Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Herdsman of the Year Article: Fuzzibutt's Rabbitry

Here is the article that I submited for the 2009 Herdsman of The Year. This article will feature a full page about me and lots of phtos. 

Being Herdsman of the year is very exciting. I could not have done it with out the help and support from my husband who is my grooming partner. Even though, he thinks angoras are not manly enough for him. I would also like to thank my daughter Jessica for being my “little side kick.” She is always the first one to help me groom at shows. Not to mention my great family who I depend on to house sit the four legged kids while we are away at rabbit shows.

Let me start off by giving you a little background on myself. I started raising rabbits when I was 10 years old. I showed Netherland Dwarfs in 4-H and ARBA shows. I then moved on to the large breeds of rabbits which included Rex and Californians. It was by luck that I got into English Angoras. I did not get my first one until I was 16 years old. I won my first REW English Angora doe in a raffle at a local rabbit show. From there I decided to purchased a buck from a local breeder. I bred a few litters and showed at a few more shows. When I went to college I majored in Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Biology. I have minors in Animal Nutrition, Chemistry and Physics. My long term goal was to be a large and small animal Veterinarian.

Here at Fuzzibutt’s Rabbitry we breed and show the following breeds: English and Giant Angoras, Flemish Giants in Black and Blue, Mini Rex in BEW and Red along with Red Rex. We hold several memberships in at least 10 rabbit clubs. Which includes National breed clubs, as well as local clubs for all of our breeds.

We believe that all rabbits should have a name and be treated like members of the family. We try to treat all of our rabbits with dignity, and respect. We have a running joke here at the rabbitry that goes something like this “once a baby rabbit has a name it usually finds a home here permanently.” We pride ourselves on being a small rabbitry, where we can still give all of our rabbit’s treats such as carrots or ginger snaps at night.

Our rabbitry is set up in our 2 car garage. All of the rabbits have ample space to move around. The English and Giant Angoras have 30X30 cages. We have fluorescent lighting for the rabbitry which we leave on from 8pm-7am . We feel that lighting is very important for our breeding success. We also have 8 large fans that circulate air throughout the rabbitry which is left on 24 hours a day. We have hot and cold water which makes it nice during the winter. Our garage is insulated so it stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer. During the day we leave the doors open for fresh air. All of our cages have wheels so we can clean the pens easily. We clean the pans twice a week. Water bottles, feeders and resting pads get bleached once a week.

Our nursery for our rabbits is set up in our house. We use the spare room; we set up crates for the moms. We turn the lights down low. We bring the expecting moms in a few days before they are due to kindle. Once the babies are kindled we check on them a few times a day. We keep them in the house until they are 4 weeks old. We feel that if we can give them a good start in life we will be blessed with them latter on.

When our litters are 6 weeks old we start our 1st phase of the culling process. We look for obvious DQ's such as color, toe nails, and teeth, along with wool consistently, type and texture, and body type. We also start to sex our rabbits at 6 weeks of age. Once we decide on the sex of the rabbit we contact our prospective buyers and let them know that we may have something for them. We do not sell our pets with pedigrees we also encourage the pets to be spayed and or neutered; we work very closely with our Veterinarian. For my English Angoras I know who I plan on using in my breeding program by the time they are 5 months old. For the Giant Angoras I usually grow them out until they are 9 months to a year. I know this may seem like a long time but Giants Angoras are known not to make Sr. weight. This is one of the main problems with this breed.

As far as feeding our rabbits they get free fed grass hay. Every other day they get oat hay. We feed and recommend 18% Pen Pals rabbit feed. During the show season we supplement our feed with a special supplement mixture. We strongly believe in adding Apple Cider Vinegar to our rabbits water every other day. We feel this also aids in the success of our litters.

Our rabbits are weighted every Thursday regardless of breed. We like to know how much our rabbits weigh, we us this information in case someone needs extra food the following week or if someone needs to go on a diet. Thursday is also nail clipping day, not to mention hands on day. We look at every rabbit’s eyes, teeth, butts, and we put our hands on every rabbit to access flesh condition.

I am currently on my 4th generation of Giant Angoras, 3rd generation of English Angoras. I can proudly say that I have a few champions that I have bred my self: 5 Giant Angoras and 4 English Angoras so far this year. I have few Giant Angoras that I am waiting to registered so I can grand them out.

The angoras in show coat are blown out 4 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes each. Then we move on to grooming there feet and bellies. I must say I really dislike grooming the feet and bellies so my daughter usually does this for me. I use big stand dog dryers for the rabbits to sit under while I blow there coats out. I also use a force dryer. I also band the rabbit’s bangs and cheek furnishings. I also wrap the angora’s coats behind the ears to prevent matting. I do use Ice On Ice as a grooming aid. I love this stuff! Ice On Ice puts a protective barrier on the outside of the hair strand and locks in moisture, it is not oily and Ice On Ice repels dirt, dust, rain, urine, from soaking into the coat. Ice On Ice contains sunscreen as well it also helps keep static down while grooming. Like most angora exhibitors I do use corn starch as well. At any give time I have 4-8 angoras in full show coat. I have also been known to wash an angora coat then blow it back out again.

In conclusion I personally feel coated breeds are a real challenge, Angoras especially. The angora breeds I am refereeing to are English and Giant Angoras. These breeds usually attract “artys” people; people who appreciate fine lines, elegance and quality. It can be so rewarding to breed show and grand your own English and Giant Angoras. I really feel that I am on the verge of something big with my English and Giant Angoras, maybe a future BIS?

If you are to be the “best” in anything then you must pour your heart and soul into it. I have to educate myself constantly working and practicing my grooming skills. Evaluating pedigrees to make the best choices for my upcoming litters. I love the challenge of breeding, conditioning and showing my English and Giant Angoras. To me it’s very rewarding. That’s the neat thing about my “artsy” breeds English and Giant Angoras; they’ve become so multi-faceted. Don’t get me wrong I love the Standard Rex and my Mini Rex but I refer to them more of a wash and wear breed.
Next year, I plan on getting my registers license as well as apply for my judges license in the near future.

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