Breeding of Rabbit

The ideal age of Buck and Doe to start breeding is 10-12 months and 4-6 months respectively. Rabbits do not ovulate on a regular cycle; as a result they do not actually go into heat. The mating of the rabbit will cause the doe to produce the eggs necessary for fertilization, usually 10-13 hours after breeding has occurred. This phenomenon is called as Induced Ovulation.

Although the does has no actual heat cycle, she will only accept the buck in about 12 out of every 14 days. When a successful connection happens, the buck will literally fall to its side, and will usually let out a grunt. When she is ready to breed her vent area will be a dark pink, red or purple. At least 14 hours of light daily have been found beneficial. Provide artificial light in winter when daylight hours are less than 14 hours. A 40-watt bulb every 10 feet works satisfactorily. Use a time clock for ease and accuracy. This lighting program provides better conception in winter. . A Cyclic Breeding Program is recommended in an ideal broiler rabbit farming though inbreeding is not objectionable. Using Bucks from different units is always beneficial.

The best way to determine if the doe is pregnant is to palpatate the doe. Palpating the doe correctly to determine pregnancy takes practice and should be done after 12 days from mating.

The average pregnancy period is 30 days. With the nearing delivery the doe will start making nest by pulling her fur and placing in nest box. The average fecundity rate is 6-8 pups. The pups are ‘Altricial’ i.e. deaf, dumb and blind at the time of birth. Care should be taken that adlibitum feed and water is available in the cages before during delivery period. Water deficiency at the time of delivery can lead to Cannibalism. In broiler rabbits the survival rate of young ones till maturity or slaughter age is 85-90%.

The Doe can be rebred after 15 days from delivery even though the pups from previous litter are with her. Care should be taken that Bucks and Does are always housed separately. Housing does together leads to ‘Pseudopregnancy’, bucks and does together leads to castration of bucks by does and only bucks together leads to fight and injuries.

Rabbit Feeding

Feed costs are the major expense in producing a fryer, as much as 80 percent of the cost of production. It is extremely important to use a sound feeding program. Earlier, In India there was no commercially available broiler rabbit feed. Although many people use feeding systems that include green feeds, hay, or home-mixed grains.

Under natural conditions rabbits have the habit of ‘Caprophagy’. Cecotropes, also called ‘night faeces’ or ‘soft faeces,’ are the material resulting from the fermentation of food in a part of the digestive system called the ‘cecum.’ Cecotropes are nutrient-rich and are passed out of the body, like faeces, but are reingested by the animal so the nutrients can be absorbed. Cecotropes have twice the protein, and half of the fiber of the typical hard faecal pellet. They also contain high levels of vitamin K and the B vitamins.

But, in cage system, reingestion of Cecotropes is not possible. Based on the nutritional and physiological requirements of rabbits and our practical experience we have formulated a exclusive broiler rabbit feed in consultation with an reputed compound feed company in India . Taking into consideration each and every part of cage management system, balancing for unavailability of Cecotropes  a result oriented Broiler rabbit feed from 100% veg source in mash form is successfully used by our farmers. It contains 17% Protiens,14% Crude fiber, 12% Indigestible crude fiber, 3 % fat, essential  Amino acids, Minerals and Vitamins totally with Digestible energy of  2550 Kcal/Kg and and Metabolizable energy of 2410 Kcal/Kg. The rabbits can be exclusively reared only on this ration without a greens or hays. This feed helps the weight gain of fryers, maintains the fecundity and fertility of the breeders, and maintains vigor and disease resistance.  The feed has also been effective in periods of low fertility i.e. in summers, almost the breeding proceeding similarly in all seasons.  The greens mainly Lucerne , Maize and market surplus leafy vegetables  or hay are if available are fed as bonus.

Rabbit housing

The ideal direction for rabbit shed in East West. Temperature inversion factor plays important role in rabbit farming. Hence appropriate provisions for temperature maintenance should be made to avoid stress on animals. In the modern production systems of livestock, rabbit rearing is still kept under traditional pattern i.e. Deep litter.  This system is mainly followed in some of the Asian countries viz. Vietnam , Bangkok which are engaged in extensive rabbit farming with a population of at least 25000 heads in one housing.

The cage system of rearing replaced floor system in the late 1990’s. The cages are erected on wooden poles, steel bars and on stones. Bucks and Does are housed separately in individual compartment and brought together only at the time of breeding. The ideal gauge for floor of the cage is 14-16 with a mesh size of 19×19 mm or 25×13 mm. The walls and roof can be constructed with lighter gauge i.e. 16-20 with a mesh size of 25x25mm. Average space per animal  includes the space for pups with a room for adequate exercise.

Broiler Rabbit farming in India

Organized promotion of rabbit production in India took place during the late seventies by the import of rabbits from the UK and the former USSR , by the Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. In India , rabbit rearing has attracted farmers since the last ten to 12 years. The ever growing demand for non vegetarian proteins in developing countries like India helps the rabbit industry to grow further and further.  Though it has not made an impact in the meat industry in India , there is tremendous scope for popularizing rabbit meat. In India , the production of rabbit meat had not reached any marked stage. Tamil Nadu is the premier state in rabbit farming in India . The breeds mainly reared in India are crosses of New Zealand White, Soviet chinchilla and Dutch crosses.

Global Rabbit Meat Production

China is the largest producer of rabbit meat, constituting approximately 40% of global production. Most of the remainder of global production occurs in Europe . Other Asian countries viz. Thailand and Vietnam are also in the producers list.

China accounts for approximately a quarter of world exports, with The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, the United States and other European countries being the major importing nations. Current rabbit meat supply is far below estimates of domestic and export demand.

The world production of rabbit meat is valued to be about 1 million tons, of this the 54% is produced in the EU. The four biggest world’s producers – China , Italy , Spain , France – contribute to almost ¾ of the world production.

The international trade of rabbit meat involves almost 50 thousands tons, equal to almost the 5% of the world production, to confirm that the principal part of the world’s production is destined to the domestic use80 % of the world imports are made by the European Union. Main importer countries: Italy , Belgium , France , Germany . Main exporter countries: China , Eastern Europe countries

Histroy of Rabbit

Indeed the wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus of southern Europe and North Africa is thought to have been discovered by Phoenicians when they reached the shores of Spain about 1000 BC. In Roman times the rabbit was still emblematic of Spain . The Romans apparently spread the rabbit throughout the Roman Empire as a game animal. Like the Spaniards of that time, they ate fetuses or newborn rabbits, which they called laurices.

Several breeds of rabbit were known in the 16th century and this is the first record we have of controlled breeding. Domestication can therefore be traced to the date Middle Ages. This was probably the work mainly of monks, since it provided them with a more delectable dish than the tougher wild rabbit.

In the 16th century breeding seems to have spread across France , Italy , Flanders and England

. In 1595, Agricola mentions the existence of graybrown (wild), white, black, piebald (black and white) and ash grey rabbits. In 1606, Olivier de Serres classified 3 types of rabbit: the wild rabbit, the semi wild or “warren” rabbit raised inside walls or ditches, and the domesticated or hutch-bred rabbit. The meat of the last is described as insipid, and that of the wild or semi wild type as delicate.

Features of Rabbit Farming

1. Rabbits have small body size leading to efficient space utilization

2. Rabbit Farming requires less space and it can be done as commercial or as backyard farming.

3. Limited competition with human food in contrast to Poultry.

4. Early sexual maturity: 6 months in Does and 12 months in bucks

5. Prolific breeders: High fecundity rates – 6 to 8 pups in short gestation period.

6. Year the around breeding in ideal management conditions.

7. Rabbits can easily thrive on the greens (Lucerne , Maize, Guinea grass, Napier) grown for other livestock and market surplus vegetables (leafy vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber) and with efficient Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR).

8.  Can be successfully done as agro-allied farming (No requirement of skilled labor).

9. The nursing period for the pups is 20-25 days. But the Doe can be mated to a Buck after 15-20 of delivery. It means a female can deliver babies every 45 days highlighting fast reproduction. Rabbits will produce 6 pounds of meat on the same feed and water as a cow will produce 1 pound of meat on the same feed and water.

10. Within 3 months a baby Rabbit gain market weight of 2 kgs to 2.5 kgs.

11. Rabbit meat is defined to be the most nutritious meat known to man. It is   white meat  and it has been found to provide good health and prevent excess fat, heart diseases, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetics and cancer among those who eat it.

Introduction of Rabbit Farming

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) strategy to fight world hunger has rabbit as its key component. . Increased awareness of the high potential of meat rabbit production has made a positive impact on the lives of the majority of subsistence, limited-resource rural and periurban populations in Western countries. In developing countries such as

India, where enormous meat shortages exist, the potential for rabbit production is greatest

Rabbit meat serves a source of Low saturated fat for the population overfed countries and as a source of cheap animal protein in underfed countries, thus exhibiting the varied potential of rabbit farming. Broiler rabbits must be considered as an important contributor of protein source to assure food security because of the ability of the species to produce high quality and quantity of meat.