RABBIT PRODUCTION: here are the basic knowledge a rabbit farmer (both large, medium and small scale) should know about. The role of rabbit production in Agricultural production includes:
MEAT PRODUCTION: When rabbits are in the age of about 8-12 weeks of age, they could be slaughtered for meat. At this age it should weigh about 2kg which is slightly more then the average broiler chicken of the age.
FUR AND SKIN: The rabbit skin is used for making quality coats in the temperate countries and also gloves and toys for children.
RESEARCH: It is very popular animal in nutritional and medical research and for testing the efficiency of vaccines. This is because they occupy small space, are very docile and multiply rapidly.
PET FOR CHILDREN AND ADULT: Because of the beauty and neatness of the rabbit children and adult use as their pet.
CHARACTERISTICS OF RABBIT PRODUCTION
These characteristics are from the point of view of the advantage they have with other Agricultural animal.
- The individual rabbit is cheap which make them easy for starting a rabbit farm. This is unlike other animal that require a large capital outlay.
- The animal is small in size thus requires a small space. This makes it possible for them to be raised under intensive system and thus minimizes the need of land.
- They are very cheap to feed because they can utilize roughages feeds. If enough forages is given, there may be no need for supplementary vitamins and minerals.
- Rabbit are highly prolific hence multiply very rapidly. They have a large litter size (about 6 – 10 litters at a time). Shout maturation period of about 4 months and their gestation period is about 32 days (31 – 35 days).
- It also grow very rapidly. At birth, they weigh few grammes: (30 – 40gms) but in about few weeks they weigh about 2kg.
- The carcass of a rabbit is high quality. The dressing percentage is about 70% and it has very few discards.
- v Furthermore rabbit has the lowest fat in their flesh which is a quality of good meat.
- v Rabbits are adaptable to a wide range of climatic conditions provided they are protected from rain, direct sunshine and predators.
BREED OF RABBITS
About 40 breed of rabbit are recognized. Many other breed are not officially recognized. The main different between breed is the coat colour and the size. Rabbits are however very highly prone to mutation and change in body colour. The genes in rabbit which govern body colour are subject to mutation than most other animals.
For Agricultural purposes the breed are generally divided into:
Large 5 – 7kg body weight
Medium 3 – 5kg body weight
Small 1 – 3kg body weight
The medium to large breed are because they exhibit a faster growth rate.
The most Five popular breeds of Rabbits are:
BREED MATURE WEIGHT(kg) COAT COLOUR
- Californian 3 – 5 White
- New Zealand 4 – 5 White, Red or Black
- Chinchilla 4 – 5 Grey, Blue with white belly, Variable
- Flemish Giant 6 – 7 Variable
- Dutch 3 – 4 Black with white belly
CONSIDERATIONS FOR CHOOSING THE BREED
- Source of breed stock: The stock should be from a reputable rabbit farm to ensure that they are pure breed, sound and devoid of any physical defects.
- Size of the maturity: The large breed grow faster and more efficient feed converters but slow to reach sexual maturity. The bigger breeds reach exual maturity at about 5 -6 months of age while the smaller breeds reach maturity at 3 – 4 months of age.
- Versatility: Consider to choose a breed that can serve more then one purpose. This is why the New-Zealand and Californian breed of rabbits have most popular coat colour and size are attractive.
- Adaptability: The breed to be chosen should be highly adaptable.
Rabbits are adaptable to the most ecological environment but they must be protected from rain, direct sunshine, and predators. Adult rabbits are usually housed separately because adult males tend to fight each other. This is because they exhibit this trait in their natural territory. The strong males keep fighting the weaker ones and in the process injuries may be sustained which may become potential source of infection to the rabbit and others too.
For Female rabbits the problem of housing them together is the phenomenon of dopregnancy and uncontrolled breeding. Most animal species have a cyclical ovulation. But in rabbits, this does not exist. The females ovulate in response to certain stimuli from the anterior pituitary gland which secretes some hormones and the usual stimuli in the act of mating. By the pseudo-pregnancy, rabbits show all signs of pregnancy like refusing to mate, enlargement of the mammary gland for at least two weeks. This leads to a loss of breeding time.
If rabbits are kept on wire cages, most of the young ones will be lost. If there are no resting boxes. This is because the young once are born without hair and bald and if exposed for too long, they will die from chilling. Harsh environmental condition however prevents the rabbits from escape and predators.
A typical cage size compartment is 75 x 50 x 50cm, but the breeding cages should be 120x50x50cm.
CAGE CONSTRUCTION FOR RABBIT
Cages may be constructed by using the following materials:
- Only metal
- Only wood or bamdoos
- Metal and wood
Wooden frame and wire sides and floor is most convenient for small scale production. The floor should be supported by a welded mesh to prevent crowding the animal and causing injury to the feet. Putting the wood at close intervals enhance.
Rabbits may be raised on the floor (deep litter). This is practiced with materials on the floor under this condition, the floor/space of 1.0/2m animal should be allowed. It may not be absolutely hygienically possible to raise rabbits on deep litters especially if fed with forages. They urinate a lot hence a lot of bedding material may be required for absorption.
The metal cage are more expensive but durable. They are easier to clean and disinfect while wooden cages tend to have cracks where parasite can hide.
FEEDERS AND DRINKERS
The feeder and drinkers should contain enough feed and water for a day and should be protected against overturning. Metal feeders and drinkers are the best. They are easier to clean, wash and disinfect.
NEST AND BOXES
The young once are born without hair on their body and blind. In their natural environment the dams dig into the soil and kindle there. In the confinement nest boxes should be provided to keep the young once warm. The bottom of the nest should be perforated to drain the urine of the doe. The nest boxed may be constructed from wool or kerosene tins. If metals used, the edge should ……….which could be very sharp. The dept should be 10cm because after a few days the young once become ……….and may therefore fall out. It is important that the young once should not get the nest too early.
More Updates on Rabbit Production still on the way!