Care and Management of Rabbits/Chapter 12
FEEDING FOR MARKET
FEEDING FOR MARKET
Market feeding means that the stock is intended for meat purposes, to be sold for that purpose to local markets or else to be used upon the table of the breeder. For this reason, a little different feeding is required than where the purpose is to mature breeding stock and merely keep them in good condition so long as they are used in the hutches.
The frying age, which is the best age at which to sell or use rabbits for the table, is from twelve to sixteen weeks of age. There is less waste at this stage of their development than if they are used earlier. It is possible, however, to have them on the table when they are only two months old. Keeping them longer enables the breeder to obtain full return from his feed and also to judge correctly the worth of an individual for breeding purposes. A good breeder should not go into the pot as it is a waste of time and money to do this.
The purpose in market feeding is to encourage just as rapid a growth as possible in order to get the fullest weight and development from the stock at the earliest possible moment. It is in market feeding that regularity is most important.
While it should never be advisable to attempt to force the growing stock for weight, we do not proceed along the leisurely way that we do when feeding for breeding stock. We do not limit the ration to a certain amount per day, but give the youngsters all that they can eat, just so long as it is not dangerous.
One has to be careful with the growing stock, especially right after they are weaned, that they do not get too much to eat. They are not only apt to have digestive troubles, but also to be pot-bellied, which is caused by the intestinal tract growing too fast for the rest of the body. This is generally fatal to the little fellows.
Market stock must have the mash mentioned in the preceding chapter and they should have all that they will eat at all times. They should also have plenty of clover or alfalfa hay and must be liberally treated with good green food, either dandelions or chicory being the best.
They also need plenty of fresh water at all times, and should have a lump of hard rabbit salt in the hutch.
Do not overcrowd them, but give them sufficient room. Three or four to the hutch will be sufficient.
Keep things clean and sweet and sanitary. The heavy feeding is apt to cause some mash to be left in the dishes from time to time. Be sure that it does not remain long during hot weather, as it will sour and cause trouble. At each feeding, the mash remaining should be emptied out and thrown away, as it is not half the waste that allowing it to remain may develop into.
With market stock, it is better to cut down slightly on the amount fed in the morning and put in an extra feeding at noon. There is nothing better for the noon feeding than skim milk and stale bread. This will cause faster development in the growing stock than almost anything else that can be given.
If you are unable to procure skim milk except at a figure too high to warrant its use it would be best to give the mash in the morning and a feeding of whole or rolled oats at noon and hay at night.
Whatever the ration you determine upon, stick to it and be regular in the feeding. It is best not to change rations right in the midst of feeding your young stock.
The market animals will be nursed by the mother doe until eight weeks old. This means that you will only have to feed them a month or six weeks after weaning before they are ready for the pot. Of course, they will eat quite a bit along with the doe during the time that they are still nursing, and during this portion of the feeding period they will be getting more or less milk from her along with the other ration.
But if it is at all possible, some milk should be given if only enough to soak up a few pieces of bread.
There are several milk mashes upon the market designed entirely for rabbit feeding and if you cannot have fresh milk in the ration, it would be a good idea to go to a feed store and buy this rabbit mash to feed at noon, or to mix in with your other mash and feed it at the morning feeding.
Use intelligence in handling your youngsters. The feeding of market animals is something that requires a great deal of study and thought. You will find men spending their lives trying to solve the problem successfully. Watch the costs and try to feed as cheap a ration as possible, but at the same time do not sacrifice the elements necessary for the proper development of the stock. You are producing meat to eat and you want to do it efficiently. That is never done by cheating the animal you are feeding.