Tom Barker is no stranger to the world of rabbits. He's been raising and showing them for nearly 45 years. While some owners try out a variety of different breeds before finding the right one, Tom has stood by his Flemish Giants since day one.
Tom Barker: Hardware To Prove It
Tom first got involved with rabbits in the late 1960s, after a persistent friend urged him to attend some competitions.
"My friend just kept on me, so finally I went to his show, and it turns out I really enjoyed it," Tom said.
Tom's been hooked ever since and got his entire family involved to share his passion.
The Show Goes On
Now, it's just him and his wife, Bobbie, that are involved with rabbits since their children are all grown and in their 40s – Rhonda, 48, Bubba, 47, and Sabra, 44.
Currently, Tom and Bobbie raise 16 Flemish Giants and show around five to eight at a time before they reach production age. Then, they use the older rabbits for breeding a younger generation to continue showing.
Tom and Bobbie enjoy showing at many local shows, a few out of state shows and the national conventions and breed shows.
With all of Tom's years showing rabbits, he has the hardware to prove his expertise. In 1985, he won Best of Breed at the American Rabbit Breeders Association National Convention. He also won Best of Show at the ARBA state show in 2011, along with Best in Show at the State Fair of Texas and Rabbit Club of North Texas Show.
2012 has proved to be Tom's best year so far. He's won six Best of Breeds at the Fort Worth Livestock Show, Texas All Flemish Show, and the State Fair of Texas.
Tom's knowledge and experience in the rabbit world prove he's one to watch out for in the arena. For the past 26 years, Tom has been the Superintendent of the Southwest Exposition and Livestock Show. He has been the President of Southwest Breeders Association for the past 10 years and previously served as the Superintendent of the State Fair of Texas for six years. He also sits on the Board of Directors of the Texas Rabbit Association and previously served as the president, vice president and director for 12 years for the Texas Rabbit Association.
In 1994, Bobbie and Tom were selected as the Texas Rabbit Breeders Association Breeders of the Year.
Tom is a life member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association, National Federation of Flemish Giant Rabbit Breeders, Texas Rabbit Breeders and the Southwest Rabbit Breeders Association.
As a Purina Rabbit Ambassador since 2004, Tom holds seminars for 4-H and FFA clubs in the Fort Worth, TX area. And as Tom would say, he "feeds the feed," meaning he spreads the word about Purina products and encourages people to try them.
"I want to work as closely as I can with the kids in these clubs," Tom said. "Watching them succeed with rabbits is great because I know I did something right."
Though Tom has won many awards and has held many positions, he believes that the best part of raising and showing rabbits is the experience that comes along with it.
"My favorite thing about raising rabbits is meeting people from all walks of life," Tom said. "I also use it as an excuse to travel and see the country. It's just a lot of fun."
Tom's favorite experience was when he, Bobbie, and two other couples attended the Houston Livestock Show in 1989. Among the three couples, they brought seven different breeds. They also won seven Best of Breeds, seven Best Opposite Sex, Best 4-Class, Best 6-Class and Best in Show.
"We took seven breeds to that show and won all seven Best of Breeds," Tom said. "It was such an enjoyable trip, not just because of the winning, but because we enjoyed it with our friends."
Tom feeds his rabbits the Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Professional Blend because of its benefits for his animals.
"My animals seem to do the best on the Rabbit Chow™ Professional Blend," Tom said.
Currently, Tom is semi-retired but does some handy-work replacing windows every now and then. He says his true passion is with rabbits and always looks forward to the next competition.
"Now because I'm semi-retired, I can just focus on my bunnies. It's always been a hobby and it always will," Tom said.
Ambassadors of Purina Mills, LLC are compensated in connection with their participation in the Purina® Rabbit Ambassador program.
The warm summer months are finally here, and keeping your rabbit cool is more important than ever. The warm weather can be tough on animals, sometimes causing them to overheat, which can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke or even death. Following these tips will help them enjoy the summer months as much as you do.
Beating the Heat
Fresh, Cool Air:
Proper ventilation is important for rabbits throughout the year, but that can be a little more difficult to maintain in the warm summer months. Replace stale air with natural ventilation or, if needed, use a fan. Buildings without windows, such as garages, are generally poor homes for rabbits, especially in the summer.
Provide cool, clean, fresh water at least twice a day during the summer. Though it may seem like a frozen water bottle would help keep water cold, they're not worth the trouble and cause extremes in temperatures. It may also mean that the water is not available (still frozen) when the rabbit is wanting to drink.
Feeding smaller amounts of feed multiple times during the day will reduce the amount of heat generated during the digestive process. This process will also help to condition your show rabbits coming out of the summer in preparation for the fall show season.
Does and their new litters born during the summer are extra vulnerable to heat exhaustion. To keep them comfortable in the heat, remove excess hair from the nest, use larger nest boxes with wire floors, and consider removing the nest box when the kits are 14 days old and moving them to nursery boxes to provide a cooler, more open environment.
Purina® Rabbit Chow™ Garden Recipe® Natural AdvantEdge® rabbit food is not only fun for your rabbit to eat, but it also provides the wholesome blend of pellets, nutritious vegetables, fruits, and seeds it needs to stay healthy. Its special formula is great for all breeds and ages of rabbits.
Get to Know Purina® Rabbit Chow™
Garden Recipe® Natural AdvantEdge®
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.
- The Natural AdvantagEdge® Formula—superior, consistent, natural* nutrition FREE from all fillers, preservatives and artificial colors.
- Complete, natural nutrition—requires no supplements.
- Variety of textures—dehydrated carrots, dehydrated papaya, oats, black oil sunflower and dehydrated celery for healthy teeth and enrichment.
- High-quality plant protein—loaded with natural nutrients found only in plants that optimize vitality and support immune function.
- Chopped timothy hay—for optimal digestive tract function.
- Stringent quality standards—ensure many of the industry's highest quality ingredients are used.
- Constant nutrition formulation process—compensates for naturally varying nutrient levels in ingredients for greater nutritional consistency bag after bag.
- Total rabbit nutrition formulation system—considers all key nutrient levels in ingredients and their interactions with each other to better support overall rabbit health.
*with added vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients