Firstly, this is a busy time of year on the farm. Fall is breeding season for many of our animals, including rabbits, and is also the growing season for various pasture grasses. The amazing benefits of using rabbit manure as fertilizer are widely known. We manually spread manure in our gardens and on some grazing areas while using the rabbits themselves on others.
The picture to the left shows one of our Altex breeding does in her fall housing. Her hutch has been brought out from under the covered summer shelter and is now under a shade tree in a pasture that is resting. Her manure is free to fall onto the ground and decompose. This particular pasture had been summer grazing for goats which were then followed by the cow and the horse. It most recently housed our turkeys in their portable tractor. In their never ending quest for delicious bugs, they spread the large manure piles into thinner sheets, allowing for quicker breakdown, while leaving behind some of their own nitrogen-rich fertilizer along the way. They have now moved on to a new area and it is the rabbits turn to contribute their manure to the mix. This is sustainable, purely organic fertilizing at its very best.
These hutches are kept off the ground and are suspended on portable blocks. (The rabbits are still unable to live directly on the soil as the frosts have yet to kill off the parasites.) This type of elevated system allows for easy movement and efficient manure dispersement while giving the rabbits a safe place to call home. They are continually supplemented with fall greens and veggies from our gardens. As you can see from the expression on the face of the pictured doe, she is quite content in her new home and is enjoying her breakfast of freshly picked cabbage leaves.
We differ from this methodology in that we firmly believe careful breeding is just as important as overall care. We have chosen five separate breeds to use in our program. By crossing these lines, our gene pool stays well diversified, fewer losses are incurred and we have little need to bring in breeding stock from other locations. This one aspect alone helps avoid the spread of diseases that are easily transmitted through transportation.
Here is a brief overview of the breeds we currently use:
Tennessee Redback: This breed is often used in the training of dogs and for re-stocking of hunting grounds. They are brown bodied and have a white tail with a slight, reddish tint running down their back. They resemble a wild rabbit in appearance, are extremely hardy and are prolific producers. The average weight is about 8-9 lbs.
A little more background on two breeds used in developing the Altex:
The Flemish Giant's average weight is 15 lbs. Their feed conversion rate is rather poor as they require a large amount of food and tend to be bonier in structure. Their large size makes housing a challenge as they require larger hutches than other breeds.
The Champagne D'Argent is a superb meat rabbit, dressing out better than most because of its extremely fine bone. The name means 'French Silver' and kits are born jet black but soon begin to turn silver with only the muzzle retaining the black coloration upon maturity. The ideal weight is 10-10.5 lbs.
We at Walk Ahead Farms take great pride in the care and management of all the animals that call our farm home. We strive to provide our customers with the highest quality meats from healthy, happy animals. All are pasture raised, never vaccinated, non-medicated and humanely treated and processed. We believe in complete producer transparency and always welcome questions.
Thanks for helping us as we continue on our journey of 'Growing All Things Beautiful'.