Tuesday, October 26, 2010

preliminary report on rabbit tractoring

I'm experimenting with tractoring at present, and my rabbiting partner here has been tractoring her grow-out litters for two seasons now.

We have cages that are 4' long by 3' wide by 2' high. There's 2x4" wire on the bottom, and 1x2" wire everywhere else. We cover the cages with tarps to keep both sun and rain off of the animals. The tractors are moved at least every 24 hours and often more frequently. The rabbits have free access to pelleted food 24 hours a day (and of course, full-time access to water). Both of us cut our grass as needed with gas-powered mowers, but this summer was so dry that we haven't had to mow much at all. Neither of us uses any chemicals of any kind anywhere on our properties.

My colleague and I have Californians originally from the same barn, so we regard them as interchangeable as far as genetics. We both offer Blue Seal Bunny 16 pellets. We breed the same day, so we can butcher the same day.

What we have found is this: my average dress-out weight on butchering day is 3 1/2 pounds. Hers is 2 3/4 pounds. That makes her rabbits 80% the size of my rabbits.

What we have *not* experimented with has been keeping the largest doe from each litter at butchering day, and the largest buck from all of the litters, to keep as parents of the next generation. That's where I'm heading with my experiment.

I have had NO problems with any kind of GI upset with my rabbits. They are keeping my grass cut, and building up my soil - also part of my long-term plan for sustainability at my micro-farm.

This is my experience thus far. I plan to keep on with this experiment so as to reduce my cost in pellets (and lawn mower gas!), build up my soil, and ultimately be able to market sustainably raised, grass-fed local rabbit meat. Once I wade through the morass of red tape in the People's Republic of Massachusetts, that is, where there is NOBODY certified to butcher rabbit for sale for human consumption. I guess I'm going to be pioneering... again.

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