Friday, September 23, 2011

What are you breeding for?

I am sure most of us became involved with rabbits initially because we really enjoy them, plain and simple. However, beyond the initial aspect of interest, rabbit people seem to branch out into all different philosophies regarding why they breed and raise the rabbits that they do. Here are some individual reasons I have come across over the past few years:

1. For Show: They say they like the competition. Some also mentioned the travel, seeing old friends and making new ones, buying and selling breeding stock, and seeing all of the different breeds in one place.

2. For Pets: They tell me they like having cute, fuzzy, gentle creatures around to love on and to sell to others as family members. Some also feel that they can make a decent profit selling pets, too.

3. For Education: They say they rarely have litters and usually have an assortment of other species around. They may go to schools, parks, birthday parties, and more serious professional situations depending on what kind of involvement they have. They may also profit or may not depending on what their ultimate needs are.

4. For Meat: They tell me they are interested in growth, meat-to-bone ratios, overall health, and the ability for their stock to breed and be good mothers among other things. They may sell to other hobbyists in small groups or they may simply sell in bulk to a processor.

5. For Fiber: I am told they love their angoras and often enjoy spinning, knitting, and/or crochet among other similar fiber arts. Plenty of people that keep stock for fiber also show and sell their culls as pets or woolers.

I'm sure many reputable breeders fall into more than one of these groups above- I know I do. I have been thinking about it though and it seems like those that purposefully explore and educate themselves about the multiple and legitimate reasons for raising stock may have the advantage over those that just raise for one reason or another.

For example, if someone only breeds for show, then do temperaments fall to the wayside over winning type? How about growth rate? Health? Good mothering abilities? I have read time and time again about biting rabbits on the judging tables, mothers who don't take care of their young in every litter (which are fostered out to other does) and yet they are still being bred because they are grand champions, etc. Not to mention those that show despite illness in their herds because all that matters is the big win.

So what about someone that only breeds for meat? If they have no judges comments to give them an idea of what they need to work on and if they never go to shows to learn about the breed standards, then how do they determine good type on their stock before they breed? A pedigree is only a piece of paper describing lineage- it does not say anything about how nice the rabbit is unfortunately.

How about pets only? What happens when the babies are all grown up and families that are bored with them return them all. Can a pet breeder house a new group of unexpected adults and/or find homes for them as pets a second time around? How about a third or fourth in the case of a behavioral or health problem? Not to mention the stiff competition between pet breeders on all the ad sites.

And the list goes on. If knowledge is power, than a breeder that can recognize good type, that understands the aspects of sound and tolerant temperament, that has been monitoring for health issues, good mothering abilities, decent growth/size, and that has a variety of outlets to chose from for their culls.. well, how could that possibly compare to just focusing on one thing, regardless of whatever it is?

I don't know about everyone else, but for me it is a great reality check to ask myself whenever I am starting to plan a litter: Just exactly what am I breeding for? What do I hope to achieve by this pairing? How will it help the breed? And later on, what is the end result?

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