Choosing the best rabbit breeds for your farm
There are several rabbit breeds you might want consider for your farm. The breed you choose will depend on its use. Rabbits are used for their wool, fur, and meat. They are also used as testing specimens by laboratories and very popular as pet.
Rabbits are generally classified according to size, weight and type of pelt. Small rabbits weigh about 1-2 Kg at maturity, medium breeds 4 -5 kg, and large breeds 6 - 7 pounds. Giant breeds, while sometimes used for meat, have a feed/meat conversion ratio which is less profitable than medium breeds. Small breeds are used primarily for pets, shows and hobbyists. The medium breeds are considered dual purpose and are commonly used for meat and research laboratories. The commercial rabbit processing plants today desire a white animal.
The two most popular rabbit breeds in Kenya are the New Zealand and Californian. These rabbit breeds are popular because they combine white fur usually preferred by processors and good growth characteristics. New Zealand rabbits are slightly larger than the Californian, 4 -6 Kg versus 3 -4.5 Kg. The New Zealand rabbit has a completely white, red or black body, whereas the Californian is white with colored nose, ears and feet. The Chinchilla is a grey/brown breed that is also preferred for meat because of its larger mature wait.
Before starting a rabbit farm, it is important to determine the market for the rabbits. It can be restaurants, meat shops, individual purchasers, schools, laboratories, hospitals or breeders. The markets for rabbit fur tend to be unstable, therefore make sure there is sufficient demand before you embark on raising rabbits for fur.
The cost of production depends on the system employed for production. The major cost is usually that of feed. The rabbits will consume about 25 g of pellets per day which translates to 2.25 Kg in 90 days. At 90 days the dressed weight is between 1-1.2kg. Feed/pellets will cost Kshs. 51 and you will be able to sell the meat at between Ksh 200 and 300 per kilogram dressed wait. Obviously you should add other costs like labour, depreciation of the houses and other infrastructure; transport to market etc.
Breeding stock for a rabbit farm may be bought from local breeders. Medium-sized rabbits breed at 6 to 7 months of age and give birth after a month of gestation. Female rabbits can produce up to 50 live rabbits annually. They produce an average of 9 kits per birth.
Rabbits can be kept in any part of the country so long as they are housed properly and protected from predators. Visit the nearest Livestock Office to provide you with specific details on rabbit production like sources of breeding animals and other details.
New Zealand White
This breed of rabbit was initially bred for meat and fur. They grow fast and the large one could grow up to 4 to 5 Kg in weight. Other than their meat and fur they are often used for laboratory purposes and are also very popular as pet.
The fur is thick around the body, shorter near the ears and long, straight up ears. The eyes are normally bright and range from pink to red in color. One good thing about them is that they are resistant to most diseases.
The Californian rabbit breed is a meat rabbit bred from a cross between the New Zealand White and the Himalayan. Its round shaped body tends to be plump and fleshy meaning there’s a good ratio of meat to bone. They weigh about 4 - 4.5 Kg and have a coat of dense white fur with black nose, ears, feet and tail. They have bright pink eyes.
The Chinchilla is a large sized rabbit breed developed as a multi-purpose animal for fur as well as meat. The coat is soft and beautiful. The rabbit breed attracts a lot of attention because of its large size and beautiful coat. People want to see it and most of all they want to touch it!
Adult Chinchilla rabbits weigh between 4 – 6 Kg. These stout rabbits have a slight curve to their medium length bodies, beginning at the nape of their necks and following through to the rump. They carry their ears straight and erect.