Rabbit farming: A prospect for food, nutrition and income

Since the “rabbit craze” period of the 1990s, the industry has been at low ebb with isolated efforts to revive it by interested individuals and organisations.
Currently, the industry has very few, if not negligible, players handling breeding, production, inputs, service delivery and capacity building.
With the above factors in mind, the promoters of Learn Enterprises Ltd set up a model commercial rabbit farm to demonstrate the economic feasibility of the enterprise, stimulate other stakeholders into the business and raise income for the company.
This is because rabbits have several characteristics that give them a competitive aantage over other livestock for meat.

They are small bodied requiring less space and input, very prolific and efficient converters of feed to meat. Their meat is very nutritious and healthy because it is white, higher in protein with low in fat and lower in cholesterol. They have minimal effect on climate change because their production of methane and effects of overgrazing are negligible and they can also be raised for non-food purposes, which create more job opportunities.
All the above, make rabbitry an important enterprise in areas where there is shortage of agricultural land and for vulnerable and resource poor, especially the youths who are unemployed and lack critical production resources (land and capital).

Rabbitry provides an excellent option to people who are conscious about health dieting and are avoiding high fathigh cholesterol foods as much as possible.
My aice to the current and aspiring farmers is to get out of the craze of the get-rich-quick syndrome. According to the projected cash flows, rabbitry has higher returns to investment (but over a longer time) than that of chicken because you build your own stock (not possible to access one-day-old bunnies!).

Rabbits for any purpose are safer to buy after one month of suckling and mother care.
The current and aspiring farmers should therefore:
nKnow that like any other livestock business, rabbitry requires investment into buildings, facilities, feeds, veterinary services and labour. The level of investments depends on the location and availability of inputs and materials.
nKnow that rabbitry is a TLC (tender-loving and caring) project, which requires daily attention, record keeping and serious follow up of breeding and maturity dates.

n Acquire information from technical people and experienced farmers and avoid opportunists who masquerade as experts in the field.
n Acquire good breeds from farms with technical persons or experienced farmers. Avoid the temptation of becoming a breeder, unless you are technically qualified. One of the best breed for our environment is the New Zealand White.
n Scale-up production to economically viable and sustainable levels. For the peri-urban who adopt the intensive system, at least 50 breeders with an output of over 150 fryers per month would make sense. The rural dwellers can target five to 10 breeders since they are likely to mostly feed on foliage, which can become a limiting factor during prolonged drought.

n Concentrate on the meat market and deliver ready-to-cook product because this is convenient to the consumers who may not even know how to slaughter and process it.
n Price your product close to that of the biggest competitor, chicken meat. Over pricing may make a onetime big kill but cannot sustain the business.
As a national concern, rabbit farmers will have to get together again, to have a voice that will lobby government for supportive structures.
There is a need to create a critical mass for services and inputs providers, for example technical aisors, financiers, feed manufacturers and fabricators for facilities like drinkers and feeders.


The writer is a director of Learn Enterprises. This is an excerpt from the website www.learnenterprises.org



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