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Monday, August 17, 2015

I only want Angora....

Much like the goats... for four years we tried to make meat rabbits work out... and we would have just enough success in between the failures to keep us going.
One of the major problems we had with rabbits was...well, we just didn't like them... (Angoras being the exception for me.. more on that in a minute)
now, the meat was good.. But not good enough to put up with all the trouble of raising them! The rabbits themselves werent enjoyable to take care of for us.. some were down right mean! We had problems with mothers not being good mothers! A major issue since unlike a goat I can't bottle feed a baby rabbit! We had problems collecting the manure... the manure is great for the garden,, its the urine thats stinky and really makes for lots of work if youre using trays or shoveling up urine soaked manure.
Also we felt like they ate to much for what we were getting in return.. they really go through the pellets! And good rabbit pellets aren't cheap! They have very sensitive digestive systems and can be picky eaters. Which makes foraging and growing their food tricky. 
Anyone who's says raising rabbits is easy or cheap to raise has clearly not done the numbers and has no other livestock to compare them too IMO!
I'm not saying they aren't useful livestock .. Just not the best for us perhaps...
We don't give up easy and in that four years we tried 6 different breeds of rabbits... none lived up to the 'hype' of all we had read in those pretty glossy magazines.

Then came the Angora! In 2013 I got into farm fiber production (raising it and spinning yarn) with the addition of the dairy sheep I tried (huge fail,, but I was bite by the fiber bug)
Fiber animals are as much work as a dairy animal! and then some really!! For many many reasons sheep didn't work out here.. And neither did cashmere goats...nor did alpacas! 
but late 2013 I got Angora Rabbits.... Angora is probably my favorite fiber to crochet and wear.
After much research I decided I would go for a dual purpose rabbit , French Angora. If this worked I wouldn't need to keep the American Blue or NZW or any of the other meat rabbits we had tried and didn't like! It would be perfect,, right!!! Oh... It's always so perfect in my head!
Angora Rabbits aren't real popular where I live so My very first rabbit was a french/english cross... It was love at first site!!! I adored this guy. He was so sweet and SOFT! 
I should have just accepted his wonderfulness ,, got another English cross and been done... but....
The French Angora is said to be the nicest for fiber and meat...so silly breed chasing gets me once again!
when I found them I went wild and bought several! (ok,, I bought way to many!)
 however, they weren't quite as soft as my cross boy...and really lacked the sweet temperment of my cross rabbit, which made harvesting the fiber not good! You will often read how 'relaxing' people find grooming an angora rabbit is... well, it is... if the rabbit is willing!!!! If the rabbit is not willing I promise its NOT a relaxing experience!!!
...and their ability to be 'plucked' made my life misrable with them! 
You see 'pluckable' angora is considered the 'best' because its supposed to spin easier, shed less...so it brings more $ if you're selling it raw to other spinners...sounds nice right?
Problem: when its ready to be plucked.. if you're not there to pluck it for the next couple of days it all falls out and ends up in the stinky urine soaked manure! Not practical for this busy farm girl!
So for me, this was NOT the best type of rabbit!
 And since selling the fiber raw was never my intention ( I can't see that its any easier to spin if you prepare the clipped fiber properly) this frustration was totally un nessacary for me to deal with.

With the French not working out... ok, they were a Huge fail...atlest the pluckable line I bought were....But not willing to give up on raising my own angora and keeping the only rabbits I ever liked having..  I brought in German Angoras.. not pluckable and they give the most fiber of all the angora rabbits... they still grow fast enough to be an ok meat rabbit.. sound perfect?
major problem... their fiber isn't as soft as the French and certainly not as soft as the cross rabbit I had! Plus again, they lacked a sweet temperment I require so I can groom and harvest the fiber with minimum drama! And honestly at $100 plus for a rabbit I was going to have a hard time culling them for meat! 
A most hated trait.. When livestock is to expensive to eat...

So they were out... and in my disappointment and being in the middle of the over whelming spring garden season I sold them all to a nice lady in Gatlinburg... even my sweet cross( I totally regret selling him!)

We tried one more stab at meat rabbits (colored NZ) and then gave them all up. 

A year later I'm running out of Angora to spin... finding good angora to spin is hard!!! Most people who raise angoras are spinners and keep it for themselves... the other people raising angora are typically people who 'show' rabbits and do a terrible job of harvesting it! I've bought so much that was at best felting fiber... but it was still $7 to $9 an oz!

With no meat rabbits to bring me down... I remember how much I loved that first cross bunny... as I spin the last bit of his fiber my head starts to form a new rabbit plan...
A plan much like the reintroduction of the dairy goats and chickens.... by pass the silly papers , the expensive hyped breeds and registries.... don't over do it... just grow what you need and what you like... what works for me!
Well, that English cross worked best for me... his babies wouldn't have brought as much money as a papered french or certainly as a german and he didn't give as much fiber as a german...and he wouldn't produce fast growing meaty babies...
But he was best for me.. the best fiber and best temperament that made him a joy to work with, a joy to see everyday and his fiber a joy to spin and wear!
So with this learning experience behind me... I welcome Grimm and Smokey... English/Satin Angora crosses.

And they are very sweet!!!! And very soft, though I won't know for sure how soft until their adult coats come in.
And if I breed them and if their babies don't have nice temperaments and the super soft fiber I like they will be just as good to eat as the faster growing rabbit breeds.
Just keeping enough to keep me in fiber also allows me to forage for most of their diet and concentrate on what they like. The slower growers not bred for meat production tend to do better on forage anyways... My cross angora first time around sure did ..
Which means they should be healthier too.
Like all other homestead plans, it's all so perfect in my head. I'm sure there will be glitches in the plan... Hopefully this time around I can handle the glitches better since I'm only dealing with rabbits I truly like and believe will be a good addition to our farm and to my fiber stash!!
and dealing with them on a much smaller scale also... 9 breeding angoras took way to much time away from the other important farm projects.. After all this is a subsistence farm,, not an angora rabbit farm!
Wish me luck!!!
And Be blessed this beautiful week!
Winter is coming...

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