WINDHOEK - Rabbits have the potential to be one of the most profitable livestock to raise. Their ability to give birth to large litters of kits (5 to 15 kits per litter) every 40 to 45 days and the ability of these offspring to grow fast and reach market and breeding weight more quickly than any other livestock, surely gives rabbits the edge.
Wouter Poolman of Africa Poultry Breeders in Windhoek says niche farming with meat rabbits is a viable option in these troubled and tough times. He notes that in terms of kilograms of meat produced per annum, 2.5 top-quality meat rabbits will equal the meat from one head of cattle. Rabbits are one of the most productive and economical livestock available, 600 percent more efficient than beef! One rabbit can produce 2.7kg of meat on the same amount of feed and water that a cow produces only 0.45kg of meat. Many international studies have found that rabbit meat is a healthy source of protein, and unlike most other livestock farming, rabbit business is lucrative, easier to manage, generally quiet, clean and non-commanding.
Poolman points out that limited space (you don’t need a farm) and low starting up costs make it possible for virtually anybody, anywhere to farm with rabbits.
“And unlike other forms of farming, meat rabbit farming is not effected by poor rainfall and drought conditions like we are experiencing once again this year.”
Meat rabbit farming is also a guaranteed quick return on investment. Poolman says relatively cheap feeding requirements make this niche farming more attractive to small-scale and rural farmers. Basically, a farmer can produce and harvest own rabbit feed at a very reasonable cost.
“Water for irrigation purposes is not readily available in all areas of our country but a mini drip irrigation system, which uses very little water can to a large extent assist with additional feeding needs of rabbits.
“We are currently busy experimenting with bush feed, as an alternative or partly additional food source. If successful, feeding costs will reduce even further while at the same time increases profitability,” he notes.
Starting with good breeding stock is essential to make a real success out of farming with meat rabbits. The following breeds are the way to go: SA Pendula, New Zealand Red and New Zealand White.
Rabbit meat has the highest percentage of protein and it is very lean. It is low in cholesterol and has a very mild flavour, unlike beef.