Monday, January 2, 2012

Q&A Interview with Dana of Gray Haven Farms

Gray Haven Farms Romeo BOS 

      I thought it might be fun to do a little Q&A session with my good friend, Dana Farber at Gray Haven Farms.   She was gracious enough to accomodate me.  

           When and how did you first acquire your first Angora rabbits?
I was introduced to angora rabbits by my daughter Sasha, who started raising and showing English angora.  I am an avid spinner and knitter so was pleased to get the fiber.  We went to a show in Wichita, Kansas and I saw my first satin angora.  I fell in love with a little black doeling and was able to talk her breeder, Denise Wyrick into selling her to me. This was in June of 2010.

Gray Haven Farms Dahlia
         Angora grooming requirements are intimidating to many.  What kind of advice would you give someone interested in showing angora rabbits, but they are worried about the grooming requirements?
That is a very good question.  Grooming is a very big part of owning angora.  I don’t think I would have rabbits if it were not for the personal involvement with the bunnies. My dear daughter Sasha is wonderful with animals and is a great teacher.  She taught me everything I know and is the one I refer everyone to.  I will say this.  It does take a lot of time but the Satin angora are a lot easier to groom than the English so I have found it is very enjoyable.  I have really gotten to know your bunnies and some of them enjoy the grooming just as much as I do others, not so much. 

Gray Haven Farms Rufus
        What is your “can’t live without” Angora grooming accessory…and why is it your favorite?
My favorite grooming tool is a small slicker brush. With the small slicker brush you can get into all the tight places, and next to the skin.  A small, sharp pair of scissors is another really good choice but the slicker brush is a must have.

        What kind of housing setup works best for you? Are there any “tricks” to raising angoras in Texas?
The only trick I know of for raising angora in Texas is air conditioning. 

        What is your favorite breed of Angora rabbits? Why?
That is an easy question. My favorite breed is the Satin angora.  They are easy maintenance and have wonderful personalities.  Also the wool is amazing.  Not much of it but a little goes a very long way in South Texas.

        I sing a little song when I feed my rabbits (That's our little secret haha). It is their clue that food is on its way. Do you have any kind of rabbit care ritual that other people might think is strange?
Other than trying to feed at about the same time every day which is more of a management thing, I guess opening their door and scratching their head is the only thing I do that can be considered a ritual.  Even the new, shy bunnies seem to grow to love this.  Seems odd to me because they can not see straight ahead of them and it seems that it would scare them to just be touched on the face, but even my one doe that has very strict personal boundaries loves this.   They come to the door for their scratch.

        When you tell other people you show rabbits (or Angoras), what is their first reaction?
When I tell people I show angora rabbits they usually get a funny look on their face. They don’t know what an angora rabbit is and, when I tell them, they understand because they know I am a spinner.  I have done well with my bunnies in the show ring so they usually wind up saying congratulations.

        How long have you been showing rabbits? What was your first breed? Do you have a show win or judge comment that you are especially proud of?
I have only been showing rabbits for about 18 months.  I have had meat rabbits about 25 yrs ago but did not show them.  I had standard satin then and now have satin angora so I guess I really like the satinization of the fur or wool.  The judge’s comment that really makes me stand a little taller is when Dr. Dick said my home bred jr. buck was “stunning” at the ARBA National Convention 2011.  This is also my most treasured win as the buck, Romeo, went BOS. 

       Do you have any other animals or other breeds of rabbits?
I am an animal kind of person.  Yes, I have 3 fiber sheep, 1 pug dog , and 4 outside cats.  Right now Satin angora is the only breed of rabbit I have.  I might, get a French angora in the future but don’t have the room to have many.

      Do you pluck or shear?  How do you know when it is time to harvest fiber?
When it comes to plucking or shearing, I think it is a matter of preference and difference in the breeds of angora.  I have angora that I have been told could be plucked but have never been happy with the results or rabbits reaction to being plucked.  It seems to not be as efficient as shearing and more stressful to the bnnies. 
I know it is time to shear when the wool starts to mat badly on the shoulders and elbows.  Not just small, mats but those that appear over night and are impossible to brush out. With my satin, this is usually a sign the new coat is coming in and time to get the old coat off.         

       Do you use the fiber from your rabbits? If so, how?
Of course I use the fiber from my rabbits, I am an avid spinner and knitter.

       What is your favorite aspect of raising Angora rabbits?
I love the personal interaction that is necessary to have angora.  The fiber is soft and luscious and the bunnies so personable.  I also love, love, love the color genetics side of breeding. Trying to determine what colors are possible, and what the genotypes of the bunnies are.

      What is the focus of your breeding program?
I think the main focus of my breeding program at this time is to solidify my genotypes so that the offspring are very predictable. I have a strong belief in line breeding so that is what I am doing.  I have some very good stock that I am working with so am not concerned about big improvements.  I just need to refine my bunnies and have consistency.  

      If you have traveled out of state, what do you notice about Angora rabbits or Angora shows in other parts of the country?
I have notices when I traveled out of state that there are people that have angora rabbits and there are angora breeders.  The difference in the animals is amazing. The quality and care the angora breeder puts into their animals can not be compared to a person that simply has angora rabbits.  There are major differences that are easy to see in the rabbits.  

      What is the farthest you have traveled for a rabbit show?
The furthest I have ever traveled for a rabbit show is to ARBA National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana from Waller, Texas.

Dana attends shows in the Texas area, so come and say hi if you are at the shows.  She is a wonderful fiber artist, as well.  For more information about Dana and Gray Haven Farms, check out her Web site at:
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