Over the years, the overall focus of the agricultural scientists at the National Center for Animal Genetic Resources (NAGRIC) and the data bank has been to further benefit from improved use.
This is in an effort to continue efforts in this direction so that farmers can access superior breeds of animals as income-earning initiatives including rabbits. Rabbit farming is easy, comes with a lot of fun and is a profitable venture.
Animals are raised mainly for skin, food, fur and as pets. Initially, rabbit breeding was a reserve for young boys as a hobby, but gradually the direction is shifting to commercial farming. These animals are non-ruminant herbivores, therefore, they have an enlarged hindgut (colon and colon), which acts like the rumen (foregut) in digesting fibrous plant matter.
Rabbits multiply and grow rapidly, which makes them one of the best choices for the fur trade and meat production.
There is a big advantage to rabbit breeding because a farmer can start with 10 rabbits that can be kept in two cages. Another advantage, according to experts, is that the farmer can sell his urine or use it as a fertilizer mixer.
Its meat is in high demand and it is served in many hotels and restaurants. Experts say rabbits take 70 days from birth to reach market weight and don’t need a lot of land to raise them.
As such, Gold Seeds interacted with scientists from NAGRIC and DB about the need for rabbit farmers across the country to organize and initiate their breeding as a commercial initiative. Below are the details.
In explaining the breeding process, Arthur Emmanuel Tomwin, who is responsible for rabbit breeding at NAGRIC and DB, points out that his team is now organizing farmers in western and central Uganda as a starting point on how to raise rabbits.
Once this model is successful, it will be extended to the rest of the regions in eastern and northern Uganda where rabbits are raised.
The team built capacity for farmers to become breeders and each group ranged from 30 to 50 members depending on how they organized themselves into different groups.
The farmers are members of the Uganda Agriculture Association formed in 2020. Membership is open to all farmers who already raise rabbits and who are expected to pay a Ksh50,000 membership fee plus a subscription that will be priced by the farmers themselves.
Scientists are in the process of obtaining a breeder’s stock where each group will be given 50 female rabbits and 10 males.
Once breeding, each farmer is expected to ensure the rationing of one male rabbit to 10 females with each female in the cage and once mated, the male must be taken away because rabbits produce at a high speed.
When a farmer feeds both female and male rabbits, they are expected to produce six springs.
There are domestic, cross, and hybrids but scientists mainly focus on hybrids that are good for the quality of their meat and fur.
These breeds include the Polish rabbit breeds that can weigh between four and five kilograms and are good for meat production.
The New Zealand White Rabbit is a popular and highly productive commercial breed. It has a great demand all over the world. Once grown, it can weigh up to nine kilograms and is good for fur production
The Californian rabbit breed is another highly productive and widely popular rabbit. This breed is also an American creation that originated from a crossbreed that was established in 1923.
The California rabbit breed is very popular in meat production. Their bodies are white in colour. The nose, ears, tail and feet are dark gray or black in color.
Chinchilla rabbits are generally very docile, good in nature, and very gentle. They are intelligent, curious, and playful rabbits who enjoy company and attention. They are usually good for their young and are also well suited as house rabbits. They weigh up to five kilograms and are good for meat and fur.
Usually farmers call it according to the regions in which it is bred. Those from the West are called Ancol breeds but scientists discourage farmers from raising local breeds unless it is done for home consumption because they do not produce much meat and fur for marketing.
There are a number of diseases that can affect rabbits, including bacterial infections, and Tomoin and his team have been educating farmers on how to deal with such diseases.
The farmers are expected to take the blood samples taken to the Epidemiology Center in Entebbe for diagnostic analysis and possible treatment. These include listeria, a bacterial infection that causes head swelling. It usually arises from contamination of food or water given to a rabbit and thus can be treated with the recommended antibiotics. Others are Pastoralis disease which is common in pet rabbits. It occurs through direct contact with nasal secretions, including transmission through the air when an infected rabbit sneezes. It can be treated with recommended antibiotics.
Tomoen stresses that it is important for the farmer to start with good building blocks as the cages must be raised with provisions for litter collection and tubes to enable urine collection. A single box unit costs between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000, depending on the materials used. It is important to purchase breeding stock from a recommended source as there is no inbreeding. Females usually reach puberty at five months of age, and if they do not separate from the males, they may become pregnant there and their young are two to three days old. It is important to ensure that females become pregnant after one month.
Make sure your rabbits are properly housed in clean homes. Diseases and disorders of the respiratory and digestive system are the most common. Parasites include meng (ectoparasites) and worms (endoparasites). Respiratory diseases are caused by clogged pens and dusty feed.
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