Rabbit farming business can be a great source to meet up the food or protein demand of the society. Their meat is very testy, nutritious and easily digestible. Rabbits are known to consume very low-quality food and turn these foods to high quality meat, skin and fiber. The other important by-products from raising rabbits such as skins and urine are very useful. The skins are used in the making of mittens and gloves as the fur is fine and naturally warm. The urine is used in the manufacture of insect repellants especially for green houses and vegetable farming.
Rabbit meat is high in demand as a result of the following intrinsic physiognomies:
- low in cholesterol
- low in saturated fats
- high in protein
- low in sodium
- all white meat
Rabbit farming, also known as cuniculture involves the raising of domesticated rabbits as micro-livestock for their meat, wool or fur production. Rabbit rearing requires plenty of dedication and hard work, it has the potential to generate good primary, additional income streams and a great source of employment. There is, however, no blanket recipe for success, as production protocols differ according to the breed of rabbit chosen, the type of housing used, the production aim, and the climatic conditions.
There are several advantages that make rabbit an important meat producing animal:
- Small body size makes it easier to maintain in backyard and a small unit requires limited space.
- Rabbit is a prolific breeder and can be bred at any time of the year. With shorter gestation period of 30 days only, 4-5 garners can easily be obtained in a year from a single female rabbit.
- Rabbit matures at an early age and becomes ready for production by 6-7 months.
- Rabbit grows fast and attains a body weight of 1.4-2.0 kg within 15-18 weeks and provides nutritious and wholesome meat.
- Rabbits do not compete with food for human consumption. A small unit of rabbits can be maintained in the backyard with kitchen/vegetable waste, grasses, tree leaves, etc. So, there may be no cost of fodder for them.
- Backyard rabbitry provides rich source of manure; the residual feed of rabbit commonly mixed with rabbit manure is best suitable for the Worms compost to yield excellent manure for agriculture.
- Anyone can start this business such as a farmer, a housewife, a worker, etc hence no qualification is required.
- Raising rabbits bring good returns in about six (6) months after establishing of the farm. Because of instant returns, within a short time /period, you can repay all the initial costs.
- The meat from rabbit has great demand in the market as it is classified as the white meat because it is full of poly-unsaturated fatty acids.
- Rabbits are also the best wool producer on the basis of wool produce per kilograms of body weight because rabbit needs about 30 % low digestible energy for producing wool as compared to sheep.
STARTING A RABBITRY
Rabbit farming is a business that is affordable to anyone. You can start this business with having just a few rabbits only. Since rabbits are wonderful breeders (A female rabbit can give birth up to 8 kits in one month), so your farm should increase up to commercial scale in short period only. Rabbits do not require any specific feedstuff for them. You can feed them easily with the green available in your surroundings and also the clean vegetable waste.
Rabbits have numerous breeds. Studies have shown that there are over 305 breeds of domesticated rabbit breeds in more than 70 countries worldwide. Some of the domestic rabbit breeds are lionhead rabbit, English Angora, mini lop, English lop, English Spot, jersey woolly, silver fox, New Zealand white, harlequin, Beveren rabbits, etc. Study the breeds carefully and decide on what breed you are going for. It is always advisable to start with a particular rabbit breed and then add other ones later to avoid mismanagement.
Find a mentor and learn the basics about rabbit farming. As an entrepreneur and an aspiring rabbit farmer, you should learn the whys and wherefores from an experienced farmer before building cages/hutches or buying and stocking your farm, so that you understand how to feed and care for the animals.
2. Business Plan
After your training, before you start setting up your farm, you need to write a business plan. A business plan is a document that summarizes the operational and financial objectives of a business and contains the detailed plans and budgets showing how the objectives are to be realized. It is the road map to the success of your business. For anyone starting a business, it’s a vital first step. Your rabbit farming business plan should clearly outline all the costs required to start and operate the commercial rabbit farming business
Rabbit house should be constructed in an elevated area for easy drainage and shaded area for reduction of heat stress is preferred. With low investment capital make a small shelter at your backyard. Shelter apart from saving predators is also helpful in keeping your rabbits free from the weather conditions, sun, rain, etc. Rabbits needs to stretch their bodies well after eating to get rid of gas traps formed in their intestine while eating and during the time while they are at rest.
Rabbits can be reared in three kinds of housing methods:
- Hutch System
The hutches can be made with iron, bamboo or wood. Roofing can be either of corrugated sheet (roofing zinc) or thatch. Flooring should be made of wire mesh for easy cleaning, the size of each compartment should be comfortable enough. A number of compartments can be constructed together in a hutch which can be shifted from one place to another. Partition between compartments may be made with bamboo or wire mesh. Hutches can be kept in shady place to reduce heat stress or thatch may be given over the corrugated sheet roof to keep it cool during summer.
- Cage System
Cages can be kept on wooden or concrete racks inside a shed. The shed may be permanent type which is half walled with brick and iron wire netting above it and cemented floor with proper drainage system. Semi-permanent shed can be constructed with locally available materials like wooden posts, plank, bamboo, thatch, etc. The flooring should be done with proper drainage for easy cleaning.
The cages are to be kept on racks inside the shed by keeping a common passage between the rows. Cages if possible should not be made with wood as rabbit can chews and consumes it and it is also difficult to clean as it absorbs urine, water, etc. Cages can be kept in tier system inside the shed for efficient space and labour utilization. A fair cage size for most breeds is about 600mm (L) x 500mm (W) x 450mm (H).
- Floor (deep litter) Systems
This system is similar to deep litter system of poultry rearing where rabbits are kept on the floor in a house. The floor space requirement per rabbit is 4 square feet and the house may be partitioned to keep rabbits of different categories like grower, fryer, adult male and female, etc. separately.
To start raising rabbits for meat, you need to have a breeding stock. Keep in mind that there are several breeds of rabbit. However, some breeds are better suited for commercial farming than others. Commercial breeds grow into large sizes and produce faster. The breeding stock consists of male rabbit(s) which are known as buck(s), and female rabbit(s) which are known as doe(s).
When choosing breeding stock for the rabbit farming business, you should be mindful of the health history of the rabbits. It’s advisable to purchase the breeding stock from rabbit farmers who have a good reputation in the rabbit production business. The rabbits which you select should be strong with an overall appearance of good health.
5. Feeding and watering
Clean and fresh water should be provided ad lib throughout day and night.
Rabbits are herbivores animals, grass is okay for them though this should be combined with rabbit pellets and supplement to complement their daily diet.
Rabbits on premixed feed are said to get to slaughter stage earlier than those fed on herbs and hay alone. Feed requirements of the rabbits differs with the stage of growth. The average intake of balanced concentrate feed by an animal ranges from between 100-150 grams per day, it should be given twice daily – in the morning and in the evening. The palleted feed fortified with mineral mixture, vitamin and salt can be supplemented with green fodder or hay. A good feeding method is to give concentrate (rice bran, corn, roots) during the day and greens overnight. This is also done to avoid attracting rats during the night.
Smaller unit(s) of rabbit in backyard system can also be well maintained with kitchen and vegetable waste along with some selected grasses, tree leaves and root crops.
6. Environmental Care
Keeping the environment clean is necessary because there are common diseases and health conditions which affect rabbits easily. Some of the diseases that attack rabbits are coccidial infection, infestation of mites and lice, other viral and bacterial infections. Rabbits are easily attacked when the environment is not clean or when they are feed with contaminated food.
7. Health Care
The main cause of mortality in rabbits is probably intestinal problems. Second is diseases of the respiratory organs. These are sometimes an indirect consequence of intestinal problems, which reduce the animals’ resistance. The third most common cause is a whole group of diseases, of which myxomatosis is probably the most well-known but least frequent. Problems of skin parasites are bothersome but hardly ever fatal and are easily cured. Invite a vet to visit your farm once in a while!
8. Capital for Rabbit Farming Business
The amount of capital required when
raising rabbits for meat depends on the scale of the project. money will be
needed for the following:
- Constructing the rabbit hutches,
- Buying the breeding stock,
- Buying the premix feeds
You can use your personal savings as capital and soft loans from friends and family to start small and grow your rabbit farming business overtime. you will need a good rabbit farming business plan if you plan to get a loan from the bank or funding from investors.
Raising rabbits for meat is very profitable, so if you reinvest the profit, your business should grow quickly. Here are some tips from successful rabbit farmers: –
- Establish a ready market right at the start.
- find a mentor to turn to when in difficulties with your rabbits
- Do not consider free-range production. Rabbits have to be kept in housing or cages. When kept outside, they are sure to escape before too long.
- Rabbits are safer in cages, away from predators such as rats, birds of prey, dogs and snakes, as well as pests such as mites (which can cause mange) and fleas.
- Choose the right- sized cages. Overcrowding causes stress and poses health risks, as it drives up ammonia levels, which might cause respiratory and other problems.
- The height of the cage is important, as rabbits need to get rid of pockets of sour air that form in their intestines during eating and resting.