New Zealand Meat Rabbit
The New Zealand meat rabbit was developed specifically to provide a large, fast growing rabbit to raise for the meat industry. While the breed comes in white, red, black, blue and broken, white is the usual choice for anyone raising meat rabbits. Blues exist but are not accepted for showing. Adults weigh 9 to 11 pounds at maturity.
New Zealands produce large litters consistently, which is another trait that makes them popular for meat rabbits. They have been bred for good muscle and fast growth.
The white fur is a byproduct of meat production. White is preferred because it dyes easily and can be used for more applications than colored fur.
People who are serious about producing meat often cross New Zealands with Californians. They provide the larger size, larger litters and fast growth while Californians make the fryers even meatier. But for as many breeders who do this cross, many more stay with purebreds. It is hard to beat their production rates. Does conceive easily and raise litters without a lot of fuss, then they're ready to do it all over again.
When you see a large white rabbit, nine times out of ten you're looking at a New Zealand. Besides being raised for meat, they are also popular show rabbits and pets. When they are socialized as youngsters, they can become quite affectionate.
The New Zealand meat rabbit was developed in the United States around 1912. The breed began as a red rabbit that resulted from a cross between a Belgian Hare and a white rabbit with a background of Flemish Giant, American and Angora rabbits. To this day you can sometimes get rabbits with wool in some liters. The Giant Chinchilla contributed to the breed to get the black variety.
Like other rabbit breeds, New Zealands need to be kept cool in hot weather and given shelter from wind and rain. They eat the same as other rabbits; a nice fresh pelleted feed and hay make a good diet. Fresh foods and herbs should be given occasionally. They work really well when you need to tempt a rabbit that has gone off their feed.
New Zealands are one of the most frequent breeds used for meat pen competition. This is a class at a rabbit show where three rabbits from the same litter are judged together on their merits as fryers. They should be as identical as possible in appearance and weight. These rabbits must be 10 weeks old or younger and weigh between 3 and 5 pounds. They do very well in these classes as well as in other commercial classes like fur, fryer, roaster and stewer.
New Zealands are good choices for 4H and FFA projects. They are easy to handle and can fulfill whatever type of project the child wants to do. This breed is also fairly easy to find from other 4H families or local breeders. Let them choose the color that will suit their project best. You can breed the different colors together, but the offspring will not be show-able. For the best results, breed white to white, red to red and so on. The only exception to this is broken.
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