Interesting Conversations

chocolate mum rabbit with black baby rabbit
Cocoa with baby Gayle

The last baby bunny born here was baby Gayle in a Litter of One.

I just had an interesting conversation.  It may have started out ‘before coffee’ but it was worth waking up for.   Actually, it wasn’t all that early in the morning, I’d slept in really late.  Ooops!  So it’s not like folks are calling up while it’s still dark out or anything.  But, anyway, I had an interesting chat this morning with another bunny person.

She has several different breeds of bunnies and is hoping for an angora as well sometime soon.  Which is partly why she was calling.  However, she’d been noticing a lack of litters as well as really small litter sizes among her bunnies.  Reliable mum rabbits weren’t having litters at all or instead of eight or ten babies, there’s one or two.   Which is the same problems we’ve been having over here, too.

Talking together, we discovered that she’d switched over to the higher protein feed from the same source we use about a year and a half ago.  Which was several months before she noticed the decreased litter sizes.   We’ve both been using Nutrena’s 18% bunny pellets and we’ve both noticed significantly decreased litter amounts and sizes starting about a year and a half ago.  Of course, this isn’t proof by any means, purely anecdotal ‘evidence’ (also known as gossip, I suppose), however, we both noticed the same thing.

I’d been thinking that the alfalfa the feed is made from has probably been sprayed with a herbicide to cut down on weeds.  You’d think weed free would be a good thing, and presumably the herbicide is not harmful to the creatures eating it.  However, from what we’re experiencing, it may affect fertility.  With horses, how many of them are being bred?  How many are fed a pure pellet diet?  Since the majority of the alfalfa grown would be going to feed horses and cattle (do cattle get fed alfalfa hay and pellets?) or other large animals, I suspect the bunny feed accounts for a very small percentage of the alfalfa crop.  Of the people feeding pellets to bunnies, how many of them are breeding the bunnies?  Well, if they’re growing bunnies for meat, then almost all of them, but if they have a bunny for a pet, then very few of them.  So for the alfalfa growers, decreased fertility among the animals eating the crop probably isn’t a problem.

I’m also suspecting that the folks who make the feed don’t ask the farmers specifically how the alfalfa was grown.  If it shows up clean and weed free, they’re gonna be thrilled, I’d expect.

This had also happened about the same time we’d moved to the new house here, so I’d thought maybe it was the change in location having something to do with decreased litter size.  Maybe the bucks had overheated since they didn’t have as dense of shade as before?  Maybe they didn’t like their new hutches?  Maybe the herd was getting older?  I’d been looking all over for the answer and when kicking around at some other bunny sites online, someone mentioned herbicide used on the crops made into feed and decreased fertility.

I asked our feed store if they knew the source of the alfalfa in the pellets.  They didn’t think even the feed mill would be able to answer that one.  If it was a concern, then ‘organic’ feed would probably (not ‘certainly’ notice, just ‘probably’) would be free of any herbicide residue.

Ah, now I remember.  I originally found out about this on a gardening web site.  They’d said that there was enough herbicide residue in some of the feeds to kill off gardens if you used too much of the manure from animals fed the feed grown with herbicide.  I’d originally been concerned because I use the bunny manure as almost my entire source of fertilizer.  That wasn’t directly related to lack of litters or litter size at all.

I haven’t noticed that effect on the garden, yet.  Perhaps bunny fertility is more sensitive than gardens?

After the conversation, I think I’m gonna have to revise my earlier thinking.  I’d thought that the higher protein feed would be less likely to have herbicide grown alfalfa (if the mills even tracked that sort of thing) since it would be fed to the animals more likely to be bred.  So, I’d been feeding the breeding herd the 18% and giving the regular feed to the non-breeding herd.  After the conversation this morning, she’d said she noticed the lack of fertility from switching to the higher protein feed.  Since both the regular and high protein feeds are made by the same mill, I’m guessing both of them are sourced from the same alfalfa crop.

I’ve been feeding the breeding herd a higher percentage of forage, they may have to switch to entirely forage fed.  I’ll also have to switch to an entirely different brand of feed, but do different mills use alfalfa grown with herbicides?

If bunnies have been fed herbicide laced alfalfa pellets, does the herbicide eventually work it’s way out of their system?  Will they become fertile again on a different diet?  Can bunnies be bred to be fertile while eating herbicide laced feed?  Baby Gayle is the last bunny born here and she came from a litter of one.  If she’s bred will she also have small litters?  Will she have any litters at all?

Gayle is five months old now, she’s about old enough to have a litter now.  Since Gomez joined the herd and has been fed a different brand of pellets, if Gayle meets up with Gomez, will she have a litter?  That would indicate that if the fertility problem is feed based, it’s also a lack of fertility in the males and not the females.

I’ll pick up an entirely different brand of pellets and feed those to the bucks and breeding does along with the increased amount of forage.  I’d switched the breeding herd to the higher protein feet, but now I’m thinking an entirely different brand of feed.  Although, since we don’t know if they don’t all source their feed from alfalfa grown the same way, we don’t know if it will make a difference.

If anyone else out there has noticed the same sorts of things, it would be interesting to hear from you!

 

2 thoughts on “Interesting Conversations”

  1. Hi Cathy!
    I’ve been meaning to email you, been a bit busy and behind on my emails and things. 🙁 Any how, do your rabbits get enough light? I do know that they need 10-14hrs a day, could be a possible cause for rabbit infertility.
    Aloha
    Tanissa and Houdini

  2. Aloha Tanissa & Houdini,

    Good idea on the more light. The ti hedge blocks the light to the hutches in front and there’s a mock orange hedge in back. The bunnies helped eat the ti and the mock orange has been thinned out so they get more light now.

    There was also a change in diet and now we have at least one new litter, although I don’t think the diet change was soon enough for all of them to have their litters this round. We will be trying again with more light and different feed.

    Hope you and Houdini are doing well!

    A hui hou,
    Catz

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