A few years back, rabbit farming received a lot of publicity similar to the one quail farming got and I questioned whether it was a sustainable farming venture. It is now several years since then and rabbit farming has grown tremendously. Supermarkets, butcheries and other meat joints are now stocking rabbit meat. This just goes to show that rabbit farming in Kenya can only get better.
This can be attributed to the nutritional and health value of its meat considering it is categorized as white meat. It contains less calories and other harmful contents found in red meat. This has made it an alternative to chicken and fish which fall under the white meat category.
In my opinion, the greatest challenge facing rabbit farming in kenya is the development of a rabbit eating culture. Kenyans are not known for consuming rabbit meat and therefore a lot of public awareness has to be done to show Kenyans/Africans why rabbit meat is better. Thankfully this is already underway and a lot of ground has been covered in making Kenya a rabbit eating nation.
Other than the meat, rabbit skin can be processed and used in the manufacturing industry. There is however a need to develop the tuning industry in Kenya to accommodate rabbit farmers and help out the already existing ones e.g in thika.
First and foremost, this can help you cut down on cost of purchasing meat since you will have your own source. With the cost of living rising rapidly in Kenya, a means of cutting down on expenses will help ease pressure especially for people in urban areas.
Rabbit meat is healthier than red meat (beef matton etc). The health conscious population worldwide is rapily growing as people become more choosy on the type of food they eat. This means that the number of people seeking healthier alternatives such as white meat is growing which will translates to greater demand for rabbit meat. The international demand for rabbit mat is massive and this is an area that players in the Kenyan economy are looking to explore. It shouldn’t be too long until a they break through.
Rabbits require little space making it ideal for people with small pieces of land. The housing units can be stacked onto each other utilizing space. I have heard of people keeping rabbits on top of goat sheds. So space shouldn’t be an excuse for people looking to venture into rabbit farming.
Costs of keeping rabbits are very low. Farmers can spend between ksh150-ksh250 on a rabbit from birth to slaughter. This ensures that you always make a profit. The price can be driven even lower if a farmer plants his own feeds and managing the rabbits well to reduce infection risks.
The gestation period of a rabbit is 28-30 days. Each rabbit can give birth to upto 15 young ones. This numbers make rabbit farming even more attractive as it takes very little time for you to grow your stock. A mature rabbit is ready for the market at around 3kgs. It take an approximate 5 months for it to get here.
I always advice farmer to have a business plan before going into any farming venture. This is because a business plan will make you think of thing you would have otherwise overlooked such as marketing, expansion plans etc. Remember farming is a business and at the end you have to make money out of it. Overlooking such factors usually results to failure and frustration of farmers. So first write down a business plan.
Source for good breeds. It is important to get the best breed to start off with. Make sure that you buy rabbits from good breeders. This is because many farmer do not observe best breeding practices. A common problem is inbreeding. This is where rabbits that are “related ” are bred resulting in an inferior offspring. As a farmer starting off, in bred rabbits would mean that you entire stock after that would be descendants of inferior quality rabbits. So choose wisely. Ask a lot of questions too as you wouldn’t want to start off on the wrong foot.
There are many different breeds available in Kenya. Some are specialized for fur production while others are best for meat as they gain a lot of meat. Examples of the breeds are
New zealand white
Housing is important for rabbit farming an it is important to get it right the first time.
One of the things to consider in housing is wind direction. This is because rabbits get pneumonia and the houses/cages should face away from the wind.
Another thing to consider in constructing the house is cleanliness. Rabbits do not fare well in dump environments so make sure that the houses are easy to clean. Chicken mesh and wire mesh on the floor will ensure that urine and droppings do accumulate in the house. This will also make it easier to clean and collect rabbit droppings for manure. This can be done on one half of the cage and the other half can be wooden to become the sleeping area. As you can imagine, sleeping on wire can be very uncomfortable for rabbits. Dry hay can be used as a bed for the rabbits.
The cages should be such that you can easily reach out and catch a rabbit. This makes it easy when inspecting a rabbit.
Traditionally, farmers have been feeding rabbits on fresh greens. This however has been found to be less nutritious than feeding dry matter. These include grasses, lucern, callindra etc which are high on protein. These feeds guarantee a better nutritioned rabbit. Grains can also be fed to rabbits as well as commercial pellets.
Some farmers looking to cut down on costs of feeds make their own grains mixing high nutrient things such as maize germ/ bran among others.
Different feeding programs work differently for people as you feed your rabbit what you can acces. I advise new farmers to visit a successful rabbit farmers to learn about this as I believe this is the type of thing that you have to learn practically. Fresh greens are also a good source of rabbit feed.
As I mentioned before, breeding is an important aspect of rabbit farming. As a farmer, you should always avoid in breeding to ensure you only get the best quality offspring’s. Keeping breeding records will also simplify you work when deciding which two rabbits to breed.
As a farmer, you should also be able to identify rabbits when on heat and know of best time to serve female rabbits. Female rabbits show signs when on heat. Check its behavior and its vulva to see if it is on heat. When serving, it is usually best to move the female rabbit to the male cage. It is recommended that this is done during early morning and late evening.
After birth, the female rabbit is left to stay with its litter for around 3 months. After this period, they should be separated. This creates a need for having several bigger cages to accommodate mothers and litter. Feeds given to pregnant and mothering rabbits should be slightly more to give energy for giving birth and suckling.
Rabbit farming in kenya is a cost effective, less labor intensive mode of farming and it can be done by anyone. It is an industry that is on the rise and the future looks promising for it.
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