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. 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.
Today we would be discussing some of the feeding tips for rabbits that you need to know about for your rabbit farming to be successful.
The following are the feeding tips for rabbit:
(1) Feed twice a day – in the morning and evening when it is cool.
(2) Filling feed troughs to such an extent that there is feed for several days is not recommended.
(3) The amount and type of feed to offer to them depend on :
-The age of the rabbit
-The weight or growth rate of the animal.
-Activity and physiological status: growth /fattening, mating period, pregnancy, lactation or body maintenance.
(4) Feed your rabbits a wide range of plants. This tends to balance the diet.
(5) Don’t feed forages recently sprayed with insecticide.
(6) Never feed forage collected from places where dogs, cats commonly defecate to prevent worm infections.
(7) Never change feeds and feeding time abruptly.
(8) Allow green feed to wilt by spreading them under the shed before they are fed. This increases dry matter.
(9) Never feed dirty feed.
Read Also: Benefits of Rabbit Production
Importance of Rabbit Farming
· 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,
- Dutch etc.
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.
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
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
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).
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).
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.
Read Also: 10 Health Benefits of Rabbit Meat