So you finally made that decision to start raising meat rabbits, you have compiled a massive amount of information and research and collected all of your supplies. After looking at every possibility you have finally decided on a specific meat breed. So you call up a few breeders with anticipation eager to purchase your first rabbits, but no one has the specific color you want. Disappointed you hang up the phone not actually sure what to do next.
Let's step back a minute and take a close look at why you are really wanting to raise rabbits. If you are like most people who have begun to raise their own meat rabbits, then your primary reason for doing so is to supply a clean, safe, healthy and inexpensive meat source for your family. Any of the more common meat breeds (Americans, New Zealand's, and Californian's) will do this, and when dressed out on the table you cannot tell a Black New Zealand (NZB) from a New Zealand Agouti (NZA) or a New Zealand Gold or Cinnamon Tipped Steele .
My point is that for meat breeding, the color of the rabbit has no bearing on the yield and or flavor of the meat. Despite whether the rabbit is an American Rabbit Breeder's Association (ARBA) approved color or not, a pure bred New Zealand, Californian, or American rabbit's are all the same once butchered and dressed out. That is to say, the meat of each specific breed is the same, only the fur color is different.
The bottom line is, color does not matter. So many customers call us here at TAP rabbitry looking specifically for New Zealand White's (NZW) or New Zealand Red's (NZR) because they are the most common colors of the breed. They are sometimes disappointed, when I tell them we are out of a specific color, or when I do not know of a breeder that has what they are looking for. Unfortunately, they over look, the Steele Tips, Agouti's, Charlie's and Brokens (although some people are specifically looking for Charlie's and Broken's) simply because they have not been educated about the other colors of the breed.
Tips For Purchasing Your First Rabbits
1. Check out the standards for the specific breed for which you are interested. There is a ton of information on the internet and in books regarding breed standards. We have two articles on breed standards here on our blog for both The American Blue Meat Rabbit, and New Zealand Meat Rabbits. Purchasing a good quality rabbit, regardless of fur color should be your primary purpose.
2. Do not let price point be your only deciding factor, a $10 - $15 rabbit is well a $10 - $15 rabbit. There is a old computer programming axiom “garbage in is garbage out”. Ten dollar rabbits are usually of inferior quality, having weak hips, backs, and are generally of poor health. Having said that you should not pay out a fortune for a quality rabbit either. While prices vary, a good quality meat rabbit (buck or doe) should cost you about $35 - $50 depending on which part of the country you live in and whether or not your breeder provides you with a pedigree.
3. Do not let not having a pedigree be your deciding factor. In this instance, refer to tip No. 1. Having a pedigree does not insure that you are getting a quality rabbit, it simply means the rabbit came from a quality or verified bloodline. Despite their bloodline, even good rabbits can produce less desirable kits. Some breeders sell these kits at a discounted price, but remember “garbage in is garbage out”. Having said that, a good quality show rabbit that is being sold with quality body proportions but has a stay hair or slight discoloration that would disqualify it from being shown can be a great to addition to your herd. So again, when in doubt, refer back to rule No. 1.
4. Check out your breeder. Look to social media and see what other people who bought rabbits from the breeder have to say about their livestock and their experience dealing with the breeder. A quick look at Facebook or Google+ will defeinatley help you gauge the quality of the breeder and their rabbits simply by looking at what people have to say about them.
As a breeder, I can tell you color should not be your primary deciding point when choosing a rabbit for meat breeding. By all means purchase what you want, but do not overlook a quality animal to add to your herd based solely on fur color. A healthy rabbit with good breed characteristics (meets the standards) will produce higher quality meat than a rabbit of lesser quality. Do not let your desire to start producing your own meat be curtailed for 6 to 8 months because you cannot find a specific breed color. You can always add color into your herd at a later date.
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