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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Rabbit rearing improves livelihood of farmer

By Bob Aston
Kanja Waweru, 60, a farmer in Muhotetu Division, Laikipia County started rearing rabbits in 2010 and since then he has never looked back. Rabbit farming has improved his livelihood and he is now set to expand his business through value addition.
Kanja started with a male and a female rabbit. He has since sold more than 80 rabbits. Rabbits breed very fast. When you start with two rabbits, you can get up to 80 rabbits by the end of the year.

An employee feeding the rabbits
 He has kept California white though most are cross breed. This he has done in search of weight and faster growth. The cross breed can mature within five months instead of the normal six months.
“I researched different business ventures and decided on rabbit farming as a viable project. “Start-up capital can be recovered within a short time though it will depend with the breed that you keep,” said Kanja.
Kanja has constructed a house that can accommodate 240 rabbits. He currently has eight (8) females, two (2) males, twenty six (26) young rabbits and two (2) litters.
“One should not start with a large number of rabbits if he is new to the business. One can start with one male and one female and expand as they grow,” said Kanja.

Rabbits are kept for their meat, manure and fur. They come in different breeds and sizes. Kanja has been selling each mature rabbit at Ksh 1,500 while a kilo goes for Ksh 350.

Typically, rabbits live for 8-12 years, but some may live for a longer time. A female is ready to breed at the age of six months. A doe that's rebred shortly after her young are weaned will produce four litters a year.

Kanja said that the advantage with rearing rabbits is that the gestation period is 30 days, with each rabbit producing six kits. A farmer can get up to 30 young rabbits per rabbit in one year. Rabbits can give birth up to ten times in a year. However caution should be taken to allow the rabbits a period of rest between giving birth.

“The cost of production will depend on the system of production selected as the major cost will be that of feed,” said Kanja.

An employee feeding the rabbits
Kanja has been feeding the rabbit with pellet feed, hay, dry grass, green vegetables, maize, banana and cassava peels as well as giving them clean water. He advises rabbit farmers that evening feeding is very important since rabbits are nocturnal and usually eat at night. The pellet feed should be kept in garbage cans to protect it from rats and other varmints.
“Kenyans are not accustomed to eating rabbit meat despite the numerous nutritional benefits. They are cholesterol free and have high protein content,” said Kanja.
Kanja is now set to travel to Nairobi to buy packaging materials for the rabbits. He has also decided to buy a cooler box for carrying rabbit meat.
“People should not fear rabbit rearing as there is ready market. Most people like rabbit meat but they do not have a place to buy,” said Kanja.
He says that the nearest rabbit market is in Thika. Last year he organized with them to come to Muhotetu to slaughter there. He has now talked with Mugo supermarket in Nyahururu and he will soon start supplying rabbit meat to the supermarket at Ksh 350 per kilo. The meat will first have to be approved by the veterinary officer after slaughtering before it is taken to the supermarket.
Kanja has been using Sokopepe to get market tips and also query market prices. He now plans to also use Sokopepe to sell his rabbits.
“I have been to Ng’arua Maarifa Centre and I was taken through the process of how I can sell my rabbits through Sokopepe,” said Kanja.
He believes that the Sokopepe market will provide him with a good opportunity to not only market his products but also get a good price.
Kanja also wants to start keeping proper record of his rabbit business. He has now decided to join Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya) which has been introduced by Sokopepe Ltd to help farmers keep their farm records.
“I want my rabbit business records to be automated. It will now be easier for me to monitor my business. I will now be able to capture records and truly practice farming as a business,” said Kanja.
He says prevention of diseases should be taken seriously. He advises rabbit farmers to develop a habit of disinfecting before handling rabbits.
Some of the rabbits eating
“There are a lot of diseases that affect rabbits and not many veterinary officers are conversant with them as rabbits fall under emerging livestock,” said Kanja.
During an agribusiness trade fair held at Nyahururu stadium on 20th and 21st March, he met the Laikipia Governor who promised him that the County government will meet them to chat the way forward for rabbit rearing.
Kanja has been a member of Rabbit Breeders Association of Kenya (RABAK). He has attributed the emergence of rabbit farming to RABAK which he says has been at the forefront of marketing rabbit farming.
He advises those venturing into rabbit rearing to build several cages for them so as to avoid inbreeding. Inbreeding causes production to go down.
“Rabbits should not be kept in debilitating conditions. Proper spacing is important. Stacking up the cages can reduce the space occupied by the rabbits,” said Kanja.
Kanja says that while rabbits can be housed on the ground it is prudent to keep them in raised cages that use wire mesh. This will make cleaning the cages to be easier as the waste falls through the wire mesh. It is also advisable that the cages are positioned in such a way that collection of urine will be easy as this can later be sold instead of going to waste.
“Youths should start rabbit rearing. I have talked with some youth leaders in Muhotetu and they have shown interest. This is a good enterprise that can improve the livelihood of youths,” said Kanja.
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