Rabbit farming business has a huge market, especially due to statistics showing that over 15 million tonnes of rabbit meat is consumed yearly around the world. This livestock farming business 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.
These small mammals belong to the family Leporidae and can be found in many countries around the world like Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and many other places. Their natural habitats are usually the meadows, grasslands, forests, wetlands, deserts, and several others, where they cuddle up and live in groups, usually underground.
While rabbit farming business is big in several parts of Africa, over half of the world’s rabbits are located in North America, showing the export potential of any large rabbit farm that starts up from an African country.
What Is Rabbit Farming About
Rabbit farming is the commercial rearing of a single or different rabbit breeds primarily for sale, to be used as food and several other purposes.
READ ALSO: How to Start Poultry Farming in Nigeria
Business Opportunities In Rabbit Farming Around The World
The volume of rabbit products consumed yearly is in a far excess of over 1 million tonnes, which invariably creates a great business opportunity to be explored by many farmers around the world.
Although the largest rabbit farms are located far away in North America, African farms are slowly rising, and the export potential of the livestock due to its primary use as a unique type of meat source, creates an opportunity for any farmer who wants to venture into a livestock farming business that generates revenues largely in foreign currencies.
Facts And Benefits Of Rabbit Farming
1). Rabbits grow very fast
2). There are little to no religious limitations on consuming rabbits
3). They’re cheaper to raise than other larger livestocks.
4). A rabbit can bear 2 to 8 kittens at a go.
5). Rabbits are a great substitute for poultry products
6). Lesser and cheaper labour can be employed to run a rabbit farm
7). Grasses, leaves, and some type of wastes can be great rabbit meals
8). Rabbit meats are highly nutritious, tasty, and easily digestible
The Popular Rabbit Breeds
1). New Zealand White:
Theses rabbits are usually fully white, small to medium sized, and can reach a lifetime maturity of 3 to 5kg.
2). British Giant:
The British Giants are very large rabbits often reaching an average weight of 6-7kg at adulthood. Their furs are smooth, medium length, and can be kept in top condition by regular grooming.
These rabbits are small to medium sized and can weigh an average size of 2.5kg when they reach adulthood. Their coats are of medium-sized and need regular grooming to stay in perfect condition.
4). 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. Their furs are short and just as every other rabbit, needs to be groomed on a daily basis. As a breed, they’re gentle and easy-going.
5). English Angora:
The English Angora are usually medium sized and can reach between 2 to 3 kg when they reach adulthood. Their furs are very long, thick, and covers the entire rabbit, including the face and the stand-up ears. They can be in many colours. They are very sociable and good natured
6). Dwarf Lop:
The dwarfs are small to medium sized and reach an average weight of 2 to 2.5 kg when they reach maturity. Their furs are soft, dense, and require grooming 2 to 3 times a week to keep the coat in top condition.
7). English Lop:
These are large rabbits that reach a peak weight of 5kg when they are fully mature. Their coats are short but need weekly grooming to be in top shape.
8). 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”.
9). English Spot:
This medium sized rabbits usually reach an average body weight of about 3kg at maturity. These breed are usually good natured, friendly, and inquisitive.
Setting Up Your Rabbit Farming Business
1). 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 (usually 2 to 10 feet between rabbits) of the barn.
There are two primary types of rabbit farming methods and their mode of operations vary. They are:
a). Deep Litter Method:
This method is highly recommended if you intend to raise a few rabbits. Here, the litter husk is about 4 to 5 inches in depth with straw, hay and wood shavings. In this method, the floor should be concrete and the capacity would usually be about 25 to 35 rabbits.
While the chances of a 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.
b). Cage Method:
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.
No matter the size of the cage, it must be raised high enough to enable you rake out the manure a lot easier.
2). Care And Feeding:
Every rabbit has its own temperament level. Some are easy to take care of and others can be really difficult to deal with. To feed the rabbits, ensure they have a regular feed of their pellets together with a lot of water, at least three times daily. You can also put in lettuce or cabbage leafs in their pens once in a while for them to chew on.
Your 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.
If you intend to introduce a new type of meal to your rabbits, do it slowly, as it can upset their digestive system.
3). Breeding Stock:
At six months old, a female rabbit is ready to be bred. Then, she can be put in the buck’s pen for reproduction. The bucks should never be left in the female’s pen. Put them together to mate for a period of at least 15 minutes.
Ensure you record the date of the mating. Note the buck that was used and which female rabbit it mated with. The male rabbit shouldn’t ideally be used for reproduction more than once in four days.
Any female rabbit that is rebred after her offsprings her weaned, will produce about four litters in a year. If you’re running a commercial rabbit farming business, you can schedule the mating of the rabbits every two to three weeks, but if they aren’t necessarily for commercial purposes, the mating can be scheduled every six weeks.
By the time a female rabbit has reproduced for a period of about 5 years, she should be replaced with a much younger doe, but if after mating, she only produces about two or three kids in two breedings straight, the rabbit should be sold off, to afford wasting rabbit feed on poor reproductive animals.
To effectively sell your rabbits, you’d have to create your own market. You can start by marketing your rabbits online through social media, selling to restaurants and bars that prepare rabbit meat, and most especially contacting international clients that need a steady supply of rabbits exported to them in whatever country they’re in.
How to Handle Rabbits The Right Way (Lifting Rabbits)
Handling rabbits correctly is very important because rough handling can be a source of stress to rabbits (they are not as rugged as other animals like pigs, cattle, or goats). The skeleton of rabbits is not strong. Their backbone can be easily damaged, hence, care should be taken seriously when handling these set of animals.
One thing is that a rabbit should on any condition lifted by their ears because it is usually painful to them. There are two ways rabbits can be handled. These are:
1. By the scruff
The rabbit handler must have short fingernails to prevent injuring the animal. The rabbit should be lifted by the skin behind the ears (the scruff). The rabbit is then held and supported by placing the order hand under its hindquarters. Never hold the back legs as this action may cause the animal to struggle and kick or injure you with its sharp claws.
2. By the pelvis
This method is used to handle young rabbits (kits) only. The young rabbits being transferred quickly from the hutch to the basket may be lifted by the pelvis or the skin on their back.
How to Feed Rabbits
You can raise your rabbits successfully on unlimited green food, roots and hays, but the addition of some grain cake foods is always advantageous. Rabbits will eat almost any type of green food gathered from hedges or roadside. As a precaution, however, you should thoroughly wash all green feeds in salt and water. You are doing this to remove dust, dung and insects and also to cleanse the feed from getting contaminated with other infectious substances. After washing, allow the green feed to dry for few hours before giving your animals to eat most especially the young rabbit.
The feeds that you can give rabbits are:
- Succulents: potato leaves, carrots, lettuces, cabbages. But only give lettuces and cabbages to adult rabbits alone.
- Hays: well-cured green legumes hays such as cowpeas, groundnuts, soybeans, stylo, etc. are palatable and they make rabbits grow well.
- Starches and grains: potatoes (must be boiled) and grains such as millets, guinea corn, maize, rice, etc. can be added to your animal’s ration mixtures.
- Supplements: groundnut cake (GNC), cottonseed cake, and soybean meal (SBM) are protein-rich supplements, and they are desirable for balancing grass hays and pelleted rations. The grains and cakes are better accepted when crushed, ground, or missed thoroughly.
Challenges Of Rabbit Farming
The challenges of rabbit farming mostly ranges between these listed below:
1). Inadequate supply of a sort-after rabbit breed.
2) Poor marketing.
3). Pests and diseases.
4). Unproductive rabbit stock.
5). Low quality feed from local suppliers.
6). Lack of experience.
7). Production constraints
8). Poor construction of rabbit hutches
Rabbit farming is one lucrative livestock farming business that could be executed largely for exportation purposes in many places around the world, especially Europe.
Where to Buy Rabbits In Nigeria
You Can Buy Breeding Stock Of New Zealand White From Stonebridge Ranch & Farms Nigeria
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