Rabbit farming is one of the fast growing micro-livestock enterprises. Rabbits are extremely nurturing, intelligent and curious animals. They are one of several farm animals with multiple advantages.
Unlike lots of other livestock, they are small, docile and easy to handle. Even the largest breed of domestic rabbit, the Flemish Giant, maxes out at a very manageable 22 pounds (10 kg). Well-bred rabbits from good stock are not aggressive, easy to pick up and move, and kids love interacting with them.
An experienced rabbit farmer, Mr Tayo Ayinla, the director of Wise Trust Farms, sheds more light on the status of rabbit farming in Nigeria.
He said, “Rabbit farming in Nigeria is a growing type of farming. It is not really as popular as poultry farming, fish farming and other livestock farming. I think the edge that rabbit farming has over other livestock is the health benefit that rabbit has. I believe that if people come to the realisation of rabbit meat for instance, it will further speed up the growth of rabbit farming in Nigeria.”
He said rabbit farming could be sustainable in developing countries due to the following reasons. First, rabbits can be raised on a grain free-diet. Second, rabbits are characterised by fast growth rate, high fecundity, high feed conversion efficiency and early maturity. With good husbandry, rabbits can produce above 40 kits per annum compared to one calf for cattle and up to two kids in goats. Third, rabbits are considered free from odour, noiseless, and can adapt in many ecosystems, unlike many of the larger ruminants. Lastly, research shows that farmers in developing countries have started showing interest in information and communication technologies.
Ayinla added, “Rabbits are in the class of white meat, which also shares class with grass-cutters. The edge a rabbit has over a grass-cutter is that it is far more popular. It is cheaper to acquire and multiplies faster. White meat has a very low cholesterol level, unlike cow meat, goat meat, chicken and the rest.
“The infrastructure needed to raise rabbits is fairly minimal, and with the right planning, can be done in a fairly small space, requiring minimal space compared to most other farm animals. And can be tucked into the back of existing barns and sheds and grazed on small patches of marginal land, even ahead of your chickens or behind your ruminants on lush pasture.
He went further to explain that, “The firm always advocates the participation of the youth in rabbit farming. By the grace of God, I will be travelling to Kwara State after the Ramadan to also sensitise our youth on rabbit farming. We do that periodically also in Abuja. We do that because the starting capital is very affordable. For instance, if you are starting with five rabbits, that is, four females and one male and you have at least one winner, the winner goes for N3,000 per one, multiplied by five; that is N15,000. And the cage can be gotten at affordable prices.
“A young farmer can start with N25,000. Rabbit feeding costs low because they have varieties they can eat from. During the dry season they also eat dry leave. This implies that in both dry and rainy seasons there is always food for rabbit to eat, unlike other livestock. Most of the waste in food farm like rice shaft, beans shaft and maize shaft can be used to feed rabbits.
“Currently, on our Abuja farm we have close to 300 rabbits. In our Kwara farm we have about 200 rabbits. We have a total of N500 rabbits combined.
“Rabbits make great pets and provide an opportunity for kids to learn responsibility when caring for them. They often bond with the rabbits through the process of feeding, watering and cleaning their hutch.”
Noting that there is market for rabbit farming in Nigeria he said, “Currently, the Federal Ministry Industry, Trade and Investment are working with rabbit farmers. They had a meeting with them late last year. We did a follow-up meeting last month, and hopefully, by next week we are looking at another meeting, I think the federal government is trying to invest in rabbit farming. Most of the rabbit farmers today are not into commercial farming,’’ he said.