Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | Gene & Sue Gillispie: 40 Years of a 'Rabbit Family'

With a herd of 400 rabbits, you can hardly call Gene and Sue Gillispie's rabbitry just a hobby. "We consider our rabbitry a hobby that has spanned into a small farm business over the years," Gene said.

The Gillispies raise and show Flemish Giants, Checkered Giants, Californians, New Zealand Whites, Satins, Mini Satins, Mini Rex, Netherland Dwarfs, Florida Whites, Havanas, Champagne D'Argents and Holland Lops. The Gillispies' entire herd is pedigreed, and they sell their rabbits to other rabbit exhibitors across the country and to pet shops. They also harvest some for their own family's use.

40 Year Anniversary
Gene got his first three rabbits, which were crossbreeds, for 4-H in 1966. A year later he attended the Missouri State Fair for the first time and came home with a trio of pedigreed Golden Palomino rabbits. He returned to the State Fair to show in 1970. Last August marked the 40th year that Gene and his family have shown at the Missouri State Fair, spanning three generations. His three grandsons showed this year, just as Gene's daughter, Brenda, and son, Bryan, did throughout their 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) careers. The 2010 Missouri State Fair Best of Show was won by Gene's grandson with a Californian. The Gillispies also had Best Display of Show for 2010.

In addition to their rabbits, the Gillispies also maintain a flock of show poultry and waterfowl that they exhibit.

Organic Living
Gene was raised in the small community of Paydown, Missouri, which gives their rabbitry its name with the American Rabbit Breeders Association, Gillispie's of Paydown. The Gillispies now live on a small farm near the Gasconade River and have a garden, rose garden and small orchard that they fertilize with worm castings they get from red worms they keep under their rabbit cages.

"We work the 'rabbit fertilizer' around the peach, apple, apricot and nectarine trees and on the pastures for the cattle and my horse," Gene said. "We are very strong believers in organic gardening and the raising of our beef and pork."

Rabbit Family
Gene is both a rabbit and cavy judge and has had his rabbit license for 35 years. Sue is a rabbit judge and is currently working on her Cavy Registrar License. Over the past three decades, Gene has judged shows in 48 states, Canada and Japan.

"The many friends we have made over the years in our 'rabbit family' have made raising and showing rabbits a joy," Gene said. "Seeing all the new breeds and varieties has been amazing to me."

Just like in his immediate family, Gene enjoys seeing rabbit hobbies being passed down in his 'rabbit family' through the generations by the youth he worked with in the Missouri State Rabbit Producers.

"Some of my proudest moments are the youth members from the Missouri State Rabbit Producers that have gone on to be veterinarians, teachers, lawyers, bankers and so on," said Gene. "Then, to see them bring their children back to show rabbits with us makes you sit back and think what a great 'rabbit family' and hobby we have."

In addition to judging many American Rabbit Breeders Association sanctioned shows, the Gillispies also judge many county fairs. Gene's favorite thing to judge is 4-H rabbit showmanship.

"The showmanship classes of age 13 and under are so much fun," Gene said. "At that age they are so open and honest when they answer questions."

In 4-H rabbit showmanship it's procedure to check for disqualifications, one of these being to check the left ear for a tattoo and both ears for ear mites.

"Many times a 4-Her will explain to me they are checking for termites in the rabbit's ears," said Gene. "You've got to compose yourself and not laugh, but it gets difficult at times."

The Gillispies not only use the Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Professional Natural AdvantEdge™ as a complete feed for all their breeds, but their rabbits are featured on the packages.

"It has been an honor for pictures of our rabbits to be used on all Natural AdvantEdge™ feed bags and brochures," said Gene.

Gene is also a Rabbit Ambassador for Purina® and does several seminars each year.

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RABBIT TIPS | Treats: How Much and What Kind

Everyone deserves a nice treat, and your rabbit is no different. But it's important to know how much and what kind of treats are best because rabbits' digestive tracts are very sensitive. Feeding the wrong treat or too many can upset their digestion and cause diarrhea.

Even though there are many kinds of commercial rabbit treats available—pellets, processed cereal kibble, mueslix (dried seed/fruit/veggie mixes), cereal/veggie blends, and candies and sugars—the best types of treats are still those that are natural and promote a healthy digestive tract. Things like long-stem grass, leafy greens and fresh vegetables work well because rabbits will consume them slowly. Treats made of simple carbohydrates including sugars should be avoided because rabbits will digest them too fast.

If a rabbit consumes too much sugar, the excess is either converted into fat or will pass into the cecum where it will be used by bacteria for energy. This much energy can cause the bacteria to quickly overgrow, leading to an imbalance and gastrointestinal distress or even death. Because house rabbits are fairly sedentary, excess calories from sugar and fat put your rabbit at a higher risk for obesity. Too much fat can lead to fatty liver disease or fat deposits in the arteries.

Even fresh foods like fruit should only be given in moderation because of their high sugar. If you decide to give your rabbit fruit, experts recommend no more than one teaspoon per day. Other treat options include fresh herbs such as basil, mint and cilantro. Be sure to wash all fresh foods thoroughly, and never give your rabbit anything that's spoiled.

Treats in moderation will go a long way to having a healthier and happier rabbit. In order not to dilute the overall nutrition of a complete rabbit pellet, treats should never make up more than 10 percent of the dry weight of a total rabbit diet.

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

Keep your rabbit happy and healthy with Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Complete Natural AdvantEdge™. This new, all-natural* diet is highly palatable with all the essential nutrients for growth, maintenance and reproduction. It's the right balance of protein, fiber and critical nutrients, making it an excellent food for all types of rabbits of all ages. It's the easiest way to feed and the perfect choice for first-time rabbit owners.

  • The Natural AdvantEdge™—superior, consistent, natural* nutrition FREE from all fillers, preservatives and artificial colors
  • Complete, natural nutrition—no additional supplements necessary and great for rabbits of all ages
  • Added lactobacillus, yeast and balanced fiber—supports digestive health with added yucca shidigera to aid in odor control
  • Essential nutrients—proteins (contain amino acids, the building blocks of muscles, organs and fur), vitamin A (for reproductive efficiency and bright eyes), and calcium and phosphorus (for strong bones and excellent milk production)
  • 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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