So, I met a rabbit farmer…
Few weeks ago, I was opportune to meet a rabbit farmer and our discussion prompted my research into the business. To those individual with interest in rabbit farming especially the women, and the small scale farmers and entrepreneur that wishes to diversify their funds you may find this interesting.
Rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus are small mammals with fluffy, short tails, whiskers and distinctive long ears. They vary in size ranging between the size of a small child to the small ones (pygmy rabbits) of about 8 inches long. An average matured rabbit weigh about 4.5kg. They are capable of breeding 3-7 times a year and can produce 3-8 kits per litter. This kits can be weaned after five to six weeks and they mature within 3-5 months. Rabbits are long lived animals that can live for 5-8 years depending on the environment and breed but they can live for as long as 12years.
Rabbits are known as “micro-livestock” and are great source of food production. Rabbit farming can be a great source of income and employment to the unemployed educated people and landless farmers and also to the working class people that wants to diversify their income. It is also a perfect fit for the home managers (house wives) who wants to contribute to meeting the food and financial needs of her family. They are also great source of family protein because their meat is high in protein, energy, calcium and vitamins than any other type of animal meat.
Merits of rabbit farming
Starting a rabbit farm: the basics
There are various breeds of rabbits out there so choose a breed that grows into large size and produce faster.
Have a good veterinary doctor at your service for regular check-ups and vaccinations and also for feeding and nutrition advice.
You can raise rabbits using both deep litter and cage method. If you are raising few numbers of rabbits, this method is good. The floor should be concrete and make about 4-5 inches thick litter. You may use straws, hay, and wood shavings. You can raise about 30 rabbits in a house but keep the male separate from the female except during breeding period. Also avoid putting more than one male in a colony (a colony is a male rabbit and 3-5 females) to avoid cannibalism because rabbits are highly territorial. The down side of this method is that the risk of disease is high.
The cage method is best for commercial rabbit farming. The cages may be made of wood and wire or iron plate. Keep sufficient space for exercising and layered space for resting and keeping warm. Keep male and female separate except during breeding period.
For proper nutrition of adult rabbit, their food should contain 17-18% of crude protein, 14% of fibre, 7% minerals and about 2700kilocalories of energy. Feeding material include: Green leafy vegetables, carrots, cucumber, potato, shrubs, green grass (Elephant grass) and vegetable wastes. But for commercial purpose, you can feed them high quality rabbit pellets alongside grasses and other green vegetables that are high in fibre because it is very important for rabbits to have fibre in their diet to wear down their ever growing teeth.
Also ensure they are supplied with sufficient amount of clean and fresh water, and endeavour to clean their feeding troughs and containers daily.
Rabbits will mature enough for breeding within 5-6 months of age. But for good quality young’ do not breed a male rabbit until a year after birth. They have gestation period of between 28-31 days, are capable of reproducing 3-7 times a year and produces 2-8 kits per litter. So a farmer that starts a rabbit far with a colony of a male and two females may at the end of the year have over 50 rabbits in his/her farm.
For a start-up farmer, it is best to create awareness among individuals such as families, friends and colleagues. You can then take it a step further by contacting establishment such as restaurants, hotels, eateries, and supermarkets that can purchase rabbit meat in large quantity. Also try and link up with pharmaceutical, cosmetic and medical companies to establish a business relationship.
Just like every other business venture, rabbit farming needs commitment and determination to flourish. As a farmer, you alone have the power to determine the fate of your business. Rabbit farming is a very lucrative business and if you put in your best, it has the potential of making one a millionaire.
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‘Rabbit farming in Nigeria.’ https://www.africabusinessclassroom.com/rabbit-farming-nigeria retrieved 7 March, 2019.
Rabbit farming can turn you into a millionaire by Seyi Sokoya. Tribune online newspaper April 9, 2017. https://www.tribuneonlineng.com/80483/ retrieved on March 17, 2019.