On Sunday, we made the 2+ hour journey to Winchester to pick up two new does. Yes, that’s over 4 hours round trip for a couple of rabbits, which is as crazy as it sounds. It seems that other rabbit breeders in our area had the same heat-related issues that we did, meaning no one was selling any does and instead would reply to Will asking if he could let them know if he found a source.
This, folks, is the hardest part about raising livestock beyond poultry. If I want to grow watermelons, I go to the seed catalog. If I need a new rooster or more ducks, I go to the poultry catalog. If I need a different ram to breed with my ewes or a new rabbit, all I can do is ask around or hope that someone is as oversharing as I am and has a website about their farm. Because there is no such thing as a directory for small farmers. Sure, if you breed pedigreed livestock, many breeds have their own national associations, but then you are paying show animal prices for what will ultimately become dinner. Obviously, when farming was a more communal affair, you just knew which neighbors raised what, but now it’s not so easy. I can only assume this is something other small farmers and homesteaders struggle with, but if not please let me know what you do to better plug in to your local farming scene. In the meanwhile, I’m booking our fall calendar full of trips to county fairs where the 4H kids will show their wares and we can start a mini directory of folks we could call about Border Cheviot sheep, Tamworth pigs, and now both New Zealand and California rabbits.
Yes, we’ve strayed from the New Zealands, not because we weren’t happy with the breed (we were), but because we just couldn’t find anyone in our area breeding them. So the whole family hopped (ha) in the car to pick up two California does, and while we were there we also bought a California buck who we’ll breed to one or two of the does from the current litter of 12 week old New Zealands. Here’s what I’m contemplating at the moment:
Yes, I am an Excel junkie, and yes, I did spend some time googling for breeding templates and then contemplated building my own when I came to my senses and hacked together that little graphic to depict all ouf our breeding options. We’ll definitely mate our proven NZ buck to the two new CA does, and the new CA buck to two of our younger NZ does. The question is, do we keep an NZ buck from the current litter to breed with the CA does (the orange lines)? I’m leaning towards no, as it’s just another rabbit to feed, and the genetic relationship really won’t improve much by throwing him into the mix. Adding a bit more complexity, the farmer set the older CA doe to her CA buck for us (he wasn’t for sale), so she should be pregnant, and as those bunnies will be siblings to the younger CA doe and buck we bought, we could mate some of them to our NZs. And now my head hurts.
The California rabbits are a bit bigger than the New Zealands (that, or what we though were New Zealands were really Florida rabbits). They are also white, but they have a dark brown, almost charcoal patch above their noses and the same coloring on their ears. Also, they can be gray at birth. They also have the red demon eyes, which puts a serious damper on the cute factor, but definitely helps come processing time.
For now, the two does are sharing the cage previously occupied by our deceased doe, and the young buck is in with the rest of the NZ litter. We tried bunking him with our NZ buck, but he didn’t seem to appreciate the dry hump welcome, so we’ll be building or buying him a new cage soon.