Champagne D'Argent Rabbits
The Champagne D'Argent comes from the Champagne region of France. Champagnes are born jet black and start to change to gray at around 4-6 weeks of age. The deep blue undercoat is a must. They continue to lighten as they age to a beautiful light steel gray. They are a beautiful rabbit with both great show and commercial characteristics. From a show standpoint they are a 6-class breed, meaning there are six show classes (Sr. Buck, Sr. Doe, Intermediate Buck, Intermediate Doe, Jr. Buck, Jr. Doe). Being a commercial breed they are also shown as a meat pen (3 uniform rabbits) or single fryer classes. Showing is an enjoyable hobby for a person of any age. Showing allows you to get a judge's opinion of your breeding program in your quest to meet the American Rabbit Breeder's Association (ARBA) Standards of Perfection. Showing also allows for great camaraderie among breeders along with some healthy competition.
Creme D'Argent Rabbits
We have also purchased a few Cremes and have been breeding them. "The Creme D'Argent rabbit originated in France, as did its counterpart, the Champagne D'Argent. The difference is in the color. The Creme can be best described as "Orange Silver". They first made their appearance in this country just prior to 1924 and since have attracted quite a following, having admirers because of their luxurious and rich colored fur." (from cremedargentfederation.com breed description)
We were interested in this breed because it was listed as a "watch" breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. It has proved to be a fun breed to raise - they are personable and the kits are very cute! We are working on improving the type and meat quality in the ones we raise.
At 5 years old Mark got his first rabbit from a second cousin. At that age the daily feeding and care were not on the agenda and the animal was quickly given away by his parents. At 8 years old he joined 4-H to follow suit with his 2 older sisters. His dad said that he was too young to take a dairy calf to the fair and to start with something smaller and they would work into cattle. Little did they know that taking cattle to the county fair would not happen until Mark was 37 years old! The rabbit "business" grew faster than expected. He learned to build cages, breed rabbits, keep records and care for them no matter what the weather and no matter how he felt each day.
Early on his rabbits
were in outdoor hutches. He had a bad experience with stray dogs and as a
result moved the operation into an old hog farrowing shed that was no longer
used. The operation hit another growth spurt and before long he was forced to
sell meat to pay for the feed bill. At one time he was feeding 2,000 lbs of
rabbit pellets a month. He developed a list of loyal customers using local
Because of his detailed record keeping he won several prestigious 4-H awards near the end of his 4-H career. These included a trip to National 4-H Congress and the Minnesota 4-H livestock achievement award. This was usually awarded to a large animal project 4-H'r, but as a result of his business it was awarded to a small animal project.
Due to education and starting a career, Mark got out of the rabbit business. Jamie and Mark moved to a farm in September 2001 and in 2004 Mark decided it may be time to see if raising rabbits was still in his blood. He purchased 5 rabbits at a local auction for $1.75 each. He kept 2 does and a buck and dressed one doe and buck. He wanted to see if Jamie would have any issues consuming rabbit. She didn't and so Mark decided to proceed with the project. He raised several litters with the rabbits (most likely a New Zealand/Californian cross) over the next few years.
In the fall of 2005 we purchased our first purebred Champagne D'Argent doe. Around the first of the year he located a buck and we had our pair of breeding animals. We wanted to work with a breed that was a heritage breed. The other stipulation was that they were a commercial (meat type) rabbit. A few years ago we added Creme D'Argents - another heritage breed.
One thing we have discovered in talking with breeders is that is it acceptable to introduce another breed into your breeding program to improve size or some other quality you have a hard time getting with the animals you have. We do not practice this. We feel that we can breed our animals and cull to select for the traits we want. Everything we do is an experiment - we will keep you posted on how things go!