Give the animals hay to stop diarrhoea and aid the doe recover after kindling. Never feed damp or mouldy feeds to the animals to prevent bloating.
There are three major issues to consider when one wants to rear rabbits for commercial purposes. These include building them nice cages where they live, feeding them well and proper breeding. A number of management practices are vital when rearing rabbits.
Feed them on greens, hay, home-mixed grains, and commercial rabbit pellets to meet all their nutritional requirements.
Hay is given to the animals to stop diarrhoea and to aid the doe recover faster after kindling. Never feed damp or mouldy feeds to the animals to prevent bloating.
Overfeeding leads to a fat doe or buck that does not reproduce efficiently. An average doe needs between 115 and 170 grammes each day until kindling time.
Give it between 340 to 450 grammes for three to five days after kindling, and then give it full feeds until the bunnies are weaned.
Do not give replacement stock, dry does and herd bucks more than 115-170 grammes of feeds each day.
Check regularly the bucks and dry does’ weights to be sure they do not become obese. Does and bucks that are about two to four kilogrammes require between 140 to 170 grammes of feeds a day.
For maintenance of does and bucks that are about two, five and seven kilogrammes, 85, 115-170, and 200 grammes of feeds a day is enough. For pregnant does that are about two, five and seven kilogrammes, offer them 115, 115-170, and 255 grammes of feeds a day. Commercial rabbit pellets contain enough salt. Under normal conditions, block or spool salt is not needed.
Diseases are natural and can never be completely eliminated, but you can keep them at bay by:
High resistance, long-life, and high productivity can be inherited. Breeding stock selected on the basis of superior performance will pay well.
Do not overcrowd your animals and practice good nutrition.
Provide plenty of ventilation by avoiding wire floors, but use materials that permit plenty of sunlight on the walls.
Keep all equipment clean and dry to minimise the chance of disease outbreak.
Avoid unnecessary handling of animals. Your clothes and hands can spread diseases.
Housing and equipment
A good rabbit house has the roof 3.2 to 3.5m high, sloping south-north to avoid exposure to vertical heat. Rabbit equipment also comes in handy, and they include:
Metal feeders are recommended because they are easily kept clean. Wooden feeders are easily chewed by rabbits.
Though the automatic nipple-type water system is best as it makes water available all-day and requires little maintenance, one can also use crocks (made of baked clay) and open water containers. Drinkers should be regularly cleaned and periodically checked for leaks.
Nest boxes should give the doe seclusion, provide adequate ventilation and protect litter from harsh conditions. Wire bottoms are not practical in nest boxes since the doe burrows to the bottom to kindle her young one. Also, they may not be warm enough during cold seasons and expose the young ones to cold. Place the nest box in the cage on the 28th day of pregnancy. Fill each box two-thirds full with clean hay or straw, then add clean fur from other does’ nests as bedding material.
Breeding can be done between different breeds to get high-quality crossbreeds or same breeds to get a pure breed.
Alex Maina rears his breeds generally for breeding purposes including crossbreeding for various farmers seeking such services anywhere in the country.
“For farmers who bring their does for service by any of my pure or crossbreed bucks, I charge Shs10,000 per doe serviced. However, the does brought to my farm have to be quarantined for diseases such as mange, a ring warm disease that is rampant among rabbits,” said Maina.
“Besides we recommend does that weigh six kilos and above because I have giant bucks which can break their delicate backbones during mating if they (does) are underweight.”
The farm also sells both pure and crossbreed two months old bucks at Shs35,000, three months old at Shs52,500 and four and above months old which are already mature for breeding at Shs70,000.
According to Maina, most buyers who purchase the rabbits for meat look for the quality and the weight for better returns. He recommends California white and Newzealand White for the best in tasty meat while a cross between Chequered Giant and California White gives both tasty meat and high meat to bone ratio.
Training and market linkages
Maina also offers free training on rabbit rearing for his loyal customers while for one-off buyers he trains at Shs17,500 each.
“I do not want what happened to me to happen to any other rabbit farmer. That is why even after training, I still keep in touch with the farmers just in case of consultations which I offer freely,” he said.
He also connects farmers to possible buyers who pay Shs17,500 for a kilogramme of rabbit meat. This is to ensure that the farmers are not stranded with their mature animals.