We have heard it a million times. Breed closely to the standard of perfection. That is just about a very small percentage of what breeding the best is all about. Breeding closely to the SOP is just in the form of outlook as in how a rabbit should look like on the exterior. Ever wonder about the inside?
Even the famous computer manufacturer would want you to know what’s INSIDE right? That’s why you see the I*tel Inside whenever you purchase a computer. That’s because as nice as the exterior looks, your computer should have the substance to help you browse through Facebook in the speed of light. LOL!
The quality of rabbits do not depend on the type of food given or how well they are groomed or conditioned. Everything lies in GENETICS. With good genetics you get resilient, tough and very healthy rabbits. And how far are we trying to achieve this? You’ll be surprised if I say to the point where the rabbits can be champs eating junk pellets. Yes, that is exactly what good breeders are trying to do. The rabbits should be as good inside out!
There are many diseases that a bunny owner fear. We often hear about the silent killer called G.I. Stasis and others similar deadly problems in our rabbits. These are but a few problems that has not been bred out. I believe very much that well bred rabbits should be free from it should be the priority of breeders to get strong rabbits.
If you think about it, it totally make sense because if you breed something that heavily depends on let’s say a certain brand of food, what happens if the rabbit goes to a place where it is impossible to get hold of the same brand? It will certainly not thrive. Therefore, adaptability must also be a trait breeders strive for in their breeding programme.
It may sound cruel to discard the weak but if we think hard, it is totally necessary. For example, I am sure most of us like our lamb chops in certain texture. If the farm produces lambs with bad flesh, most likely it will cease to exist. And likewise, you wouldn’t be patronizing products from it as well just because you want the farm to continue its operations.
When we start off producing the best, in the long run we get to minimize out input and still maximize the output. That is what it means to breed the best. We minimie in terms of labor attending to sick animals, minimize medication and also the mortality rate. With that, our products are of quality.
With that said, there are may factors to determining quality in everything. We have been emphasizing the importance of Hay in our rabbits’ diet. It is not wise for us to go to the extreme of feeding our rabbits just hay and at the same time, it is also not wise for us to go to the extreme of feeding just pellets as well. But for now, I would like to touch on the topic of hay.
I believe we all know that hay comes in season. They are harvested in different seasons and that determines the quality of the hay as well. Same species of hay planted and harvested at different times may yield different results in terms of quality. It is said that most hay that are harvested during Autumn have the best quality.
So what actually determines the quality of hay and how do we judge as consumers. There are generally 5 determining factors namely time of harvest, the leaf & stem ratio, color of the hay, the smell of the hay and the presence of foreign objects (I once found a huge locust in my bundle of hay). Four out of five points that I have listed above could be ascertain by the consumer. It is quite difficult for us to determine the time of harvest unless we have seen how the hays from different harvest times look like.
Hay with a lot of leafs on thin or fine stems are considered as good hay harvested at good time. I am sure some of us have had the experience of getting a bag of alfalfa filled with thick stems with little leafs.
Fresh hay should be brigh green in color (though some are known to have been dyed). If your hay is light golden yellow, most probably it has been sun bleached and this reduces palatability and carotene. Still, it can be used nonetheless. Dark brown, black and brown hay should be avoided as these may be indication of rain damage or heat damage. Heat damaged hays are brown in color because of microbial (mold) growth. It means that the hay has gone moldy.
The smell of hay is another good indication of its freshness and I am sure this can be easily sensed.
And of course foreign objects can determine the quality of hay. Having poisonous plants in the packet of hay is highly undesirable while getting a locust in the hay may be an indication that it is so good that the locust can’t resist it (no scientific evidence on the latter though and the rest are sheer common sense).
Our rabbits has been domesticated for many years and to emulate their wild cousin in captivity would be something quite ridiculous. Little or more, we should believe in that there could be a slight alteration in their digestive system. And another factor to consider is that, we will never be able to stimulate the natural form of diet in captivity. Thus, we have pellets to balance things up. Pellets are of course made of hay. If you have researched on the way rabbit pellets are made, you should know that basically alfalfa is being grinded into fine powder, added to fillers and more materials to form the pellets. In feeding pellets, we can be sure that our rabbits are able to consume nutrients in a consistent manner unlike being dependant on hays which varies in quality based on the determining factors discussed earlier.
But of course, it is undeniable hay works in more ways than providing nutrients. They also act as roughage and helps in keeping our rabbits’ teeth short through the chewing process.
Coming back to the point of breeding the best, what I can say is that, the food does not and should not make the rabbits but, it matters what the rabbits make out of the food.
Lastly, I would like to share with you a story told to me by a dear friend I call Keat. It was told to him by a farmer.
Once upon a time, there was a shepherd with his flock of sheep. One of his newborn lamb is not doing well. He can hardly walk and his mama sheep rejects him. So old shepherd gave it a shot of whiskey. Sure enough, the lamb got stronger. The shepherd didn’t mind cos he now has a drinking buddy. Come time for slaughter, that weak lamb is not the biggest & the friendliest. So he survived the trip to the stockyard. Next year, all the lambs are sired by this handsome ram.
Shepherd now realized, he got nothing but a whole flock of whiskey drinking sheep. So, moral of the story….
We all have whiskey lamb for dinner! LOL…
That was my version of the moral to the story.
The real moral of the story is, the shepherd has bred weak genetics into his flock. They can’t survive without Whiskey!
And how true it is…
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