Sunday, June 26, 2011

Percent Protein and Hay

Question: Another question on hay... I am unhappy with the level of protein in the local pellet feed. Not a single kind is 18% and the %17 percent cost almost twice what 16% does. Typically I mix a 12% with the 16%. I have heard that American rabbits do very well on closer to 18%. I wanted to supplement their pellets with alfalfa hay. Is this OK or would that be too much protein? I only feed them a little alfalfa currently. But they really like the alfalfa.

Response: American breed rabbits should do well on 16% feed. There should not be a need to have special feed formulas to grow them into proper weight range.

Americans were developed to be meat and fur rabbits. Selective breeding will give you rabbits that thrive on 16% feed.

The commercial rabbitries typically feed 16% feed to bucks and non-nursing does. Nursing does and growing meat pens get 18% feed.

One commercial breeder said that as he pushes his feed cart down the aisle he would look for the nest boxes and if there was a litter they get 18% feed. Everybody else gets 16%.

Because 16% feed usually costs less than 18% feed. So 18% feed is reserved for nursing does with litters and for growing out meat rabbits.

I fed a lot of 16% feed (Purina Complete green bag) to my Americans. Later I would mix 18% feed (Purina Professional grey bag) and 16% feed to make an average 17% feed. That was because of our mixed herd of four to ten different breeds at any one time. That seemed to cover the higher protein need of litters and big rabbits like French Lops and Angora rabbits while not overwhelming the little Holland Lops, Netherland Dwarf and Polish. I could feed them all from one barrel and it worked!

Sometimes we would feed 16% Purina Show blue bag because of the extracts and oils they added but mixed with the 18% feed or mixed with the 16% Complete green bag to cut the costs down.

Those changes were to accommodate some of our other showbunny breeds, not to affect the Amerians.

For basic feed a breeder can use 16% feed. When our budget would get tight we would use all 16% feed and use oats for supplement. For nursing litters supplement with a tablespoon of Calf Manna or Animax each day. I used crocks to feed so it was easy to put the supplement on top of the pellets.

I want to breed rabbits that thrive on 16% feed with some supplement for does with litters. Some people say that meat pens should grow on 16%. Maybe with some oats or corn/oat/barley/molasses (COB).

Having said that, for individuals who are not quite reaching show weight, I found that Barbie Brown's conditioning mix supplement is very good for filling out the body.

As we grew and selected our rabbits for body type and size, there was less need for the conditioning mix.

As for hay, we used oat hay or grass hay because it has a good fiber content and is cheaper than alfalfa. Rabbits get plenty of alfalfa in the pellets. As rule of thumb, good horse hay is good rabbit hay. So we would buy hay from feed stores that cater to horse people.

Rabbits can adapt to alfalfa hay if they have to. If alfalfa hay is low cost in my area I would use it. I would like to have rabbits that thrive on feed that available locally and would feed it consistently.

We would also use the hay to stuff nest boxes. It gives the kits something to nibble on and I only had to store one bale of hay instead of a bale of hay and a bale of straw in my small rabbitry.

Just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
Have a good day!

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