Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Rabbit Farming

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;

  1. With available small investment and in a small place rabbit farming gives  more income
  2. Rabbits eat ordinary feed and convert them into a protein rich high quality meat
  3. Apart from meat production they can also be reared for hide and fur
  4. By rabbit rearing one can produce a quality protein rich meat for his own family
  5. Litter size (Number of young ones born/ kindling)  in rabbits is high (around 8-12)
  6. 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. Rabbit Farming I

1..   Ventilation
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:
Does 100g
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).

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