Lately, for a variety of reasons raising rabbits has not been very fun. I even advertised a herd dispersal sale. But wait! I originally started raising rabbits as a way to recapture those peaceful and fun moments I had with Pete, a rabbit my dad gave me for Easter when I was six years old. He was red and I used to laugh at his antics when he ran free in the backyard. I would call his name, and he would come running and jump into his pen. He was my best buddy. But now the fun has been consumed with combating the pasteurella virus, cleaning cages, and record keeping.
I have decided I either need to sell all the rabbits or find a way to rediscover the original fun. My plan:
First, I heard a sporadic sneeze. Then I saw the dreaded snot on the nose. Simple cold or worse? Summer temperatures soared above 100 degrees outside, yet with air conditioning roaring, the inside rabbitry temperature hovered around 80 degrees in the daytime. I asked many “experts” for advice and most agreed it was probably pasteurella. Two culls were taken to the UC Davis lab and the presence of pasteurella was confirmed. Now what should a good rabbit breeder do?
Another breeder recommended having a vaccine made by a private lab, located by UC Davis. The lab personnel were very helpful and I received my vaccine through the mail. I culled all sick animals and we vaccinated the remaining members of our herd. With a heavy heart, I sacrificed many of our big bodied does. For some reason only the does became sick. Many expressed the opinion that the does had a lower immune system because of the stress of being pregnant during the summer heat.
The road back to the West Coast Classic in 2019 was long and hard. I actually took out an ad this summer to disperse the remainder of our herd. But rabbits have been in my life since second grade, and I just couldn’t say goodbye. But how could we recover the genetics that we lost? We only had a few junior does, and we were down to our last two bucks. Bradford won first place NZ red junior buck at WCC three years ago, but is now aging and we did not know if he could still produce winning genetics. We also had a junior broken buck, whose dad won third place in NZ broken senior bucks class at the ARBA national in San Diego. Could we, should we rebuild?
Luckily, once again Manuel Hidalgo was willing to sell us a breeding pair of reds. We would try to develop an Hidalgo and a Bradford line so we could produce breeding pairs. Fall breedings did not prove fruitful, and it wasn’t until December that we finally produced a new litter after a two year drought. One litter from each line would be all we had for Reno. And all were bucks, no does! Our junior bucks would be only 12 weeks old at Reno, but we were determined to go and show. One week before WCC and my daughter and I vaccinated our junior bucks. Big mistake! The judge quickly felt that pea sized reaction to the vaccination and all of our juniors were disqualified. Reno and the West Coast Classic were over! Bummer! But even with disqualifications, we still had a blast in Reno. Thank you to all who make this show possible.
So why write about our trials and tribulations with breeding rabbits? I should just move on. But I know there are other breeders who have confronted the same problems and tried to solve their problems with the same combination of ¨expert advice,¨ ¨trial and error,¨ and "thatś what we did.¨ I often asked, ¨where is the science?¨ At this yearś WCC, a judge was very patient and took the time to explain that there is a diversity of opinions on the effectiveness of pasteurella vaccines. Another judge said the pea sized reaction is unavoidable and culling sick animals improves the herd genetics.
So my question is this: why doesn't the ARBA website include links to the science of raising rabbits? Why not publish the findings of the ARBA health committee? I know there are articles in the ARBA magazine and AFNZRBA newsletter, but why not have a comprehensive site pertaining to the science of the rabbit industry where breeders can go to find answers to all their questions regarding rabbits.
The Dodgers are beating the Cubs 4-2 in a spring training game, and I’m writing a blog for our Mission Hills Farm website for the first time in a couple of years. Like Dodgers’ pitcher Julio Urias and shortstop and Cory Seager, we have been out of action for awhile and it feels good to get back into the swing of things. With my daughter Micaela’s help, we updated the "Breeding Barn" and "For Sale" pages. Unfortunately, our "For Sale" page looks like holdover from an old Saturday Night Live skit with Mr. Bill, whose animation had to be manipulated by a pair of hands. Our little junior bucks were not interested in posing for the camera, so an off screen hand had to hold them in place. Even though they were camera shy, our bucks are looking nice and will help us make a return to rabbit shows for the first time in a couple of years.
We are anxious to travel through the Sierra snow and revisit Reno and the West Coast Classic. I am always amazed at how a huge convention center room can be turned in to a small city devoted to the rabbit industry. Thank you to all who work so hard to make this show possible. We couldn’t get the rabbits breeding after the hot San Joaquin summer until almost November, consequently, our show string for the AFNZRBA National will only be about twelve weeks old in April, but this is a start. The does are bred; one litter is in the nest box; and two litters are busy growing.
I thought of having a dispersal sale because the rabbits are so much work, but my my wife was right: I’d be lost in retirement without having my rabbits. So I need to dust off the nest boxes, update the website, and get back in the saddle. After the West Coast Classic, it will be on to the ARBA National in October. Then in January, we will return to the Kern County Rabbit Breeders Show at the Kern County Fairgrounds. Next year will be my 36th and last year of teaching high school English; I hope to enter more rabbit shows during retirement.
Come on Dodgers! Now it's tied 4-4.