RABBIT PRODUCTION IN NIGERIA, AFRICA, DUTCH, NEW ZEALAND, CHINCHILLA, CALIFORNIAN

 BENEFITS OF RABBIT PRODUCTION
1.  Capital requirement is minimal. With some scrap wood or bamboo, a hutch can be constructed.

2.  Spacing is minimal. It can be set up at backyard.

3.  A rabbit is a convenient 'one meal size', thus avoiding the need for storage.

4.  Rabbit keeping is not restricted by any taboos or particular beliefs that prevent the eating of rabbit meat or its promotion as food.

5.  Feeding rabbits is very cheap. Even though supplementation with concentrate or grain is
sometimes necessary and definitely will increase growth rate, roadside grass, kitchen offal, garden
leaves, etc (feed of no direct value to humans) can provide the main feed at almost no cost.
6.  Rabbits can be tended by women, children or men unlike bigger animals for it needs no force to be restrained.

7.  Because they produce offspring regularly (gestation period of 28 – 32 days), they form a regular source of income instead of a large amount at once.

8.  It matures for table between 5 -6 months, breeding (5 – 7 months)
 9.  Rabbit is a prolific animal.

10. Meat from rabbit is an all white meat product that is high in protein 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.

11. It is not a smelly or noisy animal and can easily be kept near to school buildings or people's houses.

12.       It produces rich manure for gardening or flower beds.

Dutch: The dutch is a small breed with a mature liveweight of 2.5-3.5kg. It has a wide white band of fur around its body at the shoulders as well as a white stripe down the middle of its face.
New Zealand White:  This breed is used most widely throughout the world for meat production. It is all white in colour and usually weighs 3-5kg when mature.
New Zealand Red: This is essentially red but has not been intensively selected for growth rate. Mature live weight is 3-4.5kg.
 

Chinchilla: This breed is blue-grey in colour with a white belly. There is a thick fold of skin around the front of the chest which is very obvious when the rabbit is in good condition and sitting in a resting position. The weight range for the mature Chinchilla is 3-4.5kg

Californian: This is the second most popular breed for meat production. The colour is all white but with black tipping on the nose, ears, feet and tail. The weight range for the mature Californian is 3-4.5kg.
HOUSING AND EQUIPMENT OF RABBIT PRODUCTION
1.   Rabbit housing and equipment differ from country to country. Factors that affect their design include;  
2.   Climate  
3.   Raw materials (Availability and cost)  
4.   Scale (large or medium) and system of production (Intensive, Extensive or semi-intensive)  
5.   Expertise of the rabbit production    
6.   Housing requirement  
7.   Housing should be able to provide;  
8.   Adequate space: Since rabbit spends its entire life in its hutch, it therefore needs sufficient space to avoid the stress caused by restriction of movement. Space should be able to provide good ventilation to prevent the animal from being choked up by ammonia (NH3) from their urine.  
9.   Protection: Housing should be able to prevent against injury within the hutch, rain, direct sunlight, direct and indirect wind and predators such as dogs, cats, rats, ants, man, etc.

TYPES OF CAGES/ HUTCHES OF RABBIT PRODUCTION
     Indoor hutches: These are kept inside a house (stable). The stable is a place in which or under which the hutches are placed.
Advantages:
     It provides good conditions for the rabbit and the rabbit keeper
     Easy access to animal (even when there is rain or high sunlight)
     For animal adequate protection
     The individual hutch can be easily cleaned and disinfected
     It allows ease increase in production
Disadvantage:
     It is very expensive

Outdoor:  
    The requirements of space, protection and ease of management can be achieved through appropriate design, construction and sitting.

Design: A typical rabbit hutch dimensions are follows;  
    1m above the ground  
    Height of hutch: 60cm at the front, 50cm at the back for easy drainage  
    Width: 50-60cm  
    Length: 90-120cm

Construction: The materials used in construction would usually be locally available materials such as interwoven branches, split bamboo, mud, tin, plastic. If possible, a fence should be built around outdoor hutches and fitted with a padlock gate.
Sitting: Common aspects of the sitting include the following;
     a.      It should be placed near a house wall / fence to provide shade and protection (from sunlight, rain and wind). Note that while too much sunlight may be stressful, too little is also undesirable because the hutch may become damp, there will also be reduced disinfection by the sun's ultraviolet rays, and Vitamin D synthesis by the rabbit may be impaired if it does not experience some direct sunlight.
     b.      It is important to site hutches under trees in a very hot environment
     c.       The site must ensure security against predation. This is achieved when hutches are kept near keeper's house.  
Advantages:
     it requires low capital
     Materials are always available
     Appropriate when starting production
Disadvantages:
     No perfect protection against predator
     Difficult to clean
     Not easy to increase the number of hutches quickly (it limits production)

Floor Method: This involves keeping the rabbits on the ground in a fenced area provided with simple boxes for shelter.

MAINTENANCE OF EQUIPMENT OF RABBIT PRODUCTION
 1.     Water and feeding trough must be washed regularly (daily)
2.     Use clean rag (cloth to dry the feeder)
3.     Disinfection of the water and feeding trough at least once in a week with EDTA or Izal to remove feed adhered to feeder and prevent disease outbreak.
4.     Roughage rack and cage must be cleaned once in a week and disinfect when young ones are not there.
5.     Checking for the development of sharp edges in hutches and on equipment which may cause injury.
6.     Nest box must be removed after weaning (5-6 weeks), wash and disinfect in preparation for next breeding season.
NUTRITION FOR RABBIT PRODUCTION
Protein level
The protein level of the feed is very important. For efficient rabbit feeding, you need four diets. Since most rabbit producers cannot (or do not want to) handle more than one feed, a 16-17% protein feed may be substituted.
·      Protein Requirements of Rabbits
·      Newly weaned rabbits                    >18% CP
·      12-24 weeks old                             16-18% CP
·      Breeder                                           15-17% CP
·      Other stocks (Normal growth)       12-14% CP
Carbohydrates and Fats
     Carbohydrate and fats provide energy. Rabbit needs energy for contraction of muscles which enable the rabbit to move. It is also used to join substance together to build up the rabbit's body and to make products such as hair and milk.
     It worth known that rabbit adjusts their food intake to try and satisfy their energy requirements. A general recommendation of energy requirement for breeding rabbits is 2600-2700 Kcal DE/KgDM or 2.0-3.0 MJME/KgDM.
Minerals
     Most of the minerals in the rabbit's body are in the bones and teeth which contain large amounts of the two minerals; Calcium (Ca) and Phosphorus (P). These minerals help to give the bones their hardness.
     They are also involved in maintaining the acid-alkaline balance in the blood. Phosphorus also involves in energy transfer within the body cells. Ca, P and Vitamin D are often considered together because they interact with each other. Other minerals are Mg, Na, K and Cl (major minerals). Examples of trace minerals are Fe, Cu, S, Co, Zn, etc.
Vitamins
     Vitamins are chemical that are require in very small amount to speed up chemical reactions within the rabbit body. The most important vitamins are vitamins A and D and the B vitamins Choline and Thiamin
COPROPHAGY / CAECOTROPHY OF RABBIT PRODUCTION
    This is the eating of faecal-like pellets produced in the caecum. These caecal pellets are sometimes called soft faeces. To do this, the rabbit sucks in the soft faeces as they emerge from the anus, then swallow without chewing.
    Consumption of the soft faeces starts when the rabbit is about 4 weeks old. Note that rabbit can survive without practicing caecotrophy for many days but death is usual if they are prevented from eating their soft faeces for several months.
    Soft faeces are higher in crude protein and lower in crude fibre than hard faeces. Their higher protein level is due to their content of bacteria.
    Caecotrophy is a very important part of the rabbit's digestive processes. It recycles some unabsorbed nutrients as well as returning protein and vitamin B rich bacteria for enzyme digestion in the small intestine.
 
SEXING OF RABBIT
    Determining the sex of rabbits is not difficult with a little practice.
    It can be carried out shortly after weaning at six to eight weeks. This is the time when the males and females should be separated,
    the rabbit should be held on its back, put one finger on the tail side of the genital opening and on the abdominal side.
    Press down gently and stretch the organ with the finger and thumb.
    If it is a doe, a long slit will appear, if it is a buck, a small rounded tube-like structure will show.
 
REPRODUCTION OF RABBIT - PRODUCTION
The male
    The proper age for the first mating depends on the breed and individual development. For small breeds it is 4-5 months, for large breeds 9-12 months.
    One male can easily handle up to 8 - 10 does. It is good practice to keep the male hutch at some distance from the females so they will not get accustomed to each other's smell.
 
     The female
    The does require more care and attention. Like the males, the proper age of first mating depends on the breed and individual development.
    Mate does when they reach maturity (4-5 months for the lighter breed, 7-9 months for the heavy breeds).
 
BUYING BREEDER STOCK FOR RABBIT PRODUCTION
    Once buildings are built or renovated and equipment purchased, you should purchase a good breeding stock. Remember -- Poor breeding stock will produce poor offspring. It is important that you begin with good stock.
    The price a breeder asks for stock does not reflect the quality of the rabbits. Only time, records, and results can prove the worth of breeding stock and the reputation of the breeder.
    Look at the records of the breeder's rabbitry to see the quality of the stock. Here are a few things you should look for:
    Good health
    Average litter size (8 or more)
    Death rate (not over 5%)
    Percent conception (90% or better)
    Dressing percentage (55-60% including heart, liver and kidneys)
    Select rabbit based on the feeding style/system. 
    
     All of this information may not be available, but most of it should be. It pays to deal with a breeder who keeps good, accurate, reliable records. A look around the breeder's rabbitry can tell you much about the type of operation he has, but his records tell the real story. 

MATING OF RABBIT - FOR PRODUCTION
    Experience suggests that early morning or evening mating is best. It is certainly advisable to avoid the hottest periods of the day for this important operation.
    For mating, always take the doe to the buck's cage. If they fail to mate a few minutes, take her to a different buck.
    If this fails, try again the next day but do not leave the doe with the buck all day or even an hour in an attempt to solve a mating problem.
    If the does is ready to be mated she will stand still within a few seconds, stretch out and slightly raise her hindquarter so as to allow the buck to mount and mate.
 
    Successful mating is signaled by the buck thrusting forward and literally falling off the doe. Often the buck makes a characteristics cry of pain or joy. If the buck slides backwards off the doe and does not fall the mating has not taken place.
    If mating was successful put the doe back in her hutch.
 
PREGNANCY TEST OF RABBIT FOR PRODUCTION
Palpating
    Palpating is a method used for determining doe pregnancy at 14 days after mating. Non-pregnant does are re-bred immediately.
     Late pregnancy test
    Inexperience keepers should practice detecting pregnancy on does that are 20 days pregnant at which stage the fetuses are easy to identify. By around 28 days the mammary gland will have developed significantly and this can be regarded as final confirmation of pregnancy. At around 29 days, the doe will begin to remove fur from her abdomen to make a nest.
    
     Pseudo-Pregnancy Test
    False pregnancy occurs as a result of sterile mating or more commonly from stimulation of one doe riding another. It happens more frequently with does that have not kindled their first litter. Always separate does at least a month prior to breeding.
    Does must be separated at least 18-20 days before mating. The doe may pull fur and attempt to make a nest but she will not keep it clean.
Kindling and Mother care
    When the doe is almost ready for kindling (about 4 weeks after mating) you can put a nest box in the cage (hutch). Kindling can take place in this nest box at any time of the day but morning early seems to be the most popular time. All she needs now is rest and feed.
      
     Cannibalism or Abortion
    Cannibalism and abortion are common problems. The causes are many and mostly undependable. These are some of the causes:
    1.     First-litter does are extremely nervous. Give them one more chance and then cull if cannibalism recurs.
    2.     Unbalanced diet
    3.     Lack of water
    4.     Predators can cause the doe to stamp her feet and mash the young
    5.     Unusual noise can cause the doe to injure the young and can result in cannibalism.
     
    6.     Moving nest box after young are kindled.
    7.     Shallow nest box makes the does feel insecure and she is easily disturbed.
 
FOSTERING OF RABBIT FOR PRODUCTION
    Fostering means getting a doe to accept a rabbit or rabbits from another litter. Guidelines for carrying out fostering are as follows:
    Mate does on the same day
    The litters involved should be born within 3-4 days of each other.
    Only foster rabbits that are less than five days old.
    Remove both the foster doe and the donor doe from their hutches.
    Carefully remove the rabbits to be fostered from their nest with the minimum of disturbance and without touching any of the rabbis that are not being fostered; return the donor doe.
    Introduce the rabbits to be fostered, disturbing the foster nest as little as possible.
    Leave the newly mixed rabbits for a few hours so that they all take on the same smell
Return the recipient doe to the hutch while at the same time giving her some food which you know she likes.

WEANING OF RABBIT
    Weaning is the separation of the doe and the young.
    This is usually takes place between 5-6 weeks. After weaning, the doe should be allowed to recover her body condition before re-mating.
    Much will depend on the level of feeding but the doe should normally have rest of at least four weeks.
 
RABBIT DISEASES
    Ear Canker and Skin Mange: External parasites such as mites can cause a variety of skin and ear conditions. With ear canker the entire ear may become filled with crusty scabs. Without attention the mange may spread onto and over the face. All rabbits and particularly their ears should be regularly inspected foe mange and skin sores. Rabbit with ear canker may shake their heads a great deal.
    Mange caused by mites can be easily controlled by acaricide drops or solution (dipping)
 
    Coccidiosis: This is the most common diseases in rabbits. It may be classified as a parasitic disease since the causative organism is a microscopic animal (protozoa). Symptoms in moderate or severe cases include a loss of appetite, "pot belly", diarrhea and an inability to gain weight.
    Coccidiostats may be bought and added to their drinking water to prevent Coccidiosis or to cure it as required.
    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.
    Antibiotic (75,000-100,000 units of penicillin) will clear up the condition but as it has a tendency to recur; it may be unwise to continue breeding from that doe.
 
     Snuffles (Chronic Rhinitis):
    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 and inside of the front legs as a result of the rabbit using its front legs to wipe its nose and face.
    Antibiotics may appear to be effective but mortality is usually high and those rabbits that recover are often affected again if exposed to some new stress.
 
RECORD KEEPING OF RABBIT PRODUCTION
    The only way you can know how well you are doing in the rabbit business is to keep good records. If you keep good records then you can make sound management and business decisions. Good records let you know if you are making a profit, and they are necessary for income tax purposes.
    Keep only necessary records. You can easily overburden yourself with record keeping. Decide what records you need and then keep them daily. Listed below are some basic records you need to keep:
    Breeding records - date bred and buck used
    Kindling dates and number born, dead and alive
    Number and weight of weaned rabbits
    Average weight at market time and age of fryers at that weight
    Expenditures (including utilities)
    Sales
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