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What Do You Think?

Building or Rebuilding that Variety!

by Kevin Hooper

Getting to the top is hard, staying there is harder.
I don't know who said this, but it is quite true to rabbits as well. Although I never claimed to have had any of mine truly at the top, or where I wanted, I believe they have been close a few times. Usually, this can be seen in each color. We have colors that are strong across the country, and others which are not. chocolates and torts have not been winning any of the big shows the last several years, those would be our weaker colors. Black and grays would be our stronger, with steels and blues in the middle, as a whole.
However, once you get them to a high level, what do you do when their quality declines, and you are not getting what you want?
First, of course you look for others of the same variety to bring into your herd/line, or even ones of a different color which is commonly used in your problem variety (i.e.-blacks to blues). Let's say this is done, and you get some, but the really nice ones are few and far between, and even then are they what you want? You then bring in some others of that same color, and get the same results. Good stock is hard to find in many areas of the country! Now, what do you do?
Well, here is what I'm doing. The problem colors I have are indeed chocolate and tort. There are some good ones, but they are not as good as my blacks, grays, steels, or blues. The chocolates do not have the bone or the thickness of ear, the really strong midsection, and texture of coat that my steels, blacks, and grays have. The torts on the other hand are just inconsistent. I have some that develop early, some late, and some don't! Don't even say it is because they are torts. Those of you who have been in this for more than ten years know what we had going in torts in the mid nineties. They were very nice! My torts not only need that consistency in growth, but markings, and body shape.
So, of course while at the NDS I looked for what I thought would help my torts. I have quite a few nice does, but I need a few traits to compliment them. I found two bucks that I thought might help, one was already sold and one was a young one I bid on in the action. I come home with nothing that would help my torts! I did not look for anything that I could use on chocolates, as that plan was already in play.
What is the plan - I'm using my winning black buck from last year's and this year's NDS on both my torts and chocolates! Now, this buck does carry blue, and is out of steel! Oh no, what a mess right? Well, maybe not. I have used this buck on many steel does, with no steels produced. So, I think I'm safe on the steel aspect. He does throw blue, so that is something I will either have to test breed for, or watch for and weed out those who carry blue.
This buck has excellent Dutch type, and is super smooth, with the texture of coat and thickness of ear that I need on the chocolates. The first litter is hopping out of the box with four out of seven looking very nice. Providing they feel as good as they look, they will then be tattooed so that I can identify that the carry chocolate, and they will be bred to either chocolates or other blacks out of a black/chocolate cross.
Now, for the torts, you are thinking I will have all dark torts and that I will ruin my color? Well, first generation will be all blacks, very shiny blacks by the way! Those will then be tattooed to show they carry tort, and they will be bred back to torts. Some dark ones will be in the litters, more so they will have a tendency to darken with age. by the second generation, the color should be close, and by the third generation, it should be there? My torts are at least ten generations of tort to tort, and I still get dark ones and light ones, so using one which is dark does not concern me.
Now, those who are reading this may question why would you do something that may take a few generations to get you to where you desire? My response is that I have a vision of what I want, and if the characteristics you need are not available, then you need an alternative.
This is not a wholesale breeding of tort to black, but two does to a black buck. The same with the chocolates.
When breeding Dutch, you have to have a vision. Where are you, where do you want to go, how do you get there, and what is needed to create that vision? (That and a bit of luck helps too!).

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