Rabbits just like pigs are monogastric or non-ruminant animals. They are medium-sized hopping mammals with long legs, long ears and short tails.
Rabbits are mainly reared for their meat. Rabbit meat is normally regarded as a white meat.
TERMS USED FOR RABBIT
buck An adult male rabbit
doe An adult female rabbit
Kitten/warren A young or baby rabbit
Hutch The house of rabbit
Kidding The act of parturition in rabbit
Pelt The skin of rabbit
Litter – All the young ones (rabbits) produced at the same time by one doe
Sucking – feeding of young ones on the mother’s breast milk
Dam – The mother of a set of young rabbits
Sire – The father of a set of young rabbits
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF RABBITS
(i) Rabbits have small medium sized body
(ii) Rabbits are easy to house.
(iii) Rabbits are very prolific animals or can produce many litters
(iv) Rabbits have a short gestation period of 30 -31 days.
(v) Rabbits grow fast and reach maturity weight in about five to six months. They are efficient converter of wide range of vegetable matter into meat. The fur-covered skins can be processed as pelts for sale.
(viii) Rabbits are easy to handle or manage.
(ix) Rabbits have a weaning period of six to eight weeks.
(x) Rabbits make good quality meat, more delicious and nutritious than that of chicken.
(xi) Rabbits are susceptible to stress.
(xii) Rabbits rate of cannibalism is very high.
(xiii) Rabbits have high rate of disease resistance.
BREEDS AND TYPES OF RABBITS
Common breeds of rabbits include:
(i) California white
(ii) Flemish giant
(iii) California red
(v) New Zealand
(vi) Champagne white d’Agent
(vii) The Crosses
(x) Blue Beveran
(xi) New Zealand red
(xiv) English spot
(xv) Chekered giants
(1) The Chinchilla: It is a grey-bodied animal and it can weigh up to 5kg at maturity. It is one of the best fur or pelt producers and also a meat producer.
(2) The New Zealand White: This is the most popular meat breed in use. It is a fur breed and can attain a mature weight of 4.5kg in eight months. It is a good converter feed to meat with a high dress percentage. It is also a fast maturing breed.
(3) California White: It is a lighter breed and the adults may attain a mature weight of 3.5kg – 4.5kg. it is characterized by black markings the ears, feet, tail and nose. It in high growth rate and good flesh bone ratio.
(4) The New Zealand Red: This breed is bright-red in colour and weight over 3kg. It has a high growth feed conversion characteristics.
(5) The Giant Flemish: This breed weigh over 5kg and it is the large of all the breeds. It is dark steel-g in colour and produces a dense hard pelt. It is a good m producer.
(6) Angora: This breed requires a of care and attention. It is the only rabbit reared for its wool. Its most common is white. It has tuft of wool on its ear and feet
IMPORTANCE OF RABBIT
1. Meat: The meat of rabbit is white, fine grained, tender and nutritious. the meat of rabbit is even more nutritious than that of poultry chicken
2. Rabbit skin or pelt: This can be used for making jackets, head-gear, carpets or rugs and other decorative households or ornaments.
3. Manure: It has been discovered that rabbit manure is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and therefore can be used to improve the fertility of the soil
4. For research purpose: At the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom, rabbits are kept largely as laboratory animals.
READ THIS ARTICLE ON DISEASES OF RABBIT AND CONTROL HERE
Problems Militating Against Rabbit
Production in Nigeria
Major problems which militate against commercial production of rabbits in Nigeria include:
(i) Unpredictable breeding behaviour of rabbits.
(ii) Incidence of respiratory diseases, e.g., snuffles and pneumonia.
(iii) Inadequate sanitation and proper sanitation programmes.
(iv) High nest-box mortality of litters.
(v) Lack of ability to embark on mass production, because most operation in rabbitry cannot be automated.
(vi) It is labour-intensive.
(vii) Lack of capital also impedes large investment in rabbitry.
(viii) Inadequate supply and high cost of concentrate feeds.
HOUSING OF RABBITS
(i) Rabbits are usually kept in hutches
(ii) The hutches are arranged in single, double or triple tiers
(iii) The waist-high, single tier hutches are preferable for they save time and labour in feeding and management
(iv) Wooden or metal hutches with wire-netting surroundings are widely used
(v) The hutches are placed under a building usually referred to as rabbitry. The rabbitry must be well ventilated
(vi) The floor of the rabbitry should be made with concrete for easy cleaning
(vii) The roof should be made with corrugated iron sheets or asbestos sheets
(viii) The hutches can also be placed in poultry deep litter-house
(ix) The makes are kept separate from the female within the rabbitry.
(x) Legs of hutches should be placed in disinfectant bowls to keep off termites and other insects attack.
FEEDING OF RABBIT
(i) Rabbits are simple stomach herbivores, i.e. they feed mainly on plants
(ii) Rabbits are given concentrates in form of pellets in small quantities
(iii) The pellets given can be supplemented with aspilia Africana, sweet potato leaves, Amarantus, Water leaf, Centrosema spp, Emilia spp, Tridax spp and calopogonium spp MORE ABOUT WEEDS AND THEIR BOTANICAL NAMES
(iv) Rabbits can be given poultry grower’s mash in the absence of rabbit pellets. This should however, be sprinkled with water to prevent wastage and nasal irritation
(v) The protein content of feeds for dry Does and Bucks should be 12 – 15% while that of pregnant does and nursing does is 16 – 20%
(vi) The feed should be served in feeding troughs
(vii) Water should be supplied all the time
Common hygiene or sanitary measures to be adopted in rabbitry include:
(i) Clean the floor of the rabbitry daily.
(ii) Disinfect the rabbitry at regular intervals to keep it germ-free,
(iii) Clean the feed and water troughs to prevent contamination.
(iv) Remove dusts and cob-webs from the rabbitry.
(v) Isolate any sick animal for treatment.
(vi) Remove and bury dead animal.
(vii) Deworm the rabbits at regular intervals.
(viii) Treat the rabbits with drugs such as antibiotics and coccidiostat (Prophylactic).
(ix) Keep the surrounding of the rabbitry weed-free.
(x) Provide a disinfectant bath or foot dip at the entrance to prevent introduction of germs into the rabbitry by visitors.
Rabbits are used in raising frieat at a shortest possible time with least feed. They may be bred for yarn, fur, pels, as a source of letting and for laboratory experiments in Colleges and Universities. They are also a source of income to the farmers. The meat of rabbit is high in protein and low in fat and caloric content. Its manure is high in nitrogen and phosphoric acid.
(a) Breeds of Rabbits
These are the important breeds of domestic rabbits: the New Zealand white. Flemish Giant, the New Zealand Red and Checkered Giatnt. Some rabbits breeders recommend the New Zealand for Nigeria.
(b) Management practices in Rabbits
(i) Housing: Rabbits are kept in cages called hutches. It is most essential that the hutches are protected from rain and sunlight. READ FACTORS AFFECTING AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
Each adult rabbit should have its own. hutch, which should be 60cm high 75cm deep and 1 ½ – 2m long. The cage should dry and self-cleaning. The bottom of the cage should be made of wire mesh so that the faeces and urine can drop to the ground. Also, the cages should stand on legs and the total height of each should be waist high. It is difficult to keep cages with solid bottom dry. Wet cages encourage breeding of flies, and coccidiosis. A three unit cage is always recommended, that is, that can hold three adult rabbits; two does (female rabbit) and a buck (male rabbit). The walls of the hutch can be made of split bamboo while the roof is made in such a way mil rain from tickling through. All cages (battery cage system of poultry) must stand in filled with water to keep off ants.
Breeding cages may, be provided with nest boxes. These be built into the cages or they may be removable boxes that can be set in cages several days before the does are ready to kindle (give birth to young ones). A nest box should be 55cm. A few small holes should be drilled at the bottom of the box drainage.
Water must be provided in each cage always and the waterer leaned off every morning before adding new one. The waterer must not be leaking.
(ii) Rabbits are fed twice a day. that is. in the morning – evening. Grains are fed in the morning while green led in the evening. Nursing does require more feeds than dry does or bucks. The best feed is poultry mash either growers layers mash. Since poultry mash is dusty, it should prevent irritation of the nose and lungs.
Alternatively, a mixture of guinea com and groundnut cake can be alter grinding. The best green feeds are Amaranthus.
Aspilia Africana Talinum triangulare and grasses.
(iii) Breeding: Most large breeds of rabbit such as New Zealand white sexually mature in 8-9 months and can be bred then. The smaller breeds like the polish can be used for breeding when four months old. Bucks (male) and does (female) mature about same age. One buck can service about ten does if the breeding spread out. However no buck shouId be used more times a week for service l(g due shows signs of heat, it should be taken to the buck’s cage for mating. This is is because if the duck is brought to doe’s cage, the doe may attack it. If the doe is just placed the hutch with the buck, it will often squat in the corner of hutch and will not accept service. Therefore, holding the will quicken mating. After mating, the doe should be sent ha her hutch. The service date should be recorded and approximate kindling date noted. Gestation period is 31 After two weeks, the doe should be examined for pregnan pressing gently with the hand on her belly. If she is preg one will feel some small marble shaped lumps in the wor uterus. If the doe is not pregnant, it should be sent back to when it comes on heat again.
(iv) Kindling: Kindling is the act of giving birth to the young. A nest should be placed in the hutch about 24 days after the has been mated. If it kindles on wire floor the litter (a gro young ones born at the same time) may perish. No strtl bedding is to be placed in the cage. The cage must be The doe will pull out enough hair from her belly to cover litter. As each infant is delivered, the doe licks it. After kindling the litter should be inspected and dead or deformed removed. The cans on which the hutch is standing must be with water to prevent ants from entering to kill the young of Rabbits are nervous animals and are more nervous during kindling periods. Therefore, keep the doe as quiet as poi during this period, keep off all natural enemies like do cats. Keep people and children away from her hutch. Avoid the doe as much as possible on the day before and after kin Excitement also causes abortion.
Some does kill their young ones. This may be a sign under feeding. Some kill for no purpose. Such does should called.
Hygiene: With good housing, it is not difficult to maintain hygiene in rabbits house. It is important to clean hutches and waterers regularly and remove droppings from the floor to build up of disease organisms.
Major diseases of rabbits are pneumonia and diarrhea. These should be controlled when they occur by consulting the nearest veterinary doctor.
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