RABBIT FEEDING SYSTEM
Our topic for today is the rabbit feeding system. This topic is crucial and critical in rabbitry because many farmers have ignorantly used the feed to kill their young rabbits. Out of ignorance, some farmers turned a promising breeding stock of rabbits to meat rabbits through overfeeding without caution, which led to obesity and infertility.
There are two basic feeding systems for rabbits. They are the Ad Libitum (Free Choice Feeding) and Limit Feeding System. In the Limit Feeding system, a controlled quantity or limited amount of feed is given to rabbits daily. In the Free Choice Feeding System, feed is given to rabbits without any limit, that is, they are given feed without measurement and above what they can finish in a day.
Each feeding system has its advocates, purpose, and when to use it. Free Choice Feeding is less labor-intensive than Limit Feeding System. It is widely used for Does with litters and growers above two months of age. Advocates of Limit Feeding System assert that this system forces rabbit farmers to visually observe each cage every day so that they are more likely to notice a rabbit that is not eating well or other signs of illness. Farmers need to be very careful with Limit Feeding in order not to restrict feed intake to the extent that weight gains are severely affected.
When a rabbit is newly weaned, rabbit farmers should limit the number of feeds to recently weaned rabbits in order not to overload them with concentrated feeds. The digestive system of the newly weaned rabbit is susceptible and not strong for too much-concentrated feeds. Some farmers ignorantly kill their weaners by overfeeding. It is even better for them to go hungry than to be overfed. The digestive system of weaners is very soft and too sensitive when they are still less than 2months old, most notably when they are below 6weeks of age. This is the reason we don't sell weaners of below 6weeks out of Bella farm in recent times. I don't advise farmers to buy weaners of below 6weeks of age. In most cases, they die because of the weak digestive system through feeding, except if the farmer is highly experienced in managing weaners.
Kits may be fed with unlimited feeds while they are still with their mother because breast milk prevents kits from many adverse effects. After all, breast milk boosts their immune system and very medicinal. It is advisable to wean kits at 5-6weeks of age, but the mother may be crossed at 3weeks after birth. This means that the kits will still be with the pregnant mother. It is at the discretion of the mother to determine if the kits should still be breastfed or not. The milk secretion might have reduced at this stage, although the kits may or may not be disturbing the mother.
The quantities of feeds to be fed to rabbits of different ages and conditions depend majorly on the feed in question. A feed may be of the same quantity, but the energy and protein level may not be the same. Similarly, a feed with a lower quantity may be of higher weight than a feed with high volume but lower weight. For general knowledge, it may be wrong of me to give a specific quantity of feeds to be fed to rabbits of different ages and conditions because of varieties of feeds in use by different farmers. For this post, I will talk on how we feed our rabbits in Bella Rabbits World, which other users of Bella Feeds can emulate or modify as they deem it fit.
In Bella Rabbits World, we use a concrete feeder that can contain feeds for the whole day. So we practice Ad libitum (Free Choice Feeding) for our breeders and growers by filling the feeder up with two and a half full peak milk tin cups for the whole day. If a rabbit is weaned at 25-30days in a case of Back to Back remating (same day rebreeding) or as a result of sickness or death of the mother, we give one tin cup of mash feeds to 2 weaners for the whole day till they are 6weeks old. If the kit is weaned at 6weeks, the intestine is a bit firmer, and we give one tin cup per weaner till they are 2month. The 2weeks period or till we observe that they finish the feed before evening and check that the Tommy is not protruding or overloaded with feeds, if it is in good order, we can increase it. If the condition is very okay at 2months of age, we feed them as we like to get an impressive growth rate. So from the point of weaning till they are 6weeks old or 1kg of weight, we limit their feed intake. Worst case scenario, we may feed a small quantity of feed in the morning and another small quantity in the evening after ensuring that the 1st meal is well digested. This is done because the weaner is at the transition stage from breast milk to 100% concentrated feeds. On the part of matured rabbits either Buck or Doe, if we observe that a rabbit is getting close to or over 4kg in weight, we reduce the daily feed consumption to half of the daily ration to avoid obesity, infertility and health issue. A fat rabbit is not the best for breeding purposes. We are not saying that rabbit with over 4kg weight is not suitable for breeding purpose, but we prefer our breeding stock to be below 4kg in weight for optimal performance.
With excellent rabbit feeds and good observation on weaners, a farmer can comfortably groom weaners large numbers just like how we do in Bella Rabbits World. However, if a farmer doesn't have a suitable feed, I can never encourage such farmers to buy weaners for grooming because you will be disappointed at the rate of mortality. Once a weaner shows signs of being down, there is nothing or less a farmer can do to revive it. Prevention is better than cure in the rabbitry.
Some farmers may be wondering why Bella Schemes emphasize 1kg weaners; in most cases, a 1kg weaner has a more robust digestive system, and you can feed them as you like with a well-formulated feed without any issue. If a feed is not well formulated, a 5kg rabbit may even die if you overfeed it.
I could remember a few weeks ago when Master some of our customers supplied us 64 weaners and some feeders in Bella Rabbits World, they were watching how my Farm Manager was loading the newly supplied weaners' feeders with feeds and drinkers with a multivitamin and anti cocci drugs. He was doing so confidently bcos of his experience:
1. He knew that those weaners had rested before feeding them.
2. They were not younger than 6weeks, and they were not less than 1kg.
3. He knew the quality of Bella feeds.
4. He also relied on the addition of multivitamin and anti cocci drugs in water to speed up digestion and prevent cocci.
Rabbitry requires knowledge, experience, and mentorship.