|By pinoyfarmer | September 20, 2007|
Rationale and Present Status
Rabbits are fun to raise. You may have different reasons for raising them – enjoyment, education, business, show, laboratory, meat, fur, and the bi-products they produce, such as fertilizer and fishing worms.
Don’t expect to make a profitable business raising rabbits. Only a small minority of those who raise rabbits are capable of making a living out of it. Consider it, rather, an enjoyable hobby that can help pay for itself. Raising rabbits gets in your blood. Once you’ve had some good rabbits, you want to keep them around. However, raising too many and didn’t have enough markets is too costly.
Sad to say but rabbit raising in the Philippines is concentrated only to those people bent on utilizing abandoned chicken houses and converting them into rabbit hutches. This is the present situation in parts of Batangas and Cavite where chickens have gone rabbits may be better.
Of all mammals raised for meat, the rabbit has the highest reproduction rate. Because the female does not have any fixed estrous cycle, ovulation is rather induced, making it possible for rabbits to be bred anytime and have four or five litters a year.
With the soaring prices of beef, pork and poultry meat, more people, especially in the areas where meat is scarce, will turn to rabbit as a cheap source of animal protein – high in nutrients and low in cholesterol. When cooked rabbit meat is indistinguishable from chicken meat, hence, it is also called white meat.
Compared with poultry and other farm animals. Little research has been carried out on rabbits, although methods of production have undergone considerable change during the last few years, there is still much to learn.
Selection of Breeds
On the first thing that the prospective rabbit breeder must decide on is the breed or breeds in which to concentrate, The main characters influencing the choice should include prolificacy, growth rate, feed conversion, and yield of meat.
Rabbit breeds in greatest use for meat production are the New Zealand White and the California. Both these breeds are white fleshed and strains bred for meat are rapid growing, good feed converters and have a high ratio of meat to bone.
Nevertheless, females of breeds like the Belgian Hare, Flemish Giant, Giganta and Beveren can be crossed with heavy white bucks to produce meat rabbits.
Age of Stock at Purchase
Potential breeding stock can be bought from eight weeks of age up to maturity and does can be purchased already mated. Preferably stock should be purchased at about 12 weeks of age so that it may become accustomed to changes in diet, etc. before being expected to reproduce.
Housing and Equipment
For beginning raisers, use wire mesh for cage floors, bamboo or wood for sides and frames. Provide nylon curtains or empty feed sacks in front and back of cage to protect rabbits from rain and strong wind. Roll up curtain during daytime when there is no rain.
The type of hutch floor used by a breeder should be ascertained. Many strains of rabbits housed on solid floors do not take kindly to wire floors. Does developing sore hocks on wire floors may, because of being stressed, abort or drop their young over the wire rather than in the nest box.
As the rabbit grows and multiply, increase their living quarters. One buck and 6 does are sufficient to keep for breeding to produce food and sell to neighbors. For city residents one or two pairs will do.
Nest boxes are necessary, particularly for rabbits in wire floored cages. A simple box with the top and one side open is adequate, though the open side should have a retaining board 15 cm from the floor to prevent the young leaving the next prematurely. Boxes 40 cm long x 30 cm wide x 30 cm hi8gh are suitable for large breeds, but giants need something slightly larger.
Drinking equipment should be easy to clean and simple to operate. Dog bowls to supply water may be used by small producers. These bowls with a wide base are not easily tipped over and be place inside the cage.
Feeding equipment. Feed hoppers fixed to the outside of the cage with the trough projecting into it is use in large units. On small units where met mash is fed, glazed earthenware pots are commonly used to hold feed water.
A small breed doe is normally ready to mate when she is 5 months old, and a buck is ready at 6 months. The medium size doe is ready to breed when she is 6 months old and the buck at 7 months. The heavy breed doe is ready at 8 months and the buck is ready at 9 months.
It’s usually a good idea to select rabbits to breed whose ancestry has evidence of good productivity and good genetics. That’s where productivity records and pedigrees listing show winnings come in handy. Keep productivity and show records of your herd just for this purpose.
You may keep a ratio of one buck to 10 does if you wish. The buck may be bred up to 7 times a week effectively. Sometimes, you can use the buck twice in one day. The most I use a buck is twice a week.
When a doe is in heat, take it to the buck, never the reverse. At the start the buck will refuse to mate with the doe. Withdraw the doe and return it to the bucks cage 3 0r 4 hours later. Ten days after the first mating, the doe should be palpated for pregnancy.
The doe gestates for 29 to 32 days. Three or fours days before giving birth, it prepares its nest, sheds some of its fur for lining the nests. Upon noticing this, the raiser should clean and disinfect the animal’s cage and put clean straw beddings. The other rabbit will make her own nest.
Pregnancy can be diagnosed from 14 days onwards by “palpation technique”. [by gently moving the thumb and finger, embryos can be felt between the hind legs and in front of the pelvis].
Separate the pregnant doe and observe it closely to be able to assist it when it gives birth.
Feeds and Feeding
Feed rabbits with vegetables, corn, sorghum and rice. Subsisting on cabbage trimmings, kale and crops and cruciferous vegetables, rabbit can be more vigorous and healthier.
An adult animals need 115 to a70 gms of concentrate feed or chicken mash or grains daily. Commercial feed for poultry and swine are also good for rabbits. Pellet feed for rabbit is now available in many feed stores.
Always provide drinking water and salt. Provide gestating and lactating does with vitamins and minerals supplements, and more feed than bucks and dry does. This will ensure that does and their young healthy and resistant to disease.
Common Rabbit Diseases and Ailments
a] Intestinal coocidiosis – the most acute form of disease which damages the bowel wall.
b] Hepatic coocidiosis – a more chronic disease which attacks the liver and badly affected the young ones.
2. Enteritis - a form of disease in which large quantities of tenacious mucos are present in the bowel, and particularly common in young rabbit.
3. Respiratory diseases – disease of nasal cavities [snuffles] and the lungs [pneumonia] often occurs in rabbittries when environmental conditions are poor.
4. Disease of the ears and skin – Ear mange [canker] is a disease that can be easily and effectively treated if it is detected in the early stages. Affected rabbits have crusty reddish brown scales in the ear cavities and on the skin of the ears. Skin mange is due to presence of other species of mites which burrow in the skin and cause intense irritation. Generally, it occurs on the head and shows its presence by the appearance of yellow scabs on the nose, lips and face.
5. Sore hocks – the disease is due to bacterial infections, and this is common to suckling does. The mammary glands of the affected animal become hard and reddish blue in appearance.
6. Mastitis – the disease is due to bacterial infections, and this is common to suckling does. The mammary glands of the affected animal become hard and reddish blue in appearance.
7. Myxomatosis – this is common in wild rabbit and the affected one develops a discharge from the eyes and the eyelids swell and become denuded of hair.
8. Pseudotuberculosis – this is a bacterial disease frequently carried by rats and mice. Symptoms are very variable. It may caused by the contamination of food by affected vermin, by introducing a carrier animal or by the use of secondhand infected equipment.
These notes on some of the common diseases of rabbits provided examples of the interaction of poor managers and disease. To control an outbreak of disease and prevent further occurrence it is necessary to establish a correct diagnosis.
Commercial Rabbit Production
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, London, 1985
Rabbit Raising Brochures
Dr. Vito F. del Fierro, Jr., Deputy Exec. Director, LDC
DA Library Clippings