At one time I’d been feeding enough rabbits to give several feeds a good test. With raising rabbits for show, culls for meat, breeding animals for performance and involving several different breeds it made a difference. The rabbits used during this test were Rex and Dutch primarily, with a few other breeds scattered in the herd.
Both Nutrena and Purina are established companies. Purina was available strictly at a Purina dealer while the Nutrena was available at a farm and feed store – helpful at times the dealer was closed. Both brands were available in 50 pound bags and were comparable in cost, within a couple dollars.
Nutrena’s NatureWise rabbit pellets are advertised as balanced in protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals for maximum growth and quality of fur, with proper energy levels for breeding rabbits. The recommendation is to feed by weight not volume. For does just kindling the recommended amount is 2-3 ounces per doe per day, increasing to free choice within 4-5 days and continuing through lactation on free choice. Weaned bunnies, equally, recommended as free choice while dry does and bucks got 4-6 ounces per head per day. As a complete pellet it isn’t necessary to feed hay but it can be fed, with water and salt available at all times.
Purina’s Professional formula is a high protein diet promoted as great for show rabbits and long hair rabbits, as well as for breeding does and their litters. The amount to feed is similar to the other brand – with the exception it is noted on the site to back off to 1-2 ounces for three days prior to weaning – this decreases milk production and prevents problems when weaning a doe that milks heavy. The ingredient list is on the website. Also noted is that evening is the best *time* for feeding and that “a feeding program is only as effective as the management practices followed.”
So the official introductions aside – when the rubber meets the road there was a clear, no contest absolute no doubt winner. The does and bunnies on the Nutrena brand had more bunnies lost in a litter; the bunnies fed free choice failed to put on any kind of fur and were potty looking with a couple dying. They didn’t reach mature weight as they should have, despite being fed free choice. The does didn’t breed back well, and there was an increase in breeding problems and condition. I went to the dealer trying to find why there was so many problems – perhaps the feed was old. The representative at the store wasn’t interested in hearing anything about the feed nor did they inform me of the Nutrena show and performance formulas which might have performed better. I then wrote to Nutrena about the problems with the feed and the dealer and to my surprise never got an answer from Nutrena either. Upset at the problems I switched everything to the Purina Professional formula, vowing to never spend another dime on any Nutrena product. The SAME RABBITS began producing growthy litters, the SAME BREEDINGS resulted in siblings that grew well and made weight. The coats were awesome and they won several shows in the area. The underweight bunnies, too stunted with the poor feed, never did make weight but did greatly improve on coat and lost the potty belly. The difference in these rabbits was amazing.
The rabbits fed the Purina Professional formula grew well, had wonderful coats and better attitudes. Indeed, from a smaller herd at the national show a broken Rex doe was 5th in a very competitive class of nearly 30 rabbits. The genetics were there – the management never changed. They were in the same sized cages, the same barn, the same situation. The only difference was the pelleted feed put before them. The breeding does produced larger litters, maintained condition for five litters per year without a problem. Their litters weaned and grew well. The condition of the rabbits before and after and the lack of interest in the problems with Nutrena’s product leaves me with not even a debate as to the clear winner being the Purina Professional formula. It was a couple dollars more but the growth and performance of the rabbits made that an inexpensive investment in the health of the herd.