Monday, August 30, 2010

Wool Facts

--another post from the old blog

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 find new information every time I read it:). Here are a few angora notes:

-"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

Basically I think that these facts demonstrate what so many good conditioners of rabbits already know----you cannot feed the same rabbit in exactly the same way year round regardless of climate or coat condition. An excellent breeder I know begins adding a top dressing to his meat rabbits' pellet ration as soon as a molt is over. He continues feeding this mix until JUST BEFORE the rabbits hit prime, and then pulls them off it and gives them nothing but pellets and a pinch of horse sweet feed while they finish building and completely prime out. The withdrawal of the 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 their fluid intake. Once a molt begins, he feeds the rabbits black oil sunflower seed to push them through it faster, and then begins the process over again once molts are finished and the new coats begin. This same formula may also work with angoras, though the sunflower seeds may not be necessary because we can clip our rabbits and get rid of the excess wool that way.

With our pellet rations, we also need to increase the amount of feed given in winter, restrict it in summer, increase when the coat is coming in, and decrease when the coat peaks and begins to go out (OR increase again when the coat slips in order to get it through the molt faster---I will be trying both those ideas in my herd to see if there is any difference in molt "speed" if you push the energy up).

Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Sale Bunnies!

I have two more sale bunnies to add to the previous blog post, which will complete the babies offered out of the 2010 summer breedings. This Sable Pearl and Tort are both bucks, and both out of Spang's Juno and Spang's Felix (Born 6/8/10). They are $100 each:

Note** Btw, please excuse the unorthodox pose of this first boy---he is convinced he is a running breed today (grin).

Hope everyone is winding down this horrendously hot summer with at least some coats still intact (ugh!!). More bunny stuff again this weekend:-)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bunnies For Sale

I have three nice little bucks for sale at the moment. After evaluating most of the babies from the last batch that was weaned, I set several aside to keep and observe a little longer, while others will go up for sale immediately.

Lately I have been setting stricter guidelines for myself as far as what gets sold from my rabbitry, so at this point I no longer sell unshowable rabbits with the rare exception of those who end up with a non-genetic DQ such as missing toes, tails, and so on (from accidents at birth and overzealous diapering by mom:)). I have always worried about passing unwanted traits into the French Angora gene pool, and since I am selling more babies each year it has become very important (IMO) for me to restrict what goes in and out of my barn and into the genetics of the breed.

I have always tried to sell rabbits that were solid, thrifty, and functional, but I also sold babies on occasion with faults that would not necessarily earn high placements at shows (for ex. rabbits that were hippy, lacking in depth, or lower in the shoulders, etc). I have always explained faults to the customer buying the rabbit so they knew what they were getting, but I would have preferred to have always sent out top-notch rabbits so that anything getting bred would have a stronger than average chance of passing on the best possible traits.

Unfortunately it is tough to produce perfect rabbits all the time (LOL!) so naturally a period of building happens in this hobby where you are able to produce a few great rabbits who do well on the table, but the larger majority for a long time end up being bunnies that are still nice and may do well for someone somewhere, but the quality can't be boosted enough to breed good ones and sell them very often. In the beginning it seems reasonable to expect a ratio of about 20% keepers to 80% culls, but as a line improves and gets more 'concentrated', this ratio tends to shift until there are more good ones than bad ones suddenly, and the ones you once held as 'cream of the crop', now become rabbits you would sell in favor of others coming along with more highly evolved traits.

Anyway, I seem to have reached a point where my herd has become very stable and is producing animals lately that can push the boundaries of what I used to own a little further. It was a very tough couple of years with the NZ/FA experiment I was doing that at first did not seem to bear fruit, and even worse before that was the enteritis outbreak I had where literally 1/2 to 3/4 of every litter I bred died (a long story with a happy ending that I will definitely get into once I have more time:)). After several years of hitting walls everywhere, everything fell into place suddenly and the line I wanted was finally within reach. The NZs are fully incorporated at last with great benefits to type, vigor, and breeding/mothering, and the enteritis problem is over and solved so that virtually every baby born is living and thriving.

There were enough nice bunnies weaned over the last couple of months here that I had trouble knowing who to get rid of, LOL. There were a large number of buns sold in spring and summer, but now there are a few left over from the better breedings that I wanted to post, too. Below are pictures of bucks from 3 different litters with details and descriptions:

-Sable Pearl buck (born 6/8/10)
-Sire: Spang's Giacomo
-Dam: Spang's Margaux
-Large buck with very good type and wool. Will make excellent showrabbit.
-Price: $100

-Sable buck (born 6/1/10)
-Sire: Spang's Anton
-Dam: Spang's Diana
-Also very large with exc. bone and outstanding wool. Not as much depth as SP but still very balanced. Will make great showrabbit or wooler.
-Price: $100

-Tort buck (born 5/30/10)
-Sire: Spang's Diego
-Dam: Spang's Carmen
-Well-balanced buck with good type who will also have a nice, dense, senior coat. Will make great showrabbit.
-Price: $100

Please email with questions, and there will be more bunnies posted as I continue to evaluate litters.

Have a great week!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The French Angora Standard

It is always a good idea to review the standard for your breed every 6 months or so to refresh your mental picture of what a good example should look like. As almost everyone knows who shows or breeds with the standard in mind, there are a total of 100 points allotted to each breed, and the distribution of points depends on the unique characteristics of each type of rabbit. In the French Angora breed, the breakdown is as follows:

GENERAL TYPE............35
Feet and Legs..............5
TOTAL POINTS.............100

Of these categories, the two most important are clearly Body and Wool, with the heaviest emphasis placed on Wool. The French Angora's commercial body type is very important because it lends the correct shape and lay to the coat, enhancing it's "massiveness" and creating a sense of balance. A rabbit with extraordinary depth is much more impressive than a rabbit with a flat topline, because the lack thereof will cause the wool to separate over the back and stick straight out rather than rise up and drape down over the rabbit evenly. Lack of depth also affects the floor level/base of the coat, making it appear choppy and uneven.

Commercial type is also a great asset to the FA because it enhances it's versatility. Most French Angora lines nowadays are more than capable of reaching the 5 lb. mark at 12 weeks or younger and make excellent meat rabbits, furthering widening their appeal in the rabbit world.

The most important characteristic of the French Angora, of course, is the wool. Of the 55 points allotted to the various traits of a wool coat, density is awarded the most at 25, while texture comes in second at 20 and length is third at 10. While the FA is typically regarded as the angora with the "coarsest" wool type, it is important to note that excessive hairiness is NOT desirable in this breed and is even cited as a fault under the texture description for "an excessively hair like coat". Exhibitors and judges alike often make the mistake of viewing a superior FA as one with the highest percentage of guard hair, when in actuality it is underwool that creates density, and density which supplies the underlying support for a balanced coat and receives the greatest point distribution in the standard. It is critical for FAs to have a large amount of heavily crimped underwool to maintain the 'large' appearance of the coat. A good ratio to use for the percentage of guard hair to overall wool in this breed is 40:60. 40% of the coat should be guard hair, while the rest should be composed of a combination of guards with underwool (and is mostly underwool).

Only 5 points are assigned to color in the FA standard (and to the other Angora breeds as well, except for the Satin which receives 6). People often comment that color is unimportant in Angoras because of this, but this is positively untrue. First of all, a color that is not correct or worse yet, is totally unrecognized, will instantly be disqualified. Many judges skip over color in Angoras on the showtable because they are unfamiliar with the look of standard colors on a long wool coat, but breeders cannot use this as an excuse to ignore color in their breeding programs. The best judges in our hobby are keenly aware of color quality and also have a thorough knowledge of genetics. Unrecognized colors and color DQs rarely escape them. Also, in stiff competition at the National level (or just in a very large show), the difference between the 1st and 2nd place rabbit often comes down to tiny details such as color, condition, ability to pose (overall impression, etc.), and other minutiae. As a result, it is never a good idea to neglect any of the qualities that seem insignificant or may not carry as many points as something else.

Have a great week!:-)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Some GREAT Baby Pics:)

I've got lots of grooming to catch up on tomorrow since we had relatives up all week and tons of kids running around, LOL (I will be sure to get junior pics updated asap). In the meantime my son Keith, the budding photographer, took two beautiful photos of some of our most recent babies in the nestbox.

I have five 2 1/2 week old litters now of which two are purebred and three are Giant/FA/NZ cross litters (FA/NZ crosses which are now considered 'purebred'). In the GA cross litters there are a high number of chocolates which was surprising but which clearly shows that my GA buck Milo carries chocolate along with some of my NZ/FA does.

While Chocolate is a beautiful color for spinning and really lovely, it has never been particularly desirable for the showtable because it is not one of the denser varieties in angoras. I was not altogether thrilled to see so many in these litters (LOL), but as with anything else I will just have to work things out and remember that of all the traits that need to be worked out of lines and breeds, color is not usually the most difficult.

Anyway, more again next time when I post pictures of older babies (and also a few bunnies for sale:-).