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What Do You Think?

Purchasing Breeding Stock - What I Look For

by Theresa (Kortbein) Schwandt

It is always fun to look for new stock to add to your current breeding herd. I like to call this "shopping" and I very much enjoy shopping at local all breed shows, specialty shows as well as ARBA Convention and NDS. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I may find that special animal that I want to add to my breeding herd, to improve or enhance desirable qualities of my herd. There are certain things that I feel are important to look for in these prospective new additions.
First and foremost, above anything else, I look for a healthy, bright-eyed animal that does not exhibit any signs of illness. I look for an animal with vigor, resilience, and good overall general condition. Any animal, no matter how nicely marked or typed, will never help your herd if it is unhealthy or sick. This can lead to more problems than it is worth. Then I look at general type of the animal. Does it have a nice head? How does it's body look and feel when you pose the animal? A round head that is balanced with the rest of the body is important. I realize that the head doesn't add up to a lot of points in the standard, but let's face it, the head is one of the first things that a judge will see and make his or her first impression, so to me it is important to breed for nice head. Next the body type; I set up the rabbit in the correct pose for evaluation. A short, round, compact body is a must! You need to have a nice body to start with, because in my experience, if you breed for good overall type, the markings will come. I look for a nice topline on the rabbit, which usually is the result of good depth of body. It seems to me that this is a feature which if you have it, then you will not have as many animals that seem "hippy" or hollow in the loin. I see a lot more "hippy" and hollow loined rabbits that are flat and have a poor topline. Along that line I check to make sure that the animal's topline peaks in the correct spot and not too soon. Many times when the rabbit peaks too soon, they will appear to slide off the hindquarter.
Checking out the lower hindquarters is also something that I do. I like to see a Dutch with full, round hindquarters that carry the flesh all the way down to the table. One of my biggest dislikes is pinched and/or undercut lower hindquarter. These traits are very difficult to breed out of your herd once you have them. When evaluating the body type, run your hand over the rabbit and it should feel smooth throughout, not "bony" or rough. Although many say you can condition that "smoothness" into the rabbit, it is more importantly a genetic factor to breed for by using animals in your breeding program that possess this trait. I do not use any feed conditioners with my animals, I rely on using stock that maintain good condition as part of my herd to pass on these good genetics.
Although type is number one, I do look at markings to a point as well. I look for a good overall balance of markings. Personally I like to steer away from high cheeks and long stops. For some reason it seems to me that these are things that get longer and higher very easily. I would even prefer to use an animal with a split stop for breeding as opposed to an animal with long stops. Of course we all strive to use animals with ideal type and markings, but in my opinion, an animal with outstanding type and just okay markings is better to use for breeding than an animal with just okay type and outstanding markings. Color is another important factor that I evaluate and breed for. It doesn't matter which color or colors you raise, each has it's own difficulties. I want a properly colored animal when I am adding an animal to my barn, no matter which variety it may be.
I would not purchase or use for breeding, any animal that has a nose spot, an eye spot, or bad teeth. To be clear I am talking about a genetic occurrence, not one resulting from an injury that the animal has incurred. There is a difference.
Although it is not real important to me, I also like to peruse the pedigree to see if the animal I am examining is at all related to the lines that are already in my barn. I try to line breed my Dutch so it can be helpful to view the pedigree and find that this possible addition is somewhat related to the current animals in my breeding program. At the same token, adding lines that are outcrosses can be helpful as well. The pedigree will also give you information on the varieties behind the rabbit which may be important as well.
In conclusion, I have discussed some of the things that I look at when "shopping" for Dutch to add to my barn. I would be interested to hear other's opinions on this subject as well. I am sure I have just "touched" on a very broad topic and that there are many other views on the above article.

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