Rabbitry

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Rabbits are small mammals found in several parts of the world. Rabbits are herbivores which efficiently convert fodder to food. The different breeds of modern domestic rabbit have evolved as far back as the 18th century. In early 1960, united state department of Agriculture (USDA) was involved in introducing more rabbit to western states of Nigeria. Rabbit can be quickly grown and are a cheap source of protein. They can be reared for consumption or commercial undertaking. Rabbits that are on forage feeding reach table weight around 6-7 months of age.

 

rabbit

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IMPORTANCE OF RABBITARY

·         Rabbit are efficient feed converters to high quality protein, they uses local forages and food wastes that are of no direct value to humans.

·         Meat from rabbit is an all-white meat product that is high in protein of about 20.8% and low in fat, sodium and cholesterol as compared to other common meats, such as beef, lamb, pork and poultry. Rabbit meat has been recommended for years by some physicians to their patients with coronary heart conditions.

·       Rabbit also gives useful by-product like the fur which is useful for making cardigans

·       There is excellent product acceptance with respect to social and religious traditions in other words it is not restricted by any strong taboos or particular beliefs that prevent the eating of rabbit meat or its promotion as food.

·       It matures for table between 5 -6 months, breeding (5 – 7 months)

 

 

BREEDS OF RABBITS

There are over 40 recognized breeds of domesticated rabbit in the world. In Nigeria, the commonest breeds include

commonest breeds include:

  • New Zealand white,
  • Californian, Angora,
  • Chinchilla,
  • California,
  • Dutch etc.

BREEDING

Keep in mind that the rabbits must be at least 6 months of age before being bred. Even though rabbits should not be bred until 6 months of age, they can get pregnant as young as 3 months, so make sure that bucks and does are separated by 8 weeks of age, as to not have any accidents. It is not good for a doe to have a litter before she is fully grown, which the smaller breeds are fully grown at 6 months of age.

Rabbits do not go through heat cycles like most animals. To be able to tell if the doe is ready to be bred, check her genital area. Does who are ready to be bred will be really pink, almost a reddish, purplish color down there. Also, when petting them over their back and bottom, they will stick their bottom up in the air. They are setting up, showing they are ready to submit to the buck. A rabbit’s gestation period is 30-32 days. 

 

HOUSING

Rabbit housing depending on the following: climatic condition, raw materials (Availability and cost), Scale of production, and the production system (Intensive, Extensive or semi-intensive).

The house should be spacious for free movement of the rabbits, allow ventilation to disallow being choked up from ammonia from the urine. It should also protect the animal from rain, sunlight, predators like cat, rat, ants etc.

 A typical hutch dimensions for a general purpose hutch are as follows:

·         1 m above the ground approximately;

·          height of hutch: 60 cm at the front, 50 cm at the back;

·          width: 50-60 cm;

·         length: 90-120 cm

Caged rabbits

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Rabbit hutch

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Flooring can be made of hard bamboo-like material slatted together. Bamboo flooring of this type is recommended for adult rabbits only, as young rabbits tend to slip on the smooth slates and can develop deformed legs. Nesting boxes can be constructed from thinner material or even from clay. Wire has many advantages when used for rabbit housing, especially for floors and the fronts of cages. It should be noted, however, that this material can rust rapidly in warm humid climates if not galvanized or if the galvanized coating is damaged

 

FEEDING

Rabbit production in developing countries is based on low cost feeding, using locally available feedstuffs. For increase growth rate more important considerations would be to formulate cheap diets based on feedstuffs that are of little direct value as human food. If the rabbits are kept on a small scale, diets such as green succulent fodders can be fed with little costs. Current feeding practices vary widely in the tropics, depending on the types of feed material that are available locally (Aduku and Olukosi, 1990)[1].

In tropical Africa, feeds commonly given to rabbits include grasses such as Guinea grass (Panicum maximum) and star grass (Cynodon dactylon); legumes such as Kudzu (Pueraria phaseoloides), groundnut haulms and cowpea haulms; root crops such as sweet potato leaves and cassava chips; and various herbs such as Tridax procumbens, Euphorbia and Aspilla (Aduku and Olukosi, 1990). Rabbits may be maintained solely on green feeds together with household vegetable waste. However, careful management and balancing of diets is necessary (Aduku and Olukosi, 1990)[2].

Diseases

The different types of diseases that affect rabbits are as follows.

·         Ear Canker and Skin Mange: This is caused by external parasites such as mites. This cause a variety of skin and ear conditions. With ear mange the entire ear may become filled with crusty scabs.

·         Coccidiosis: This is the most common diseases in rabbits. Symptoms in moderate or severe cases include a loss of appetite, “pot belly”, diarrhoea and an inability to gain weight.

·         Mastitis: This is a bacterial disease is not common but is occasionally seen in rabbit. It occurs when there is an infection and inflammation of the teats, which become hard and sore.

·         Snuffles: It is a bacterial infection of the respiratory system similar to cold in humans. The symptoms are sneezing, noisy breathing, a runny nose and wet and matted fur on the face.

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Economic potential of rabbitry

In Nigeria, low animal protein intake has remained a major nutritional problem, especially for the low income and non-wage earners (Amaefule and Obioha, 2005; Akinola, 2009)[3]. There is therefore an urgent need to develop rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) production as a cheap source of animal protein to bridge the wide gap existing between animal protein supply and consumption. Rabbit farming is a new area in animal farming and is adapted to both rural and urban centres, tropical and temperate regions of the world alike. Its meat is purely white, bristle and palatable, highly nutritious and a convenient source of high quality protein (Okorie, 1997)[4]. Rabbit meat has been found to be nutritious, low in fat and fine-grained and it provides a suitable alternative to poultry meat.

Casady, (1978)[5] reported that rabbit meat has high biological value with high protein (21%), low fat (10%), low cholesterol and sodium while Damron, (2006)[6] showed that a cooked piece of rabbit meat is high in protein (56%), low in fat (9%), low in cholesterol, sodium and calories (8%) and contain 28% phosphorus, 13% iron, 16% zinc, 14% riboflavin, 6% thiamin, 35% B12 and 48% niacin.

The domestic rabbit is as efficient as other farm animals in converting feed to meat for human consumption. It has since been identified as an economic livestock for small-scale rural farmers/dwellers, capable of producing about 47kg of meat, enough to solely meet the animal protein requirements of a medium size family (Abdulmalik, 1994; Hassan and Owolabi, 1996)[[7]] [[8]]. Rabbits can be kept in the backyard in small unit of 2-4 does (females) and a buck (male) to supply the family with additional source of animal protein (Komolafe, 1990)[9].

 

Constraints

Heat is one of the most important climatic factors which may affect rabbit production in the tropics. Johnson et al.., (1957)[10] reported that short hair and larger ears helped the cooling process in New Zealand White rabbits. According to these workers, growth and development were impaired at ambient temperatures of 28.3°C and above. Generally the higher the ambient temperature the greater was the disturbance of the rabbit&-8217;s functions.

 

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References

 


[1] Aduku, A.O. and Olukosi, J.O. (1990): Rabbit Management in the Tropics: Production, Processing, Utilization, Marketing, Economics, Practical training, Research and Future Prospects, Living

[2] Aduku, A.O. and Olukosi, J.O. (1990): Rabbit Management in the Tropics: Production, Processing, Utilization, Marketing, Economics, Practical training, Research and Future Prospects, Living

[3] Amaefule, K. U. and Obioha, F. U. (2005). Performance of pullet chicks fed raw or processed pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) seed meal diets. Live Reserved for rural Development.

[4] Okorie, A.U. (1997). Requirement in protein and Amino Acid by rabbits. New York: A. A.

[5] Casady, R. B. (1978). Advisory leaflet on rabbit meat production. Value and use of rabbit. Manual Paper Presented at the Conference on Rabbit Meat Production. Malta. 10 &-8211; 13th March, pp. 179.

[6] Damron, W. S. (2006). Introduction to Animal Science, Global, Biological, Social and Industry Perspective (3rd Ed.). U.S.A: Pearson Educational Inc

[7] Abudulmalik, M. E. (1994). Rabbit production. In: Advanced Animal Husbandry Practice for subject Matter Specialist in ADPs. Okaiyeto, P. O., Ndulauisi, A.H. and Okoh, A.E. (eds). Training Manual for FACU/NAPRI, Workshop, Zaria, 13 &-8211; 17th December, 1994.

[8] Hassan, W. A. and Owolabi, R. O. (1996). Production performance of domesticated Rabbit in semi-arid zones of Nigeria. Proceedings of the World Rabbit Congress, Toulouse, France, 3, 359-363.

[9] Komolafe, O. R. (1990). Effects of typical leaf types on haematological parameter of growing New Zealand Rabbits. Journal of Living Production in Nigeria, 149(3), 89-96

[10] Johnson, H D, Ragsdale, A C and Chang, C S. (1957): Environmental physiology and shelter engineering with special reference to domestic animals. Influence of constant environmental temperatures (50° and 80°F) on the growth responses and physiological reactions of rabbits and cattle. Res. Bull. Mo.Agric. Exp. Stn. No. 646.

 

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