Back to the drawing board …

I wrote a while back that we decided to put our rabbits back on conventional rabbit pellets.  That did not last long.  My ethics and distaste of conventional agriculture, GMOs and soy has made me dig deeper to figure out how I can feed my rabbits a healthy diet that they will grow well on that does not include conventional rabbit pellets.

You may recall that I stopped feeding the whole grain mixture because I felt they were wasting too much of it.  When we put the bedding that we removed from the rabbit tractors into the garden, TONS of sunflowers and grains sprouted.  At first that seemed like an irritation and to some extent it is, but the sunflowers and sprouted grain has been turned into food for the bees, ducks, rabbits and goats. Getting through the aisles of sunflowers is a bit difficult and next year we will not put the tractor cleanings in the aisles but in the rows themselves. Rabbits dig through their food.  That is not abnormal.  They do it with pellets, but if pellets fall on the floor or in the bedding, they do not sprout.

We’ve gone through, I believe, six-50-pound bags of Manna Pro rabbit pellets.  They eat them like candy, however, I have not seen a noticeable difference in their growth.

I believe the mixture I was making was not as it should have been.  I believe it should be more like six parts oats to one part sunflower seeds, barley, etc. If they dig it out, then let it sprout.  I’ll just feed it back to them. One possibility is to feed them oats one day, barley the next, etc. Another thing we need to figure out are feeders that the young rabbits cannot get into.  Again, that’s a problem no matter what you feed.

The problem is the protein. Finding non-GMO alfalfa be it hay, pellets or cubes is getting increasingly more difficult.  Plus, the rabbits really do not like alfalfa pellets. I am still not entirely sure rabbits truly need a high protein diet. Protein can be found in other types of vegetation like field peas, sweet potato vines, sainfoin (if it will grow in NC), etc.

What has been back to questioning my feeding routine is that I purchased two rabbits from a woman up in the mountains.  She feeds organic rabbit pellets which costs between $30 and $40 for a 50 pound bag.  That is bloody ridiculous.  Both in the cost and the fact that the ingredients are grown and shipped from far away.  It is simply not sustainable. I cannot justify paying that much money for feed for the goats, rabbits or ducks. The conventional rabbit pellets (which are also grown and shipped from far away) cost about $17 a bag; the mixture that I was feeding them (some of which is grown locally, some, like the alfalfa pellets, from far away) costs about $15/bag (if the ingredients come locally, if the feed mill has to buy them from distributors it goes up, for example, over the winter, oats were costing $16/50 pounds vs. $10 now). In order to feed the rabbits, I’d have to sell two or three rabbits a week.  That is likely not going to happen. Plus I’d have to drive at least 30 miles one way to even buy organic feed.

So, back to the drawing board and back to researching how people in developing countries feed their rabbits.  They cannot get conventional rabbit pellets. There is a wealth of information on the web about feeding trials of rabbits.

Over the weekend, I planted two more rows of green beans (which will go under row cover to protect them from pests) and a row and a half of Mississippi Purple Hull Peas (cowpeas).  If I can get the seed, I am going to replant the rows that were formerly in sweet corn in Iron and Clay Cowpeas.  It’s likely too late to get a crop of peas, but I can harvest the vines to feed to the rabbits.  Cowpeas add Nitrogen to the soil and will improve the fertility of the rows that the corn was in.

The corn: four rows, all failures thanks to Japanese Beetles. I believe if we were to spray for them, we’d be spraying every day which is not an option. I planted the rows of corn too close (it is amazing how much I’ve learned this year!). There were just so many of them this year.  I did put out some traps and I did catch quite a few, but I will not use traps next year as there is evidence that they attract more Beetles on the property.

So, we will see how it goes with the rabbits. Given that we’ve cut our rabbit population to about a third of what it once was, the amount of feed we go through should not be too terrible.

Until later …