Meat rabbits - please point me in the right direction

Discussion in 'Breeding, Raising, Feeding and Caring for Animals' started by ButterflyGirl, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. ButterflyGirl

    ButterflyGirl Junior Member

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    Hi,

    I'm new to this forum so sorry if this has been covered before, please feel free to point me in that direction if it has.

    I am interested in raising our own animals for meat, one possibility we have thought about is rabbits. Is there anywhere where there is some good info for someone starting to look into doing this? (I thought there were some around here a while back who were raising rabbits for meat)

    What breeds are suitable and is there a difference in the taste (or does that come down to what they have been fed and the amount of physical activity they have had). I think I have read that the New Zealand White and Flemish Giant (and crosses) are the prefered meat rabbits, is this purely from a comercial aspect (fast growth rate, large dressed weight, more $ comming in for minimal cost raising the animals) or are there other aspects?

    As we are a family of 2 (plus extended family who may be appreciative of a rabbit here and there) we aren't looking to produce "tonnes" of meat quickly, so we dont mind if the animals take a little longer to grow or do not have a huge dressed weight.

    Also I have heard there is a big taste difference between wild rabbit and the farmed kind. My DP grew up eating wild caught rabbit, and would prefer to shoot his own (shot as humanely as possible and cleaned and prepared, shortly after), but finding properties which still have an abundace of rabbits and who will allow people to shoot on their property is a hard task (thanks to many irresponsible idiots who think it is fun to shoot rainwater tanks or livestock etc) so the next alternatinve would be to raise our own.

    Also is it there any issues with breeding related (or possibly related) bucks and does together if the ofspring is going to be used as meat?

    I understand that the breeding rabbits would need to be imunised, can they be imunised against both Calisi and Myx and if so is it possible to do this your self or does a vet need to do it? My understanding is that the young are protected by thier parents imunity up to a certain age which is normally before they would be sent off on "winter vacation" (i.e. to the freezer)


    Love to hear from anyone else who has already done this, or who can point me in the right direction.

    Vanessa

    PS I am in South Australia (I dont think I have got around to updating my profile info)
     
  2. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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  3. briansworms

    briansworms Junior Member

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    Lucky you aren't in Qld. A new sign on the State Border says it is a $44,000 fine for keeping rabbits. Bruce Galle who runs the Worm Expert Forum in South Carolina breeds rabbits and could possibly help. Email [email protected] Tell him Brian M from Australia told you to contact him. Good luck with it.

    I used to live in South Australia but moved to Qld 40 years ago.
     
  4. thepoolroom

    thepoolroom Junior Member

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    I'm in NSW, and started raising meat rabbits a couple of years ago. I haven't found many other Australians online that do it, but I know of a few anecdotally in my area.

    I keep my breeders in suspended cages, and grow out the young ones on the lawn in Joel Salatin-style rabbit tractors. They taste very different to wild rabbits - much milder. People compare it to chicken, but I raise my own chickens and they don't taste like what most people call chicken either :).

    The most commonly-recommended meat breeds are NZ white and Californians. Lots of people cross them, to get young with hybrid vigour. Flemish Giants aren't a good choice - they do grow big, but they grow slowly and have much larger bones, so much of the extra weight isn't edible anyway. Mine are just some kind of rex cross, and are giving me good results, so don't be too fussy on breeds. Just get started, and then source specific breeds once you know what you want.

    Inbreeding is not ideal, but also not a big problem. You just need to cull hard, and be very fussy as to which offspring you keep as new breeders. The young will all be fine to eat, though. I started with a trio, but one female died, so I'm trying to breed separate male and female lines with a bit of genetic distance. I'll mix in some outside genes when I find someone else locally breeding meat rabbits.

    I immunised my breeders against Calici because they released it again in my area. It cost $40 each at the vet. You can get the vaccine for about $4 per shot and do it yourself if you're confident, but I haven't looked into that yet. I didn't vaccinate any young - the risk of them getting anything is small since they only live for about 12 weeks and get some protection from the parents.

    Feel free to contact me if you want any more info!
     
  5. permachook

    permachook Junior Member

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    Hi,
    I'm sorry this is so late (may not be useful info now), but I've just been looking into raising meat rabbits too. I'll pose some thoughts in the hope that if I'm wrong someone else will chime in.

    There's lots of stuff on the net if you want to research further. For one example, I found this page useful for colony raising information: https://raisingrabbitsessentials.com.s3.amazonaws.com/Raising-Rabbits-in-Colonies-fljaoy.pdf. Also a good self-sufficiency book often has useful info about rabbits for meat.

    >What breeds are suitable and is there a difference in the taste (or does that come down to what they have been fed and the amount of physical activity they have had).<
    Not sure with rabbits, as I'm just starting out, but I found with chickens that taste was about half breed-related and half diet.

    >I think I have read that the New Zealand White and Flemish Giant (and crosses) are the prefered meat rabbits, is this purely from a comercial aspect (fast growth rate, large dressed weight, more $ comming in for minimal cost raising the animals) or are there other aspects?<
    I suspect it's almost entirely to do with economics and meat growth (quantity over quality). Others would know better.

    >Also I have heard there is a big taste difference between wild rabbit and the farmed kind.<
    Agree! I've eaten farmed rabbit, and was very disappointed. Very dense thick meat with little flavour. Wild rabbit tasted much better. I suspect diet had a large part to play, as well as the slowness of growth (time to develop flavour) and amount of exercise (tougher meat but better flavour and better omega 3 ratio).

    >Also is it there any issues with breeding related (or possibly related) bucks and does together if the ofspring is going to be used as meat?<
    Others could answer that far better than I could, however my feeling is it's always wise to keep inbreeding levels low or medium. Bring in a new buck once in two years, maybe?

    >I understand that the breeding rabbits would need to be imunised, can they be imunised against both Calisi and Myx and if so is it possible to do this your self or does a vet need to do it? My understanding is that the young are protected by thier parents imunity up to a certain age which is normally before they would be sent off on "winter vacation" (i.e. to the freezer)<
    I think this is right, except for the Myxo part -- it's illegal to immunise against myxo.
    Vet fees for immunising rabbits are ridiculous and would make the whole rabbit meat raising process impossible. I've read that you can do it yourself far more cheaply. I'm not sure there's a great need in some areas -- more research would probably assist (ask locally whether pet breeders ever see calici or myxo).

    Rabbits are the ideal depression era food, able to be raised in any backyard, fast breeders... No wonder the big meat industry wanted rabbit ebola.
     
  6. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Depending on your desires for quantity the best choices for a meat rabbit operation are NZ white, American Blue, California white, American Chinchilla, silver foxes, Champagne D Argent, Cinnamons, Rex, Flemish Giant. Of the listed breeds, the ones with the best flavored meat are American Blue and the Champagne D Argent, these are best when grown out slow, which means it will be 12-16 weeks before they are butchered. You can take longer if you desire. Most people use what I consider small cages to house their grow out rabbits (2' x 3') I prefer to give my bunnies plenty of room so I use a 3' x 6' enclosure per bunny. You will want every bunny in a separate cage, breeding mothers will need a nest box and you will check on the kits daily, mom's can trample their young on occasion. Bucks are always kept separated from each other and the breeding does. You bring a doe to the buck for breeding, this ensures that the buck will do his job and not be more interested in sniffing around the cage. We have, in addition to the cages a play yard area that bunnies get to use daily for a few hours. Contrary to what you would think, bunnies are just fine being confined in their cages, some even prefer the safe feeling it gives them. You always provide a "hide hole" box in every cage. In the play pen we have seven of these since that is the number of bunnies we put out at a time. I only produce for our needs so I keep 4 breed does and two bucks, the kits are grown out for butcher. Bunnies are the only animal we breed that you don't have to worry about inbreeding issues. This was a surprise to me when I got started raising rabbits, but it is true. I use the same two bucks for 2 years, at which time they are replaced with two of their children. The does are also rotated (two are bred at a time so I am not over run with kits) then they are replaced with their children every 3 years. These replacement are more so the breeders are fresh and healthy more than any other reason.
     

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