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Feeding Meat Rabbits Just Hay, No Pellets

Discussion in 'Feeding Time - Rabbits' started by BoboFarm, Apr 4, 2018.

  1. Apr 4, 2018
    BoboFarm

    BoboFarm Loving the herd life

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    Just like the title says, can meat rabbits be fed just hay (orchard grass/timothy blend) or do they need to be supplemented with pellets? I understand that it will take longer to get them to a decent processing weight. With the question posed, I'm trying to figure out if it would be cost effective (and even possible) to feed just hay. I read on a couple of websites that some feed just hay but there aren't any details on how much hay would be consumed by growouts and at what age they would be processed vs feeding pellets. I know it'll depend on breed and life stage (just weaned, growout, breeding doe or breeding buck). We plan on having NZRs with several does and a couple of bucks.
     
  2. Apr 4, 2018
    promiseacres

    promiseacres Herd Master

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    I believe this has been discussed, more towards using tractor pens for grazing. I think the consensus is that pellets are the best for rate of gain and health of your rabbits.
    @Pastor Dave didn't you research this?
     
  3. Apr 4, 2018
    BoboFarm

    BoboFarm Loving the herd life

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    Well that won't work for me. There's nothing to "graze" here but sagebrush o_O

    I went through all of the feeding threads and couldn't find any definitive answers. I know there are so many different ways of feeding. There's a small conversation in another thread that I started but it doesn't go through how much hay and it only touches on feeding hay as the only feed. I was curious if anyone has done it, if it worked and how much hay it might take to get a grow out to processing weight.
     
  4. Apr 4, 2018
    Tale of Tails Rabbitry

    Tale of Tails Rabbitry Loving the herd life

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    Uh, well...you probably could if you go into it with the mindset that you are breeding for the upmost hardy rabbits on hay alone and willing to accept that your pregnant does may perform poorly in milk production and go out of condition, therefore you may have more losses in your kindles with only the strongest surviving. It may take a few generations for you to achieve stock hardy on hay alone. They would have to free fed on the hay, of course.

    More important to me, though, is we are what we eat. If a rabbit is eating a somewhat nutritionally deficient diet so that it is not thriving at its potential then I would think the meat would also not be as nutritious as well. This would be a big factor for me.
     
  5. Apr 4, 2018
    secuono

    secuono Herd Master

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    I sort of did this, but I did offer pellets once a week so they got the vitamins and minerals that are in there that hay didn't have.
    I also fed leafy weeds and small twigs with leaves of safe trees and bushes.
    Only fed bucks, non breeding does and kits that. Breeding/nursing does had near unlimited pellets, along with the rest as extras. Kits grew slowly.
     
  6. Apr 4, 2018
    BoboFarm

    BoboFarm Loving the herd life

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    @Tale of Tails Rabbitry, I hadn't thought of it that way.
    @secuono has feeding hay cut down on the amount of pellets fed? Do your rabbits prefer the hay over pellets?

    What brand of pellets do you guys feed? Organic feed at 17% protein is $26.50 for a 50lb bag at my local feed store. Manna Pro Select Rabbit Formula is $17.99 for a 50lb bag. Producer's Pride is $15.10 for a 50lb bag.
     
  7. Apr 4, 2018
    Pastor Dave

    Pastor Dave True BYH Addict

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    The problem with straight grass hay, i.e. timothy, orchard grass, etc, is the lack of nutrients the wild rabbit would find in the wild eating a variety of grasses, plants, herbs, and what we call virtual weeds.

    I use grass hay at night to supplement the alfalfa pellets. I also use ACV in their drinking water to help with urinary tracts and add Vit A. I feed between a tsp and Tb of Calf Mana which is like 29% protein. I also use BOSS at a tsp a day. I will feed red clover, some rose petals, and dandelion leaves when they're in season. This takes more $ obviously than feedng hay, but mine are healthy and give me my goal of a 5lb. bunny by 10 weeks. Will the rabbits eating just hay live? Yah. Will they reproduce? Yah. But, they will grow a lot slower and may lack in nutrients.

    I think it would be abt the same results as a farmer free feeding just alfalfa hay or graze to cattle vs. feeding some ground feed or supplements with the alfalfa.
     
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  8. Apr 5, 2018
    DutchBunny03

    DutchBunny03 Loving the herd life

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    Hay is an excellent source of fiber and roughage, but there is almost no protein in it. If you are intent on feeding without the use of pellets, try supplements of oats and other concentrates. This will supply the rabbit's nutritional needs, but might not save you much money. Pellets also supply salt, which would not be in any concentrate grains or hay. You would need a salt spool in each hutch to supply the rabbits with salt. one downside of this is that over time, salt spools with corrode cage wire. As you can see, trying to avoid pellets alltogether might be more complicated than its worth.
     
  9. Apr 9, 2018
    Tale of Tails Rabbitry

    Tale of Tails Rabbitry Loving the herd life

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    New Country Organics is the brand we have been getting and for a higher price than you are, abut we buy it from a farm, so while I wish it was lower in price, at least we are supporting local, environment responsible farmers. When we first started and could not find an organic feed source, we used Manna Pro formulas. I liked how the rabbits performed on it, especially our lactating does on the formula for them, but TSC was not really consistent with carrying it. I have no personal experience with Producer's Pride, but I have read some complaints about rabbits going out of condition and something about vagueness of the ingredients, which if true suggests to me that they could change the ingredients without you knowing...? Not saying this is true as I have not looked into it other than what people have written online.
     
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  10. Apr 10, 2018
    BoboFarm

    BoboFarm Loving the herd life

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    Thanks @Tale of Tails Rabbitry, I will be feeding the organic feed from the feed store. They said they normally stock it but they said to call ahead a week to make sure they have it in. I guess I'll be doing my own experimenting with how much feed we'll go through vs. hay.
     
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