Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lessons Learned

The Kern County Rabbit Breeders Association January Show

Woke the family up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning; loaded up the chairs and rabbit show cages; and ventured off to the Kern County Rabbit Breeders Association’s January show at the Kern County Fairgrounds. Relatively close to home and with lots of friendly rabbit people, this is our favorite show of the year. Despite the heavy Tule fog, the show started close to the 8:30 a.m. with a heart-warming rendition of our national anthem, sung by a local 4-H chapter. The judging proceeded in an orderly fashion and New Zealands were scheduled third up, behind the Satins and American Fuzzy Lops; our judge was Jennifer Milburn.

With time to explore, my daughter and I went to look for food, while my wife warmed up under the ceiling heaters. With homemade biscuits and gravy in hand, again provided by a local 4-H chapter, my daughter and I walked the aisles and looked over this year’s participants. We enjoy looking at all the “rabbit stuff” people bring to set up and get ready for the judging table. I admit our motto is rather simple: “no more than two, three hole carrying cages, a chair for each, and a bag of drinks and food.” I learned back in college that transporting enough Mini Lops to cover every class led to more work than joy, at least for me. So this time round, we keep it simple. In by 8:30 a.m., set up our chairs, look around, eat, get judged at one show, load back up and home by 2 p.m. with time to enjoy a Saturday afternoon in Springville.

This year, we learned, I learned, I have to start paying attention to my rabbits’ weights. In the past, I have had meat pens go over so I should know to weigh my rabbits often, but some lessons are hard learned. With four rabbits entered, two senior bucks and two senior does, we only had one non-disqualified rabbit. How could this be? Last year I learned that there was an upper limit to how much intermediate does and bucks could weigh. How could I have missed this page in the Standard of Perfection? Well, our 11 and 1/2 pound doe was over, but “she was so pretty.” So this year I learned that we can move intermediates up to seniors if they are heavy. But I have also been listening to other breeders telling me to keep my rabbits thin so they will breed. The result: three intermediates disqualified as seniors because they didn’t make minimum senior weight. Was that line I drew in the Campbell’s soup can really the amount that Purina recommended?  Should I start feeding ShowBloom or black sunflower seeds or wheat germ oil or grass every morning?

While waiting for New Zealands to be called to the judging table, we sat and watched the crowd. I now know why the guy sitting next to us went over to the KW Cages show display and came back the proud owner of a rabbit scale. Lesson learned, well, hopefully. We will have to wait until the March, Central Valley Rabbit Breeders Association show to see if we have made any progress in our rabbit education. Do they offer degrees in rabbitology? 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Christmas and the New Year

This year, my family and I spent Christmas at the Running Y Ranch in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Retirement in southeastern Oregon would be very nice, but perhaps, a little too cold. The kids enjoyed baking Christmas cookies; I enjoyed the exercise room; and my wife enjoyed relaxing by the fireplace. We almost had that picturesque white Christmas, but the snow flurries didn’t last.

Back at home, the nest boxes are filled once again, another sign that a new year is afoot. Hopefully, our rabbitry,, will begin to take shape: the website is now operational; business cards designed and sent to the printer; and the rabbits, chickens, and sheep are producing.

First up in 2015 will be the Kern County Rabbit Breeders Association show at the Kern County Fair Grounds on January 24. My daughter and I plan on taking two young red does and two young red bucks. The Springville 4-H rabbit project kids will also be encouraged to attend this fun show and search out that special breeder for their Porterville Fair rabbit. In February, we will breed to get ready for the meat pen show at the Porterville Fair in May. Our second show of the year will at the Central Valley Rabbit Breeders Association’s March show in Hanford. New for this year will be our first journey to the West Coast Classic in Las Vegas and the ARBA National Show in Portland this November.

If anyone is interested in New Zealand Red rabbits, chickens, Katahdin Sheep, or Mammoth Donkeys, let me know. Happy New Year!