Library:Conditioning

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Conditioning
Guidelines on Conditioning Rabbits...

Overview

Definition
ARBA Standard for the definition of Condition calls for “The overall physical condition of a rabbit in relation to health, cleanliness, fur and grooming.”
A well conditioned rabbit is trim, firm in flesh with just enough bloom (finish) to give it that smooth touch and appearance.
A show rabbit must contain the hereditary code to condition easily if you are going to be a winner on the show table. Good foundation stock will contain this trait.
You cannot condition a bad rabbit into a good one.
Water
You should be certain that the rabbit has a good clean constant supply of water at all times. An animal which is not getting adequate water will not eat properly, and will this never finish to the desirable degree in flesh condition.
Nutrition
A feed level appropriate to the breed of rabbit you are raising must be established. The worst thing you can do in conditioning a rabbit is overfeed. It is always easier to add a few ounces to the animal than it is to try to reduce him a few ounces. Fat and flabby animals will not carry the required flesh condition of a show rabbit, and you will find that the fur is harder to get in condition and hold on these over fat rabbits.
A fresh, good quality pellet and clean water are really the most important things you can give bunnies. Many breeders have success on the show table feeding just pellets and water.
Environment
Rabbits must also be protected form the extremes of heat and cold. The nearer to a constant environment you are able to provide, the easier your conditioning process will become. Being highly susceptible to drafts, rabbits should be kept in protected areas. The basic rule is that if you are uncomfortable with the weather, so is your rabbit. Extremes of weather are going to cause the rabbit to be constantly molting. To finish fur, you need to try to have as consistent environment as you can provide.
No supplements can beat a clean cage and the sanitary, well-ventilated environment that produces general health. Proper ventilation is essential to keeping healthy bunnies. A buildup of ammonia in the air will result in a suppressed immune system, making your rabbits vulnerable to snuffles and other illnesses.
The common rabbit diseases are related to sanitation. Your rabbit is most likely to stay healthy in a clean cage.
Excellent ventilation helps keep ammonia odors at a minimum. This is very important to overall rabbit health. Ammonia from rabbit waste can burn the lungs and precipitate snuffles. If you can smell the ammonia, it's too strong. If your rabbits have to continually heal their lungs, they will be less likely to achieve top conditioning.
Temperature and daylight also play a role in conditioning rabbits. A colder environment is better for fur condition than a warmer one. Although does produce best if they have 16+ hours of daylight in a day, show rabbits have better color quality if they receiving only about 8 hours of daylight. Light fades self colors such as black, blue, and chocolate most easily. One time I heard a judge talk about how his daughter got perfect chocolate color by keeping her rabbits in a closet. Of course then you have ventilation issues…
Cage size matters. Rabbits should have enough room to exercise for good flesh condition. Be careful not to overcrowd juniors; they grow into best condition if given individual cages by eight weeks.
You will find that an animal matures better and the coat of the rabbit finishes faster if they are separate from any litter mates by 10 weeks of age.
Supplements
You will probably find that you will want to supplement the rabbits diet with some additional goodies to stimulate both appetite and growth.
Oats and barley are renowned as good supplementary feeds for your rabbits, but remember that if you do feed supplements, cut back on the amount of pellets that the rabbit is getting.
The well-conditioned rabbit is neither too thin nor too fat or flabby. He has tight muscle tone and firm flesh.
There are lots of different “recipes” out there, but oatmeal, black oil sunflower seeds (the kind you feed birds), barley, and wheat germ are common ingredients.
You could certainly stop here and have healthy rabbits.

Schedule

For Meat Pens

Three Weeks Before Show
Handle and weigh rabbits daily. Judges can do their jobs easier when the pen of 3 sit still. And posing can be the determining factor when he/she is looking at two identical meatpens.
Monitor feed and weight gains for each rabbit on index cards. REMEMBER: Your goal if to get 3 rabbits weighing and looking alike by show day.
Feed a tablespoon of conditioning mix to each rabbit to enhance fur and condition. This is in addition to the regular pellet food.
Give rabbits a daily grooming by spraying hands lightly with water, stroke rabbit from head-to-tail to remove dead fur. Do one tail-to-head stroke for each 10 regular strokes.
Two Weeks Before Show
Fryers should weigh 4 pounds.
That way it's easier to work them up to 5 pounds in 2 weeks instead of holding them back for 2 weeks.
Holding feed back to control weight means the rabbit will lose flesh condition, hurting your show chances.


Once your rabbit has achieved prime condition and coat, cut back slightly on the amount of feed you give the rabbit, without starving the animal. This will maximize the length of time that he stays in condition and his coat stays prime.


Mixtures

The following formulas have been collected from breeders:-

Mixture #1
1 cup sunflower seeds with hulls
1 cup Doc’s Enhancer
1 cup crimped barley
1 cup wheat germ

Mix together with 1/3 to 2/3 cup 100% wheat germ oil. Store leftovers in the freezer.


Mixture #2
1 full scoop Steam-rolled oats
1 full scoop Steam-rolled barley
(1/2 scoop) Whole oat groats
(1/2 scoop) Flax seed
(1/3 scoop) Stabilized rice bran
(3/4 scoop) Stockbuilder pellets
(1-2 handfuls) Dried brewers yeast
Salt (to taste)
Canola oil

Add wet products to the feed just before feeding or only mix up enough for that day). This brew has ingredients that are high in fat content and should be used
for the junior and younger senior show animals to add flesh and improve coat condition.
It can also be used for the brood does that have had several litters and you want to add some body flesh.


Mixture #3
(1 full scoop) Steam-rolled oats
(1/2 scoop) Stockbuilder pellets

This brew has ingredients that are mainly for higher energy levels and less fat content and should be fed to the bucks and brood does to maintain flesh condition. There are other ingredients that can be used or substituted into the conditioning mixes such as wheat germ oil, linseed oil meal, sunflower seed, and cane molasses. In my opinion, wheat germ oil is too expensive for feeding to multiple numbers of rabbits for the benefits derived. We do use it occasionally though. I sometimes substitute linseed oil meal (linseed meal is a byproduct, processed from flax seed after the oil has been extracted) for the flax seed especially if the feeders have screens in the bottom. Calf Manna can be used instead of the Stock Builder pellets also.


Mixture #4
Morning 1/4 cup crimped oats/barley 50/50 conditioning mix with black sunflower seeds

Our conditioning mix contained 50% crimped oats + 50% crimped barley + 7-10 black sunflower seeds per ¼ cup. (start off feeding 1/4 cup for 4 bunnies then over 7 days work up to 1/4 cup each) 1 tablespoon Docs Rabbit Enhancer (1 tablespoon for 4 bunnies then over 7 days work up to 1 tablespoon each) 1 tablespoon Calf Manna (1 tablespoon for 4 bunnies then over 7 days work up to 1 tablespoon each)

Evening 3/4 to 1 cup rabbit food pellets

(start off feeding 2 cups for 4 bunnies then over 7 days work up to 3/4-1 cup each)


Mixture #5

Black oil sunflower seeds are one of the best supplements that you can add. Start slow so that the rabbits do not scour. Work up to about 10 per rabbit. (No more than this) In the winter you can add CRIMPED oats and barley with a little wheat germ oil. Usually you will add 3 part oats to 1 part barley. I add 1/2 cup wheat germ oil to a 5 gallon bucket of this mixture. If you are trying to push a litter you can add a 1/4 cup of molasses to this mixture. The molasses will make them drink more water which will get them to eat more feed. Feed 1/4 cup per rabbit.

1 tsp. of oats, barley, or hard wheat, without or without sunflower seeds (I no longer feed oats personally and have seen a dramatic decrease in enteritis)

3 drops of wheat germ or Linatone oil; Linatone is often used with cats and you may find it is the cat supply section of a discount or pet store; it is more expensive than wheat germ oil, but you may find it is worth it; either oil can extend a prime coat. Linatone contains linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that the body cannot synthesize. It’s needed in the diet for normal skin and a lustrous coat.

a commercially prepared conditioning supplement such as Doc’s Rabbit Enhancer, Show Bloom or Sunshine.

One last word about feeds and supplements: try to stay away from too much molasses. First, it can cause excessive cecal matter and possibly cause enteritis. Secondly, it promotes excessive fat, which should not be confused with condition.

Conditioning Ingredients

Ingredient Description
STEAM-ROLLED OATS Steam-rolled oats are whole oats that have been steamed and then rolled flat or crimped. In this form, the digestability is increased over whole oats. It is used as an energy feed with no added vitamins or minerals. Crude protein is not less than 11.00 % and crude fat is not less than 3.50 %.
STEAM-ROLLED BARLEY Steam-rolled barley is whole barley that has been steamed and then rolled flat or crimped. In this form, the digestability is increased over whole barley. It is used as an energy feed with no added vitamins or minerals. Crude protein is not less than 11.00-12.00% and crude fat is not less than 1.50%.
WHOLE OAT GROATS Whole oat groats are oats that have had the hulls removed and have been heat treated to stabilize enzymes which cause rancidity. Crude protein is not less than 12.00% and crude fat is not less than 5.50%.
FLAX SEED Flax is one of the oldest known cultivated plants. According to some archaeological data, flax was cultivated in Babylon around 5000 BC. Flax has been used since antiquity to maintain healthy animals. In cattle its reported uses included the correction of digestive disturbances in calves, easier calving and reduction of certain infectious diseases such as hoof-and-mouth. Horse owners have reported using it to produce glossy coats and to treat respiratory infections. It has also been added to the diets of pets to improve their appearance and improve their general health. Flax is rich in protein, fat and dietary fiber, each contributing to its overall value in the brew. Flax seed has traditionally been valued for its abundance of fat. Flax is low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fat. Flax seed contains essential vitamins and minerals. It is particularly rich in potassium, providing about seven times as much as banana on a dry weight basis. Flax seed provides minor amounts of magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. The fat soluble vitamin, tocopherol or vitamin E, is present in flax seed also. Flax seed is used for improved overall health, improved appearance, improved immune system, improved energy and relief from inflammatory and arthritic conditions.
STABILIZED RICE BRAN They call it bran . . . . but think of it as fat.

Rice kernels are covered with a thin skin and encased in a fibrous, inedible hull, much like almonds have an inedible shell and a skin enclosing the nut. In processing, the rice hulls are milled off and the thin skin scraped away in tiny flakes. These tiny, yellowish flakes have a very high fat content. They can be marketed as raw or processed rice bran. Left unprocessed, raw rice bran falls below human/animal food grade standards for rancidity within about 8 hours. When the raw rice bran is processed into feeds, preservatives added at that point stabilize whatever nutrients remain. Stabilized rice bran is preserved by pressing it through dies. This extrusion process stabilizes the bran and gives it a shelf like of approximately a year. Fur and skin all benefit from the added fat and vitamin E in rice bran. Crude protein is not less than 12.50% and crude fat is not less than 14.00-23.00%.

STOCKBUILDER PELLETS Conditioner, vitamin and mineral supplement pellet that promotes a healthy coat and skin condition. It provides nutrients necessary for a healthy appetite and efficient feed utilization. It also promotes muscle development. The basic ingredients of these pellets are soybean meal, wheat bran, ground corn, ground barley, whole dried whey, wheat flour, brewers yeast, sun cured alfalfa meal, calcium carbonate, linseed meal, salt, hydrolyzed vegetable oil, cane molasses and almost every known mineral and vitamin known to man. Crude protein is not less than 25.00% and crude fat is not less than 3.00%.
DRIED BREWERS YEAST Dried brewers yeast is used for muscle development, excellent skin condition, hair growth and coat quality. Yeast also assists in improved digestive efficiency. It's nutrients feed and nourish the digestive organisms that do the work of converting feed to nutrician for the animal.
CANOLA OIL Canola is Canada's major oilseed crop. It is grown for food consumption around the world in such far reaching places as Asia, India, Australia, Europe ad the U.S. It is the cheapest cooking oil on the market today. It is used to fry potatoes in fast food restaurants. Canola oil contains the lowest amount of total saturated fat of commonly consumed vegetable oils and is second only to olive oil in the levels of the important monounsaturated fat, foleic acid. Canola oil is also a rich source of vitamin E. The shelf life of canola oil when stored at room temperature is roughly one year. Canola oil provides a convenient, palatable, concentrated energy source for the rabbits diets. It helps to promote good skin and coat condition.

Commercial Supplements

The following comments are by the respective manufacturer:-

Heinold Doc's Rabbit Enhancer

Any domestic rabbit owner can benefit from using Doc's Rabbit Enhancer with your rabbit's daily pelleted ration. Doc's Rabbit Enhancer can stimulate your rabbit's appetite, improve good health, provide firm flesh and enhanced fur development, and reduce odor.

Showbloom for Rabbits

ShowBloom for Rabbits contains yucca and papaya to help control odor, improve digestion and enhance appetite. The formula increases feed utilization, muscle development and flesh firmness. Plus, your rabbits will have outstanding wool, fur growth and quality with richer coloration and excellent finish.

Oxy-Gen CircQlate Immunize for Rabbits and Cavies

Works great across your whole herd! For young and old Oxy-Gen will help your breeding program and help you start to BUILD your Champions from the beginning and maintain them to the end.

Winner's Edge

The proper health and nutrition of your animals is a "must" to compete in livestock production today. Winners Edge® has formulated and blended the premium ratio of Chelated Minerals and vitamins (including the "B" Complex), amino acids, buffer, microbials (Kicker Probiotic) and enzymes that are required by the different species of livestock. There is no guesswork to our formulas and each uses a natural buffer as the base for our products.

Vitastress

Vita Stress is a complete supplement of 100% natural ingredients. Produced as a hard pellet, it is the most palatable supplement for rabbits on the market today. This new formula is designed to aid in show coats, increased conception rates, pregnancy, lactation, and faster rates for kits.




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