Introduction Organic farming in Europe has seen a dynamic development over the past few years. From 1993 to 1999 the area under organic management more…
Meat rabbit farming is one of the fastest growing new industries. While its long term size will never rival that of our traditional meat industries, it is providing a useful source of income diversification for a number of people in regional and rural areas where farm incomes have plummeted in recent years.
Rabbit farming have following benefits;
With available small investment and in a small place rabbit farming gives more income
Rabbits eat ordinary feed and convert them into a protein rich high quality meat
Apart from meat production they can also be reared for hide and fur
By rabbit rearing one can produce a quality protein rich meat for his own family
Litter size (Number of young ones born/ kindling) in rabbits is high (around 8-12)
Growth rate in broiler rabbits is very high. They attain 2 kgs at the age of three months
A successful rabbit farming required proper knowledge about rabbits and adopt best management practices, housing is very important in rabbit farming. In general, the type of housing is dependent upon the climate, location and size of the rabbitry. The optimum temperature in a rabbit shed is around 10 – 25 0C (SCARM 1998). Effective ventilation is required to control extremes of temperature and also to remove ammonia. Housing is a critical issue for rabbit health. Poor ventilation will result in irritationto the respiratory tract and susceptibility to infection from bacteria. Heat stress will cause major rabbit mortalities and reproductive failure.
A discussion of different ventilation systems can be found in McNitt et al. 1996. The following summary covers the main points. Natural ventilation systems can use wind and animal heat to move air. Natural ventilation is low cost, the disadvantages being lack of control over air movement, inability to lower the inside temperature of the rabbitry below that outside, and over-ventilation. Natural ventilation can be provided with a high gable roof, a ridge vent, and open sides with flaps that can be opened or closed depending on the atmospheric requirements. In high wind areas,a stub wall or wind baffle outside the open sided sheds is needed to reduce wind velocity. Mechanical ventilation systems are used in environmentally controlled buildings, using fans to provide required airflow. The advantage of this system is the ability to control rate of airflow for effective removal of moisture, heat and ammonia; disadvantages being the high initial and operating cost and the need for back up systems in case of power failure.Evaporative cooling systems may be used in a hot, dry climate. A water sprinkling system on the roof of the rabbit shed will help to reduce high temperatures.
2.. Space requirements
The following information is drawn from the code of practice published for intensive husbandry of rabbits in Australia (SCARM 1998). Sufficient room is required for caged rabbits to move around, to feed and drink without difficulty. The minimum legal standards for different classes of rabbits are given below:
|Doe and litter (5 weeks)||0.56 sq.m(total area)|
|Doe and litter (8 weeks)||0.74 sq.m(total area)|
|Rabbits (5-12 weeks)||0.07 sq.m(per rabbit)|
|Rabbits (12 weeks or more)||0.18 sq.m(per rabbit)|
|Adult does and bucks for breeding||0.56 sq.m|
|Cage height (>12 weeks)||45 cm|
If the floor of the cage is of wire mesh material it should be of woven or flat construction. The square mesh of the floor should not exceed 19 x 19mmfor adults and 13 x 13 mm for kittens. The optimum for rectangular mesh is 50 x 13 mm. The thickness of the wire mesh should not be less than 2.5 mm diameter (12 gauge). Cage arrangement can vary depending on the size of the enterprise. Multiple deck configurations require a faeces diverter or multi deck conveyor belt.
3. Feeders and watering equipment
Good feeding and watering equipment will supply feed and water in hygienic condition and will avoid causing discomfort or stress to the rabbits. “J” type feeders are most widely used. A feed hopper in a cage should have a sufficiently big opening and should be large enough to feed all the rabbits in the cage at the same time. An automatic watering system can be installed. The drinking nipples of the watering system should be at optimum height from the floor of the cage, around 10 cm from the floor of the cage and they should not project more than 2.5 cm into the cage (SCARM 1998). It is always advisable to have a backup system to ensure that rabbits have access to water in case of a failure of an automated system.
There are some detailed publications on rabbit feeding such as the book by Cheeke (1987). The following information has been reproduced from the Thumper Newsletter. The average daily requirement of pelleted feed for rabbits of different ages is given below:
Pregnant does 160g
Lactating does 350g
Oaten chaff can be fed at the rate of 20 g per day per adult rabbit. Pellets should be formulated to give basic nutrient requirements for rabbits. This information is available in Cheeke (1987).