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Most efficient meat to raise for dog food?

 
Em Kellner
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We have two Great Pyrenees LGDs and I'd like to start raising our own "dog food" for a raw diet. Right now we're spending about $90/month on grain-free kibble because I haven't decided on a reliable source of homegrown food for them. What would you say is the most efficient method? Chickens? Quail? Fish? Rabbits? Rate of production and quantity will be important with two very large dogs - for instance with chickens they would need a good sized one every single day. Or I guess I could raise a ton at once and process and freeze? Anyone want to share their best self-sustainable methods for this?
 
Kyrt Ryder
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The most efficient meat to raise for dog food [or any food] depends on how you're quantifying efficient.

Are you quantifying it by cost? By time investment? By land requirements?

If you've got the space for them, a small sheep flock of small to midsize sheep with enough paddocks to move them weekly and not overgraze [plan to come back in two months] is pretty time and cash efficient, but it does burn a lot of land.


If you tell us your landbase, climate and soils [and the sort of people around you if you aren't rural] it will help us make personalized suggestions.
 
Em Kellner
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Good point. By efficient I'm thinking space constraints/resources used, and also rate of production - makes the most meat the fastest, since they will require quite a bit of it. I definitely don't have space to graze sheep. We have woodland, good for goats, but not near enough grassy area to graze a flock of sheep, even a small one, with that being their sole sustenance. We're pretty rural, and people around are on the same wavelength so neighbors aren't an issue, we have about 2.5 acres (weird layout for traditional pastures though), northeast US climate.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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By Northeast are we talking Mountains of Maine or Lowlands of Pennsylvania [or somewhere in between.] USDA growing zone is a pretty accurate indicator for the East Coast region.

On 2.5 acres you actually definitely DO have the space for a small flock, especially if your soil if good. Soay are a more primitive breed that likes browse more than most. Alternatively, if you felt you could do better with goats Pigmy Goats are pretty small and easy to manage [and don't require a massive amount of storage space for the meat.]

One nice thing about feeding dogs on livestock is that they're pretty happy with all the things we don't want.

If you want to reserve that space for orchards or gardens [and don't want to integrate pasture between either] then you might want to economize space the most possible, which is rabbits [and Quail, though they are more expensive to feed than rabbits.]
 
Jd Gonzalez
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Consider deer hunting. Best organic non GMO animal protein available. I save all the trimmings and freeze them in portions. Also consider befriendling local hunters and butchers. They might become a source of trimmings also.
 
Em Kellner
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Zone 5b, northwest CT. We have good soil, rich woodland, but that 2.5 acres is not all usable grassy space, it is sloping heavily wooded areas interrupted by a long wide driveway and a large house/deck/garage/pool. I like the idea of Soay sheep, and I've thought of getting a couple mostly for their wool, but I can't imagine how I could possibly raise enough, sustainably, in my space to feed several pounds of meat to the dogs every single day. That's a lot sheep and a lot of a) browsing b) supplemental winter feeding c) butchering and processing which is obviously way more involved than say a chicken, even if you're not fully dressing out a carcass for human consumption. I'd love to hear your ideas about how it might be done though!

Hunting is a great idea - we get venison and pheasant and wild goose from some hunters every year, who hunt on my grandparents land in exchange for a portion of the meat. I don't have the time to take it up myself, but there are plenty of people around that I bet I could ask for trimmings. I'll look into that!
 
Kyrt Ryder
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You don't have enough time to hunt... but you want to take up raising meat as an alternative?

Yeah, cage rabbits or cage quail is my suggestion. Quick and simple daily chore that requires very little time investment. Once it's up and running it's practically automatic.
 
Chris Sargent
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A good dual purpose laying flock can provide a fair bit of meat and eggs for the dogs. Get a nice dual purpose flock going. Keep broody hens and let them do the work of raising chicks for you. Feed the males and older hens to the dogs. Don't overlook the value of eggs for the dogs themselves. Mine get eggs when I have extra...or don't want to clean dirty eggs, or find a hidden stash I'm not sure how old they are. I just drop the whole egg, shells and all in their bowl. An egg or two every day would be a nice supplement to your Pyrenees diet. If you're keeping chickens anyway a few more hens so the dogs can get their share isn't really any more work.

I think I'd also do rabbits. A handful of does and a buck will keep you in baby bunnies pretty much year round. I've not raised meat rabbits personally but know several people that do and know that they can produce quite a bit of meat. An advantage of rabbits is you can keep them breeding year round and so could keep them live until its time to feed rather than raising and butchering something like ducks or chickens in a batch or a larger animal that has to be butchered and process in one go and then meat has to be frozen or canned. If you're feeding them to the dogs fresh you wouldn't need to do much for processing, just kill and skin.

If I was trying to feed my dogs entirely I'd likely do a mix. Chickens and ducks. Let the animals raise their own chicks on summer forage, then pick off a handful of the males each week through the fall and early winter. Keep the hens over the winter and feed their eggs. Main winter source of meat I think would be rabbits. Easy to keep in cages and so don't need too much space to keep a breeding batch all winter.

Also consider fish. An aquaponic system with some fast growing fish can be pretty efficient. It's another food source that can be kept live and running year round (if you have a protected area like a greenhouse to set it up in). Plus you can just net a few fish and throw them to the dogs whole...no need for butchering and storing. If you didn't want to keep the system heated and running all winter you could have a few outdoor pools or tanks growing out fish all summer, drain them before winter, and just freeze the fish whole. No need to fillet or even gut. Thaw out and feed the whole fish as needed all winter.

I don't know how you personally feel about starches for dogs. I think some types, like potatoes are ok in moderation. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams are pretty easy to grow and store well. Pumpkins and squash are another option. They do need to be cooked but boiling a big pot once or twice a week isn't that much work and could be a supplement to the diet especially in winter.
When I make up my canned dog food I usually add about 10% veggies. Potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas are some I use.


 
Joseph Johnson
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This is a great thread! I had not even thought about raising food for my dogs. (I have 3) I really like the idea of rabbits. How many does would I need to supply them year round? I don't know about the chickens though, it has been my experience that when a dog gets a taste for raw chicken the coop is no longer safe.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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With the dogs it's all about the training. Train them very seriously from day one that the chickens are part of the family to be protected. [This obviously varies by breed, I'm not sure you can pull it off with a terrier for example]

As for does per dog, I'll leave those calculations to people who have practical experience raising meat rabbits.
 
Miranda Converse
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I've read that freezing the chicken prior to feeding it takes away the idea that it was a live bird at one point in time. Not sure there is any merit in that but something to look into.

I also agree with everything said on raising chickens for meat. You could even get an incubator (be careful, it's addicting) and raise your own chicks year round. If you get breeds that create sex-links, you could sell the pullets for a bit of extra cash(I never have any trouble selling extra) and keep the roos for the dogs. Keep a couple hens for eggs and future chicks. If you free range them the feed bill isn't too high and selling chicks or eggs basically covers that. Very easy to maintain, I open the coop doors in the morning, give them a scoop of food, close the door at night.

You could also look into meat birds like the Cornish cross. You have to buy these as chicks since they are generally too fat to breed on their own. But for about $3 each, they are ready in 6-9 weeks and dress out at about 4-6lbs. I have never raised these but from what I hear they can be pretty gross (like filthy-gross).
 
Olga Booker
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I have 3 dogs, a Pyreneen Mountain Dog, a Border Collie and a Belgian Shepherd Tervuren. Raising meat for them has been something that I have thought about a lot and I think that when it does come to it I will go for Guinea pigs. I think that for me they are easier to raise then rabbits and breed like, well,,, faster then rabbits. Also my dogs just love the critters I have trapped that resemble your pocket gophers. They eat them fur, bones and all and guinea pigs look similar in size and shape.

However, for the time being, I get trimmings and bones from the local butcher for free, bits and pieces from local hunters and stuff from the dispatching on the farm. My border collie's favourite is a chicken head! I do not feed them on meat alone as dogs actually have a varied diet; in the autumn I have a hard time keeping them off the walnuts and berries. My lot love apples and pears even bananas (when I used to buy them a long time ago).

Every 3 days, I cook a big pot of brown rice and add anything that is around like, pulses, vegetable peels, old bits of bread, then I will add raw meat, raw eggs, cheese rinds, sour milk, scraps etc... (not all at once). I don't give them the eggs with the shell, as I don't want them to recognise it as something they could pilfer from the egg box.

Pyreneen Mountain dogs never used to be fed everyday and a long time ago, when they were in the high pastures for the summer, the shepherd often only fed them sheep milk and bread. They were quite happy to supplement their diet with the odd wild rabbit, wood cock or mountain hare.

 
Burra Maluca
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Olga Booker wrote:Pyreneen Mountain dogs never used to be fed everyday and a long time ago, when they were in the high pastures for the summer, the shepherd often only fed them sheep milk and bread. They were quite happy to supplement their diet with the odd wild rabbit, wood cock or mountain hare.


That's how all the sheepdogs I knew as a child were fed - milky bread and whatever they could catch. Plus, presumably, the entrails of any home-butchered animals, but as a kid I was mostly shielded from that.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Miranda Converse wrote:
You could also look into meat birds like the Cornish cross.


I wouldn't do Cornish Cross because they need special feed or they die.
 
Miranda Converse
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Miranda Converse wrote:
You could also look into meat birds like the Cornish cross.


I wouldn't do Cornish Cross because they need special feed or they die.


I haven't heard that before but I haven't done too much research into them. They do have lots of health problems due to their unnatural weight and uncleanly habits. I would prefer raising healthy birds that are capable of reproducing on their own instead of being artificially inseminated anyway. It was just an idea for if someone wanted a quick turnaround of meat and didn't want to fuss with hatching their own...
 
eric koperek
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TO: Em Kellner
FROM: Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT: Feeding Dogs
DATE: PM 6:13 Wednesday 17 February 2016
TEXT:

1. The most "efficient" meat for dog food is the kind you DON'T have to produce yourself. My Father's relatives have been raising dogs for 800 years. We've learned a few things over the centuries. Take advantage of our experience.

2. Dogs do not need an all-meat or predominantly meat diet. Nor do they need raw meat. What they do need is lots of calories, especially if they live and work outside. Make sure your dogs get at least 20% animal fat or vegetable oil in their diet.

3. Dog bread has been produced by farmers and bakers since the Middle Ages. Back then, dog bread came in the form of big round loaves. Today, we call it kibble = twice baked bread. Take your old bread and dry it in a very slow oven = 200 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. Store in an airtight container.

4. Dogs will grow well on whatever you eat. Table scraps and kibble with a little extra fat or oil will keep your hounds in good condition.

5. Make friends with your local dairy farmer. Milk and kibble make great dog food. (The idea is to let some other fool do the work; your time is too valuable to waste raising meat for dog food).

6. Find the nearest river. Check with your State Fish & Game police. Wait for the next spawning run of whatever species is most common in your area. Take all the fish your law allows. When I lived in Saskatchewan we caught "suckers" = a big, bony fish much like carp. Run them whole (scales, bones, and all) through a meat grinder and portion into 1 or 2 pound blocks. Store in plastic bags in big chest freezers. 1 or 2 days fishing will provide all the "dog meat" you need for a year. If you do not live too far from the sea, make a deal with local fishermen to buy their "scrap" = junk fish. Buy the boat a case of beer and they will fill your pick-up truck with fish. Extra fish make great garden fertilizer.

7. I raise beagles for hunters, a high-price specialty market. I feed my beagles live rabbits. Every other day I toss a rabbit over the fence, 1 rabbit per dog. I don't necessarily recommend this for farm dogs but it raises healthy hounds that want to hunt. Note: If feeding raw meat always worm your dogs every 6 months.

8. Rabbits are really easy to raise but it is even more efficient to trap or snare them. There is an enormous population of wild rabbits. Just dump some food on the ground and set your snares. If you set up feeding sites you will always have plenty of rabbits.

9. Buying dog meat is often cheaper than trying to raise it yourself. For example, I can buy chicken leg quarters locally for $0.59 per pound (retail price), and about $0.40 per pound (wholesale price). I can also purchase mixed frozen vegetables for $0.54 per pound. Chicken and mixed vegetables will grow any kind of dog for about $1.00 per day. Bake the chicken at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a covered roasting pan for 2 hours.

10. Make friends with your local grocer, butcher, and baker. I get chicken skins, chicken fat, chicken bones, and other scraps for $0.19 per pound. I buy stale bread for $0.25 a loaf. I bake bread in a wood fired brick oven. I trade bread with my local wholesale butcher in exchange for bones. I get all the bones I need for a commercial kennel plus enough bones to fertilize a 1-acre market garden.

11. I noticed a previous comment on Guinea Pigs. I have traveled throughout the Andes and highly recommend guinea pigs as good eating. As an added benefit, they are much more productive than rabbits and easier to raise than chickens. Chickens are my last choice for raising dog meat because of the stink, mess, and effort grow them. Besides, you want your dogs to protect your flock, not eat them. It's real hard to train a dog not to hunt chicken if you feed them chickens, especially raw chickens (which I do not recommend).

12. You can make your own dog biscuits out of whole wheat flour, whole eggs (including shells), milk, and salt. (Process eggs in a blender to grind up shells). You can add 10% to 20% (by flour weight) chicken or other grease = cooked fat to the biscuit dough at your discretion. No yeast or baking powder is necessary. Dough does not need to raise. Extrude dough into rods or bars then cut and place on parchment lined baking trays. Bake in a moderate = 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until lightly browned then dry in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven overnight until crisp. Store in air-tight containers.

13. For more information on old-fashioned "biological" farming please visit: www.agriculturesolutions.wordpress.com -- or -- www.worldagriculturesolutions.wordpress.com -- or -- send your questions to: Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania, 15108 USA -- or -- send an e-mail to: erickoperek@gmail.com

 
Em Kellner
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:You don't have enough time to hunt... but you want to take up raising meat as an alternative?

Yeah, cage rabbits or cage quail is my suggestion. Quick and simple daily chore that requires very little time investment. Once it's up and running it's practically automatic.


I have 3 children 6 and under, Kyrt. I have plenty of time to spend in my backyard tending animals with the little ones in earshot, and a grand total of zero time to go off alone on hunting trips. We already raise meat, but not in the quantity that would be necessary to achieve a closed loop dog feeding system, so yes, I can confirm that I don't have enough time to hunt, but can raise meat at home as an alternative. Do quail hatch out their own eggs? I think that rabbits would be a good solution too, my husband however will take some convincing. Any breeds that you recommend?
 
Em Kellner
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Chris Sargent wrote:A good dual purpose laying flock can provide a fair bit of meat and eggs for the dogs. Get a nice dual purpose flock going. Keep broody hens and let them do the work of raising chicks for you. Feed the males and older hens to the dogs. Don't overlook the value of eggs for the dogs themselves. Mine get eggs when I have extra...or don't want to clean dirty eggs, or find a hidden stash I'm not sure how old they are. I just drop the whole egg, shells and all in their bowl. An egg or two every day would be a nice supplement to your Pyrenees diet. If you're keeping chickens anyway a few more hens so the dogs can get their share isn't really any more work.

I think I'd also do rabbits. A handful of does and a buck will keep you in baby bunnies pretty much year round. I've not raised meat rabbits personally but know several people that do and know that they can produce quite a bit of meat. An advantage of rabbits is you can keep them breeding year round and so could keep them live until its time to feed rather than raising and butchering something like ducks or chickens in a batch or a larger animal that has to be butchered and process in one go and then meat has to be frozen or canned. If you're feeding them to the dogs fresh you wouldn't need to do much for processing, just kill and skin.

If I was trying to feed my dogs entirely I'd likely do a mix. Chickens and ducks. Let the animals raise their own chicks on summer forage, then pick off a handful of the males each week through the fall and early winter. Keep the hens over the winter and feed their eggs. Main winter source of meat I think would be rabbits. Easy to keep in cages and so don't need too much space to keep a breeding batch all winter.

Also consider fish. An aquaponic system with some fast growing fish can be pretty efficient. It's another food source that can be kept live and running year round (if you have a protected area like a greenhouse to set it up in). Plus you can just net a few fish and throw them to the dogs whole...no need for butchering and storing. If you didn't want to keep the system heated and running all winter you could have a few outdoor pools or tanks growing out fish all summer, drain them before winter, and just freeze the fish whole. No need to fillet or even gut. Thaw out and feed the whole fish as needed all winter.

I don't know how you personally feel about starches for dogs. I think some types, like potatoes are ok in moderation. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams are pretty easy to grow and store well. Pumpkins and squash are another option. They do need to be cooked but boiling a big pot once or twice a week isn't that much work and could be a supplement to the diet especially in winter.
When I make up my canned dog food I usually add about 10% veggies. Potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas are some I use.




Thanks Chris, this is great info! Do you have any resources to recommend on aquaponics? It's something I'm familiar with in concept, but haven't explored actually implementing. I think that growing our poultry flock will definitely be a big part of the solution! We plan to grow mangelwurzels for the goats (those big old fodder beets), so that might be something to give to the dogs to for starch at the same time.
 
Em Kellner
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Miranda Converse wrote:I've read that freezing the chicken prior to feeding it takes away the idea that it was a live bird at one point in time. Not sure there is any merit in that but something to look into.

I also agree with everything said on raising chickens for meat. You could even get an incubator (be careful, it's addicting) and raise your own chicks year round. If you get breeds that create sex-links, you could sell the pullets for a bit of extra cash(I never have any trouble selling extra) and keep the roos for the dogs. Keep a couple hens for eggs and future chicks. If you free range them the feed bill isn't too high and selling chicks or eggs basically covers that. Very easy to maintain, I open the coop doors in the morning, give them a scoop of food, close the door at night.

You could also look into meat birds like the Cornish cross. You have to buy these as chicks since they are generally too fat to breed on their own. But for about $3 each, they are ready in 6-9 weeks and dress out at about 4-6lbs. I have never raised these but from what I hear they can be pretty gross (like filthy-gross).


We have chickens now, so adding to that flock would be pretty easy! Someone on a local group here was just posting about a different variety of meat bird, a newer mixed breed that isn't Cornish Cross, that are supposed to be good foragers and much healthier, but also dress out pretty quick. If they can breed they might be a great option to start with for the dogs now that I think about it.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Em Kellner wrote:
Kyrt Ryder wrote:You don't have enough time to hunt... but you want to take up raising meat as an alternative?

Yeah, cage rabbits or cage quail is my suggestion. Quick and simple daily chore that requires very little time investment. Once it's up and running it's practically automatic.


I have 3 children 6 and under, Kyrt. I have plenty of time to spend in my backyard tending animals with the little ones in earshot, and a grand total of zero time to go off alone on hunting trips. We already raise meat, but not in the quantity that would be necessary to achieve a closed loop dog feeding system, so yes, I can confirm that I don't have enough time to hunt, but can raise meat at home as an alternative. Do quail hatch out their own eggs? I think that rabbits would be a good solution too, my husband however will take some convincing. Any breeds that you recommend?

Oh, that makes sense.

My apologies, I was assuming something like a packed work + education schedule rather than raising a family at home.

Quail usually don't hatch their own eggs [though a forum member is experimenting with encouraging them to do so in another thread here] but they aren't difficult to incubate from everything I've read and been told.

I'm actually interested in expanding my own operations to include Quail this year.

EDIT: Here's a link to the thread I mentioned about Broody Quail .
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Em Kellner wrote:Someone on a local group here was just posting about a different variety of meat bird, a newer mixed breed that isn't Cornish Cross, that are supposed to be good foragers and much healthier, but also dress out pretty quick. If they can breed they might be a great option to start with for the dogs now that I think about it.
Red Rangers/ Freedom Rangers are indeed more healthy and better able to reproduce than Cornish Cross, but they're still a complicated hybrid.

If you're interested in a Chicken breeding project you could attempt to stabilize those traits into a breed, but it's going to take numerous generations. [In plant breeding I've read it takes 7 or 8 generations to dehybridize, not sure about livestock.]
 
Joe Braxton
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A few random thoughts....not recommending any of this....

Not the most pleasant thing perhaps, but depending on where you live and what the local wildlife and road conditions are, would road-kill be viable? Around here I could gather enough for a whole pack of dogs all year long. Little to no cash input (gas?) and very little time involved. I'd check the laws first and probably plan to cook anything gathered to be on the safe side.

Another source might be any commercial chicken/turkey/hog farms near by. They all have animals die every day that have to be disposed of (bury, compost, burn), maybe you could collect them for the dogs. A lot of them have reduced/eliminated the hormones and meds of the past, but I'd still ask if going this route.
 
Paula Lysinger
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I've been feeding a raw, home prepared diet for 17 years and I think the best diet is pretty much what YOU eat, as long as you have a decent diet. More protein and fat, less fruit, a lot less grain, no sugar. A big raw, meaty bone to chew on. Dogs got fed this way for thousands of years and did very well
 
Em Kellner
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:
Em Kellner wrote:
Kyrt Ryder wrote:You don't have enough time to hunt... but you want to take up raising meat as an alternative?

Yeah, cage rabbits or cage quail is my suggestion. Quick and simple daily chore that requires very little time investment. Once it's up and running it's practically automatic.


I have 3 children 6 and under, Kyrt. I have plenty of time to spend in my backyard tending animals with the little ones in earshot, and a grand total of zero time to go off alone on hunting trips. We already raise meat, but not in the quantity that would be necessary to achieve a closed loop dog feeding system, so yes, I can confirm that I don't have enough time to hunt, but can raise meat at home as an alternative. Do quail hatch out their own eggs? I think that rabbits would be a good solution too, my husband however will take some convincing. Any breeds that you recommend?

Oh, that makes sense.

My apologies, I was assuming something like a packed work + education schedule rather than raising a family at home.

Quail usually don't hatch their own eggs [though a forum member is experimenting with encouraging them to do so in another thread here] but they aren't difficult to incubate from everything I've read and been told.

I'm actually interested in expanding my own operations to include Quail this year.

EDIT: Here's a link to the thread I mentioned about Broody Quail .


That quail thread is awesome! I don't have a lot of interest in incubating, but I would love to get some quail and experiment like that.
 
Andrea Redenbaugh
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The most common breeds of meat rabbits are California or New Zealand. They dress out nicely at 6 to 8 weeks old. If you do decide to feed rabbits, be aware that you may need to add more fat to your dogs diet. Rabbits don't have very much.
 
Chris Sargent
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Em Kellner wrote:

Thanks Chris, this is great info! Do you have any resources to recommend on aquaponics? It's something I'm familiar with in concept, but haven't explored actually implementing.


Not really, I've looked into it a bit but not in any depth. I know there are lots of different ways to set them up, much depends upon you ultimate goal. Do you want to primarily want to raise fish, do you want to raise plant hydroponically with the fish just a minor component, do you want to water a greenhouse or grow beds with fish waste, etc. I've thought the ecosystem model where you raise rabbits over a tank, fish eat the rabbit waste, water greenhouse plants with fish waste, feed plants to rabbits. You (or your dogs) get to eat the rabbits, fish, and plants. Just something I've though about doing someday...

 
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