Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | Darrell Howe: Purina® Rabbit Ambassador

Darrell Howe and his wife, Dianne, are no strangers to the world of show rabbits. Darrell has almost 30 years of experience. He raised his first rabbits, a New Zealand buck and three Dutch does, together with a neighbor in 1979, splitting the costs. Over the next year, he switched over to all New Zealand Whites and competed in his first show in the summer of 1981.

"It was a New Zealand junior buck named Zip," said Darrell. "He placed third in a class of ten, and I've been hooked ever since."

Darrell bought his first Californians in the spring of 1986 and won his first Best of Breed that same year. He continues to show at local, national and American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) Convention shows with Dianne.

"We enjoy going to shows and meeting our friends and making new ones along the way," said Darrell. "When we get a win, the ride home is a great time as we relive the day's events."

Currently the Howes have about 200 rabbits, raising Californians and White and Californian varieties of Mini-Satins on their small, eight-acre farm in Stockbridge, Michigan. In addition to showing, the Howes raise some rabbits for meat pens for ARBA National Conventions and to sell as breeding stock.

"With the two breeds it is always a goal to win both 4 Class and 6 Class," said Darrell. "If you can achieve this, you win Best of Show. We have done this five times in the last two years."

Although the Howes' operation seems quite large, it is still just a hobby, and over the years there have been a few rabbits that stuck out above the rest.

"First it was Zip, the New Zealand buck," said Darrell. "Then CH2, a Californian doe that won four Best of Shows and had her picture in the ARBA Standard of Perfection for fifteen years showing the commercial type. My next one was another Californian doe, HD12, that won six Best of Shows and is still in the barn today. And then there's the rabbit known as just '4', a Mini-Satin White doe. She won six Best of Shows, 10 Best 4 Class and received 21 legs for winning her class, Best of Breed, or BIS."

Growing up, Darrell was involved in 4-H from age 10 until he was 19, showing dairy cattle and exhibiting crops. His family had about 60 Holstein cows, which they milked seven days a week, on their farm. As an adult, Darrell remains involved in 4-H as co-chair of the small animal committee for Jackson County. Prior to this position he was the superintendent for 12 years. He recently worked with four other people to rewrite the Michigan 4-H Showmanship Guide Book, which is now being printed. Darrell also judges 4-H shows and has planned several events and educational presentations throughout Michigan.

"I have been judging at county fairs all over the state of Michigan for the past ten years and I have met a lot of young adults," said Darrell. "The 4-H kids are some of the best kids to work with, not only in our county, but throughout the state. Our biggest reward is seeing the look on a youth exhibitor's face when he or she gets their first Best of Breed or Best of Show."

Darrell has been a member of the ARBA since he started showing rabbits in 1981 and writes the club article for Domestic Rabbit magazine. In 2010, he served as the breed chairperson at the ARBA Convention in Minneapolis. He is a member of the Michigan State Rabbit Breeders Association, and in 2000, was named Master Breeder, the association's highest honor. Darrell also serves on the Constitution & By-laws committee for the American Satin Rabbit Breeders Association.

Both Darrell and Dianne are members of the Californian Rabbit Specialty Club, Inc. Darrell is currently serving his seventh year as president. Dianne is active in the club as well, serving on the Ways & Means committee, which works on decorating the club's booth and organizing a raffle at the annual ARBA Convention. In 2007, Darrell and Dianne were selected Man and Woman of the Year, which is the club's highest honor.

Darrell and Dianne have been fans of Purina Mills rabbit feeds for quite a while, feeding Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Complete for approximately 15 years before switching to Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Natural AdvantEdge® Show formula, which they've fed for the past five years.

"I like the Natural AdvantEdge® Show formula because it keeps the rabbits in good flesh and fur condition," said Darrell.

Darrell became a Purina Rabbit Ambassador in March of 2004. As an ambassador he attends training sessions at the Purina Farm in Gray Summit, Missouri, promotes Purina feed to other breeders at shows, does Purina dealer events and educates 4-H and other local clubs.

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RABBIT TIPS | Tag Talk: Understanding Your Feed Tag

It's easy to compare two different rabbit feeds, right? Just look at the tags. If the nutrients listed are the same percentage, then shouldn't the feeds then be pretty much the same?

Not exactly. A feed tag, though a good source of information, doesn't consider the quality of the ingredients that go into making a feed. The tag also doesn't tell you how digestible the ingredients are or if the rabbit can actually use the nutrients listed on the tag. Purina® Ph.D. nutritionists carefully formulate each and every feed, to ensure the highest quality ingredients available are used. They don't just look at individual nutrients. They look at the nutritional profile of each ingredient and what they provide for growth, performance and overall health.

There are things that feed tags will tell you, which includes the product name, product purpose that identifies specific species and animal class, a guaranteed analysis statement, ingredients, directions for safe and effective use, any precautionary statements, the manufacturer or distributor's name and address and the statement of net quantity. This is all required by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

If the feed is medicated, that must appear directly below the name. The bag must also include the name and level of each active drug ingredient, a claim statement for each and specific feeding directions. None of Purina's Rabbit Chow™ products are medicated.

The guaranteed analysis provides the levels of essential nutrients contained in that feed. Crude refers to the method of testing, not the quality of the nutrients. For rabbit feeds, the guaranteed analysis includes a minimum guarantee for crude protein and crude fat, minimum and maximum guarantee for crude fiber, minimum and maximum guarantee for calcium, minimum guarantee for phosphorus, minimum and maximum guarantee for salt (if added), minimum and maximum guarantee for total sodium (only if total sodium exceeds the amount provided by the maximum salt guarantee) and minimum guarantee for Vitamin A.

Ingredients are listed by their common name or the collective term which recognizes a general classification of ingredient origin. Some will be obvious, but others require some definition. Many of the ingredients with chemical-sounding names are actually vitamins, minerals or other nutrients. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, no reference can be made to the quality of these ingredients.

The directions will tell you how to effectively and safely feed your rabbits. They also include any additional mixing instructions. Precautionary statements are required for feeds that contain a feed additive such as drugs or non-protein nitrogen ingredients. Purina also includes a cautionary statement on feed storage and freshness.

The company whose name appears on the label is responsible for the feed and for complying with state and federal regulations. This is also where you can find the company's address.

The net quantity statement tells you how much feed is inside a bag. It is given in terms of ounces and pounds, but also must include the appropriate metric unit.

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GET TO KNOW | Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Fibre3® Natural AdvantEdge®

Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Fibre3® Natural AdvantEdge® is a natural*, corn-free rabbit food that provides superior nutrition for rabbits of all ages. It helps younger rabbits get a great start and helps older rabbits maintain ideal body weight. Free of all fillers, preservatives and artificial colors, Fibre3® Natural AdvantEdge® Rabbit Food provides complete nutrition, giving your rabbits the food they need for growth, health and longevity.

  • The Natural AdvantEdge®—superior, consistent, natural* nutrition FREE from all fillers, preservatives and artificial colors
  • High fiber—for normal digestive tract function and overall health
  • Corn-free—created especially for the unique needs of rabbits
  • Great for rabbits of all ages—high fiber content is ideal for both young bunnies to help them get a good start, and to help older rabbits maintain ideal body weight.
  • Added lactobacillus, yeast and yucca shidigera—supports digestive health and aids in odor control
  • Complete, natural nutrition—no additional supplements necessary. Great for rabbits of all ages and perfect to maintain a healthy body weight
  • High-quality plant proteins—loaded with natural nutrients found only in plants that optimize vitality and support immune function
  • Highly palatable—for proper intake and growth
  • Purina® FeedGuard® Nutrition System—stringent quality standards help ensure many of the industry's highest quality ingredients available are used, provides greater nutritional consistency bag after bag and considers all key nutrients and their interactions with each other to better support overall rabbit health
As always, when changing your rabbits from one feeding program to another, make the change gradually, over a five- to seven-day period. Mix the new feed with the old, gradually increasing the amount of the new feed (it's always important to allow time for the rabbits' intestinal flora to adjust to any new feed.) Continue to feed at the same time each day—evening is best. Clean the feeding dish daily so uneaten food does not become stale and moldy. And always provide plenty of clean, fresh, cool water to rabbits at all times.

*with added vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients

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