Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter


FEATURED STORY | Rock & Roll Dwarfs

As far as Don Barnhart is concerned, no rabbit herd, or show for that matter, is complete without a little mischief, mayhem and fun.

Don started raising rabbits in 1982.

"It's hard to say why I started," Don said. "But, I raise Netherland Dwarfs, and when I saw that rabbit it was like a magnet to me."

Don maintains a small herd, by breeders' standards, of about 35 Netherland Dwarfs. Being small allows him to really focus on improving the quality of his rabbits, but it also increases the competition with his friends at shows.

"The people that I compete against, all my good friends, have 200 to 300 rabbits. So, when I compete it's really pathetic," Don joked. "It's hard to bring more than a couple to a show, so I have no margin for error. If something goes wrong with one of my rabbits, that's it."

Because of that, the wins that Don gets mean that much more.

"In 2000, I had one of my bucks, Charisma, win its group at the Netherland Dwarf National Show," Don said. "He beat out about 175 rabbits and was up for Best of Breed. He then went on to win about 12 Best of Breeds in shows around the south, and I've been waiting ever since to repeat that."

In addition to the Netherland Dwarf National Show, Don is a regular at the annual American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) National Conventions, and many shows throughout Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.

It was at the 2006 ARBA National Convention in Fort Worth, Texas that Don met his good friend and Rock & Roll Dwarfs partner, Doug Sprague.

Don and Doug ship rabbits back and forth between their homes in Brownsboro, Alabama, and Spokane, Washington, to help each other produce competitive dwarfs.

"It's a very long distance partnership, which is unusual," Don said. "But what brought us together is our sense of humor. We make it a habit to go to shows and spread a few laughs."

One of Don's favorite stories, that still makes him laugh and is possibly his greatest comedic moment, also occurred at the Convention in Fort Worth.

"We went out to one of these big cowboy bars that advertised a mechanical, bucking bull," Don said. "They also had a still one there that you sat on with a cowboy hat and took a picture with a fake crowd in the background. All my friends played it straight and tried to make it look like it was real. When I got up there, instead of climbing on the steer like I was gonna ride it, I crawled up and grabbed around its neck and put my thumb in my mouth and bugged out my eyes like I was petrified! We laughed at it the rest of night, and it was later auctioned off at banquet for about $100. To this day, people come up to me and say how great that moment was."

Don says raising rabbits is just a hobby, and that it's therapy from his busy corporate job selling German robotic equipment.

"I travel a lot with my job and it's quite busy, so I love the quiet time I spend with them," Don said.

Don says his favorite part about raising and breeding rabbits is the possibilities. Netherland Dwarfs have 36 recognized color varieties, more than any other breed.

"When I'm breeding rabbits, I can't wait for that litter to be born," Don said. "I can't wait to see the possibilities for a good rabbit and the varying colors."

Breeding is also one of the things that surprised Don the most about raising rabbits, and because of his breed of choice, it has been a challenge.

"I was surprised at how hard it was to raise this particular breed," said Don. "Because it's a dwarf breed, litter sizes are smaller than normal rabbit breeds. Dwarf type is also hard to replicate."

Don feeds his rabbits, Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Show Formula that he gets at his local Purina® dealer, Garvin's Feed & Seed in Huntsville, Alabama.

"The consistency of the Purina® products is remarkable, and I can rely on it," Don said. "Every time I open that bag it's the same as the last, and I know that's important."

In addition to feeding his rabbits Purina® feeds, Don is a Purina® Rabbit Ambassador and has been for the past eight years.* As an ambassador Don helps people with their feeding problems and explains the benefits of Purina® products.

"I enjoy spending some time at the Purina® booth at the ARBA convention, meeting other rabbit breeders and chatting with Purina® staff," Don said.

To learn more about Don and Rock & Roll Dwarfs, visit http://rocknrolldwarfs.com.

* Ambassadors are paid by Purina Mills, LLC in connection with their participation in the Ambassador program.

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RABBIT TIPS | Winter Tips

Winter's here and it's going to get even colder. Are your rabbits ready to brave the elements? Here are some tips on how to help your rabbit adjust to the cold temperatures and shorter days of winter.

HOUSING
Your rabbit's hutch should have at least three solid walls and a slanted, overhanging roof so snow and rain can run off. Put your hutch in an area that is protected from strong winds and heavy precipitation.

Put straw or other bedding in your hutch for added warmth. Keep it clean and dry from rain, snow, and urine to avoid chilling, hutch burn, sore hocks, increased stress on the immune system, and other problems. Although you want your hutch to be well protected, make sure it still has good ventilation and allows for fresh air.

WATER
Making sure your rabbit constantly has fresh, unfrozen water available is the most important thing you can do. This could mean checking the water multiple times a day or getting a water heater. Also consider switching to a metal or plastic water bottle to avoid a glass bottle breaking. If you decide to use a heater make sure your rabbit can't chew on the cords and keep the water clean to avoid bacteria growth.

FOOD
Temperature influences how much rabbits eat. Before and during a cold spell, rabbits generally increase food consumption. Be prepared for your rabbit to eat much more, possibly as much as three times more than what they eat in warmer months. Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Complete Natural AdvantEdge® rabbit food provides all the essential nutrients for growth, maintenance and reproduction. Like all animals, rabbits have a thermoneutral zone. The thermoneurtal zone is a range of body temperatures at which a rabbit doesn't need to use energy to maintain. For adult rabbits the zone is 69 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, for younger rabbits it's even higher. When their body temperature goes below the zone they must use energy from food to stay warm. Make sure your rabbit has plenty of food available so it doesn't get cold, sick, or lose weight.

LIGHT
If you're breeding your rabbits during the winter, keep in mind that fertility decreases as daylight decreases. Provide them with a constant 14 to 16 hours of light a day. Hang a 36-watt fluorescent tube light about 6 feet above the rabbits for every 55 square feet of floor space. Also, kits can't tolerate the cold as well as adults, so you may need to provide extra warmth; however, monitor the temperature to make sure it doesn't get so hot that the doe stops nursing.

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GET TO KNOW | Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Natural AdvantEdge® Show Food

Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Natural AdvantEdge® Show food is completely balanced and specially formulated to help produce shiny fur, successful growth and optimal reproduction. This blue ribbon winning food contains added vegetable oils for superior fur quality and is designed for enthusiasts who raise and show rabbits and want the winning edge.

  • The Natural AdvantEdge® Formula—superior, consistent, natural* nutrition FREE from all fillers, preservatives and artificial colors
  • Formulated for excellent fur quality—vitamin A and essential fatty acids for healthy skin & lustrous fur
  • Corn free diet—created especially for the unique needs of rabbits
  • Complete, natural nutrition—no additional supplements necessary and great for rabbits of all ages
  • Helps create winners—formulated to help give you the winning edge on the show table
  • High-quality plant proteins—loaded with natural nutrients found only in plants that optimize vitality and support immune function
  • Added lactobacillus, yeast and balanced fiber—support digestive health with added yucca shidigera to aid in odor control
  • Proprietary amino acid profile—building blocks of life from protein for optimal muscle and tone
  • 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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