I wanted to post two write-ups (one by myself, one by our Secretary, Linda) regarding the breed, rabbits in general, and the current outlook on breeding rabbits. They were both originally posted to the club FB page, which is private, so I wanted to post them here as well so that folks who aren’t members of our group could see the valuable info also. We want to help EVERYONE!
Write-up 1: by Hannah Yost – GSFRB President
“I wanted to write up this post with regards to quality rabbits, and some questions/comments/concerns on buying and selling.
- It’s important to remember that not all rabbits are created equal. Meat-only breeders can produce show quality rabbits, and vice versa. Some rabbits meet the SOP much better than others.
- There is NOTHING wrong with selling meat-quality rabbits! This is not a shaming post! Most of us in here got our start with meat rabbits and slowly branched into showing.
- What IS important is to try and keep a solid gene pool in the region. This can be achieved in a few ways…
– If you are breeding for show, practice terminal culling when you can, this helps keep unworthy rabbits out of the gene pool
– If you are breeding for meat, only sell the meat-quality rabbits that closely match the SOP (ie. pick the best 2 or 3 of a litter to offer)
– Do NOT sell anything with obvious DQs or major flaws (ie. white spots that don’t molt out (unless injury), missing toes, bad teeth, mismatched toenails, flyback fur, etc.)
– If you’re selling meat-quality rabbits, it is best and the most generally accepted practice to sell them without a pedigree. Additionally, if you want to be thorough and make sure your meat-quality rabbits can’t be shown, you can tattoo their right ear
– Keep good records, especially if you ever have any genetic anomalies or issues pop up (ie. having a kit who is steel, vienna markings, etc.)
- I say this time & time again, a pedigree DOES NOT MEAN that the rabbit is a quality rabbit! A pedigree is simply a record of parentage (and likewise can be easily faked). If you want to show or be a serious meat breeder, it is best to find a reputable breeder to purchase stock from & use as a mentor.
- Don’t sell or even advertise kits before 8 weeks. At this age it is IMPOSSIBLE to get a proper, sufficient evaluation. If you REALLY want to evaluate for quality wait until a minimum of 12 to 16 weeks to be sure that silvering is even, body type is decent, no DQs, etc. This will allow you to make the best decision about your rabbits. Plus, it will help you know which is the best to keep back from the litter to help your own rabbitry.
- Finally, it is important to ask questions of whoever you’re getting your rabbits from. Regardless of quality, ask them things like: How are the rabbits housed? What are they fed? What are the weights of the rabbits (or their parents)? Have they ever had disease issues in their rabbitry? Do they or have they shown? Do they breed to the SOP? The list goes ON! Regardless of meat or show breeders, we should ALL be breeding as closely to the SOP as possible, in an effort to help the breed continue to recover and up the number of quality animals in the region.
If anyone has questions, myself, any of the admins/club officers, or even many show/seasoned meat breeders are here to answer questions, give feedback, and help you find some good quality producing rabbits, whether meat or show quality.”
Write-up 2: by Linda Townsend – GSFRB Secretary
“We all started somewhere and most of us started with meat rabbits. That is, we did not get the best quality rabbits for showing, maybe showing was not even in our minds when we started. It was definitely not in mind when my husband talked me into meat rabbits over ten years ago, but I have been showing for two years now and I can tell you that the best meaty rabbits are closer to the Standard of Perfection (SOP).
With that in mind and the COVID upsurge of people urgently wanting SFs to start a meat program, I have some additional thoughts for newbies, both those looking and those who are offering their first rabbits.
Most rabbit breeders, and those trying to be, are good people, but there have been some have sold a rabbit regardless of quality and even in poor health. Been on the wrong end of a deal like that and learned quickly! We are trying to raise that bar in the Southeast. However, if you do not know what to look for when buying or which rabbits to offer, please consult experienced breeders or better yet, get with a mentor. Your well-experienced breeder/seller may be that mentor, someone to help educate you about the good and bad points of the rabbit.
I strongly advise that you do not expect to be invited to any seller’s rabbitry and, sellers, do NOT allow anyone in your rabbitry with whom you have not built a relationship at least; even then it should be someone experienced with rabbits and prepared with biosecurity measures, especially with RHDV2 on the move in the US. It is not in our region yet, but it could be just like <snap> that. Seriously! That virus can live for months on all sorts of things, like clothing and shoes, and be passed by biting insects.
Please, do not try to get rabbits until you are actually prepared for having rabbits. Proper cages are very important, both to keep the rabbits in and as security against predators. Be sure that their environment is going to make them feel secure also. As “natural” as colonies or tractors sound or just rabbits romping in a pen on the ground for an hour, you have to weigh that against parasites and how much you are willing to do to treat the rabbits for these things rather than reduce their exposure to them. Some people will take a pass on rabbits that have been on the ground or that have been treated. Some make play areas or runs that can be disinfected.
I love helping new rabbit breeders, many of the experienced breeders here do, actually. However, some new breeders can be eager to help someone get started and be very disappointed because they were blamed for rabbits getting sick and dying. Moves are stressful for rabbits, some take weeks to adapt to a new environment, and when a rabbit is stressed, it is more susceptible to getting sick—this goes for shows as well.
If you are hoping to start breeding right away, you may need to have a bit more patience. Buying young rabbits right now is not going to get you into meat production for months. A doe needs to be eight months old or ten pounds. You can breed them younger and smaller, but it can stunt their growth and possibly restrict the number of kits in a kindle or their size at birth. Also, the younger the doe is, the more likely she will not handle her first kindling well. Does with more maturity seem to better first-time mothers. Besides that, unless the rabbits are in an environment-controlled area, they should not be bred during the summer months in the southeast. If the buck does not go heat sterile and can impregnate a doe, you still can lose the doe and the kits due to the heat; SFs, with their lovely fur, are not a heat-tolerant breed.
We want to help you get into the breed and learn so eventually you can pass on your experience and knowledge to others. This is how SFs came back from the brink of extinction and have been gaining popularity! We are VERY excited about the future for the Silver Fox breed! I hope that you will consider showing and work towards bettering your own stock as well as the Silver Fox as a breed to improve its future!”