A Comparison of Heritage Breed Rabbit and Commercial Breed Rabbit in Two Different Production Systems
This year we were able to assemble and create the “runways” for the Rabbit “Tractors”. We were able to do a couple of trials on the tractors, in order to get a feel for how to collect the data. This will give us a much better idea of what to expect and the data from the Spring 08 trials will be much more accurate. We were also able to use the time to develop our breeding stock and will be able to test more consistent samples.
So far, we have learned that the pasture raised rabbits will take much longer to reach market weight. This was as anticipated. The time of the year that we conducted test runs was late summer and fall, and we think that the Spring 08 will give better results. We have developed a system for weighing and entering data, and developed a database to calculate results.
Also, an interesting side note, the rabbits that were on the tractors seemed to do better in the heat of summer than the cage raised system. Although unable to directly contact the ground and dig, they seemed cooler, drank less water, and appeared overall less stressed than their counterparts in cages.
WORK PLAN FOR 2008
We will breed rabbits to have litters weaned in mid April, when the grass first comes on. We have sufficient breeding stock to have decent sample sizes for the trials. We will have litters from American (Heritage), Blanc de Hotot (Heritage), and New Zealand (Commercial) available for testing.
After weaning the rabbits will be placed on the tractors and weighed weekly, data entered and analyzed. The rabbits will be processed and samples sent for CLA analysis.
At the same time, we will select a litter from each of the three breeds and raise them under the standard cage system. Data and samples will be collected in the same manner.
In November 2007, we presented an initial summary of the data we collected and some of the challenges we faced in setting up the trials at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) Annual Meeting and Conference in Pittsboro, North Carolina. There were approximately 24 people in attendance. Jeanette Berenger , Technical Program Manager at the ALBC who co-presented with us, also incorporated some of our findings in a program she did at a sustainable agriculture conference in North Carolina.
We will publish the final results in the ALBC newsletter, and intend to query and submit articles for publication in periodicals such as Hobby Farms and Mother Earth News.
Also, the final results will be published on our website.