The 2016 ARBA National Convention is coming up in just five weeks! Eek!
We are busy getting our rabbits evaluated for show and sale, handling them daily, and experimenting with a new conditioning mix this year in preparation for the national show. After a long summer of watching rabbits grow we are having fun getting our hands busy with them again!
One of the exciting aspects of the national convention for a rabbit breeder is the opportunity to purchase new animals that will (hopefully) push your rabbitry to a higher level in the next year. However, this can be a really overwhelming adventure for many, so here are a few thoughts based on our own experience:
Don’t be Penny-wise and Pound-Foolish. Many times people are searching the for sale posts, looking specifically for the cheapest rabbit. I absolutely understand that you have a budget and need to stick to it – but also be aware that in choosing to save the $10 from one rabbit to another you might be losing out on a body type or genetic strengthening that will end up costing far more than that $10 in the long run. Truthfully, you get what you pay for in most cases. If you want to be competitive, find out who the most competitive breeders are in your breed and seek them out. The price tag will likely be higher – and it’s still worth it because you will see the impact in your upcoming litters.
Do your Research. When deciding where to buy, research. Check the Breed Club Sweeps Points. Clubs are a wonderful starting place to find your new additions, but I know breeders who have incredible animals who are not excited about their breed club and aren’t members. (We fall into that category with a few of our breeds!) Also, be aware that club sweeps points are not always an indication that that particular breeder is breeding competitive rabbits. The points system may mean that they just enter a LOT of subpar rabbits or travel to a LOT of shows and earn a quantity of points. Ask around. Attend shows and watch how people interact with your seller. See if you can talk to people who have been customers of the rabbitry in the past. Utilize social media! Join Facebook groups that are relevant to your breed and do a search for the breed, rabbitry name, or the owner’s name. You’ll likely be able to find out a lot about who is considered knowledgable about the breed in that group, how they raise their rabbits, and any issues they’ve had that will help inform your decision about whether you want to do business with them. Be aware that many times the people posting the most on fb groups may not actually be breeding the most competitive rabbits.
Buy “Part” Animals. I heard this term recently and wasn’t sure what it meant, so then I had to find out! A “part” animal is one that has a specific strength that you’re looking for. So maybe you’re seeing a trend of long shoulders in the animals you’re producing but you have decent back ends. You’re not necessarily looking for a rabbit that is going to be perfect all over, you’re looking for one that has great shoulders so when you breed it to your big-bootyed bunny you will produce a well balanced rabbit! The key to this is actually knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your own rabbits well enough to know what you’re looking to add. Pay attention to what judges or trusted breeders say and be humble.
Be Realistic. No one is going to sell you their top animal and you shouldn’t expect them to do so. You can still find very good additions to your rabbitry if you’re realistic about your needs. Be aware that in many cases if you put a post on facebook about “I just bought this rabbit and it sucks, blah, blah, blah…” you are making it very difficult for yourself to find other breeders to sell to you in the future. Buying a rabbit is a risk. It just is. Even if the rabbit is amazing, it might not mix well genetically with your lines and you’ll have a dud. Complaining about the breeder is not going to solve the problem in 99% of the cases.
Keep Your Vision. I was recently at a show where the rabbit of an acquaintance won Best in Show. I knew the winner had been working their breed for many, many years, culled hard, and traveled often to learn how to better their rabbits. That rabbit that won Best in Show was the result of a long, consistent habit of learning, breeding, culling, and comparison. However, none of that history was visible to the casual onlookers yet that dedication was evident in the animal. If you are eager to be competitive, commit for the long haul. Keep a vision in your mind of your goal, and actually work for your vision! You cannot expect to have wild success as a top breeder if you aren’t willing to sacrifice for your rabbits as this is not some type of a get rich quick scheme. Determine your rabbitry goals and move forward confidently in their direction… then see where you are in 10 years, 20 years, 50 years!
Have fun breeding!