Observation.

1) Ventilation is crucial to healthy rabbitries because "air dilution" serves to reduce the concentration of harmful bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. This in turn gives the rabbit's immune system a better chance of fighting off a germ that may otherwise have overwhelmed it if the ventilation was poor and the population of these organisms increased.

2) Sanitation is the "physical or chemical" removal of potential disease causing organisms by scrubbing or through the use of disinfectants such as Bleach, Vanodine, or Listerine (for ex). Cage pans and floors should be kept clean, and hair and wool that is stuck to the wire in various places should also be removed. According to RP, "a single rabbit hair can carry thousands of bacteria or viruses".

3) Observation is exactly what it appears to be----keeping a close eye on how your rabbits feel from day to day. The problem with maintaining large rabbit herds is that it is easier to miss potential health problems due to the lack of time devoted to each animal. Watch your herd carefully and be aware of those who suddenly look peaked, unthrifty, or ill, or who stop eating and display signs that they are stressed or under the weather. Remove sick rabbits from the main herd immediately and isolate them in quarantine until you determine the problem and prevent the spread of contagious bacteria or viruses throughout the herd. Do NOT be soft on sick animals when they appear-----ANY sign of disease, particularly Pasteurella, should be dealt with immediately and the animal should be humanely disposed of if the disease proves incurable and the rest of your herd is at risk. Pet owners who keep a few isolated rabbits for wool may elect to pursue medical options that are available to forestall the effect of these diseases, but a show or production breeder cannot risk the health of an entire herd by coddling the weak and permitting disease symptoms to go unchecked:(.

Many individuals specialize in trying to prevent disease with the use of regular doses of antibiotics, products that keep ammonia smells down in the rabbitry, and the liberal use of drugs and medications when their rabbits get sick. All of these measures are expensive and usually unnecessary, and unfortunately serve to mask the root of a problem. The simpler solution is to breed for strong immune systems, keep the rabbitry as clean as possible, and make sure that there is an excellent exchange of air at all times. The importance of good nutrition should not be ignored either, as a rabbit in good health will be much more able to fight off disease than one who is malnourished. These tips are simple but effective, and all that any rabbit breeder needs to know to produce a healthy herd:).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rabbit Handling

I have been wanting to post an entry about rabbit handling after a discussion that took place on the FA list. A great point was made during this discussion that since handling (and rabbit holds) are such a difficult thing to explain in words it would be nice to have a film or pictures available to study and imitate as needed. I decided to take a bunny out and post a few pics for anyone who might be interested:).

I decided to use a recently clipped rabbit for this tutorial because my hand placement would be easier to see, as well as the location of both ends of the rabbit. LOL. This is Spang's Miriam, a young REW doe who has recently been clipped.

The first picture below shows the standard method breeders and show people use to transport their rabbits from place to place. You can see that the bunny's head is tucked beneath my elbow on one side and the entire rabbit is being supported in a 'football' hold to keep it calm and avoid unnecessary movement.

The first step in the process of flipping a rabbit over to check teeth, etc. is to place it down in front of you on all fours. Grasp the rear of the rabbit with one hand, and the BASE of the ears (and back of the head) with the other so that the head is firmly in place and cannot move from side to side.

Supporting the hindquarters strongly, lift the rabbit gently and turn it over deliberately, allowing for no twisting or struggling.

To check teeth, LIGHTLY balance the rabbit on it's back and use the hand that previously held the head to quickly lift the top lip of the rabbit. A quick look is all that's necessary to rule out malocclusion. Do not dawdle in this part of the bunny examination. Most rabbits absolutely hate having their teeth checked:(.

When you are finished checking teeth (or any other part of the underside that requires checking), gently grasp the rabbit in the same position as before (on the rump and head) and flip it back to it's original position on the table, facing you on all fours.

In order to flip an angora over for belly grooming, all you have to do is employ the above method over your lap instead of the grooming table. If you prefer to sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you that's fine, but you can also sit on a chair and rest the rabbit between your knees where it cannot escape or injure itself.

In this position (wedged between your knees with one hand supporting head and ears firmly again), it is extremely easy to groom or clip the underside of your rabbit, even on the chin or chest, which are difficult areas to reach. Again, once you are finished, simply flip the rabbit over right side up again using the method shown above.

Bunny handling takes some time to learn, but with practice it truly becomes second nature and the rabbit feels safe and secure. There are different ways of handling rabbits and everyone must find their own comfort level, but the method shown above is the same one judges employ at shows and it has been tried and true for decades.

Hopefully this 'tutorial' has been helpful:). I will see if I can find other step by step subjects to blog about, especially since my 12 year old son is getting to be such a good photographer that I don't have to take all the pictures myself anymore, LOL.

Have a great week and see you again next time:-)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Giant Stuff!

I have been running around like a crazy person since baseball season started and there are three kids playing ball here at the same time--!! Today's game got rained out and the other kids' practice was canceled, so now there are a few minutes to sit down and shift to bunny mode:).

I am planning on posting a detailed entry about how to carry and flip a rabbit for grooming (with pictures) ASAP, but first I have to get the pictures taken and everything else assembled. By next week I will be ready to post it for sure:).

All of my juniors in the barn are currently clipped down to grow Sr. coats for Fall, and we are in full-fledged breeding mode at this point. All the does I needed to breed have pretty much been done and the first crop of litters will soon be weaned. The only rabbits currently in coat now are Spang's Beauregard (a REW buck I kept in his first Sr. coat), and JG's Milo, a Black Giant Jr. buck that I picked up from Janet Gruber a couple of weeks ago:).

Milo is a spunky little guy with fabulous type and a nice coat coming in (if he was White he would make a great show rabbit *grin*). At this point I am doing absolutely nothing but keeping him groomed and watching him. I am trying to see exactly how his wool develops, what types of maintenance requirements he has, and how long he can go from coat to coat without needing shearing. So far he has a monstrous appetite (which is fantastic), and doesn't seem to need grooming more than once a week, at least not yet:). When he does get groomed it definitely takes longer than FAs of the same age because of his feet and furnishings, etc. but once he gets older I will probably just hit him with the blower once a week and do the furnishings by hand, which should save more time.

Here are some pictures I took of Milo below. In the GA breed bucks tend to have heavier furnishings than the does, and IMO this is a great thing because I don't plan on having more bucks than I need, LOL! I think (being a French person:)) that I would rather have lots of does with the cleanest allowable heads here:-).

Anyhow more again next week when there is much more time. Hope everyone is having a great spring with lots of babies!