Sunday, April 4, 2010

Head 'em up! Move 'em out!

My family has been involved in agriculture since moving to Texas after the Civil War. Cattle have always been part of the equation. My grandparents on my fathers side always ran Herefords. Helene and I run rabbits.

I can remember driving out with Granny Burnett as a little boy to look at the new calves. When I was six it looked like there was a million. The number of pinkies we find in the nest boxes these days are tamer but just as exciting.

The rewards in rabbit ranching are smaller, but so is the outlay. Roundups and shipping to market are much different undertakings.

My grandparents would have less than a dozen hands full time. For roundups they would have a total of perhaps a fourty. Even short cattle drives when out of fashion early on as the beast could be trucked to the feedlot more efficiently. This process is at the heart of what it is to be a cowboy, but it ain't cheap.

Our "roundup" consist of collecting the weaned litters into a couple of pet carriers and loading them into the pickup. I add to that the sun canopy, folding chairs and table, ice chest and sales supplys. We bypass the feedlot and go strait to market.

Market day for us was April 03, the day before Easter. For this event we split forces. I left Helene with 16 bunnies at the Walmart in Marlin, Texas. I went back to HomePlace and picked up 10 more before going to the city Easter Egg Hunt in Bremond. At first I thought I had the wrong day. I was the only one there.

Once the kids started arriving the bunnies sold themselves. The little kids are timid at first but I will never forget the look on their faces when they discover how soft a rabbit is. The older kids, into their 70's, still get a kick out of holding them.

"$12.00 seems like a lot of money for a rabbit." I'm told.

"Perhaps," I answer. "But look at what your getting." Our rabbits are fat and healty. Their eyes are bright and they are energetic.

In a little more than an hour the bunnies were all sold. I headed back to Marlin to see how Helene was doing.

In my absents Helene had sold another 4 rabbits. Not bad considering there was another person out there selling for less. His were smaller. They were packed into a small cage and had no shade, food or water. We sold two more before we called it a day. Most of the folks saw the other guys rabbits before buying ours.

To be sure the financial rewards of selling cattel is greater but so is the investment, and potential loss. I hear lots of cattle folks talk about the loss these days.

There is another thing to consider. In the last one hundred and fifty plus years the family has collected lots of stories of men being mangled and killed by cattle.

By the same token I have never heard of anyone being gored by a rabbit. I know of no one being killed in a rabbit stampede. One of our bucks bit me late last year. He was in the freezer thirty minutes later and we had him for sunday dinner.

For us here at HomePlace, rabbit ranching is a good fit.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks Zack,
    Happy Easter to you and yours.

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  2. So you sell as pets instead of meat, huh?

    Good thing you put down the buck that bit you. Once they taste human flesh, the danger that they will consider people as prey is just too great! ;)

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  3. Most of the rabbits we sell are sold as pets. The grandkids are good at helping to gentle them. But like the Duck told Babe "On a farm if you don't have a job - your food."
    When they get to 16 weeks they are as big as they are going to get. If they are better specimins they may become "Staff". If there are no openings their next gig is the freezer.

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  4. What does it entail to gentle a rabbit? Daily handling?

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  5. Daily handling goes a long way. Proper handling is also important. Like kittens and puppies, rabbits don't like to be uncomfortable or think they are going to fall. If a rabbit is scared it will try to get away. This can cause a whole new circus with a parking lot full of people screaming and chasing the escaped bunny.
    The more they are accustomed to being handled, the easier they take to strangers holding them.

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