Rabbit Meat pens for Livestock Shows in Texas
October through March is livestock show time in Texas.
Most county and major livestock shows include rabbit meat pen competition.
Comments are intended for all readers. This information is based on past experience, breeders and judges that have generously shared their expertise.
• Contact at least 2 breeders four to six months before the county show to reserve a litter.
• Most counties accept any ARBA recognized commercial meat breeds, however, do check the rules for your county show.
• Does should be bred 100 days before day of show judging. Be sure to tell the breeder the date of your county show, so he/she can plan appropriately.
• If possible, raise 6 to 8 fryers to select one meat pen. This gives you a better chance of selecting a matching trio of fryers.
• A meat pen consists of a trio of matching fryers weighing 3-5 pounds. The meat pen is judged for (1) meat type, (2) condition, (3) uniformity, and (4) fur. See the ARBA Book of Standards. This is the ARBA link for Book https://www.arba.net/store/store.php
“Standards and Guidelines for Judging meat Classes.”
Tips for Beginners
1. If Possible, keep kits (baby bunnies) with doe until show check-in.
2. If #1 above is not possible …keep litter together unless one gets under/overweight, ill, or start fighting.
3. Provide pelleted food at all times up to 3 weeks before the show.
4. Handle the fryers every day; trim tips of toenails.
5. Lightly swab inside of ears with baby oil or mineral oil to prevent ear mites (3-4 weeks before the show).
6. Provide a constant clean water supply.
7. Play a radio 24/7 to get rabbits used to noise.
8. Mark the left ear of each fryer with an ear tattoos permanent. Use letters and numbers. This is so you can track each rabbit’s progress.
(Check with your advisor first for details on tattooing)
Three Weeks before Show
1. Handle and weight rabbits daily. Judges can do their jobs easier when the pen of 3 sits still. And posing can be the determining factor when he/she is looking at two identical meat pens.(If the Judge is unable to handle them and cannot set them up, chances are he will not take the time to judge them)
2. Monitor feed and weight gains for each rabbit on index cards. REMEMBER: Your goal is to get 3 rabbits weighting and looking alike by show day.
3. Give rabbits a daily grooming by spraying hands lightly with water, stroke rabbit from head-to-toe to remove dead fur. Do a head stroke for each 10 regular strokes.
4. TWO WEEKS BEFORE SHOW – Fryers should weigh 4 pounds. That way it’s easier to work them up to 5 pounds in 2 weeks instead of holding them back for 2 weeks. Holding feedback to control weight means the rabbit will lose flesh condition, hurting your show chances.
Selecting Commercial Meat Type Fryers
Keep in mind how meat pens are judged:
• Meat Type 40 points
• Condition of Flesh 30 points
• Uniformity of Body & Weight 20 points
• Fur 10 points
Let’s discuss each one.
1. Type is the shape of the body.
2. Condition is how the animals look and feel: firm, solid, and clean. Again all 3 should show the same condition. Skin should be tight over the body. Hopefully, the fryers have never been picked up by the scruff of the neck…that pulls the pelt away from the muscle, making for flabby-feeling shoulders.
3. Uniformity is how well you have matched all 3 fryers. They should look like carbon copies or triplets. A judge advised me that matching TYPE is the most important consideration. It’s nice to have them at the same weight, but not the top priority. Do try to get them within 2-3ounces of each other.
NOTE: Do not have one outstanding rabbit and 2 mediocre-typed rabbits in your meat pen. That one “Superman” is really obvious to a judge and makes the others look bad. Instead go for 3 matching mediocre rabbits if that’s all you can match. Save “Superman” to “kick butt” in the single Fryer competition.
4. Fur is fur. It should be clean with no chewed or bare spots, and in “prime.” That means it should show the natural texture (what you feel) and density (what you see) as described for your breed of rabbit. When in “prime,” the fur will naturally fly back to its smooth natural position when stroked form tail to head.
FUR is often what determines Grand Champion from the Reserve Champion. It’s the final determining factor when the judge is looking at 2 identically-typed meat pens.
Hope you have a nice day!
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