Author Topic: Rabbits on Pasture  (Read 5230 times)

Offline RobertG

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Rabbits on Pasture
« on: July 27, 2012, 11:00:57 AM »
Hi everybody!
My family and I are getting into the rabbit breeding operation for our own protein to start with, and possibly to have as a source of income when we buy land to start our farm.
Ive been searching around and I haven't found many people at all raising rabbits on pasture. I have seen what Daniel Salatin has been doing at Polyface Farms. I would like to know if there is anyone on here that is or has done anything like that and if it is worth doing on a .50 acre lot with one doe and one buck to start out with.
I have plans on building a traditional rabbit hutch, but I would like to put the rabbits on the lawn during the days when its nice out.
Our "lawn" is dandelion, clovers, Bermuda grass, and I was going to plant and spread some other cover crops that rabbits like.

Thank you,
Robert

Offline nelson96

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2012, 11:22:44 AM »
You will all think I'm terrible for this but . . . .  My kids had to have rabbits 3 years ago.  We told them that we needed another animal to feed like we need another hole in the head, but that we would give in if they took care of them (kept their cages clean and made sure they always had food and water).  Well, as kids are, the novelty wore off after a while and they didn't take care of them very well. . . .  So I let them go, thinking that they would run off and we would never see them again.

Our barnyard (between the house and barns) is about a half acre and on ANY given day and time you can see them out munching on grass.  You described our forage to a "T".  And they love the green pears when they fall off the tree.

The cats eat most ALL of the babies though. . . . We recently took the buck and let him go at a local cemetary.
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Offline RobertG

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2012, 05:30:49 PM »
Yea have wild rabbits in the area. My problem is theyre eating all my vegetables. So now I find myself stalking my garden with my how at the ready.  :banghead:

Offline Samuel Fairlane

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2012, 11:09:00 PM »
Maybe you can build a mobile tractor. That way they can have more pasture time. Drastic change of food for any grazing animal is a bad Idea, they need time for their belly bacteria to switch gears.  Just a fyi domestic rabbits and cottontails are totally different critters. http://suite101.com/article/domestic-vs-wild-rabbits-a126812

Offline Joe in TN

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2012, 07:22:47 AM »
I recommend you watch "Food Production Systems" DVD by Marjory Wildcraft and then research the heck out of Rick Worden's website, www.riseandshinerabbitry.com .

You can pasture them in a rabbit tractor, they'll love it and it will cut your food costs down, but bottom line is you will still need to feed pellets, especially if you want 12 week market weights.  HTH,

Joe

Offline RobertG

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2012, 09:18:32 AM »
I recommend you watch "Food Production Systems" DVD by Marjory Wildcraft and then research the heck out of Rick Worden's website, www.riseandshinerabbitry.com .

You can pasture them in a rabbit tractor, they'll love it and it will cut your food costs down, but bottom line is you will still need to feed pellets, especially if you want 12 week market weights.  HTH,

Joe


Yea I have plans for a rabbit tractor to use for the daily forage. And I also have plans for a more traditional hutch for nursery, night time, breeding... Ect
I was just wondering if anybody had any experiences with it.
I know I'm not going to be able to totally mimic a wild setting and still be able to properly have them as livestock. But I figured if I can give them 40-50% forage and pasture they might enjoy being rabbits more than sittin in a hutch all their lives.

Offline nelson96

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2012, 09:24:39 AM »
Their disgestiv system is nearly identical to a horse, and they do pretty good on pasture.  We supplement our horses during breeding and times of work, but it doesn't take much. It's a orning and evening thing, which is really the only time rabbits eat much.
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Offline Deadgirl1121

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2012, 11:02:33 AM »
I have my rabbits free-ranging.  I had some Jersey Woolies that didn't last very long, but my Flemish Giants have done really well, as in they have survived.  I have one buck and two does, and in the last 18 months have gotten zero bunnies.  The does run away from the buck.  I recently caught the buck and one does and caged them together overnight to get the deed done, and I've caged the doe to ensure the bunnies survive.  My hope it that once I have enough of them they will self-populate.  We have a terrible coyote problem, but the Flemish Giants have been fine.  I have a much harder time keeping chickens alive.

Offline LibertyBelle

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2012, 11:40:32 AM »
I've done the rabbit tractors for years with my Standard Chins (nice meat rabbit with good meat to bone ratio...and with a gorgeous pelt to boot). Moving the tractor around daily keeps them from wanting to burrow (I never used wire bottoms on my tractors), however in the winter I just left the tractors in  one spot, tossed in a bale of straw for them to tunnel in and under, as well as a bale of good quality hay for them to eat on. Remember that rabbits tend to be territorial, so if you are going to keep them in a tractor, start them in it as soon after weaning as possible, keeping the does in one and the bucks in another (unless you just have one buck).  When ready to breed, I'd take a doe out of the doe tractor and put her in a single cage with a buck.  After he breeds her, put her back in her tractor.  Do this with all of them, one at a time.  When the does are ready to kindle (have babies), they dig under the straw/hay bales, make their nests, and have their babies.  The kits all grow up together and as they reach weaning age, I separate the young bucks from the doe tractor to prevent early breeding, and tattoo everyone.  I've never had them fight doing it this way.   I've also had a few Chins that were 100% free range and ran all over the place, and would dig under the barn wall to have their babies. More than once I've opened the barn door just in time to see a couple dozen young rabbits scattering to all four corners when I though the adults had long disappeared for good.
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Offline Moonvalleyprepper

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2012, 10:19:44 AM »
Great post LibertyBelle!

Thank you for sharing your experience. What you described is what I want to move my system towards next season. Right now I am raising my NZ in a commercial style system, suspened wire cages. I figured I would start there, because it's tried and true, then move towards a pasture model as I gain more experience. It's nice to hear that others have had success doing this.
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Offline Janet the Planet

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2012, 09:12:18 PM »
I have tried keeping rabbits outside in as natural conditions as possible (upstate NY and DE), and have lost them to cats, weasels, raccoons, etc.  Even in back-yard suburbia in warm weather,  I needed a roof and a floor of sorts (even if it is 2 or 4 inch wire bottom- grass still grows through)- otherwise something was always killing them at night.  My compromise was to build a series of light weight wire enclosures that I could wire together in combinations, and move the sections over fresh areas of grass as needed.  In the fall I put some pens over my garden, and they cleaned up the weeds and left it fertilized. This sounds like a far cry from your idea of free-range, and it is expensive to start up building enclosures.  One other problem would be the bucks fighting over breeding rights- you might have to harvest or sell some young bucks to keep a healthy ratio.  Good luck. 

Offline Darby Simpson

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2013, 12:40:24 PM »
I've done the rabbit tractors for years with my Standard Chins (nice meat rabbit with good meat to bone ratio...and with a gorgeous pelt to boot). Moving the tractor around daily keeps them from wanting to burrow (I never used wire bottoms on my tractors), however in the winter I just left the tractors in  one spot, tossed in a bale of straw for them to tunnel in and under, as well as a bale of good quality hay for them to eat on. Remember that rabbits tend to be territorial, so if you are going to keep them in a tractor, start them in it as soon after weaning as possible, keeping the does in one and the bucks in another (unless you just have one buck).  When ready to breed, I'd take a doe out of the doe tractor and put her in a single cage with a buck.  After he breeds her, put her back in her tractor.  Do this with all of them, one at a time.  When the does are ready to kindle (have babies), they dig under the straw/hay bales, make their nests, and have their babies.  The kits all grow up together and as they reach weaning age, I separate the young bucks from the doe tractor to prevent early breeding, and tattoo everyone.  I've never had them fight doing it this way.   I've also had a few Chins that were 100% free range and ran all over the place, and would dig under the barn wall to have their babies. More than once I've opened the barn door just in time to see a couple dozen young rabbits scattering to all four corners when I though the adults had long disappeared for good.

Any chance we could see your tractors you use on pasture for the rabbits?  I'm wondering if my old Salatin style chicken tractors (which are now a boneyard for parts) would work for this.  Do you have issues with them trying to squirt out the sides when you move the tractor?  Or is it more similar to the hare pen that Daniel Salatin uses?  Just curious about the logistics.  Thanks!
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Offline rikkrack

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2013, 01:00:30 PM »
 :popcorn:
Watching for details. We were hoping to get rabbits this year.
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Offline AguangaPrepper

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2013, 09:35:32 PM »
I just joined the forum today.  We had raised rabbits about 20 years ago in hanging cages in a small barn.  Then we stopped for many years.  When we started with rabbits again a couple years ago, I wanted to raise them uncaged on the lawn.  It was fun and cute when they were young.  Then they learned to dig and boy can they.  Also, we didn't have success with raising babies this way.  In the end, we used a water hose and flushed them all out and went back to traditional hanging cages outdoors.  We had to bring in our tractor to collapse the maze of tunnels in the lawn and level and replant in areas.  This experiment was a complete failure.

Here are some pixs of them being free :o)  Now I forage for them and bring the grass and plants to them.  This has worked out excellent.














Offline nutcase

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2013, 10:22:02 PM »
We had similar experiences as others here. Everntually we trapped them and moved them more than a mile away. Kids wouldn't let me kill them for food. I was tired of replanting my garden. I see the value in having them just can't convince kiddos to eat them. Chickens they have no problem with though.

Offline danielthepoet

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2013, 03:28:39 PM »
I have my rabbits free-ranging.  I had some Jersey Woolies that didn't last very long, but my Flemish Giants have done really well, as in they have survived...

When you say that you free-range your rabbits, do you mean you let them roam without boundaries of any kind? Or are you using tractors or electric fencing? If not, how would you ever be able to gather them for any purpose?


Offline JLMissouri

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2013, 07:07:08 PM »
My rabbits moved in with my chicks when I rebuilt my old chicken tractor to be a rabbit tractor and chick brooder. Worked okay, the tractor doesn't have a bottom and you have to keep it on level ground or block it up. I don't feed my rabbits much, they live off the land for the most part when in the tractor. We only have three rabbits and the only problem we have had besides an escape or two is the small babies who can get out easier than the adults. We now put the pregnant rabbits back into the hutch before they have their babies.

We also feed our rabbits calf pellets instead of rabbit pellets. They cost about $4 less for a 50lb bag. We have also used the movable fence like in the pictures AguangaPrepper posted. It is a great way to let the rabbits stretch their legs, but it is not predator proof.
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Offline Cedar

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2013, 08:27:31 PM »
Calf pellets instead of rabbit pellets.

Whoa... 21-30% protein??? And calf pellets are ~7% maximum fiber from the labels I just read.. rabbits need about 22% fiber, but maybe you are making up for that on pasture? Hay?

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Offline JLMissouri

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2013, 11:32:41 AM »
Never had a problem. My place is covered in wild rabbits and they live solely on the forage they get off the land. My rabbits are the same way although more pampered with shelter, hay and pellets. My rabbits have a way better diet than pellets in my opinion. I am weaning myself from commercial food, my animals are as well.
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Offline nkawtg

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Offline AguangaPrepper

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #20 on: July 04, 2013, 08:10:17 AM »
We just added a fodder system to feed our rabbits, sheep and supplement our chickens.   My husband built the system after researching systems that can be bought.  Cost about $1000 vs $3200 FarmTech for similar size system.  We have been using it for a few weeks.  Calculated that it will cut feed costs in about half.  We already forage for our livestock (plants, branches).  Sheep have been on pasture, but we will have them in drylot for an extended period as we add organic material to the field.  Fodder system must be kept at 70 degrees so we did purchase an insolated temp controlled trailer (converted already to a grow room) from an ad on craigslist.  Trailer purchase included RO, A/C, electric, etc.  It's about 50' trailer and cost $3000.  We plan to put in more trays and double the production in order to feed our 2 horses as well.  Right now we feed 10 sheep and about 50 rabbits and extra goes to chickens.  There is an initial cost up front, but right now we are saving about $200/mos in feed cost so won't be that many months before it's paid for.

This is not pasture, but more like bringing the pasture to them, since the pasturing experiment for us was a disaster.

I want to add some photos, but it's been awhile since I've posted here and have forgotten how to.  I thought it was a simple insert from photobucket, but maybe not..

Offline Cedar

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #21 on: July 04, 2013, 10:17:52 AM »
Still can't sell me on pasture rabbits yet. Recently one of my butcher litters was in one of Z's cages and for whatever reason his holes for his feeders are 3 wires cut, instead of just one to put the J-feeder through. And due to this, they swung back and forth.. which I didn't know until you start playing with the feeder. Which the rabbits did.. and 3 of these Californian X kits got out and played hookie for two weeks, eating spilled grain out from under the other rabbit cages and zooming back and forth from the barn out onto the horse pasture and forestland to graze. I finally used live traps and caught the three two days and 1 day before we butchered this litter. The three which were free ranging weighed 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound lighter than their siblings. Weighing 3.25 pounds at 56 days is a serious offense in my barn and actually docks their mother too.

Are you guys using a good scale and weighing yours at 56 days?

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Offline nelson96

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #22 on: July 04, 2013, 10:32:53 AM »
The three which were free ranging weighed 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound lighter than their siblings. Weighing 3.25 pounds at 56 days is a serious offense in my barn and actually docks their mother too.

Hmmm. . .  Sounds like the same argument I use when the topic comes up at some of my livestock association meetings, pertaining to grass fed cattle.  A lot more money lost when it comes to cattle, including a difference in quality of meat (flavor, grade).
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Offline JLMissouri

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #23 on: July 09, 2013, 09:25:32 PM »
I am sure there are faster ways to have a rabbit gain weight, but that isn't what I am after anyway. I care more about the final cost per pound and the quality. I have to care for my livestock regardless, and if I have to keep them longer to get to a good weight it doesn't bother me at all. I have not weighed any of the rabbits or any of my livestock.

I have seen the difference in eggs from a real free range chicken vs a caged well fed chicken. There is no comparison in the superior quality of the free range eggs, even if the caged chicken was fed table scraps it cannot compare. Grass fed Cattle are the same, and I bet Rabbits are as well.

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Offline nelson96

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #24 on: July 10, 2013, 08:52:59 AM »
I have seen the difference in eggs from a real free range chicken vs a caged well fed chicken. There is no comparison in the superior quality of the free range eggs, even if the caged chicken was fed table scraps it cannot compare. Grass fed Cattle are the same, and I bet Rabbits are as well.

To the OP, I apologize for temporarily hijacking the thread, but maybe this pertains to rabbit growth too.  How do you know grass fed cattle are better?  Much has to do with genetics and unless grain fed cattle are dry lotted they get grass too.  In fact, most cattle that are supplemented grain by a farmer are fed hay (dried grass) even if the dry lotted.  Other than the obvious water loss, there is not much lost in hay that isn't being supplemented.

I've fed cattle with similar genetics for years and can tell you there is definitely a difference in taste. . .  Grain fed tastes better.  Most of the flavor is transferred through the fat and a leaner grass fed animal will lack that.  Not to mention the fact that you're cheating yourself out of some significant growth.  I average 700 pound hanging weights with purebreds at 14 months of age. 
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Offline JLMissouri

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #25 on: July 16, 2013, 11:35:20 AM »
To the OP, I apologize for temporarily hijacking the thread, but maybe this pertains to rabbit growth too.  How do you know grass fed cattle are better?  Much has to do with genetics and unless grain fed cattle are dry lotted they get grass too.  In fact, most cattle that are supplemented grain by a farmer are fed hay (dried grass) even if the dry lotted.  Other than the obvious water loss, there is not much lost in hay that isn't being supplemented.

I've fed cattle with similar genetics for years and can tell you there is definitely a difference in taste. . .  Grain fed tastes better.  Most of the flavor is transferred through the fat and a leaner grass fed animal will lack that.  Not to mention the fact that you're cheating yourself out of some significant growth.  I average 700 pound hanging weights with purebreds at 14 months of age.

Grass fed beef is healthier in just about every study I have ever seen comparing the two. Just do a google search comparing the two and you will find hundreds of studies. There are more vitamins and antioxidants in grass fed beef. Makes since, cattle are designed to eat grass not corn. The more varied natural diet of pastured cattle is healthier for the cattle. Feed only grains and you will have sick cattle with ulcers, feed only quality grass and you will be fine. Cattle will start to loose the vitamin and antioxidant levels when fed a diet of grain to fatten them up. 

Taste is acquired, you are used to grain fed beef and it tastes better to you. I actually like both but have a strong preference for grass fed for many reasons. Most people prefer white flour to whole wheat flour for the same reason. Grass finishing cattle is cheaper per pound than grain finished cattle, but it does take more time. I would have to buy or grow grain but my grass grows on its own and is better on the soils as well. I think people get in to much of a hurry. I have seen many well finished cattle on pasture.

I don't have anything against an individual who uses grain to finish their cattle, but I prefer healthier beef and will fatten mine on pasture. I do have a problem with the way most feedlots are operated. Drive through many areas in Texas and you will know you are approaching a feedlot miles before you get there. I prefer not to eat anything coming from there.
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Offline nelson96

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #26 on: July 16, 2013, 12:07:59 PM »
Grass fed beef is healthier in just about every study I have ever seen comparing the two. Just do a google search comparing the two and you will find hundreds of studies. There are more vitamins and antioxidants in grass fed beef. Makes since, cattle are designed to eat grass not corn. The more varied natural diet of pastured cattle is healthier for the cattle. Feed only grains and you will have sick cattle with ulcers, feed only quality grass and you will be fine. Cattle will start to loose the vitamin and antioxidant levels when fed a diet of grain to fatten them up.

I can't find one on "homegrown" grass fed vs. "homegrown" grain fed, can you help me out?  I'm very curious how one could come up with one being more healthy than the other.  You have apparently not raised beef before, or for very long if you have.  It is very difficult, to impossible, for your cattle to reach adequate vitamin and mineral requirements for good growth without supplementing.  Antioxidants can be achieved in various ways, I would argue that typical pasture grass is not one of the better sources.  And who the heck said "cattle are designed to eat grass not corn"?  I'd like to see a study on that.  If their systems are designed to be efficient on grass, they can certainly be efficient on corn too.  And, I think you've read too many hipster editorials on "feedlots".  If your argument is based solely on comparing beef raised only on pasture to a massive feedlot facility, then your argument gets closer to accurate, but not all feedlots are the same. . . .  I have NEVER had to treat sick cattle due to the feeding of grains.   

Taste is acquired, you are used to grain fed beef and it tastes better to you. I actually like both but have a strong preference for grass fed for many reasons. Most people prefer white flour to whole wheat flour for the same reason. Grass finishing cattle is cheaper per pound than grain finished cattle, but it does take more time. I would have to buy or grow grain but my grass grows on its own and is better on the soils as well. I think people get in to much of a hurry. I have seen many well finished cattle on pasture.

Taste is acquired, but that doesn't mean that one tastes better because you acquired the taste for it.  I prefer not to drink some of the piss out there that they call beer, but I'm sure I could get used to it if I drank it enough and acquired a taste for it.

I do have a problem with the way most feedlots are operated. Drive through many areas in Texas and you will know you are approaching a feedlot miles before you get there. I prefer not to eat anything coming from there.

That's a silly argument for health.  Put the same amount of cattle in a small field and feed them only grass and don't you think it would smell the same?  Never the less, I prefer not to eat my meat coming from an operation like that either.  That, we can agree on.
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Offline CharlesH

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2013, 04:46:59 PM »
Oh boy, I hate to admit it now, but I also raise, sell, and eat grass fed cattle.  While today's breeds are no doubt better at digesting grains than cows of old, I do believe the genetics are in place for cattle to be healthy on grass.  Their digestive system compared to something like a rabbit (although rabbits also seem to be geared for grasses because mine tend to run their food through the digestive system twice), pig, horse, or chicken just seems to have evolved for longer fermentation and digestion that is needed by organisms getting their sustenance from grass.  I freely admit I may not know what I'm talking about because this is a learning adventure for me.
 
Now in my case when I say grass I'm simplifying what they actually eat.  My fields are moving towards a mix of grass and legumes.  The grass is mostly native to Michigan (i.e. what grows) but I did overseed for legumes, in my case a mix of clover and trefoil (I like that trefoil self seeds whereas Alfalfa poisons its young).  And I also supplement.  For my cattle that is free choice loose mineral and salt.  Furthermore, I soil test and periodically add potassium, phosphorous, and a little boron.  So far I haven't needed anything else but those minerals also obviously end up in the cows.  When other minerals are deficient I'll add those to the soil as well.  I have never needed to add calcium and I wonder if enough of that is actually passing through my cattle from their mineral supplement or if my land is naturally high in it.  Because we have a lot of legumes we never need to add nitrogen.
 
I also prefer the taste of grass fed, but then I also like venison which is grass fed in my area.  I sell to people who are looking for leaner meats (most noticeable in my ground beef which is unbelievably good, even though its lean).  When it comes to sales, managing expectations has been key for me.  I am very upfront with what people can expect from my cuts of meat (I sell shares).  Nobody walks away expecting a store bought cut.

  People also don't expect store bought prices, or better from me.  As Nelson points out you won't get to market weight in 15 months on grass.  24 months is a minimum (and I do mean minimum, longer is gooder).  Do I sometimes process cattle sooner? Sure, I just sent in two smaller intact males last week which I sell as all ground (well, almost all, we do have the tenderloins, flank steaks and rib steaks, cut out for people).  I can also auction off one year olds as feeders.
 
  I have a herd of lowlines which we are growing to 30 cows (13 cows and heifers as of this spring!).  I went with lowlines because they were supposed to do better than average on grass.  Another reason is I sell mostly to folks in the city and they have smaller freezers.  Because I can only sell shares, smaller beef is a plus.  I hope to create an efficient grass fed herd by bringing in fresh genetics for bulls ever few years and culling cows that either have a difficult time calving or produce poor performing calves on the grass an supplements I provide.  We'll see how it goes.  Like a mentioned, its a learning adventure for me.
 
  So I guess there are two of us out here JL...
 
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Offline nelson96

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2013, 05:34:55 PM »
Oh boy, I hate to admit it now, but I also raise, sell, and eat grass fed cattle.  While today's breeds are no doubt better at digesting grains than cows of old, I do believe the genetics are in place for cattle to be healthy on grass.  Their digestive system compared to something like a rabbit (although rabbits also seem to be geared for grasses because mine tend to run their food through the digestive system twice), pig, horse, or chicken just seems to have evolved for longer fermentation and digestion that is needed by organisms getting their sustenance from grass.  I freely admit I may not know what I'm talking about because this is a learning adventure for me.

Pertaining to the livestock you mentioned. . .  Just something I remember from my animal science classes from many years ago. . . .  Their are only two that are similar (rabbits and horses).

Rabbits and horses have a very similar digestive track (a cecum) and require fermentation to adequately digest fiber or cellulose and receive no help from microbes in the gut. 

Pigs and poultry are monogastrics (have one simple stomach) and do not rely on fermentation to digest food.  For this reason they are not designed to digest fiber or cellulose and will do poorly on that type of diet.

Cattle are ruminants and utilize microbes in the rumen to digest fiber and cellulose. 
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Offline CharlesH

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Re: Rabbits on Pasture
« Reply #29 on: July 16, 2013, 05:58:06 PM »
Rabbits and horses have a very similar digestive track (a cecum) and require fermentation to adequately digest fiber or cellulose and receive no help from microbes in the gut. 

Pigs and poultry are monogastrics (have one simple stomach) and do not rely on fermentation to digest food.  For this reason they are not designed to digest fiber or cellulose and will do poorly on that type of diet.
 
Very interesting.  I presume the reason rabbits seem to have a tendency to run food through the cecum twice (they do, right?) is to get additional nutrients from their forage?  Is this because they have a shorter digestive tract than horses or because they evolved eating less nutrient dense food than horses?  I'm not a horse person but the folks around me who are feed less legumes in their hay to horses and feed them more grain for calories.
 
I was tracking the digestive system of pigs.  It is one of the reasons I have always been skeptical of how much nutritional value pastured pigs are getting from their green forage.  We do keep a couple feeders a year and we'll put them out under the hickories in the fall to eat if they want, but otherwise they get a hog ration of feed and our table scraps.
Remember when you leave this earth, you take nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage. - St. Francis of Assisi