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Tag Archives: ARBA

Prepping for ARBA Nationals

It’s time for the big show! ARBA Nationals 2016 is located in Del Mar, California and we are going!

 

This is only our second national show to attend, so we aren’t truly experts, but here are a few things we have done to prepare:

 

Get Hotel Room. We originally made reservations at a hotel that was several miles from the fairgrounds, but then a few spots opened up at the host hotel so we switched! Hurray!

Purchase Show Catalog and Results book. The show catalog is full of great information about the schedule, extra meetings, rules, judges of the breeds, club information, etc. Also places to eat and stay, extra tours… lots of stuff! We also enjoy getting the Results book because there is no set schedule for breed judging and if you miss your breed you won’t have a clue how everyone placed without the Results book!

Get Car in for Check Up. We are driving to Nationals and I can’t think of anything worse than being broken down on the side of the road with a load of bunnies in the back! So our trusty Suburban went to the shop for a complete check up from tires to wires and got the seal of approval.

Paperwork. Not only do we have the paperwork from our Convention entry, but also the load/unload sheet for our rabbits. We label each hole of the carriers with the rabbit who will occupy it, and then check it off as we load. We’ll do a similar situation with our return animals. At checkin you also need your ARBA membership card.

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This is our pocket-sized cheat sheet for our breeds and coop numbers.

Labels. Decorations on the coops are discouraged at the Convention, but having something to identify your rabbits is really helpful in the long rows of coops! We used a free download from a teacher for labels this year and included the name of the rabbit and a contact phone number just in case anyone needed to talk to us about the rabbit. And we’ll remove the labels completely when we leave, of course.

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Our coop labels for Convention this year.

Coop Risers/Cleaning Supplies. The rabbits are cooped on wooden floors with shavings. Obviously these shavings get messy quickly and need frequent cleaning! This year we are trying coop risers for our Blanc de Hotot to help keep them clean.This is the way to go! The rabbits stay sooo much cleaner and happier with the risers!

Water Bucket with Spout. We have found a houseplant watering can with the long spout extremely helpful. We can get the job done with a milk jug but the extra maneuvering provided by a watering can is awesome!

Pedigree Book. You never know what might come up, so I’m bringing hard copies of all of our pedigrees. One thing I’m pretty excited about for our sale rabbits is a newer program called Hutch. It allows you to generate a QR code for pedigrees, so if you print the QR code and put it with the rabbit anyone interested would be able to see the lines behind the rabbit right then. How lovely!

Good Attitude and Comfortable Shoes. I was stunned in Portland at how much my feet hurt! The judging classes are large, so there is a lot of standing around as you’re waiting to hear the results! By the end of the first day my back was tight and my feet were sore. By the end of day two even our 9-year-old was desperate for a place to sit! This year we are bringing our most comfortable shoes and consciously choosing to have a good attitude no matter what our circumstances.

 

That’s our quick an dirty prep list for Nationals. I’m sure we’ll have more in the future, but here are the basics!

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Penny-Wise and Pound-Foolish

Be careful not to be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.

Be careful not to be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.

The 2016 ARBA National Convention is coming up in just five weeks! Eek!

 

We are busy getting our rabbits evaluated for show and sale, handling them daily, and experimenting with a new conditioning mix this year in preparation for the national show. After a long summer of watching rabbits grow we are having fun getting our hands busy with them again!

 

One of the exciting aspects of the national convention for a rabbit breeder is the opportunity to purchase new animals that will (hopefully) push your rabbitry to a higher level in the next year. However, this can be a really overwhelming adventure for many, so here are a few thoughts based on our own experience:

 

Don’t be Penny-wise and Pound-Foolish. Many times people are searching the for sale posts, looking specifically for the cheapest rabbit. I absolutely understand that you have a budget and need to stick to it – but also be aware that in choosing to save the $10 from one rabbit to another you might be losing out on a body type or genetic strengthening that will end up costing far more than that $10 in the long run. Truthfully, you get what you pay for in most cases. If you want to be competitive, find out who the most competitive breeders are in your breed and seek them out. The price tag will likely be higher – and it’s still worth it because you will see the impact in your upcoming litters.

 

Do your Research. When deciding where to buy, research. Check the Breed Club Sweeps Points. Clubs are a wonderful starting place to find your new additions, but I know breeders who have incredible animals who are not excited about their breed club and aren’t members. (We fall into that category with a few of our breeds!) Also, be aware that club sweeps points are not always an indication that that particular breeder is breeding competitive rabbits. The points system may mean that they just enter a LOT of subpar rabbits or travel to a LOT of shows and earn a quantity of points. Ask around. Attend shows and watch how people interact with your seller. See if you can talk to people who have been customers of the rabbitry in the past. Utilize social media! Join Facebook groups that are relevant to your breed and do a search for the breed, rabbitry name, or the owner’s name. You’ll likely be able to find out a lot about who is considered knowledgable about the breed in that group, how they raise their rabbits, and any issues they’ve had that will help inform your decision about whether you want to do business with them. Be aware that many times the people posting the most on fb groups may not actually be breeding the most competitive rabbits.

 

Buy “Part” Animals. I heard this term recently and wasn’t sure what it meant, so then I had to find out! A “part” animal is one that has a specific strength that you’re looking for. So maybe you’re seeing a trend of long shoulders in the animals you’re producing but you have decent back ends. You’re not necessarily looking for a rabbit that is going to be perfect all over, you’re looking for one that has great shoulders so when you breed it to your big-bootyed bunny you will produce a well balanced rabbit! The key to this is actually knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your own rabbits well enough to know what you’re looking to add. Pay attention to what judges or trusted breeders say and be humble.

 

Be Realistic. No one is going to sell you their top animal and you shouldn’t expect them to do so. You can still find very good additions to your rabbitry if you’re realistic about your needs. Be aware that in many cases if you put a post on facebook about “I just bought this rabbit and it sucks, blah, blah, blah…” you are making it very difficult for yourself to find other breeders to sell to you in the future. Buying a rabbit is a risk. It just is. Even if the rabbit is amazing, it might not mix well genetically with your lines and you’ll have a dud. Complaining about the breeder is not going to solve the problem in 99% of the cases.

 

Keep Your Vision. I was recently at a show where the rabbit of an acquaintance won Best in Show. I knew the winner had been working their breed for many, many years, culled hard, and traveled often to learn how to better their rabbits. That rabbit that won Best in Show was the result of a long, consistent habit of learning, breeding, culling, and comparison. However, none of that history was visible to the casual onlookers yet that dedication was evident in the animal. If you are eager to be competitive, commit for the long haul. Keep a vision in your mind of your goal, and actually work for your vision! You cannot expect to have wild success as a top breeder if you aren’t willing to sacrifice for your rabbits as this is not some type of a get rich quick scheme. Determine your rabbitry goals and move forward confidently in their direction… then see where you are in 10 years, 20 years, 50 years!

 

Have fun breeding!

7 Ways to Improve a Rare Breed With a Gene “Puddle”

Ways to Improve the Rare Breed Gene PoolLet’s face it: In some breeds we don’t see a gene “pool,” we see a gene “puddle”! This can be extremely challenging, especially if you don’t have the luxury of an extraordinarily large rabbitry and unlimited bank account! Recently there was an interesting conversation going on the Rare Breed Rabbits facebook page. In a nutshell, the original poster asked, “How do you improve a breed when the gene pool is tiny to begin?”

This is a great question, and one we have faced ourselves raising our rare breed rabbits. For example, when we started raising Blanc de Hotot there were only about six breeders we could find in the continental U.S. raising them. Every rabbit we have has one particular buck in their pedigree – and we’ve worked to bring as many diverse lines in as possible from all areas of the continent!

7 Ways to Improve Your Rare Breed Gene PuddleHere are some excellent suggestions generated by the discussion:

  1. Get other breeders involved. I am a firm believer that if you’re raising a rare breed your first step should be to work your hardest to get your breed OFF the rare breed list! While there’s a certain amount of prestige to raising a rare breed, the reality is that a rare breed means you don’t have the volume of rabbits being bred and culled. Over time this can significantly, negatively impact the overall health, appearance, and efficiency of the breed. So, recruit, promote, and network with others to widen the impact of the breed!
  2. Be willing to travel/transport. Raising rare breeds means you’re going to have to be willing to either travel yourself to get rabbits or jump through the hoops necessary to have rabbits transported to you. When we started our rare breeds the closest breeder to us was seven hours away. If you aren’t a fan of buying sight-unseen rabbits off of the internet or going off of the reputation of other breeders… don’t choose a rare breed.
  3. Buy new stock whenever possible. Utilize larger shows, like the ARBA national show, breed nationals, West Coast Classic, or PSRBA, or Ohio Mini Convention to purchase new stock. (Trading for new animals is even better!) Don’t miss any opportunities to widen the gene pool. The larger shows are great because with the number of people moving across the country during those times it’s easier to find transportation. (And don’t forget to institute a quarantine area for at least six weeks whenever you bring a new rabbit into your rabbitry.)
  4. Take risks. It’s absolutely possible you’ll add a new line to your rabbitry and end up breeding a lot of animals better suited for the stew pot – some genetic lines just don’t play well with others. It’s still worth it to try. We have a general rule that every doe has a litter with every buck before we make a decision, and our bucks typically represent different lines. Also, perhaps the original parents don’t create beautiful animals that are an improvement, but their offspring crossed back might make some show stoppers! Don’t be hasty in your judgements.
  5. Breed hard. We tend to keep our rabbits working all year round because we don’t want fat rabbits! You’ve got to breed the rabbits in order to see whether you’re making any progress in the breed, as well as know your lines and what they produce.
  6. Cull HARDER. We are personally experiencing this right now! This spring we had five of our Blanc de Hotot does have two litters each. That resulted in 50+ hotot juniors! (And a general feeling that our rabbitry has gone monochromatic with all the black and white rockstar bunnies! Haha!) So far we have already filled our freezer with 42 of those juniors. At this point we are actually excited about three of the juniors (although we’ll be saving more than that back for genetic diversity and the breed backs to lines I mentioned above). We’ve also kept rabbits we can’t be absolutely certain about to see how they look with a few more weeks growth on them. It is incredibly discouraging to see so many rabbits culled out of the program… but we can see a noticeable difference in the ones we’ve kept back and we’re hoping next spring we’ll have far more keepers because we’re making the hard choices right now to improve our breeding stock.
  7. Outcross. This is the last point of the options because it really stinks. If you have a rare breed rabbit you want to keep the bloodlines as pure as you can, right? Outcrossing to another breed shoots that philosophy in the foot. That being said, in wisdom, an outcross might be the best thing to improve the breed. (There is one longtime breeder who does an outcross every fourth generation in his rabbits to increase the hybrid vigor and type. The philosophy is working – his rabbits have won their class/variety so much their rabbitry is a legend in their breed.) If you do decide to outcross, make it to another breed that is compatible with the one you’re working with, and make sure it is a bang-up representation of the qualities you’re trying to improve upon. Keep accurate records and disclose the outcross to potential buyers.

What are your suggestions?

Best Opposite of Breed, Silver Fox, ARBA National Convention 2014

Photo by L. Fischbeck

Photo by L. Fischbeck

We are just beside ourselves tonight with excitement because we got word that the doe we entered into the ARBA National Convention was placed as Best Opposite of Breed! It is such an treat to have your animal selected for this honor and it’s not something we expected as we waved goodbye to our transporter last Thursday night!

 

This particular doe was bred by Nick’s Nibblers in California — Nick’s Nibblers had Mad Hatter stock to get started in Silver Fox and we traded for Zelos earlier this year. Since she came out of Mad Hatter lines we felt it was still ok to send her as our entry, typically we wouldn’t plan to send a rabbit we haven’t personally bred to the National Convention.

 

Boy are we feeling blessed tonight, and grateful for how things turn out! On any given day every rabbit has a serious chance at top honors. Even though we didn’t place as best of breed, we’re still feeling pretty happy about her performance and eager to bring her home, get her registered, and send her legs in to complete her Grand Champion process before we start her down the merry path of motherhood.

 

So many thank yous to so many people who have assisted with the national show! We’re looking forward to seeing how our other rabbits placed, and preparing a welcome home treat for Zelos, our very first nationally winning rabbit!

How Much is Too Much to Spend on a Rabbit?

Yep. Been known to Happen.

Yep. Been known to Happen.

The ARBA national convention is this weekend and I’ve been having several discussions with different breeders about their purchasing budget.

 

Convention is a two-edged sword, because on one hand it’s a wonderful opportunity to spread bloodlines across the country and have access to livestock you can’t normally get because of distance. On the other hand, a rabbit purchased through Convention is typically much more expensive – maybe double the price or more – than a rabbit you can get locally once you add up the purchase price, transport cost, care cost, and entry fees.

 

So what’s the right choice? To buy… or NOT to buy? This is the question!

 

Everyone will have to come to their own conclusions, but this is how we look at it.

 

1. Gene Pool. We are raising rare breed rabbits. The ability to mix up bloodlines is pretty important – over generations sticking to the same gene pool will lead to a smaller sized, genetic abnormalities, and type characteristics that won’t help the breed long term. So getting new blood is worth the expense to us in that respect.

 

However, we don’t want to buy just anything willy-nilly. When we were first starting out I was interested in buying stock from anyone that had rabbits available. Now that we’ve gotten our feet wet and know our own lines, we can selectively choose animals that will (hopefully) add a specific trait to our herd. No herd is perfect! Part of what makes rabbit breeding so fun is seeing the changes in quality in your herd over time. Convention provides a perfect opportunity to gain access to a wider spectrum of rabbits.

 

2. Cost Analysis. From a purely practical standpoint, each rabbit has a cost/benefit. Let’s say a rabbit’s purchase price is $100. (That’s a nice even number). It’s a doe and she has a litter of 7 – of those you sell 2 and cull the other 5 for meat or such. Even if you sell the two babies for $50 each and the culls at $5 apiece you’ve made your purchase price back off of just one litter, while your original rabbit might produce ten more litters for you in her lifetime… or you might sell her as a proven doe at some point later in her life, recouping some of her original purchase price.

 

With that in mind, I find it easier to spend more on a Convention rabbit, as long as I keep a longer-term outlook about it. Over time rabbits will pay for their own food, the cost of physical rabbitry (cages, water bowls, etc.), any miscellaneous costs, BUT it’s not going to happen in six months. It’s a multi-year process and in the meantime you have to guard your own reputation and make sure you’re keeping your rabbitry clean, rabbits healthy, and selling stock buyers are excited to have and can (hopefully) win for them or produce great litters for their own livestock operation.

 

3. What’s Practical Now. When we were just getting started I practically mortgaged one of our children to get stock! Well, that’s overstating it quite a bit, but at that season I felt we had to snatch up the opportunity to get animals out here, since no one in our area was breeding some of these breeds. Fast forward a few years and now I’m staying within my budget and passing on animals I wish we could buy because I already said yes to some offered earlier.

 

Just a piece of marital advice, stick to your budget! My husband told me I could only buy rabbits with money rabbits made this year and it’s caused a few pains when I passed on a great animal… but a whole lot of peace with my spouse! There will always be more rabbits, I only want one husband!

 

So there you have it! It’s not a straight up  answer to how much YOU should spend on your animals, but at least a glimpse of how it’s working for us right now. May all your purchases be positive!

Common Terminology for Rabbits and Rabbit Shows

Sometimes terms can be confusing. Use this guide to help!

Sometimes terms can be confusing. Use this guide to help!

A HUGE “Thank You” to Kim’s Rabbit Hutch for this helpful guide to rabbit terminology.

Buck – A male rabbit
Doe – A female rabbit
Junior – A rabbit under 6 months of age
Senior – A rabbit over 6 months of age
Intermediate or 6/8 – A rabbit between 6-8 months of age. Most common in larger breeds

Varierty – Color of a rabbit
Class – Age group of the rabbit. Either Junior, Intermediate or Senior
Broken – A color in conjunction with white. With either a blanket or spotted pattern of the color on the body.

Solid – A color of a rabbit that is covering the entire body
Agouti – A type of color that has bands and ticking. Most common colors are Chestnut and Chinchilla

Shaded – Refers to colors like Sable Point. These colors have darker colors on the nose, ears, and other parts of the body. While the whole of the body is one solid lighter color.

Molt – A coat that is shedding and out of condition.
Finish – A coat of a rabbit that either lacks finish (poor condition, molting, etc) or has a good finish (well groomed, not molting) could mean the difference between winning and losing.

Pedigree – A piece of paper charting 3 generations of the rabbit with ancestory history.

Registration – A piece of paper also charting 3 generations of the rabbit with ancestory history. This paper however states (for the rabbit it is issued to) that it has free of disqualifications and has been deamed an acceptable representation of said breed. The rabbit also recieves a registration number unqiue to that rabbit.

Ear Number / Tattoo – A series of numbers and/or letters tattooed into the rabbits left ear. Usually no more then 5 are in the ear. A circled R may be tattooed in the left ear if the rabbit has been registered.

Leg – A leg is earned by winning in an ARBA-sanctioned show as long as there are three exhibitors and five rabbits competing for the win. For example, first place in a class of five or more bunnies showed by three or more different exhibitors would earn a leg. For classes without enough exhibitors and/or bunnies, it may be possible to earn a leg by winning BOSV (if there are sufficient numbers of the related sex in the variety), BOV (if there are sufficient numbers in the entire variety), BOS (if there are sufficient number in the related sex of the breed) or BOB (if there are sufficient numbers in the entire breed). A rabbit may only earn one leg per judging.

BOB – Best of Breed
BOS – Best Opposite Sex of Breed (ie. If the BOB rabbit is a buck, BOS winner must be a doe. Which is why it’s called Opposite Sex

BOV – Best of Varierty
BOSV – Best Opposite Sex of Varierty (ie. If the BOV rabbit is a buck, BOSV winner must be a doe. Which is why it’s called Opposite Sex

BOV and BOSV winners go on to compete for BOB and BOS
BIS – Best in Show (this is big. To win it, your rabbit must get BOB. At the end of the show, all of the breeds who had a BOB winner compete to see who is the best of the best.)

1st Runner Up / Reserve to BIS – This is the 2nd place rabbit to who won BIS
2nd Runner Up – This is the 3rd place rabbit to who won BIS
DQ – Disqualification. A rabbit can be disqualified for many reasons. Most common is over the weight limit, bad teeth, or illness present.

Flesh condition – Just like it sounds. If a rabbit is “rough” in flesh it means the skin over the backbone is very loose and thin. Bones are easily felt. Most common in rabbits suffering from some illness, not being fed enough, or does coming off weaning litters.

Open – Usually refers to an all “adult show.” Which means anyone of any age is allowed to enter, but it is usually adults competing with other adults. They will usually add the letters: A, B and C to the end of “Open Show” if they are having multiple shows.

Youth – An all youth only show. Only those 18 and under are allowed to enter these shows. Youth breeders must put their own rabbits on the judging table.

Cull – A breeder goes through a litter selecting ones he/she wishes to keep. The rest are sold (or eaten, if they’re a meat breed.)

Kindling – Term used to mean giving birth to baby rabbits.
Kits – Term describing baby rabbits.
Cavy / Cavies – These are not rabbits. They are shown sometimes at rabbit shows. They are basically guinea pigs.

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