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Rabbit Keeping Business - Raising Rabbit for Meat

Did You Know? Rabbit meat is highly nutritious, easily digested, rich in protein (25 %), low in fat (6 %), low in cholesterol (135 mg/100 g) and a good source of Vitamin B-group, with only a small amount of uric acid formed during metabolism.

In addition, rabbit meat is low in sodium, which is advantageous to people with heart problems. Rabbit farming is a lucrative business with a modest investment for simple facilities and a small land area, the meat commands premium prices compared to mutton, beef and poultry.

For example, rabbit meat may cost twice that of beef on a per kilogram basis, with an adult male rabbit weighing up to 4kg and a small rabbit farm holding 15 to 100 rabbits. I know you'll never go wrong keeping rabbits. Also, rabbits are used for their hides and urine (which is used as organic spray to fight pests in vegetables and other crops). To start you off, here is a step-wise guide to raising rabbit for meat:

Housing: Small rabbit units are constructed around the backyard of residential houses, using locally available resources. The animals are kept in hutches normally built with bamboo, bush sticks, woven wood raffia palm, paddles soil and sometimes soil or cement bricks. They are placed one meter above the ground with a height of 60 cm at the front, 50 cm at the back, width of 50-60 cm and length of 90-120 cm.

                          
The hutches should be equipped with water and feed troughs, forage rack and kindling box made of various local materials. In other units, rabbits are mixed together with rural chickens and both supplement the family diet and income. In contrast to backyard systems, top management rabbit units such as  in institutions, involve keeping 20-50 rabbits in well-constructed buildings equipment with wire mesh cages, feed hoppers, bottle drinkers and wooden or plastic kindling boxes.

Diet: Rabbits are raised on forages, supplemented with agro-industrial by-products. The taste of the forages fed is important, particularly in situations where the forages provide a major part of the daily nutrient intake. With the exception of Gliricidia, tropical legumes are preferred over grasses and agro-industrial by-products.

For efficient production, about 50 g of concentrate per animal should be offered per day. This is to meet the mineral and vitamin requirements of the animal. The concentrates can be purchased or home-made, though commercial rabbit concentrates are rarely available locally.

Breeding: The age at sexual maturity, litter size and other reproductive indicators are all influenced  by the breed. Oestrus is induced, enabling the do to conceive even on the day it kindles. The gestation length is 31 days. the young are born naked, very fragile and with their eyes closed. Therefore kindling boxes are provided from about 10 days before birth, to keep the newly -born rabbits in the nest and together during the first critical days of life.

Exposure to light for 8 hours out of 24 hours favors sexual activity in bucks, with 14 to 16 hours of light favoring female activity and fertilization. During mating it is advisable that does are taken to the buck's cage in order to avoid fighting and delayed mating. When a buck is taken to the doe, mating becomes difficult as does tend to express possessive behavior regarding their cage.

Successful mating is indicated by the buck 'falling off' the doe on completing copulation. Pregnancy can be diagnosed by palpating the abdomen with the thumb and index finger to feel the developing fetuses in the uterus. this is done when the doe is relaxed, so that the abdominal muscles are not tense.

Health: One distinct value of rabbit farming is the relatively low incidence of epidermic diseases when a high standard of hygiene and careful management is practised. They are also resistance to low temperature, and can therefore b raised under a range of different climatic conditions. The rabbit's normal body temperature ranges between 37 and 39.5 °c. Heat stress can occur at body temperature above 40°c. High temperature in the tropics results in lower feed intake, reduced growth rate, reduced reproductive rate and increased water intake.

It is well established that high ambient temperature can cause infertility in breeding rabbits, bucks being more sensitive than does. Prolonged exposure o a critical temperature in excess of 30 is considered the threshold point at which infertility may result.

Rabbits are more sensitive to low humidity (below 55 per cent) than high humidity. Ventilation must be adequate to remove excess heat, ammonia and moisture, which may predispose the rabbits to diseases.

Moses Lengarite
About the Guest Author:

Mr. Lengarite is a livestock field officer with Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). He's an expert in Animal Nutrition and Feed Science and he loves what he does. You can keep in touch with him via Email

Comments

  1. Rabbit keeping like other small mammals such as guinea pig, grass-cutter is mostly on a smallholder basis. This is because the cost per animal is low compared to larger species like cattle or even goats. Small mammals are convenient to slaughter at home, in that the meat can be consumed at one meal without the need for storage. For example, assuming low level of losses, a group of 12 female guinea pig and one or two breeding males will provide sufficient offsprings to allow for an average consumption of one animal per week throughout the year.

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  2. @Hussein In regards to guinea pig and grass-cutter, the meat producing capacity of the rabbit is much superior to either of the other two mammals. This is because, a female rabbit can produce at least 24kg of meat per year, amounting to about 0.46 kg of dressed rabbit meat per week( about a third of a family's dietary need). This compares to 0.16 kg of dressed meat per week from a female grass-cutter. However, all the three small mammals have a potential to double their meat production per breeding female in a year under improved management system.

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