Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Loss of My Best Friend

January 10th of this past year we lost our fur-kid, Miller. He was an outstanding dog - half Border Collie, half Kelpie. He was an one year dating anniversary gift from my husband in 1995 and purchased from a cowboy at the CA Mid State Fair. I can still remember the little boy who walked with us to see the puppies out in his stock trailer. I had initially chosen a smooth coated female and was satisfied until I saw a fluffy little guy sitting over by himself in the corner staring right at me. It was then I changed my mind and never looked back.

Miller was an extremely smart dog, knew many tricks and even would lead my horses from the barn and pick up my keys and carry them if I dropped them or place them "in my hand". I completely trusted him around all of my animals. He was my best friend for so many years. This year he was celebrating his 14th birthday. He is sorely missed and left us with some mighty big shoes to fill for our next dog
A few months later, I researched livestock guardian dogs (LGD) on the internet and found a breeder who had one older puppy available. She was raised/imprinted in the goat pen with her mother and some neighboring chickens. Marc and I drove to Tehachapi, CA to meet our new puppy. She was so fluffy - and bright white. At only 14 weeks, she was about 35 pounds and already quite an arm load to carry!

We soon settled on naming her "Tonka" and these past few months have been an absolute delight! She is so smart, already mastering commands such as "sit", and "go" (which means away from me). She is already trust worthy and super friendly with all the animals - only chased the chickens once to try and play with them but they were not too impressed with a 50 pound puppy galloping through the chicken coop! She is best friends with Misty, the baby Nubian goat and working to be accepted by the older goats.

The rabbits are completely used to Tonka greeting them in the morning. We have a routine. This past week I was sitting with a litter of weaning English Lops, out in a 6x6 converted chain link kennel. The gate was partially open as I was sitting with the babies. One of the babies was being curious and wandered about half way out of the gate when she was greeted by a lolling Tonka who gingerly nudged her with her nose back into the pen. Tonka then backed up (I kid you not) and used her nose to swing the gate closed! This left me speachless. Tonka loves coming inside in the evening after a long day guarding her "flock". Her favorite toy is a stuffed bunny and she currently weighs about 75 pounds! Its a real TREAT when she decides to climb into bed at 2am! lol.

Inbreeding, Line-breeding and Outcrossing

By breeding father to daughter, half-brother to half-sister, son to mother, and by the closest inbreeding of all, brother to sister, stability and purity of inherited material is obtained. Specifically, inbreeding focuses on both desired features and faults, strengthening dominants, and bringing recessives out in the open where they can be seen and evaluated. This selective process supplies the breeder with the only control over prepotency and homozygosity. Inbreeding does NOT produce degeneration of a line: It merely concentrates weakness already present, so they can be recognized and eliminated within a line.

It is essential that the breeder have complete understanding of the merits of inbreeding for by employing it skillfully results can be obtained to equal those of other successful animal breeding programs. You must keep in mind that inbreeding itself creates neither faults or virtues, it merely strengthen and fixes them in the resulting animal. If the basic stock used within a line is generally good, possessing few if any minor faults then inbreeding will concentrate all those virtues which are so valuable in that basic stock. Inbreeding gives us great breeding worth by its unique ability to produce prepotency and unusual similarity in predicting more similar type. It exposes the "skeletons" in the closet by bringing to light hidden faults within a line so the breeder is able to select against it.

This is a more broad type of inbreeding which conserves valuable characteristics and in a general sense, gives us some control over type and in a lesser control over specific characteristics. It creates "strains" or "families" within a breed which are more easily recognized by their similar conformation.
Specifically, line-breeding entails the selection of breeding partners, who have within their pedigrees one or more common ancestor. These individuals occur repeatedly within the first four or five generations so that it can be assumed their genetic influence molds the genetic type of succeeding generations. It is a fact that in many breeds, success has been obtained by line-breeding to outstanding individuals.
One of the chief dangers of line-breeding can be contributed by the breeder of one strain. Many times the breeder reaches a point where he selects potential breeding partners based on pedigree alone, instead of individual selection and pedigree combined, within the line.

Outcross Breeding
Outcross breeding is the selection of breeding partners whose pedigree, in the first five generations are free from any common ancestor.
For the breeder to exercise any control over the progeny of an out-cross mating, one of the partners should be inbred or closely line-bred. The other partner should show in himself and in the progeny test when bred to other mates, that he is dominant in the needed compensations which are the reason for the out-cross. Greater uniformity can only be achieved if the out-cross is made with animals of similar family type.

To summarize, we find that inbreeding brings us a fixity of type and simplifies the breeding formula. It strengthens desirable dominants and brings hidden and undesirable recessives to the surface where they can be recognized and possible culled and corrected with out-cross breeding. When we have established a definite improvement in overall type by rigid selection for desired characteristics, we line-breed to create and establish a strain of family line which, in various degrees, incorporates and produces the improvements which we have worked to produce.

A Look Into General Breeding Philosophy

  • Offspring tend to resemble their total pedigree more often than the immediate sire and dam. The more intensely bred line will dominate.
    • It is virtually impossible to upgrade quality within a herd through one out-cross breeding. It will take several breeding's to the same line.
      • The best offspring are produced through a Half Brother and Half Sister breeding, doubling up on the particular rabbit you admire and then out-crossing on the dam.
        • Out-crosses are generally a big disappointment; however if the out-cross is free from major faults, it should be kept back and bred back to the individual line you wish to copy.
          • Out-crossing must be made every few generations but only to keep the vigor of the line, the more out-crossing, the less chance of uniform quality.
            • Everything is inherited... Type, personality, color. If you have a particular rabbit that carries a specific trait you feel should be stamped out and you can't stand the idea of a barn full of that specific trait, then DON'T BREED IT.
              • Undesirable traits are never truly bred out of a line. They are merely hidden or buried. They will rear their ugly little heads when least expected to haunt you over and over again for years to come, you will wonder why you ever made that foolish choice.
                • Each rabbit carries a recessive for nearly every fault you can name. It might take generations for it to show up again, but its there.
                  • There is no perfect rabbit. No perfect breeding. Mother nature has a tightfisted way of doling out improvements and changes.
                    • How then can we move ahead? Let your conscience be your guide, use only individuals you feel worthy of duplicating and only keep the ones possessing the qualities you want within your line and you will slowly see improvement.

                      Monday, August 10, 2009

                      Culling: Loose Terms Defined

                      There seems to be some grey area on the term culling. Although it's one of the most difficult decisions a fancier will have to make to insure the succession of their own progress within a line.

                      Wikipedia defines "culling" as:
                      "The process of removing animals (rabbits) from a group (herd) based on specific criteria (The Standard of Perfection). This is done in order to either reinforce certain desirable characteristics or to remove certain undesirable characteristics from the group. The process of culling usually implies the killing of animals with undesirable characteristics; but can also imply "non-lethal" removal from the herd."

                      I prefer to take the responsibility for our animals and permanently remove culls from our herd. I generally DONT pet out our culls, only on rare occasions.

                      Are you asking WHY?? What harm could selling a pet rabbit bring? Well, I am finding out more and more this inferior stock ends up on the show table or even worse: allowed to reproduce. Here at Wroyal Reign Lops we remove rabbits who may have genetic defects, or are poor examples of the breed. I especially have issue with not culling properly within the English Lop breed. They are a challenging breed not naturally known as a strong genetic breed. Issues such as weak ankles, pigeon breast, fine bone, split genetaila, malocclusion and so on are all contributing factors when determining cull quality English Lops. It all comes down to what your ideal example of the breed looks like in your mind.

                      I had a fellow breeder recently request a pedigree on a rabbit who was given to a "good" home as a companion. This meant in my opinion the rabbit did not meet my standards to continue a line or be of the quality (again, according to my standards) to compete. I was fed the line "well, from a fellow breeder, I was hoping you could just give me the pedigree...". I personally love how this situation was turned around to make me out as the **BAD VILLAN** for not obliging and offering her a pedigree out of the kindness of my heart. I especially enjoyed the comment "...well, if that is according to your ethics..." Lol. That's a hoot! Lol.

                      In closing I believe the most respectful and responsible thing a person new to the fancy can do is to listen to the breeder's opinion. Pet quality is usually labeled as such for a good reason.

                      SIDE NOTE:
                      I was talking about this with a girl friend and she gave me a wonderful idea. Tattoo "SOLD AS A CULL" or "SOLD AS A PET" in the ear instead of "CULL" or "PET" so these animals will be clearly obvious if they do end up on the tables. Wouldn't it be great if the ARBA took a stance on CULL rabbits and disallow CULL or PET as an ear tattoo and automatic DQ?

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