Rabbit farming is an agribusiness with a quite huge market potential. It is a business that hasn’t just proven to be a great source of income to thousands of people worldwide, but has also as a critical source of protein for people in parts of Africa, including Nigeria and indeed worldwide.
Rabbits belong to the family Leporidae and can be found free in their natural habitats in many countries around the world such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya. They can be found in a diverse array of environments such as meadows, grasslands, forests, and even deserts.
Rabbit farming business is a potential money spinner if done correctly and with the right information and resources. Animal husbandry is fast becoming more and more popular among entrepreneurs today, especially among the youths. In fact, some people are more comfortable going into animal rearing as a business than crop farming.Like any other business however, rabbit farming requires a certain level of skills, understanding of the animals, business acumen and dedication in order to succeed. I’ll try as much as possible to center this post around the business aspect of rabbit farming rather than making it a science class tutorial, hope you don’t mind? Great!
Why you should consider rabbit farming:
Low start-up Capital: you don’t require hundreds of thousands of naira to start rabbit husbandry successfully. It is a low capital investment as. With as little as N10,000 and some creativity, you can actually start rearing your own rabbits with the possibility of growing the business gradually.
Relatively Low Running Costs: Rabbits are actually omnivores(they can eat different kinds of food just like man). Nevertehless, they can survive and in fact thrive on an excluusively plant diet.
High Demand: Rabbit meat is very delicious. It has this unique taste that endears it to so many people, especially those that grew up in the village (…ahhh caught you smiling!!!). Every part of the rabbit is useful; the skin for leather shoe and bag making factories, furs for manufacturing clothes, bone for the production of livestock feed , meat for consumption, live rabbits for testing specimens by laboratories. So it is in the hands of the potential rabbit breeder to determine to whom he should sell his rabbits. Hence the target market is high.
Rapid yield and turnover:Rabbits are polygamous in nature and multiply rapidly. Rabbits start breeding at 4 to 5 months of age. The gestation period for the doe (female rabbit) is 31 days and they give birth to 2 to 8 kits (baby rabbit) at once. Rabbits are able to reproduce seven times a year. For reproduction to take place, the buck and doe be kept together to mate. After which they should be keep in separate cages of houses. One female rabbit can produce up to 50 baby rabbits in a year.
Easy Housing: Rabbits can be kept cages, hutches or in a house. Whatever is the case, their living quarters should be spacious so that there will be enough room for their feeders, drinkers, the kits and for the expansion of the business. Their housing should protect them heat and humidity. It should not be too hot or too cold for them. Feeding – Rabbits eat processed feed or edible vegetable, leaves, shrubs, and herbs. They can also feed on grasses such as elephant grass, potato, etc. I recommend that you feed them 2 times every day. Your rabbit farm could be started with just two rabbits. And because rabbits don’t require as much space as other livestock (especially grazing or foraging ones), farmers may begin with a basic cage made of wood and chicken wire, and gradually scale up your investment as profits begin to flow in.
Cheap and readily available feed: If you feed them processed feed, then it is important that you find out the exact amount of feed they consume on a daily basis. This will help you avoid waste. Adequate supply of drinking water should be provided for them too.Expenses – Rabbit farming business in Nigeria is not an expensive venture. You can start your farm in your backyard, with 2 male rabbits and 6 female rabbits, a wire cage and information from out rabbit farming manual. You are good to go! Other factors you will need to put into consideration includes a production plan, competition and marketing strategies. Because there are not so many people involved in commercial rabbit production, it is almost impossible for the few rabbit farmers to satisfy market demand.
Rabbit meat is highly nutritious: Rabbit meat has been found to be low in bad fat content or cholesterol compared to pork, turkey, chicken and beef. Bad fat clogs up the heart and blood vessels, causing serious health problems such as Hypertension, eventually stroke as well as other bad diseases. So, eating rabbit meat protects from these problems as well a being an excellent source of animal protein. Rabbit meat is also very rich in iron.
The Popular Rabbit Breeds
Below are the breeds usually farmed for commercial purposes in Nigeria. The reason for this is that they are usually bigger than other breeds and therefore produce more meat and better profit:
1). 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”.
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.
3). Chinchilla: These rabbits are small to medium sized, blue-grey in colour and can weigh an average size of 2.5kg when they reach adulthood. They need regular grooming to stay in perfect condition. It usually has a white belly and ranges in weight between 3 and 4.5 kg when fully grown.They usually have a thick fold around the front of the chest when rabbit is in good health, more obvious when it is sitting in a resting position.
4).New Zealand White: Theses rabbits are usually fully white, small to medium sized, and can reach a lifetime maturity of 3 to 5kg.
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
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:
Rabbits can feed on processed feed or edible dark leafy vegetable and leaves, elephant grass, potatoes and different kinds of herbs. A rabbit’s diet can also consist of good quality pellets that are rich in fibre, fresh hay, and water.
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.
It is reasonable to begin your rabbit farming venture with a marketing plan in place before starting out.
For beginners, the marketing process can begin by creating awareness among individuals such as families, friends and colleagues. Like any sensible businessman, creating contacts with establishments such as restaurants, hotels, eateries and supermarkets is a strategic step to take in order to be successful. You can improve your profit margins by creating your own point of sales and selling directly to your customers/ consumers. You can start by marketing your rabbits online through the techniques listed in this other article, 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.
Common Challenges Of Rabbit Farming
The challenges of rabbit farming mostly ranges between these listed below:
1). Pests and diseases.
2) Poor marketing.
3). Unproductive rabbit stock.
4). Low quality feed from local suppliers.
5). Lack of experience.
6). Production constraints
7). Poor construction of rabbit hutches
Rabbit Diseases, Symptoms and Prevention
There are a lot of common diseases that rabbits can be besieged with. Just like in humans, early diagnosis is required for managing these diseases. The ultimate however is prevention.
Some of the common problems and diseases of rabbits include:
Hairballs: Scientifically called trichobezoars, this occurs when hair that is normally found in a rabbit’s stomach (as they self-groom) does not pass through the gut, as it should. When this happens, it will form an obstruction and can cause serious complications.
A high fibre diet is a preventative measure. While some medication can help the gut to work properly again, sometimes surgery is the only treatment if the hairball causes a blockage in the gut.
Pasteurellosis/snuffles: This bacteria usually affects the eyes of the rabbits causing redness, discharge, and squinting; and/or the nose, causing sneezing and discharge. It can also the ears resulting in a head tilt, abscesses and uterine infections. Since this disease is usually passed from rabbit to rabbit, farmers should separate sick animals from the rest to prevent overcrowding. Treatment involves a long and sometimes repeated course of antibiotics.
Uterine tumours: This affects female rabbits and symptoms include blood stained vaginal discharge, violent behaviour, mammary gland cysts and lethargy. It is a form of cancer called uterine adenocarcinoma and it should be suspected anytime a doe becomes sick. The aim of the farmer is to have reproducing does, since it can not really be prevented. Once a rabbit is affected though, desexing can help before the cancer spreads throughout the body.
Overgrown teeth: A rabbit’s teeth grow throughout its lifetime. Hence, there is a high risk of the teeth becoming overgrown, especially if the rabbit is not constantly grinding the teeth down by eating enough fibre. In severe cases, the incisors at the front of the mouth grow around in a curl such that affected rabbits cannot close their mouth or eat at all. This will ultimately lead to death. Ensure that at least eighty percent of his/her rabbit’s diet is fibre o prevent this problem. This can come in the form of oaten or grass hay. The rest of the diet should be leafy greens, with pellets and other treats given in minimal quantities.
Rabbit farming is one lucrative livestock farming business that could be executed largely for exportation purposes in many places around the world, especially Europe. If you plan to start up a rabbit farming business, this guide can form the foundation of your understanding as you proceed.
For more information about other small businesses that you can do, please visit the link. Also remember, we love feedback, keep them coming.