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Then it all Went Wrong!

After writing my last article “How Do You Do It?” I must subconsciously have been thinking that I was on the crest of a wave regarding where I was with my stud of rabbits, after losing twenty seven rabbits in the autumn of 2010. I felt that 2011 would be a recovery period and I have certainly not bred many quality show rabbits this year but I had bred some excellent breeding does, so I was looking forward to kicking off 2012 with some useful stock.

Well, within two weeks of submitting the article I then started losing rabbits – in the space of a week I lost 30 rabbits – unbelievable! Some fanciers that have this sort of trouble lie quiet and say nothing, some will carry on showing and some will keep the stock at home, some will talk about their troubles and some won’t , well I’m one of the 'open' fanciers as I am quite prepared to talk about any troubles that I have had but unfortunately I don’t have any answers and I think we will struggle to get answers unless fanciers decide to start talking about symptoms, ailments, remedies and cures.

I will start the ball rolling and tell you what has happened to my stud in the last two years and I can only hope that a stream of articles will then roll in for the Spotlight over the course of the year and then perhaps we can all learn something.

2010 - Twenty seven rabbits were lost over a period of a month, with one day claiming four rabbits, all showing the same symptoms, the symptoms were that one evening they were alright, the next evening they would have not eaten and would sit there with a dazed look in their eyes as if they were stunned or going blind, on opening the hutch door some would move and sit with their head pointing into the corner of the hutch, if you moved your hand around above the head they seemed to sway as if they could perhaps see a shadow but I can guarantee that if you did not dispose of the rabbit it would be dead by the morning, there was no bloat, scours or any signs of discharge anywhere on the rabbit. The first rabbits to die were does that were rearing five/six week old youngsters but yet the youngsters grew on and were alright without losing any of them. Adult breeding does without youngsters were alright but all maiden does were lost, adult bucks were safe but again all young bucks were lost, all rabbits twelve weeks and under also survived.

2011- Three days after a show I lost this year’s chocolate buck a super fit rabbit and I presumed it had died of a heart attack, well that was my chance of the National chocolate cup gone. Two shows and seventeen days later was when my troubles began, Thursday night a maiden blue doe was dead and Friday morning another doe had died but yet all the stock still looked well, I really can’t stress enough how fit these rabbits were, almost super fit if there is such a thing, by one o’ clock another four had died, rabbits had now died in all three sheds and also one outside. On Saturday I actually couldn’t keep up with them, I had said to Janet that I would like to see one die so that I could see what actually happened, well by mid afternoon I had witnessed two rabbits die and I must say not a lot to tell really, the rabbits were fit and active and had eaten their food and they just fell on to their side kicked their back legs a couple of times and just lay there motionless but breathing for about a minute and then died, no symptoms and no discharge anywhere, just one very disillusioned fancier that now felt like giving up! Another fifteen rabbits had died by the evening and three more were disposed of by the time the sheds were shut for the day, these last three rabbits did show the same symptoms as 2010. Sunday gave us another couple of sudden deaths and a couple showing the same symptoms and were disposed of followed by another two through the week, so in the matter of one week I had lost thirty rabbits with twenty four going in the first two days.

I didn’t lose any does rearing youngsters but I lost adult breeding does and also maiden does I also lost adult and young bucks, my four generations of chocolate bucks has now been reduced to a solitary buck thankfully it is the gold cup winner and a couple of already weaned around ten week old youngsters also died yet youngsters in the same hutch have survived. What has happened this year has actually contradicted everything that I thought I had learned from last year so I have learned 'Nothing'.

Precautions that I took as soon as the trouble started were spraying of the hutches, inside and out alternately with Virkon S, Dettol and the old faithful Jeyes fluid also soaking the floor every night, the sheds were given as much ventilation as possible with the wind blowing freely through them and perhaps the sudden drop in temperature also helped the situation, while I was trying to get the virus (?) out dad had closed his shed to keep it out, even though his shed is now about fifty yards away we did wonder if it was an airborne virus. One thing that I have noticed during this week of trouble was that I have never seen my rabbits eat as much hay as every night all hay racks needed replenishing.

Two maiden chocolate does showed the 'I’ll sit like a statue syndrome' and after two days one appeared to have the dazed look so it was disposed of, the other which had been mated the week before after a couple of days started to eat grass, clover and knapweed again and seems to have recovered although I think it is no longer pregnant, if this rabbit had the virus it is the first to overcome it.

Well a week has passed and the trouble has finished as quick as it started and the stock look well, so now I’m going to take a gamble, with dad going into hospital for a hip-op (this is not a removal of a music cd) to save time I have now moved all adult and young does into my breeding shed, all bucks in the surplus shed and the show shed has now been closed down until the spring, stock seem to have settled into their new hutches and look well. The chocolate doe is very active around the hutch again.

Just a little thought – when my chocolate buck died the hutch was cleaned out and sprayed with Virkon S and the following night a maiden blue doe was put in there, yes you have guessed right, it’s the only maiden blue doe that has survived. What has disheartened me is that any of the thirty rabbits regardless of markings could have gone into a show pen as their feet were white and any visitors I have had I think could vouch for how my rabbits are kept, are they being kept too clean and not building up an immune system to combat any diseases?

Well there are more experienced fanciers around than me that have perhaps had similar trouble with their stock – lets be more open about it and see if we can all learn something, I and others look forward to your comments in the forthcoming “Spotlight “ newsletters.

I can already hear you screaming a question at me, do you use a Vet? The answer is .........................No!

Don’t Forget! You breed them to show them!!

GARY LEES (FIRSHILL STUD)

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