Purina® Rabbit Nutrition E—Newsletter

FEATURED STORY | Raising Rhinelanders

Purina® Ambassador Lorena Ferchaud's daughter, Elyse, received a rabbit from a friend 14 years ago. Little did Lorena know how that first rabbit, Buffalo Bob, would change their lives and introduce them to the world of show rabbits.

Lorena has always been passionate about horses, showing them throughout her life, but with three kids and a farm, taking care of them became too much. After winning with Buffalo Bob at their first show, the Ferchauds, and Elyse in particular, began to get more involved with showing rabbits. She began showing Holland Lops and later Fuzzys and Tans. As Elyse's interest grew, Lorena's did, too.

"I began to realize at this time if I was going to be hauling Elyse and her rabbits to all these shows I should get my own breed," Lorena said.

Love At First Sight:
At the 2000 California State Fair, Lorena saw her first Rhinelander and knew immediately that was the breed for her. Although raising and showing rabbits is just a hobby for Lorena, who works as a nutrition services director at a long term care and rehabilitation facility, she has experienced great success in both breeding and showing her Rhinelanders.

Most Rhinelanders are known for their white body with black and bright golden-orange spots, but in 2003, Lorena started developing a blue variety. The blue variety of Rhinelanders have white bodies with blue and fawn spots. The black and orange coloring of the original variety are genetically diluted, so the black color becomes blue, and the genetic color dilution of orange is fawn.

In 2005, Lorena took out a certificate of development and began the lengthy process of getting the blue variety of Rhinelander recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Lorena must pass three different presentations in five years. She passed her first presentation in Louisville, Ky. in 2008, presenting a senior pair of rabbits and a junior pair out of the senior pair. Lorena will have her second try at her second presentation in Minneapolis, Minn. in November with two rabbits from her first presentation and four additional animals. If she passes, Lorena will have her third and final presentation in Indianapolis, Ind. in 2011.

Lorena currently has about 90 Rhinelanders on her farm in Rough and Ready, located in the Sierra Foothills of California, half of which are the black variety and half blue.

Raising Rhinelanders:
One of Lorena's most exciting experiences with her rabbits was the 2004 American Rabbit Breeders Association National Convention in Providence, R.I. She flew into Boston, Mass. from California with her rabbits and then drove to Providence. Since it was the longest trip she had ever been on, Lorena was simply hoping the rabbits would still be in good condition. Not only were they OK, but they exceeded expectations and won three out of four classes along with Best of Breed and Best Opposite of Breed.

Although Lorena loves the competition of showing her rabbits, she also loves the camaraderie that exists between her and the other Rhinelander owners. With a rare breed and a small number of owners, they have created a close-knit group.

"I have made a network of friends that I sometimes see only once a year at the convention, but it's like no time has gone by," Lorena said.

A Mind Of Their Own:
Her favorite part about raising rabbits is the rabbits themselves. According to Lorena, Rhinelanders have great personalities and are the quirkiest, funniest rabbits.

"Everything is a game to them," she explained. "The other day I had a hammer on the running board, and one of the rabbits picked up the hammer and was dragging it down the table."

Lorena also enjoys the excitement of breeding. "You can breed them for spot placement, but until the babies are born you have no idea what they'll look like. Every time you get a litter it's exciting," she said. "You don't know when you're next winner is going to come."

Lorena keeps her award winning Rhinelanders on a strict diet of only Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Natural AdvantEdge® Show Food with no supplements.

"I like Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Feed because I'm confident that the nutritional content in each bag of Purina® Feed is consistent between the bags, and that the nutrition is scientifically formulated to be the best possible nutrition for my rabbits," Lorena said. "We don't need to feed any supplements to maintain show condition."

Lorena is both a Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Food customer and an official ambassador for Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Food since 2007. As a Purina Rabbit Ambassador, Lorena conducts research feeding trials, travels to rabbit shows, and is a local contact between rabbit enthusiasts and Purina.

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RABBIT TIPS | The 4-Square Philosophy for Success

Although rabbits are known for their ability to reproduce, it might not always be as easy as it seems. The following tips and problem-solving techniques will help breeding go as smooth as possible.

Once rabbits have mated, the doe will kindle (give birth) approximately one month later. A week before your rabbit's kindling date put a nestbox in the hutch. A nestbox can be made from wood, metal, or wire and provides a dry, warm place for the kindling and for the kits after.

Although litter size varies depending on breed, the average is about 6 to 10 kits per litter. Try not to touch the kits until they are at least seven days old to avoid altering the way they smell and risk causing the doe to stop feeding them. However, if you must, rub your hands on the mother before touching the kits.

If you're having difficulty breeding your rabbits, consider the following factors that may be affecting their ability to reproduce:

Females can usually be bred for the first time at five months, while males typically reach sexual maturity by six months. However, each breed is different and larger breeds are slower to reach sexual maturity.

One of the most common reasons rabbits have breeding problems is their weight. Being underweight can cause does to be physically incapable of breeding while being overweight will reduce fertility and can cause them to lose interest in accepting the buck. To increase your breeding potential, determine a target weight according to specific breed standards, and adjust the feed intake of your rabbit to maintain an ideal weight before breeding.

Keep your bucks in a cool area when trying to breed. Temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit can cause heat induced sterility.

The active breeding life of a rabbit ranges from four to six years. If females have more than five litters per year they will be productive for fewer years than a female that is bred less frequently. As for males, generally keep one buck per 10 to 20 does for an intensive breeding program, although bucks can be used more often during cooler weather.

To continue breeding throughout the year, give your rabbits 14 hours of constant light each day.

Be sure your rabbits have reached sexual maturity and are the proper weight and condition for their breed prior to mating.

Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Complete and Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Show Formula contain all the essential nutrients for reproduction and are formulated to support up to 5 litters per doe each year. Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Professional has added protein and nutrition to support up to 8 litters per doe each year.

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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®—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—supports 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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