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Raising Great Pyrenees on a Raw Diet- Raising Rabbits for Meat  RSS feed

 
Lauren craig
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Location: Clifton, OH
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We are planning on getting two Great Pyrenees puppies in Spring 2018 to watch over our livestock. We will be getting two Nigerian Dwarf goats for milk and have pigs, chickens and ducks for them to guard as well. However, we'd like to steer clear of kibble this time around and are in the "brainstorming" phase of the most sustainable manner of supplying raw meat for our dogs. We've considered an aquaponic setup that raises fish for them though this is much more labor-intensive and likely to take a long while to become established. I've heard rabbits are incredibly easy to raise for meat and reproduce rapidly. Does anyone have experience in this realm? I need to do the math to figure out how many rabbits they would need in a week, and whether this would be feasible. In a perfect world, I'd raise them on raw meat we've caught or raised on our own from the start, but I don't want to dillude ourselves. If we'd get dogs in the Spring, we'd need meat for them immediately and I don't know how quickly we could get the rabbits set up and have enough slaughtered for them... We are surrounded by deer here in rural Ohio, so that could be an option though, we'd have to rely on our friend who hunts to fetch them for us as we have no experience here and don't have the time this year to dedicate to collecting meat. Anyhow, I'm tossing a hook out there into the Permies world in the hopes that someone may have a sustainable solution.
 
Joshua Parke
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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My dog weighs 69 lbs and needs roughly 2 lbs of food per day.  That is roughly half of a large chicken.  I don't recall the average weight of rabbits, but I seem to recall that it's similar in weight to chicken.

This is all from memory so google will contradict or confirm what I'm recalling.  Rabbits take roughly 8-12 weeks to reach butcher weight.  A doe will have a litter of 6-8 on average.  A litter of 6 would be better than 8, the kit's will be healthier.  You can wean them around week 6-8.  And I think you can breed them again around weaning time.  A doe reaches breeding age between 6 - 9 months.

My guess is that your pyrenees are going to each need roughly 3 - 3.5 lbs of food per day.  So that's at least two - three rabbits per day.  From there you can do some number crunching.   Real quick...I think you would need roughly 50 does and at least 3-4 bucks.

Rabbits can be impregnated twice just like dogs.  So I suggest only take the doe to the bucks cage once, to try to keep her litter small.  If you take her to the bucks cage multiple times she will have a huge litter which is unhealthy.  You'll get more kits but a few will die within a week, and the remaining will need to fight for milk.  The kits are much healthier in small litters.

With that many rabbits I would look into doing some type of paddock system for them instead of cages.  They'll be healthier in a paddock.

You can grow veggies and fruits for your dogs too.  They are omnivores, so you can supply part of their diet through your gardens as well.
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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How big is your place? Many farmers around here have nuisance licences that let them shoot deer any time.
If you could qualify for one, getting people to shoot them for you shouldn't  be an issue.
There's a lot of meat on a deer that most people discard,sometimes favoring only the hams.
I would cook it though. Wild deer can be a vector for trichinosis.
 
Olga Booker
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Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Great Pyreneans here in our mountains are not always fed every day, certainly not when they are in the high pastures in the summer.  When they come down the mountain and spend the winter in the barn with the sheep they are often fed some of the sheep's milk and bread, left overs and scraps of meat from the hunt or butchering of farm animals.

In the wild, dogs will eat fish if there is nothing else but it is not something that they would choose to eat.  Giving your dogs only rabbits might be a bit of an unbalanced diet, like Joshua said, dogs are omnivores and opportunists. My dogs happily eat fruits, nuts and vegetables.  In fact, I know when the walnuts are ready by the sound of crunching as my dogs break the hard shells.

I don't know if that would help you but this is how I feed mine - I cook a large pot of brown rice, beans and vegetable peels (or unusable bits) that will last me for 3 days.  In that goes all the left overs, crusts of bread, cheese rinds, apple cores, soured milk etc as well as some raw meat.

I have no idea what it's like in the US, but here in France, we still have  local butcher shops that process and cut the meat on their premises and it is very common to go and ask for all the off-cuts.  Even the smaller super markets process their meat at the back of the shop and will give you scraps, including sometimes the meat passed the sale by date.  Is it something that could be done where you live?
 
Lauren craig
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Location: Clifton, OH
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Thank you everyone for your helpful feedback! I'm thinking that it makes the most sense to start small with the rabbits; perhaps with 2-3 does and 1 buck, breed them, begin amassing some some meat in the freezer for them [even if it is only a tiny fraction of what they will need] and then have other sources as well. We raise meat birds for ourselves and will again next year, so that would be an additional protein source as well as the offal from all the chickens raised. Our pigs won't be ready for slaughter for quite a long time as they are a small, slow-growing breed, but any unwanted boars will be a future source of meat for them too. Perhaps I can just talk my friend into going out to hunt some deer for us. We have 5 acres and do have deer that run through here with regularity. Our friend lives in a tiny home on our property and so as long as he's ready for action when it strikes, maybe we could get lucky on our own land! Additionally, we get roughly 75 gallons of produce food scraps from a local grocery store that could be added into our pup's diet as well! I feel silly not having considered the fact that they are omnivores!

I guess what I'm gathering from everyone's feedback is to simply gather their food from a wide variety of sources. I will speak to some local butchers and put feelers out with friends about obtaining unwanted cuts too. I appreciate the balance and wisdom in all of your answers!
 
Travis Johnson
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I might rethink getting the dogs at all.

I have a Great Pyrenees now, but only because it came from a sheep farm that was selling out of sheep and the dog was $50. For 9 years I raised sheep commercially without an issue. While I understand people want to get a dog just to get a dog, doing so for so few livestock animals just does not make a lot of sense. There are a lot of factors that go into predadation, but a lot of it has to do with size of the herd/flock being protected, and location.

For instance, two goats are not going to raise much smell as to attract coyotes, and predators like to work along large bodies of water. If a farm is away from that, small and has fences good enough to keep goats in, that is probably all they need. In my opinion it is kind of silly to buy (2) $700 dogs to help guard $300 worth of livestock.

Instead...and because predators like coyotes are opportunistic, and relatively small in size, use other deterrents that are far more productive to a farm. I have used cows for instance to "guard" my sheep, their large size being intimidating to coyotes. And when they got older they went in the freezer instead of a dog that nets little in return. If a farm is too small to support a larger animal like a cow, don't get anything to protect the goats because such a small area will not take much to install good fencing.

Farming can be a very vicious cycle, a farm getting livestock, dogs to protect livestock, then rabbits and chicken to feed livestock...etc. The problem with all that is, after awhile the farmers realize they are doing an awful lot of work that is not all that productive for the family. As Paul Wheaton himself advocates, doing earth work around the farm first is paramount. In my opinion, that is far more important and more productive then caring for animals (bunnies) that feed animals (dogs) that care for the original animals (goats).

....

Aside from that though, my Great Pyrenees eats a lot. Maybe it is just her, maybe because she is active and 5 years old, but she eats a lot of food. Rabbits cannot fully supply that though because they are too lean. Because of a lack of fat the dog would eat and eat on rabbit, feel full, but would eventually die due to a lack of nutrition. I have no idea what an ideal of rabbit to other feed sources would be, but a strong rabbit diet would kill a dog. Because you mention getting goats, this phenomenon can also happen with lambs and kids if given the wrong food stuffs; it is called Rumen Pack. It occurs with high moisture diets.
 
Lauren craig
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Travis Johnson wrote:I might rethink getting the dogs at all.

I have a Great Pyrenees now, but only because it came from a sheep farm that was selling out of sheep and the dog was $50. For 9 years I raised sheep commercially without an issue. While I understand people want to get a dog just to get a dog, doing so for so few livestock animals just does not make a lot of sense. There are a lot of factors that go into predadation, but a lot of it has to do with size of the herd/flock being protected, and location.

For instance, two goats are not going to raise much smell as to attract coyotes, and predators like to work along large bodies of water. If a farm is away from that, small and has fences good enough to keep goats in, that is probably all they need. In my opinion it is kind of silly to buy (2) $700 dogs to help guard $300 worth of livestock.

Instead...and because predators like coyotes are opportunistic, and relatively small in size, use other deterrents that are far more productive to a farm. I have used cows for instance to "guard" my sheep, their large size being intimidating to coyotes. And when they got older they went in the freezer instead of a dog that nets little in return. If a farm is too small to support a larger animal like a cow, don't get anything to protect the goats because such a small area will not take much to install good fencing.

Farming can be a very vicious cycle, a farm getting livestock, dogs to protect livestock, then rabbits and chicken to feed livestock...etc. The problem with all that is, after awhile the farmers realize they are doing an awful lot of work that is not all that productive for the family. As Paul Wheaton himself advocates, doing earth work around the farm first is paramount. In my opinion, that is far more important and more productive then caring for animals (bunnies) that feed animals (dogs) that care for the original animals (goats).

....

Aside from that though, my Great Pyrenees eats a lot. Maybe it is just her, maybe because she is active and 5 years old, but she eats a lot of food. Rabbits cannot fully supply that though because they are too lean. Because of a lack of fat the dog would eat and eat on rabbit, feel full, but would eventually die due to a lack of nutrition. I have no idea what an ideal of rabbit to other feed sources would be, but a strong rabbit diet would kill a dog. Because you mention getting goats, this phenomenon can also happen with lambs and kids if given the wrong food stuffs; it is called Rumen Pack. It occurs with high moisture diets.


Travis, thank you so much for your feedback! The goats were the precipitant to the idea of adding these dogs to our lives, but we actually have 5 pigs, 30 chickens and 5 ducks all scattered about our land that could benefit from some added protection. Our main flock of chickens is housed on the far end of our property in our tree-line while the rest of our animals are near our home in the center of our land. We've had issues with coyotes getting to our animals in the past and would hate for that to happen again. We'll start breeding our pigs next year with our goats the following year and want to ensure they're protected. I like your idea of having a cow onsite, but we don't have enough true pasture to support one at this time. The dogs we're getting are on the lower range of what you'd expect- less than a third of what you quoted at $200 each- and come from a working dog family. They will be raised outside with their mother and father among goats from the start and their LG success rate is nearly 100% of the offspring! Anyhow, we're just trying to find the most economical and nutritionally sound way to feed them. At this time, we're thinking more along the lines of perhaps buying a boar for slaughter and combining that with rabbit, chicken offal, brown rice, discarded produce, etc., to make feeding them work for us. We've been wanting to get into raising rabbits anyhow, so it seems like a good way to get into it sooner rather than later! We're interested in doing a little bit of everything and have found that everything we've taken on takes far less time than we originally anticipated because we stay small-scale.

How have you found it most economical to feed your Pyrenees? 
 
Travis Johnson
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With the current price of mutton, cull sheep.
 
Wes Hunter
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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The following comes from someone who just bought two pups himself, for what it's worth.

We raise upwards of 1000 birds per year, processed as table poultry.  It's a large part of our income.  This year, we lost a lot of birds to predators, primarily coyotes.  Part of this is due to inadequate fencing.  I'll be upgrading some fencing this winter, but making each field coyote-proof is not going to happen, because of the layout of our farm and because I just don't want that much fence subdivision.  Perhaps long-term, a thick hedge in places would work, but that's another topic.  Part of it is due to shelter upgrades that need to be made.  But the largest part of it is due to the oft-observed fact that pastured poultry producers tend to see a dramatic increase in predation after a couple years as the local predator population figures things out.

We also just recently purchased four ewe lambs and one ram, the beginning of a breeding flock.  That really precipitated the dog purchase.

But the dogs cost us $50 each, for 6-month old, partially trained, Pyrenees-cross pups.

By comparison, we lost somewhere around 200 (!) meat chickens this year.  That's what happens when they roam freely, and when they prefer the brushy, shaded, insect-and-worm-rich area behind the pond.  (Or, more specifically, when ol' Coyote learns they prefer it.)  At a projected net of $8 each, that's $1600 in lost potential profits, not to mention the cash we had in them up to the point of their deaths.  Then there are the killed guineas, turkeys, ducks, geese, and laying hens.  And the now potential for sheep and lambs.

Then, we process birds regularly from about mid-April through December, pigs in January, deer in November, and other game throughout the year.  That's a lot of offal, which can greatly reduce feeding expenses.

So, expenses for a couple dogs could easily be offset by reduced losses.

With the amount of livestock you have, however, keeping and feeding two big dogs does not sound like an economically reasonable decision, if one looks at cold numbers.  The goats could perhaps be housed in a portable shelter, such as four cattle panels wired together (maybe on PVC skids).  That's what we're currently doing with out sheep.  Or forego the skids, cut the panels in half, attach stakes to the ends, and you've got a mobile and flexible hurdle system, and your goats are safe for one up-front cost of maybe $100.

Pigs... they should be fine without the help of guard dogs.

And as for poultry, what is the value there?  You're spending hundreds of dollars on dogs to protect what I'd think is a poultry collection valued at a fraction of that.

If you want dogs because you like dogs, then by all means get dogs.  But if you want dogs solely for the protection they offer, I'd take a long hard look at the numbers to determine if it'll benefit you financially, or if you're just adding that much more to your expenses.


On another note, concerning acquiring economical meat, I'd suggest being on the lookout for (freshly) roadkilled deer, and ask your local friends to do the same.  They're especially plentiful this time of year, as breeding activity and animal movement start to increase.
 
Lauren craig
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Wes Hunter wrote:The following comes from someone who just bought two pups himself, for what it's worth.

We raise upwards of 1000 birds per year, processed as table poultry.  It's a large part of our income.  This year, we lost a lot of birds to predators, primarily coyotes.  Part of this is due to inadequate fencing.  I'll be upgrading some fencing this winter, but making each field coyote-proof is not going to happen, because of the layout of our farm and because I just don't want that much fence subdivision.  Perhaps long-term, a thick hedge in places would work, but that's another topic.  Part of it is due to shelter upgrades that need to be made.  But the largest part of it is due to the oft-observed fact that pastured poultry producers tend to see a dramatic increase in predation after a couple years as the local predator population figures things out.

We also just recently purchased four ewe lambs and one ram, the beginning of a breeding flock.  That really precipitated the dog purchase.

But the dogs cost us $50 each, for 6-month old, partially trained, Pyrenees-cross pups.

By comparison, we lost somewhere around 200 (!) meat chickens this year.  That's what happens when they roam freely, and when they prefer the brushy, shaded, insect-and-worm-rich area behind the pond.  (Or, more specifically, when ol' Coyote learns they prefer it.)  At a projected net of $8 each, that's $1600 in lost potential profits, not to mention the cash we had in them up to the point of their deaths.  Then there are the killed guineas, turkeys, ducks, geese, and laying hens.  And the now potential for sheep and lambs.

Then, we process birds regularly from about mid-April through December, pigs in January, deer in November, and other game throughout the year.  That's a lot of offal, which can greatly reduce feeding expenses.

So, expenses for a couple dogs could easily be offset by reduced losses.

With the amount of livestock you have, however, keeping and feeding two big dogs does not sound like an economically reasonable decision, if one looks at cold numbers.  The goats could perhaps be housed in a portable shelter, such as four cattle panels wired together (maybe on PVC skids).  That's what we're currently doing with out sheep.  Or forego the skids, cut the panels in half, attach stakes to the ends, and you've got a mobile and flexible hurdle system, and your goats are safe for one up-front cost of maybe $100.

Pigs... they should be fine without the help of guard dogs.

And as for poultry, what is the value there?  You're spending hundreds of dollars on dogs to protect what I'd think is a poultry collection valued at a fraction of that.

If you want dogs because you like dogs, then by all means get dogs.  But if you want dogs solely for the protection they offer, I'd take a long hard look at the numbers to determine if it'll benefit you financially, or if you're just adding that much more to your expenses.


On another note, concerning acquiring economical meat, I'd suggest being on the lookout for (freshly) roadkilled deer, and ask your local friends to do the same.  They're especially plentiful this time of year, as breeding activity and animal movement start to increase.


Thanks so much for your feedback, Wes! You make great points. Agreed. We are dog people and do love dogs. We have an older small dog who is raised as a pet, but we said that any future dogs we get will be working animals so they serve a purpose here on our land. Thus, we believe our love of them will offset any economical headaches incurred. With that said though, we are still in the brainstorming phase and haven't fully arrived at a decision. I'm an external thinker and like places like Permies to get my gears turning fully before committing to anything.

After some of the responses I received, I actually got in contact with a local butcher who is going to start saving about 20 gallons of organ meat from pigs and cows for us each week. We have a large freezer, but will have to cap off the collection at some point due to lack of space, of course. Thus, I was thinking that perhaps we can switch our current dog and cats over to homemade food soon to begin saving money and stocking up some already mixed up in our freezer and perhaps canning some as well. I just ordered the following book to ensure that what I made would be nutritionally balanced: https://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Canine-Ancestral-Diet-Healthier/dp/1929242670

We don't have normal "past-times" or "hobbies" here. Pretty much everything we do on our land happens to fall within our interest range and adds something of value to our lives as well. I realize it may sound crazy to take two of these dogs on, but I think I'll enjoy the process of making their food and watching them work. As long as this butcher source pans out, it looks like we can set the rabbit-raising aside for the time being as it won't be necessary. Also, as you mentioned, we can be on the lookout for roadkill deer as well.
 
Todd Parr
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People that want dogs, like me, generally want them for other reasons than just livestock protection.  Whether or not they make financial sense, dogs can give you much more than any other animal I know of with regards to security, companionship, love.  Trying to reduce it to a financial equation doesn't necessarily work any more than having finances determine whether having children makes sense.  I can easily show why having children doesn't make good financial success.  I doubt it would dissuade many people from having them.  I think most people that want a livestock guard dog want a dog for all those other reasons as well.  Certainly a fence is cheaper and lower maintenance than a dog, but a fence won't make me rest easier when my girl is home alone at night.  A good dog certainly will.  I have found that fences don't make nearly as good company, rarely accompany you for long walks in the woods, and are never as happy to see you as your dog is.

In reference to the original question, there are is a lot of good information already posted.  I would also keep in mind that rabbits are much to low in fat to sustain life, for a dog or a human.  I supplement heavily with venison scraps from friends that hunt, as well as getting beef fat from the local meat cutter and good quality dog food.
 
Travis Johnson
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Todd Parr wrote:People that want dogs, like me, generally want them for other reasons than just livestock protection.  Whether or not they make financial sense, dogs can give you much more than any other animal I know of with regards to security, companionship, love.  I have found that fences don't make nearly as good company, rarely accompany you for long walks in the woods, and are never as happy to see you as your dog is.


Normally I would agree with you, but in the case of a livestock guard dog, this line of thinking just does not work. In all honesty an owner that does this is just plain asking too much from the dog. In short, it is absolutely imperative that the livestock guard dog bonds with the animals they are protecting and not with the humans that they live with. How can a dog protect the animals when as soon as the owner drives into the yard it turns and runs to the house looking for love and praise? Worse yet, how can it be protecting the animals if it is allowed to have a nice comfy spot by the house...or worse yet...in the house?

For most service dogs; love and companionship is part of the training, they do their job, then get praised and loved afterwards by the owner as encouragement. With a livestock guard dog it is far different. They instinctively protect animals, do not need love and affection to be prompted to do their job, and to do so would deter them from doing what they love to do.

The ideal situation for a livestock guard dog is far different then a companion or other service dogs. You do not want to love on them, you do not want them living outside the confines of the animals they are protecting, and you want a minimal of interaction with them. Ideally the owner wants just enough respect from the dog so that they can handle them when needed for trips to the veterinarian and feedings, but minimal interaction. the dogs allegiance is for the animals she is protecting.

For many dog owners this seems mean, but that is what livestock guard dogs are bred for and what they love to do. We do this with our dog, and I propose that she is probably one of the most content, happy dogs out there. Why wouldn't it be, she is doing what she was bred to do and has a "kennel" that is 22 acres of pasture. She sleeps in the barn during the day, has ample food and water, then patrols 22 acres of fields at night, watching out for the sheep, and even has 4 kills under her collar; (2) coyote and (2) fox.

In short livestock guard dogs that do their job efficiently are not going to be companion dogs as well.

 
Todd Parr
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Travis Johnson wrote:
Todd Parr wrote:People that want dogs, like me, generally want them for other reasons than just livestock protection.  Whether or not they make financial sense, dogs can give you much more than any other animal I know of with regards to security, companionship, love.  I have found that fences don't make nearly as good company, rarely accompany you for long walks in the woods, and are never as happy to see you as your dog is.


Normally I would agree with you, but in the case of a livestock guard dog, this line of thinking just does not work. In all honesty an owner that does this is just plain asking too much from the dog. In short, it is absolutely imperative that the livestock guard dog bonds with the animals they are protecting and not with the humans that they live with. How can a dog protect the animals when as soon as the owner drives into the yard it turns and runs to the house looking for love and praise? Worse yet, how can it be protecting the animals if it is allowed to have a nice comfy spot by the house...or worse yet...in the house?

For most service dogs; love and companionship is part of the training, they do their job, then get praised and loved afterwards by the owner as encouragement. With a livestock guard dog it is far different. They instinctively protect animals, do not need love and affection to be prompted to do their job, and to do so would deter them from doing what they love to do.

The ideal situation for a livestock guard dog is far different then a companion or other service dogs. You do not want to love on them, you do not want them living outside the confines of the animals they are protecting, and you want a minimal of interaction with them. Ideally the owner wants just enough respect from the dog so that they can handle them when needed for trips to the veterinarian and feedings, but minimal interaction. the dogs allegiance is for the animals she is protecting.

For many dog owners this seems mean, but that is what livestock guard dogs are bred for and what they love to do. We do this with our dog, and I propose that she is probably one of the most content, happy dogs out there. Why wouldn't it be, she is doing what she was bred to do and has a "kennel" that is 22 acres of pasture. She sleeps in the barn during the day, has ample food and water, then patrols 22 acres of fields at night, watching out for the sheep, and even has 4 kills under her collar; (2) coyote and (2) fox.

In short livestock guard dogs that do their job efficiently are not going to be companion dogs as well.



I understand exactly what you are saying, and I agree with it.  For me though, livestock guard dogs still provide qualities I want that don't make financial sense.  The dog being outside patrolling the property or just being there when I am outside still gives me a feeling of security.  I don't have to worry about my lady being in the house alone when there is an Anatolian Shepherd watching for strangers, both 2 legged and 4.  They are beautiful, fascinating animals that I enjoy having around.  You're absolutely right that you don't get the affection from them that you do a house dog, but I still get great joy in having both types of dogs.  I'm fine with the fact that a LGD doesn't make sound financial sense for me because that isn't the only reason I want one.  I have many, many things in my life that don't make sense from a strictly monetary point of view, but I wouldn't be as happy if all my decisions were made based on that factor.  For people that want to base the decision of whether to have a dog, or a child, or a motorcycle, or whatever, on finances, I have no problem at all with that.  It just seems to me that for most people that want a dog, the utility aspect of it is only one part, and many times not even the main one.
 
John Pollard
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I just read a term lately but can't remember it but it had to do with eating mostly rabbit. Rabbit starvation I think. We need a certain amount of fats and dogs need it even more. Rabbits lack in fats.

Ahh, here we go - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein_poisoning

Protein poisoning (also referred to colloquially as rabbit starvation, mal de caribou, or fat starvation) is a rare form of acute malnutrition thought to be caused by a complete absence of fat in the diet ~~~~ among those forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation. Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source—beaver, moose, fish—will develop diarrhea in about a week, with headache, lassitude and vague discomfort.


Pigs are pretty prolific breeders. KuneKune pigs can live on pasture alone. Rabbit and pig fat plus misc leftovers might do the trick. Domestic dogs aren't strictly carnivores like their wild brethren. Now the problem becomes - who gets the leftovers? Chickens, pigs, dogs?    
 
Todd Parr
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John Pollard wrote:Rabbit starvation I think. We need a certain amount of fats and dogs need it even more. Rabbits lack in fats.



That's exactly right.
 
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