To make your rabbit farming enterprise commercially viable, you will need to think and plan in large quantities. To supply an export market with rabbit skins, you will need to fill a container, which means about 70,000 skins. Spanish abattoirs slaughter around 10,000 rabbits on a weekly basis.
One of your first considerations will be which type of rabbits to raise. The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes 47 distinct breeds of rabbits, which is quite a variety to choose from, if planning a rabbit farm. There are coat and eye color variations within some of these species and a range of different sizes exist. The Netherland Dwarf rabbit, for example, weighs barely 2 and a half pounds (1.1kg), while a meat rabbit such as the New Zealand rabbit can weigh in at around 12 pounds (5.4kg).
Not all meat rabbits are huge, though. The Florida White, bred in the 1960s to be suitable for both meat and laboratory use, hits the scale at between 4 and 6 pounds (1.8kg to 2.7kg).
The Altex rabbit, first bred in Alabama in the mid-1980s, can reach a weight of 20 pounds (9kg). Careful genetic selection tailored its impressive size.
The Californian Rabbit is one of the most popular meat rabbit breeds. First developed in the 1920s from New Zealand White, Himalayan and Chinchilla stock, its weight averages between 7 and 10 pounds (3.2kg to 4.5kg).
The Lynx Rex rabbit appeals to both the meat and the fur industry, with its fine velvety pelt and its size. Despite its name, the New Zealand Rabbit, which occurs in white, black and red, was actually bred in America. It is popular for meat, fur and laboratory use, but can be aggressive.
There are various types of Angora rabbits such as the French Angora and the Giant Angora, which are bred for their wool. These occur in colors such as white, grey, tan, brown and black.
When selecting the best bucks and does for rabbit breeding, you would need to look at how prolific their ancestors were. The female is usually ready to mate at a younger age than the male. Expect the female of one of the medium sized rabbit breeds to be sexually mature around the age of 5 months. Once the male is ready, he can mate up to 7 times a week.
Mate breed with breed, as it may be difficult to sell a rabbit of mixed parentage for farming purposes. The larger rabbit species may only be ready to reproduce at the age of eight months.
Choose the breed of rabbit according to the products you hope to supply, whether it will be meat, wool or pelts. Your rabbit stock can increase rapidly. One female is able to produce up to 50 live rabbits per year, which will be a good start to your rabbit farming adventure.
Since rabbit farming can be exercised on a relatively modest land area and the equipment requirements are fairly simple, it is economically more attractive than many other forms of animal husbandry. The estimated start-up capital can be as low as $5000.
Your rabbit hutch will need good ventilation and air conditioning. Other requirements include adequate lighting, a feed hopper, clean water and a nest box. Since rabbits are sensitive to the temperature of their environment, they should be kept in a warm environment with adequate shelter.
Particular care should be taken in insulating the nest box before the birth of rabbit young. Hay or wood shavings make excellent filler, but newspaper or tissue should rather be avoided, as these may not hold enough warmth. With the raising of meat rabbits, the proper regulation of temperature prevents overeating and fat, undesirable if the meat you raise is meant to bear the label of lean.
If you keep your rabbits outdoors, bear in mind that their tendency to chew on most things may cause problems if the shelter is made of wood. The hutch will need to be protected from predators. Bear in mind that hearing night noises may cause your rabbits considerable stress and even lead to heart attacks.
Ideally the cage should be at least five times larger than the rabbit and higher than its length if standing upright on its hind legs. Wire mesh combines the need for ventilation and protection, but investigate this to avoid the potential hazard of loose wire. A wire floor could damage the feet of your rabbits. Adequate space should be designated as a litter area.
There are various diseases that could target the inhabitants of your rabbit hutch. Diarrhea and other digestive ailments can have lethal consequences. Enterotoxemia kills within 12 to 48 hours and usually targets young rabbits between 4 and 8 weeks old. Other forms of diarrhea, such as Epizootic Rabbit Enteropathy and Tyzzer’s Disease are as deadly. Mucoid Enteritis on the other hand is caused by a bowel blockage. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease is a viral infection that can wipe out your entire rabbit population within the space of a few days. Mosquitos spread myxomatosis, another viral infection.
Some symptoms of disease in rabbits include loss of appetite and a high rectal temperature. Sneezing and nasal discharges are an indication of Snuffles. Bear in mind that rabbits have an inborn tendency to hide signs of illness. A rabbit that refuses food, hides or seems listless should probably be investigated. If a contagious disease is suspected, all infected rabbits may need to be destroyed.
Rabbits are targeted by parasites such as eat mites, fur mites, ringworm, pin worms and tape worm. Like cats, they can develop hairballs.
Good hygiene in the rabbit hutch can limit the impact of various rabbit diseases, particularly those that target breeding females. Change their hay on a daily basis and make sure there is a sufficient supply of clean water. Prevention is far better than cure, in the business of rabbit farming.
Before you begin rabbit farming, you need to be prepared if you want to be as profitable as possible. There are several things that you need to take into consideration and understand prior to purchasing your first rabbits.
The first thing to understand is that rabbit farming can be done in several different ways. Depending on the market conditions and the types of rabbits you are able to house and handle, you can choose one or several options. You can farm rabbits for meat or fur, for laboratory purposes, or as pets. You have to decide which type of rabbit farming you are going to do before you buy rabbits so you can know what type of rabbits are best to buy, and what type of housing and husbandry cares you will need.
Rabbits, true to the stereotype, multiply quickly. Even if you were to purchase a young doe just coming to breeding age, you could get 50 kits from her in your first year. For that reason, it’s important to have housing areas prepared for the kits as they are weaned from their mother. Does and bucks will need to be separated except for breeding, and a doe with kits should also have her own space. This is important for tracking genealogies.
When planning out facilities, it’s important to keep the health of the rabbits in mind. They need an environment that allows for a lot of airflow without being too breezy. They will need cages that are kept clean with their excrements removed from the area promptly, as the fumes can be harmful to the delicate nose of the rabbit in large amounts.
What you feed your rabbits is also important, as most foods do not contain all of the nutrients that rabbits need. Rabbits require constant access to high quality Timothy hay, as well as commercial pellet food. It is also good for them to be given small amounts of fresh vegetables every day. It is important for your rabbits to be fed a healthy diet because it will make them healthier, and having healthier rabbits ultimately means a higher profit for you.
Once you have facilities ready and a business plan in action, you can begin to seek out breeders to purchase your first rabbits. Be sure that you have a veterinarian that can check out the rabbits for you, and remember that the higher quality of rabbits that you start with, the higher quality of rabbit farming you’ll be able to do.
There are many different types of rabbit products that are produced and sold from today’s rabbit farmers. Whether you are just starting out in rabbit farming or have been farming for years, you should know all the different types of rabbit products that can be sold so you can get the most out of your rabbits.
Some small-time rabbit farmers may breed rabbits specifically to sell as pets. Depending on the breeds you are working with, this can be profitable, or you may find yourself with more rabbits than you know what to do with. If you are breeding rabbits to be sold as pets, 4H projects, or as show animals, it is important to maintain high standards when choosing rabbits. A good pedigree goes a long way in selling rabbits this way.
A less common product of rabbit farming is rabbits for laboratory use, but it does happen. Many laboratories will breed their own rabbits, but others will obtain them from outside sources. Although this is a harder aspect of the industry to break into, it can be challenging and profitable. Most laboratories will have specifications as to how the rabbits are raised and cared for, so you have to do your research on this and be prepared to do whatever the laboratory needs you to do.
A natural by-product of any type of rabbit farming is fertilizer, from their feces and urine. If you have your own garden, you can spread their waste on it, or you can sell their waste as fertilizer to friends and neighbors who have gardens.
The two most common products of rabbit farming are fur and meat. The two go hand-in-hand as most farmers who slaughter rabbits for meat will also use the fur. Rabbit meat is increasing in popularity as people focus more on health and fitness. Because rabbit meat is high in protein and low in fat, it is a good alternate to pork and beef. Rabbits are also great to raise for meat because they grow quickly and have a high percentage of protein to muscle conversion. That means that they output more muscle with the same amount of food than a cow or pig does.
Rabbit fur is used a lot in the fashion industry today. In that same category is Angora fur, which comes from the Angora rabbit. Angora fur is shaved off of the rabbit every 3 to 4 months, and is warm and incredibly soft, making it great for knitted goods. When you utilize all of the rabbit products you can, you will maximize your profits and be able to be much more environmentally friendly.
To have a successful rabbit production operation, there are four basic thing that you need to have for your rabbits. You will need a good environment, an excellent diet, great overall health, and a well-planned breeding program.
The environment in which you keep your rabbits could make or break your business. Rabbits that are exposed to extreme temperatures could die, or they could become unhealthy which would lead to a decrease in production. Rabbits do best in a covered, well-ventilated area that can be kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If you are not using wire-bottom cages, you will need to keep the cages cleaned out frequently. If you are using wire-bottom cages, you will need to clean out beneath them regularly.
Diet is important not only for the health of the rabbit, but also for the quality of the meat. Although rabbit meat is naturally high in protein, a high protein diet will help to increase that. Rabbit meat is also low in fat, and a good diet will help keep it that way. Rabbits will need constant access to the type of hay they need for their specific age. Rabbits over the age of 6 months will need Timothy hay, and those under 6 months need Alfalfa hay.
They will also need a commercial pellet food that is high in protein, and daily fresh vegetables. The fresh vegetables can be any number of dark green leafy vegetables, from turnip or carrot tops, parsley, cilantro, or other dark lettuce leaves. Any light lettuce leaves or iceburg lettuce should be avoided at all costs as it will give them digestive problems. Some types of fruits and berries can occasionally be given as treats, but you should always research foods before giving them to your rabbits.
The overall health of your rabbits is going to determine how many kits each doe will have, the health of the kits, and the size that the rabbits will reach as they grow. You should check the health and look of your rabbits often to make sure that they are staying healthy and injury-free. Injuries can lead to infections, but can usually be treated easily when caught early. If you do have problems, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Once you have established the environment and health of your rabbits, you can put them on a good breeding schedule that will allow for periods of rest between periods of production. When you get all four of these elements working together, you will find that you have a successful rabbit production operation.
If you are considering starting a rabbit farm or have just started rabbit farming, it’s important to know what types of rabbit products that you are able to sell. Rabbits are great in that you can use almost the whole rabbit, letting nothing go to waste.
rabbit farming today mostly focuses on killing rabbits for their meat. Although there is some controversy over eating rabbit meat, it is becoming more popular as people seek healthy alternatives to beef and pork. Rabbit meat has a low fat content and a high protein content, which makes it much healthier than other meats. Meat rabbits usually mature by 6 to 8 months, and their ability to turn 20% of the protein they eat into muscles means that you can have a good profit margin.
Another product of rabbits is their fur, which almost always goes to the fashion industry. There is some controversy with using rabbit fur, but there’s still a big market for it. Most people that farm rabbits for their meat will also sell the fur. Angora rabbits are bred and raised specifically for their fur, which is shaved off every 3 to 4 months and then can be cleaned and spun into yarn like sheep’s wool. Angora fur is incredibly soft and warm, so it is in high demand in the fashion and crafting industries.
Rabbits are widely used in laboratories for various experiments, and it is also possible to breed and produce rabbits specifically for sale to laboratories. With these, there are usually very specific standards in housing and breeding that must be maintained, but if you can get into a contract with a specific lab, raising rabbits for laboratories can be quite profitable.
You can also raise rabbits to be sold as pets, but this should not be done excessively, as finding homes for rabbits can be difficult. This type of rabbit farming is best done on a smaller scale and with the breeds that are preferred as pets, such as the Lionhead, the Rex, and the Holland Lop. Along these lines, they can be sold as 4H projects, or to people who want to show rabbits, but you will need high quality animals with good breeding for this.
With any type of rabbit products you are producing, you will also have plenty of rabbit poop, which can be sold as a fertilizer, becoming yet another great way to use every part of the rabbit.
The food to conversion proportion is a very significant variable which should be used when assessing the productivity of the rabbit farming business. The food to conversion proportion can be used to measure the amount of growth achieved by the rabbit with regards to the food which has been given. The ratio should show a directly proportional relationship between the amount of food provided and the mass of the rabbit. This is because the food would be wasted if it is given continually despite the lack of improvements. Increased mass would provide more meat, fur and internal organs to harvest.
The rabbit farm venture will experience deficit and losses in the long-term if handler would continue giving food even though it has no positive effects to the rabbit. The handlers should also choose a rabbit breed which can attain the greatest amount of mass and weight with minimal food items. This would allow the rabbit farming business to save resources.
The first thing that should be given attention is the maximum growth which can be attained by the breeding stock utilized in the farm venture. The people handling the rabbit stock should also know the proper amount of food and resources needed in order to maintain the animals properly. Using the breeding stock which can provide the best food to conversion proportion is very important in order to assure the long-term success of the business. The consumer can choose between the medium-sized, meat and giant rabbits. The German and French Angora coming from the medium-size breed exhibits significant growth and increase in mass and weight in a short period of time. It would only require one and a half cup in a daily basis.
The giant rabbits require the greatest amount of feeds. The rabbits coming from this type of breed would usually require 2 to 3 cups of feeds in a daily basis. This would be very impractical considering the weight gain is only 20 percent greater than the meat rabbits.
The meat rabbits are the best choice since it exhibits the most cost-effective food to conversion proportion. It is able to provide 13 pounds of meat. This can be attained by providing the rabbit with one and a half cup of feeds. This would be 50% less than that of the giant rabbits. The giant rabbits can only provide 15 pounds of meat. This is very low considering the amount of food provided. The medium-size rabbits have the most limited meat production capability. It can only provide 6 to 7 pounds of meat. This would not be enough to provide the raw materials needed for commercial distribution.
Handlers and people involved with the rabbit farm business should consult with the experts and professionals who are knowledgeable when it comes to the conversion ratio of the breeding stocks available in the market. This is very important considering the feeds have a very high price. The handlers should choose the breeding stock which can produce the greatest amount of raw materials using only minimal feeds. This would help the rabbit farming business develope in the long-term.
Business is all about marketing. Until you sell your first product, you are not in business. The marketing of your rabbit products must be thought through prior to putting up the facility. Your choice of marketable products will determine the kind and breed of rabbits you have on your farm and the intensity of production you want to adopt.
Put in place a marketing plan. Conduct a market research. Marketing any product is a lot of work. It would be proper for you to conduct a market research and ask questions. Is there a market for rabbit meat in your locality? Who are those who need your product and how much are they willing to pay?
Be innovative and think outside the box. You can also create your market. Marketing is dynamic. Think outside the box! You must have a marketing plan established around the benefits of rabbit meat for the consumer. We live in a generation increasing in their health consciousness with increasing obesity, diabetes, heart problems, weight control, fast food and junk consuming public. You could try to tap into this market segment.
Sell the health benefits of rabbit meat to families and mothers in particular. You can reach out to big conglomerates who want better living for their staffs. Think about recipes and meals you can prepare using rabbit meat, get people to taste for free. How about rabbit burger with lower cholesterol, trans-fat and the like?
Established markets. You may not need to reinvent the wheel. There are established markets for some rabbit products. Rabbits raised for meat are generally marketed as fryers, weighing about 5 pounds (2.3 kg) live weight. The fur market requires that the rabbits have meaty carcasses and clean, top-quality pelts. A large number of pelts are usually required to obtain a satisfactory price.
The price of the salted or frozen rabbit skin is very volatile and has historically oscillated between US0.18 to US0.75 per skin. To access the export market, you will need at least 70,000 skins – one container load. In Spain, the average rabbit slaughterhouse processes 10,000 rabbits per week – in comparison the largest one in Greece processes 1,500 per week. Research laboratories may specify rigid guidelines for their rabbits. Laboratories may require a specific sex, size, age or breeding. The market for rabbits raised for research is generally handled on a contract basis. Find out where they are, their requirements and meet those requirements.
The U.S. does not have a history of rabbit consumption. However, there is an untapped potential especially for the natural and organic markets. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) P.O. Box 3657 Fayetteville, AR 72702 (www.attra.org) can provide more information on organic certification.
Use direct marketing. Direct marketing requires extra time and effort for the producer but provides the opportunity to produce a high-quality product, educate the consumer, and develop customer loyalty. Many consumers would like to get in touch with their food supply. In establishing a direct market, one can start with producing meat for family or selling to neighbors and friends. Free samples given to businesses patronized by the producer, at county fairs, etc., acquaint potential customers with the product. Farmers’ markets are another ideal way to connect with consumers, as they typically want to know how the animal has been
raised. In this case you sell the “story”.
Advertising by newspaper, radio, flyers, brochure, and the Internet are useful. Some farms send out a newsletter to past customers describing happenings at the farm and emphasizing the quality of their products.
Educate people. Education helps builds a loyal customer base. Make presentations to local organizations such as civic groups, emphasizing that rabbit is a healthy meat, may attract consumers interested in lowering fat and cholesterol in their diets. Customer bases include local health food stores or grocery stores interested in carrying farm-fresh products (these usually require a steady supply), and restaurants.
A Rabbit Field Day at a school could provide the opportunity for people to handle live rabbits, sample rabbit meat prepared in different recipes, get pamphlets about rabbit production and qualities of the meat, see exhibits of crafts that can be made from rabbit products such as rugs from the pelts and rabbit’s foot key-chains. Rabbit producers may be able to coordinate with 4-H groups or the Cooperative Extension Service in order to carry out a project of this kind.
Rabbits are exploited on an industrial scale worldwide for the following products.
• Meat –this remains the most popular reason for commercial breeding rabbits
• For fur and wool – used in the garment and clothing industry
• Leather products from processed skins
• Medical research and the Pharmaceutical industry are one of the highest users of rabbit.
Rabbits are the choice animals for certain kinds of studies involving the eyes and skin and a host of other studies, and research on drugs development.
• Education demonstrations and demonstrators have found the rabbit as one of their choicest applicants in educating students, particularly in biology and zoology studies.
• Pet breeding – presently one of the fastest growing uses to which rabbit are put.
• Manure, which is rich in nitrogen can also be collected from the droppings of the animals and used for organic farming.
Your focus and desire in running a rabbit farm must be well stated and prepared for to enjoy success. You can’t do everything all at once. You must define your aim before you start in order to avoid deviating from that goal.
Whichever product you focus on, the principles of operation are the same. A lot of hard work will be required for success. Your plans should be thoroughly researched before you start.
In order to increase the rate of productivity of does, research has shown that does serviced at about 18 weeks or around 85 % of maturity are able to produce more number of litters per year. Older does become overweight and have a reduced frequency of litters.
In addition to increasing production through earlier servicing, production rates of does can also be accelerated through these three methods:
Extensive reproduction rate. The breeder fully utilizes the does’ maternal instincts by allowing them to nurse their young for five to six weeks, rebreeding them soon after weaning. Does are therefore serviced once every two and a half months.
In the United States and the United Kingdom fryers with a live weight of 1.7 to 1.8 kg (3.74 – 3.96 kg) are produced this way, using breeds such as the New Zealand White. The mother can be serviced before weaning, about five or six weeks after kindling, which allows two and a half months between litters.
Where the quality or quantity of the feed is not up to standard, it is preferable to wean rabbits at about 40 days. At the same time the breeder should slightly lengthen the resting period between weaning and rebreeding so the doe can build up her reserves again.
Semi-intensive rate. The breeder has does serviced 10 to 20 days after kindling and the young are weaned at four to five weeks. There is no real contrast between pregnancy and lactation for does. For 10 to 20 days the doe is newly pregnant while still nursing. The most important phase of embryo development takes place during the slump in milk production (milk production may even have ceased), so there is no real competition between the demands of gestation and lactation. As these does never have a resting period they need sufficient and well-balanced concentrate feed.
In rational European rabbit production units, a semi-intensive reproduction rate has basically been the rule since the late 1980s: rebreeding 10 to 11 days after kindling; weaning at about 34 to 38 days. At this rate, the work can be programmed by the days of the week, as the plan involves an interval of 42 days (exactly six weeks) between matings: 30 to 31 days of pregnancy + 10 to 11 days following kindling.
Intensive rate. The breeder has the does re-serviced just after kindling, taking advantage of the fact that they are then on heat. Weaning should take place at four weeks at the latest, usually at 26 to 28 days. There are three main techniques:
• Servicing the same day or the day after kindling: the true postpartum rate;
• Servicing scheduled for a specific day, generally three or four days after kindling. This corresponds to a constant interval of 35 days (five weeks) between litters; the results of this 35-day rate are economically disappointing because the rate of female acceptance of servicing three or four days after kindling is very low in most rabbit production units,although not all;
• Ad lib mating. A buck left together with postpartum does will serve them several times during the 48 hours following kindling. This is the natural rhythm of wild rabbits.