Kc Simmons wrote:Being in the hobby for a couple of decades, and serving on the board for the East Texas RBA; I get asked this question often. Here is my typical response. Hopefully it'll be helpful
The Californians & New Zealands are generally going to be the most reliable for, both, meat production and heat tolerance. They also have the best feed to growth ratio of the commercial breeds. Personally, I've found the TAMUKs to be quite overrated, as have others I've spoken to about them. They are basically a landrace, composed of many breeds, that was developed to thrive in the Kingsville, TX environment, which may not have the same environmental conditions or microclimate as other locations where people attempt to raise them. Also, unless you buy them directly from the college, there's no guarantee that the line hasn't been altered (for better or worse) by someone adding new stock in a breeding program at some point.
When someone wants to start a successful breeding program, it's usually best to develop your own line of stock which is especially suited for your specific environment. I generally recommend starting with a trio (1 buck, 2 does), preferably from a breeder with an established line from somewhere with a similar environment. From there, the "key" to getting your line going is to start inbreeding/ linebreeding heavily. This is where a lot of breeders fail, as they associate the term "inbreeding" with negative images of mutated animals running around with 2 heads, or something, which definitely not the case with rabbits. (Instead of going into detail here, I'll try to make a new post, later, about the benefits of line/inbreeding & how it emulates nature).
Basically, you breed the buck to both does & only keep the most vigorous offspring, then breed them to the original trio and each other. Then just repeat, culling the undesirable traits & selecting for the desired traits from each litter and breeding them to the relatives who compliment them best. As you see improvement in each generation, you remove the older stock from the program, replacing them with the offspring which are better adapted to your rabbitry microclimate (like heat/cold, humidity, etc.). After 4-5 generations of close line/inbreeding you'll start seeing much more consistency in your litters, as many of the hidden undesirable genetics have been culled out, and the line is mostly homozygous for the desired genetics. That's when you do a thorough evaluation of the line and identify the biggest area of need in the herd, and bring in something new/unrelated which is strong in that area and introduce those genetics to the line. Then its just a matter of repeating the linebreeding process for another 4-5 generations to remove any unwanted genetics introduced by the new animal(s) and spreading the desired traits across the herd; followed by the evaluation to determine where the most improvement is needed and finding something new to introduce the desired trait. After a few years of repeating this process, you should have an established line which is homozygous & adapted to your local conditions. From there, as long as you consistently cull anything weak from the herd, you should be able to linebreed indefinitely without having to introduce anything new, which is exactly the way mother nature does it.
If you haven't joined the ARBA (https://www.arba.net) I highly recommend it. Members receive a copy of the ARBA guidebook, which is like the bible of rabbit breeding, as well as a subscription to the bimonthly magazine that has lots of great articles (plus new rabbit recipes in each issue).
Sorry for the long post but hopefully it will be of help as you get your program going.
Burl Smith wrote:Hoping for red flowers I bought red tubers from ebay but dissapointingly had yellow flowers but I'm well satisfied with the size and shape of the resulting tubers. I expect they'll provide a lot of green manure as I cut them back from encroaching on the garden beds.