As those of you who follow the blog and the Homegrown Goodness Message Board know I have taken a keen interest in adding farm animals to my farm for production as well as breeding work. Particularly my interest is in guineas, turkeys, and now rabbits. I've become very interested in meat production both for my family as well as to provide this valuable, locally produced commodity to my business customers. Of course having access to their manure is almost as valuable to myself as the meat itself is.
But what would my animal husbandry skills be without some amount of breeding just as I have done to improve upon and further adapt my plant varieties.
A couple of experiments in particular have piqued my interest.
A lot of modern families don't want/need a large sized standard bronze turkey but are more akin to eating a smaller type turkey, the Belstville small white turkeys and midget white turkeys fit this bill to a t and as such I have added them to the stock list for this spring and built a second coop to keep two separate flocks of birds, a large sized standard and a small sized standard. My large turkeys of course I am selecting for feed to weight gain ratio as well as new color combinations and stronger constitutions, the small birds will be a bit more interesting.
The problem with the small midget type turkeys is the color, white is a very predator prone color, particularly in an open field, in Pekin Indiana where we have a huge population of red tailed hawks waiting to Carry them off, it seems to me that selecting for and actively breeding for a dark colored midget turkey would be not just of value to myself but to many others along with breast fleshing properties. Alas I will build another genepool.....more to come.
Next up are guineas. Recently I became aware of French Guineas which look and behave just like pearl guineas but reach a much larger, meat friendly size and which also lay eggs year round with a little bit of light (I got rid of my chicken laying flock to buy these birds and have space for them without worrying about so many turkey and chicken cross disease issues). The problem is the French guineas are akin to broad breasted turkeys in that they don't breed naturally, however after a bit of research I have learned that using a standard guinea cock mated to a French guinea hen it is possible to select for the large size, the year round egg laying ability, and natural breeding tendencies.
I am still learning a bit about the rabbits, but have added a lot to my stock having recently purchased some young California crosses, New Zealand, Pure Californians, and New Zealand crosses to go with my English Lop and Harlequin stock. In time I imagine that I will genepool these traits and study them while selecting for the fasted meat gain properties available to me.