Rabbit farming is an agribusiness with a vast market, especially due to statistics showing that over 1 million tonnes of rabbit meat is consumed yearly around the world. Rabbit farming hasn’t just proven to be a great source of income to thousands of people worldwide, but has also been identified as a great source of food for parts of Africa, including Nigeria.
Rabbit farming has come a long way. Since the growing need for meat protein, over the years, the animal protein intake of the average Nigerian is lower than 20 percent of his counterpart in Europe. Along with the decline in land availability to raise cattle and other livestock’s, this as make rabbit farming very common in Nigeria. It is equally creating wealth to the teeming unemployed youths and rabbit farmers.
Rabbits have a maturing period of 4-5 months after which they can start reproducing. A female rabbit gives birth every 2 months (60 days) to a litter of 6 on average after a gestation period of between 28 and 31 days. The litter number may be more in some cases. The weaning period (suckling) is 28-31 days after which a farmer should start feeding them on green vegetation’s and pellets.
Common Breeds of Rabbit in Nigeria
New Zealand White: Theses rabbits are usually fully white, small to medium sized, and can reach a lifetime maturity of 3 to 5kg.
Chinchilla: These rabbits are small to medium sized and can weigh an average size of 2.5kg when they reach adulthood.
Dutch Rabbits: Just as the Chinchilla, they are also small to medium sized and can weigh between 2 to 2.5kg when they are fully mature. As a breed, they’re gentle and easy-going.
Flemish Giant: These very large rabbits can reach a peak weight of 6 to 7 kg at maturity. They have a smooth coat with a dense undercoat, so grooming them regularly is important to keep their coats in top condition. They’re often referred to as the “friendly giants”.
Things to note when establishing a rabbit farm
Do your research
As with any business you want to venture in, you need to do your research before starting. As noted before, rabbits come in different breeds and sizes. Learn about rabbit habits so that you will be able to quickly notice if anything is amiss or if your rabbit is uncomfortable. Learn about diseases and what to do in case your rabbit becomes sick. Learn how to differentiate male and female rabbits and how to know if your rabbit is pregnant.
Choose A Farming Method:
After deciding to start up a rabbit farming business, the first step is to determine what type of farm to run. Some factors to consider in choosing the housing type are: the cost, access to light and fresh air, protection from the sun, and the spaciousness
There are two primary types of rabbit farming methods and their mode of operations vary. They are:
Deep Litter Method:
This method is highly recommended if you intend to raise a few rabbits. Here, the litter material is about 4 to 5 inches in depth with straw, hay and wood shavings. In this method, the floor should be concrete. Disease outbreak in this system is high, the male rabbits should usually be kept in a separate compartment from the female rabbits, except for copulation purposes.
The cage method is highly effective for a commercial rabbit farming business. Here, the rabbits are usually kept in cages that are made of wire because, this is a highly effective way to raise so many rabbits in an organised environment. Each rabbit in this setting should have a space of about two feet wide, three feet long, and two feet high. In summary, there must be enough room for the young rabbits to move around in.
Rabbits feed on dry grass, kitchen waste and green vegetation,that can be found easily in the environment. They also enjoy vegetables such as cabbages and can eat things like maize, banana and cassava peels. So basically, finding feed for your rabbits should not be difficult. Ensure that you also give them water to drink as part of their diet.
Rabbits should also be well fed at night because, rabbits are nocturnal animals and largely prefer to feed at night. So feeding them well in the evenings is very important.
Hygiene and prevention of disease
When you embark on rabbit farming, you should take the prevention of diseases seriously. Disease outbreaks can occur in an area, and this could cause havoc to your rabbit farm. However, if you develop a habit of disinfecting before handling rabbits, your rabbits will be free from disease. Do not allow anyone to enter the rabbit houses before disinfecting as this can lead to your rabbits becoming sick. You can put a container with the disinfectant just outside the door so that those who go in can quickly step on the disinfectant before entering.
To effectively market your rabbits, you have to create your own market. You can start by educating the community on the health benefits of rabbit meat, market your rabbits online, sell to restaurants and bars that prepare rabbit meat. I strongly advice farmers to first figure out the market. ie where to sell it before venturing into it.
Without doubt, a choice of investment in rabbit breeding has the potential of impacting on the socio-economic well-being of the community. The benefits include: wealth creation, employment generation and provision of much needed protein nourishment to the populace.
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