Rabbit farming is not a new enterprise in East Africa despite misconception by many as a non-income generating activity. However, in recent years many farmers have started to realize its potentiality as a profitable investment.
Their feed requirement is low, especially with regard to demand for grain. Their housing and disease control managements are also low yet their meat is highly nutritious and healthier source of protein when compared with other sources of meat. Rabbits are not rodents, they are lagomorphs. A male rabbit is a buck. A female rabbit is a doe. A baby rabbit is a kit. When the doe gives birth her babies are collectively referred to as a litter. Th e gestation period for a rabbit averages 31 days.
There are several breeds of rabbits but the most common in East Africa are: New Zealand White, California white, Chinchilla, French lop, Dutch, Checkered giant, Giant Flemish, Angola and Rex.
Has a good growth characteristic, capable of attaining slaughter weight of 3kg live weight within 12-14 weeks depending on the feeding regime. It is one of the best commercial breeds that grows to a weight of about 5kg and has all-white colour making its fur marketable. It is considered a dam breed because of its excellent mothering instinct.
Th is is another commercial breed developed in the United States of America. It is bred to have broad shoulders and meaty back and hips and hence has a good meat breed with good dressing percentage. It is shorter and stockier and is white except for ears, nose, feet and tail which are either dark grey or black. It is an ideal sire breed for interbreeding with other rabbit breeds for purposes of meat production.
Th is is one of the largest rabbit breeds, weighing up to 7kg live weight. Though most farmers like it because of its size, this breed is not an ideal meat breed because of its high bone to meat ratio and its slow growth. Interbreeding it with other breeds may help improve its characteristics.
Outstanding characteristics the large ears that droop around the head. Th ey have short and stocky legs but are heavy-they weigh over 5kg. Though some rabbit keepers have shown interest in this breed because of its size, this breed is more suitable as a pet.
Th is rabbit is mainly bred for its wool. Because of the wool they produce, this rabbit requires regular grooming. It is therefore more suited as a pet than for a meat
Is a fairly small but compact rabbit with shorter forelegs, it has characteristic markings often as shown in the picture.
Originally bred for meat, they are short and stocky with a nice rounded back. They are 3 chinchilla breeds: Standard, American and Giant chinchilla.
RECOGNITION OF HEALTH AND DISEASES
• Coat should be smooth and shiny.
• Eyes should be bright without discharge.
• Movement should be easy and free, relaxed breathing, evenly and silently.
• Appetite should be normal.
• Droppings should be normal in amount and appearance.
• Body should be well fleshed. If bony or pot bellied it may be an indication of diseases.
• Weight and growth of adults should be fairly constant.
• Discharge from the eyes, nostrils, mouth, vent, teat and anus are signs of diseases.
• Sores and swelling are not normal.
• Normal temperature is 390C and normal pulse ranges from 140-150.
PREVENTION OF DISEASE
In a well managed rabbit unit, diseases should be infrequent. To avoid feed contamination, hutch floors should be made of wire-netting, so that the urine and the droppings do not accumulate inside.
• Good management: this entails proper housing and good feeding.
• Buy breeding animals from a reputable breeder.
• Have quarantine quarters where sick rabbits are confined or new arrivals to the farm are kept for two weeks before being introduced to the cages.
The commonest diseases in the rabbitry are:
Most affects the young rabbits, symptoms include diarrhea which sometimes may be white in colour or blood stained, loss of appetite, dehydration and death if the animals are not treated. When pregnant does are affected, there is a risk of passing this disease to unborn kids, and this usually leads to liver coccidiosis in which there are white spots on the liver. It is controlled by use of coccidiostats in feeds and drinking water and by isolating all affected stocks. Such coccidiostats are Ridocox which is mixed in feed and Amprolium in drinking water.
(B) EAR CANKER (MANGE)
This condition is caused by mites, and it affects the inner side the rabbit ears. Th e disease is mild but disturbs the animals. The earliest signs are: constant head shaking and scratching of the ears due to irritation. There is a scab or crust formation on the inner side of the ear. Due to heavy infestation, the affected ears may drop downwards. Control by avoiding rats in the rabbitry since they are the vectors for these mites. Th is disease is treated by Ivermectin in drinking water or sub cute injection.
(C ) OTHER DISEASES
• Pneumonia-common during cold weather and in poorly ventilated hutches. Th e remedy to the disease is by use of antibiotics such as Oxytetracycline, Penicillin, Typhoprim and etc.
• Gastro-intestinal complication mainly arising from feeding.
• Internal parasites like ascaris especially when fed on greens. Therefore, regular de worming at least 3 months is advisable. It is important to avoid use of roadside forages to feed your rabbits as they may be infested by worms. Such infestations can be treated by drugs such as Piperazine citrate and Levifarm
• For treatments of all rabbit diseases, farmers are advised to visit their nearest veterinary Office.