Agriculture is the last option of the people
today. Most of the villagers are attracted by the city life. But many of them are not
aware of the work tensions, time management, calculated life style and the necessity of
expertise of the city people. In the villages wastage of working time for unrelated things
is common. Most of the farmer concentrate only on one or two crops and face trouble.
It is better to have subsidiary activities for the best use available time. It will bring
stability of the income also. Dairying, Bee keeping, Mushroom cultivation, Rabbit farming
etc. are the compatible activities with agriculture. This ?lm is produced to explain everything
about the rabbit farming. Many people tried rabbit farming and discontinued
it in short time. KVKs, government department and NGOs conduct training on rabbit frequently.
Some private consultants attract the farmers with exaggerated advertisements and buy back
plans. Rabbit fanning seems to be an easy job. But we find very few people doing it
on large scale and for long time. Rabbit farming is an interesting activity.
It needs less investment and space. Rabbit meat has good demand. Once you purchase the
parent stock the generation continues itself unlike in poultry. One can have the rabbit
shed beside the house since it is a silent and clean animal. It needs no land for grazing.
Hence, is suitable for landless people. Even the women and children can manage the rabbit
farm. It needs very less of readymade food and eats locally available grass and vegetation.
Rabbit adopts easily for most of the climates. It has no serious diseases or pest problem.
It gives early and reasonably attractive income. In spite of all these plus points rabbit farming
is not yet a popular enterprise. At present market is the main problem for
rabbits. Market cannot be created without the bulk supply. There was no organized market
also for poultry products earlier. Now the poultry is the major enterprise. Before the
establishment of KMF, the dairy had the same story. Few hotels and Dhabhas are offering
rabbit meat preparations. Big rabbit farms have to put contiguous and systematic efforts.
Farmer needs to learn to market his produce along with its production. If the enterprising
young farmers try with commitment it is not impossible. The consultants offering buy back
have failed to do so in most of the cases. Farmers have lost faith in such buy back agreements.
Hence the own effort is the only solution for this problem.
Now let us come to the details of rabbit farming. Rabbit is a mammal with wide adaptability.
It can tolerate the temperature of -2 to 30 degree centigrade. Of course, very high temperature
is not good. Hence the shed is necessary for the protection from direct sun, rain and cold.
Select the site for the construction of the shed away from the busy city. Clean and cool
atmosphere with ample of light is good. For small-scale farmers out house itself is sufficient.
But for the commercial farms separate shed is inevitable.
The word �unit� is in use in rabbit farming. Unit means 7 females and 5 males. Or 8 + 2.
In a commercial farm, at least 150 to 200 rabbits are required. Shed can be a simple
one with sheet roo?ng like this. Centre height of this shed is 15 feet and 10 feet on the
sides. This height is necessary to avoid excess heat during summer. This is the shed with
tile roo?ng. Here the centre height is 12 feet and 8 feet on sides. Thatched houses
are still better and cost less. Big windows are necessary for cross ventilation and light
penetration. But the windows must be ?tted with GI mesh to protect the rabbits from e
predators. Close the windows with gunny bags in the winter to increase the temperature
inside. Each big rabbit needs 4 square feet space. This shed can accommodate around 400
rabbits. Mud ?ooring is better in the rabbit shed.
It absorbs the excess water and urine, which avoids bad smell. This is very important for
good health of the rabbits. Clean the ?oor once in a day by collecting the faecal droppings.
Daily washing is necessary in case of cement ?oor. Keep sufficient open space around the
shed to provide clean air to the rabbits. Trees around the shed keep the atmosphere
cool. There are two methods in keeping the rabbits.
This is deep litter system. Rabbit colony is put on the straw bed on the ?oor. But this
is not a scienti?c method. Fighting between the big rabbits is common here. Health problem
is more because the rabbits are always in touch with their faecal matter and urine.
Small rabbits have no protection. There is no control on the breeding. Though this deep
litter system needs less investment this is not suitable for commercial farming.
This is cage system. Though the initial investment is more, is good for commercial farms. Of
course, this type of costly cage is seen only in government farms. Here the systematic GI
cage is being prepared by using 16-gauge mesh. The mesh in this roll is 50 feet in length
and 4 feet in width. The mesh is cut in to required size and tied with binding wire to
give cage shape. Avoid sharp edges inside the cage. This cage of 10 feet length, 4 feet
width and 1 foot height costs around 2500 pees. This has 10 compartments of 4 square
feet. It can accommodate 10 big rabbits. This may be used to keep the mother along with
its offspring called kittens. This GI mesh is strong enough and need not be given any
extra support of wood or iron angles. Keep the cages at a height like this so that
the faecal droppings, urine and excess water drop down. This is helpful for easy cleaning
and good cross ventilation on all sides of the cage. It removes the bad smell of urine
and is quite important for the good health of the rabbits. Maintain enough space between
and around the cages to keep the atmosphere clean.
Now let us study the important breeds of the rabbit. Meat, wool and fancy breeds are the
main types. Small sized breed with attractive colour is good as pet. Wool breeds will have
more hairs. They yield half to one kilogram of wool per year. But they are not common
in Karnataka. We have only meat breeds. Let us study them in detail.
This is New Zeeland white originating from America. Attractive white hair and red eyes
are its specialty. The matured rabbit of this breed weighs 4 to 5 kilograms. The kittens
gain 2-kilogram weight in 2 to 3 months. This is one more similar breed California white.
This brown rabbit belongs to Russian Grey giant breed. As the name itself indicates
it gains maximum size and weight than other breeds. Hence this is used for breeding with
other breeds. Likewise, this big rabbit is Black Giant. This attractive rabbit belongs
to Tiger Giant breed. This is Soviet Chinchilla breed. It matures
early. Three-month rabbit of this breed gains 3-kilogram weight. There are many more breeds
and cross breeds in use. Maintain pure reeds for breeding purpose. They are available with
the breeding centres at Hyderabad, Pune and Visakhapatnam and of course with the big private
farms. Speed of growth of pure breed is slow. But the cross breeds grow very fast land gain
weight early. For example, cross New Zeeland white male with Russian Grey Giant female
or Soviet Chinchilla male with black giant female. Keep the breeding males and females
in separate cages. Rabbit multiplies very fast compared to other
domestic animals. It comes to maturity in 5 to 6 months. Menses cycle of the female
is once in a week throughout the year. Reproductive organ turns to pink colour in the heat period,
while it is white in regular days. Chance of conception is more if they are put for
crossing in the heat period itself. Morning time of 5 to 7 is good for crossing. Female
has shy nature. Hence the worker has to keep away from the rabbits in crossing.
Drop the female rabbit in the male cage for crossing. Never put the male in the female
cage. If done so the female may avoid crossing by threatening the male. Female will not show
interest in small sized, or less aged male rabbit. Hence, use equal or big male only.
Male mounts on the female, makes a typical sound or falls down. This is the indication
of successful crossing. Then it will not mount again. Shift the female from the male cage
after half an hour of crossing. Avoid crossing if the reproductive organ of
male or female has any infection or dermatitis. They should be active enough with good health.
If the male does not show interest in crossing use the other one. After 8 to 10 day of crossing
put the female in the male cage once. If it has conceived already female runs away or
threatens the male. Pregnancy can be confirmed by checking with the hand after 15 days. Pregnant
rabbit looks attractive and prefers more rest. Duration of pregnancy is 1 month. Mother is
separated from the kittens after one month and put for crossing again. Rabbit breeds
5 to 6 times in a year like this. Gestation period in the rabbit is 29 to 32
days. It plucks its wool and prepares smooth bed one or two days before delivery. Providing
small tray with a smooth mat or gunny bag is better. Feed the rabbit with Ostrocalcium
and sprouted grams. Normally it delivers 5 to 10 kittens per time. Newly born kittens
have no hairs and the eyes are not opened. Provide clean drinking water and concentrated
feed to the rabbit immediately after the delivery. Verify whether the mother has fed the milk
or not. The stomach of the kitten gets round and body remains warm after feeding. 30 % of
the rabbits do not give milk themselves. In such cases put the mother on the ?oor and
feed the kittens like this. Continue this thrice a day for a week or till they open
the eyes. Kittens are mild for 2 days and become active later. They will not survive
without mother�s milk. Hence, take enough care. It is necessary to feed the pregnant
and delivered rabbits with concentrates twice a day. It is better if 2 ml of calcium tonic
is given every day with the feed. It improves the milk production land hence the better
growth of the kittens. The sprouted grams also may be fed.
Normal natural death of the kitten is 15 to 20 %. This is due to the shortage of mother�s
milk and severe cold. Put these young ones in a box with gunny bag during cold nights
after feeding. Put an electric bulb to improve the temperature if there is heavy rain or
severe cold. Separate few kittens if they are in large number and feed with other rabbit
with less number. The kittens open the eyes within 8 to 10 days.
Start taking general food after 15 days. Then put more feed and greens to the mother. If
the kittens are mild, put 1 ml of grief water to each one with the help of a needleless
syringe. Separate the young ones from the mother after one month. Put 1 spoon of Martin
Vet powder in 5 litres of water and give it to the kittens. It reduces respiratory and
diarrhoea problems. Provide clean drinking water and grass sprouts to the young rabbits.
Keep them in separate cages. Kittens gain 2-kilogram weight in 3 to 4 months and are
ready or sale. Now let us look in to the feed and other management
aspects. Rabbit is a pure vegetarian animal. It eats most of the grasses and leaves like
other mammals. But it cannot eat the dry grasses. Soft grasses like Ragi, Bajra, Sorghum, Guinea,
Napier etc. are good for rabbits. Even this kind of weed is okay. Rabbit ispond of this
Cynedon. The leaves of Mulberry, Erithrina, Drum stick, Sesbenia and Subabul etc. are
the best fodders. The protein rich species like Lucerne, Cowpea, Stylozanthus etc. are
necessary for the healthy growth of the rabbits. Food requirement of the rabbit is 3.5 % of
the body weight for young ones and 5.5 % for the big rabbits. Give 100 to 150 grams of
greens twice a day at 12 pm and 7 pm. Avoid thorny and poisonous plants. Avoid the mud
with the grass also. Rabbit may be fed even with vegetable wastes like the leaves of Cauli?ower
and Cabbage, Cucumber, Radish, Carrot, Beet root, Knol- kol etc. But wash these wastes
with salt water and feed after drying the water droplets. But do not give tomato, onion
and brinjal. Of course, the grasses are better than vegetables. Use the vegetables whenever
it is inevitable. Keep the grasses under wet cover. Rabbit will never like the wilted or
dried fodders. Rabbits survive by eating only the grasses
in the nature. But in the commercial farms it is necessary to feed concentrate for fast
and healthy growth. Readymade brands are costly. So, one can prepare the mixture with locally
available materials. Ingredients may be like this – Wheat bran-30 %, Maize- 30 %, broken
rice- 20% and horse gram or cowpea 20 %. Let the mixture be in the ground form. Prepare
the feed suf?cient for one month only. Storage for long time may lead to the development
of fungus, which may affect the health. The ingredients used should be free from fungal
infections. Soak the feed mixture in clean water and mix
it properly. Put little bit of salt and 20 grams of mineral mixture per kilograms of
feed. Let the mixture be a semi solid like this. Use of mineral mixture is compulsory.
This consists of minerals and vitamins, which are necessary for the healthy growth of the
rabbits. Give 50 grams of this for small ones and 100 grams for bigger rabbits once in a
day at 8 to 9 am. Provide drinking water twice or thrice a day. During hot summer months,
more water is required. Now let us study the health problems of the
rabbits. This being a clean animal prefers clear atmosphere. Provide enough light land
cross ventilation in the shed. Drinking water should be very clean. Take out the leftover
greens every day from the cages before putting the fresh ones. Clean the faecal droppings
and other wastes under the cage once in a day. Wash the feeding and water plates every
day. Wash every day if it is the cement ?oor. Dust the floor with lime and bleaching powder
at 5:1 proportion once in a week. Spraying of 10 ml Dettol in one litre of water once
in a week to the cages is good. Clean atmosphere and nutritionally rich feed are the kea points
for the success of rabbit farming. Scienti?c and proper management will keep
the rabbits healthy. Even then you may ?nd some problems. Rabbits affected with diseases
will not eat anything. The farmer can take up treatments himself with training and guidance
from veterinarians. The medicines are available in various brands and concentrations. Dosage
depends on the severity of the problem and the body weight of the rabbit. Hence, decide
the correct treatment after discussing with the veterinary doctor. So, we have mentioned
only the name of the medicine here. For injection use 1 ml insulin syringe. This needle is very
thin and will not pain a lot. Use 2 ml needleless syringe to give oral drops. Clean the syringe
after each use by sucking and pushing out the water.
Now let us study the major diseases of the rabbit. This rabbit is suffering with fever,
cold and cough. The ears are warm in excess and liquid is oozing from the nose. Cough
is also common. For the treatment use Enrocin type antibiotic oral drops for 3 to 4 days.
If the problem is severe inject Gentamicin to the thigh once in a day for 3 days.
Another major problem is Diarrhoea. This starts with the polluted water and food. Causal organism
is a protozoan called Coccidum. Infected rabbit shows debility or strength less ness. Semi
liquid faecal matter is seen pasted below the tail and on the floor. This is a sensitive
problem and the rabbit may die if neglected and not treated in time. Reduce drinking water
for these rabbits. Inject sulpha medicines to the thigh once in a day for 3 to 4 days.
If the problem is seen in many rabbits put Sulfadimidine and Furazolidone tablets in
the feed for 3 to 4 days for all rabbits. Another major problem is Dermatitis. Shortage
of ventilation and inadequate cleanliness creates this problem. See the severity of
dermatitis on the ears, nose and eyebrow of this rabbit. To treat this, inject Ivermectin
only once. For young ones give the same medicine as oral drop. Mix Ascabiol ointment with coconut
oil in equal proportion and apply. It will dry up in a week time and drop. Then the hairs
grow in the patch. Do not use Ivermectin for pregnant rabbits. This may end up with abortion.
Hence control the dermatitis only by applying ointments and Neem oil. Putting Ivermectin
oral drops for two-month-old rabbits prevents dermatitis. It controls the worms also. Along
with this Albendazole tablet powder is given with the feed once in 3 months for the control
of worm. Sometimes the rabbits get wounded by ?ghting
and biting each other or by sharp edges. Clean the wound with Dettol and apply Himax or any
antibiotic ointment for 3-4 days. If the wound is deep, inject the antibiotic to the thigh
daily once for 3-4 days. Apart from these major problems White urine, Gangrenous ear,
Nervine disorder, Tumour etc. are the minor health problems of the rabbit.
Infertility is seen in few female rabbits. Such rabbits do not show interest in crossing.
Or do not conceive even after repeated crossing. Give half tablets of Stilbestrol and co-co-h
daily with the feed for 5 days to each infertile female. Then put it for crossing. If it fails
to conceive again cull out that rabbit from the breeding stock.
Sometimes the kittens remain too weak. The de?ciency of calcium and other elements is
the reason. Give 2 ml of calcium tonic orally to each rabbit daily for 5 days. Then give
2 ml of liver tonic for 2 days. Repeat the same for 2 weeks. This improves the health
of the weak rabbits. One ml of these tonics to all rabbits for 3 days once in a month
will improve the digestion and hence the better growth.
Now let us study the usages of rabbit. The meat breeds are common in Karnataka. Though
the wool has good demand such breeds are seen in Jammu & Kashmir, Ooty and other cool places
only. This wool is useful for fashion items. Colourful rabbit leather has good demand.
Smooth hairs will not drop from the leather. This is used for caps, bags and other fancy
products. Rabbit meat is very smooth and tasty. Bone
proportion is less. This attractive red meat increases in volume after cooking. Fat content
is less compared to chicken, fork and goat meat. Cholesterol content is negligible. Rabbit
meat has more protein and hence it is considered as a healthy nonveg food. Apart from the meat
purpose attractive coloured small rabbits are kept as pet animals. Small sized breed
has good demand in the cities for this purpose. Faecal dropping of the rabbits is a good manure.
Though it collects in less quantity the NPK content is almost double to the c w dung.
Farm with 200 rabbits will produce 4 tractor loads of this manure per year.
Now let us go through the economics of rabbit farming. Take a farm with 25 females and 5
males for calculation. Each female delivers 6 to 8 kittens each time and 5 to 6 times
a year. This amounts to 40 kittens per year on an average. Hence, we can sell around 1000
rabbits per year by keeping 30 breeding rabbits. Young ones gain 2-kilogram weight in 3 to
4 months and are ready for selling. It fetches rupees 100 to 125 per kilogram. Each, rabbit
needs 6 kilograms of concentrated feed for 4 months. One worker can maintain a farm with
200 rabbits. Cost of production of one rabbit will be rupees 60 for feed, rupees 30 for
management and rupees 10 for medicines and other expenses. Total cost of production will
be rupees 100 for each rabbit. These rabbits weigh at least 2 kilograms each fetching minimum
of 200 rupees. Hence one can get a net profit of 100 rupees from each rabbit. Thus, by selling
1000 rabbits in a year the net earnings will be rupees one lakh. Ten cages of 10 feet length
and 4 feet width are suf?cient for this strength. Ten cages cost around 25,000 rupees. The cos
of construction of the shed is extra. The breeder rabbit costs around 300 to 400 rupees
each. These ?gures are given here just to have broader idea of the economics of rabbit
farming. As on date there is no organized market for
rabbits. If the farming start on large scale and the supply becomes stable marketing will
not be a problem. Calculations of the consultants might have some exaggerations. But is not
totally wrong. Instead of depending on the buy back and other mediatory systems, the
farmer himself should sell his rabbits. Even if it does not become a multimillion business
there is no dearth of an attractive income. Let us hope the rabbit farming becomes a popular
activity in the future. 8