Contributed by Femi Adesola
The rabbit with the scientific name Oryctologus cuniculus belongs to the small order largomorpha. Rabbits were wild in Europe and were believed to migrate from the Europe into England between 11th and 12th century, while several breeds of it were known in the 16th century. In 1596 Agricola started the identifications of rabbit into different colour. Then in 1606 Oliver de serres classify 3 types of rabbit namely; the wild rabbit, the semi-wild also called the Warren rabbit and the domesticated.
In the 19th century rearing of rabbit in hutches sprang up all over rural Western Europe and also in city suburbs, during this time rabbits were introduced into many countries where they were unknown such as Australia and Newzealand as reported by www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/pets/rabbits.shtml .
Rabbit production generally was not included in the national statistics but based on FAO survey and various personal contacts, the possible world output was suggested to be roughly 1 million tonnes of carcass. USSR the largest producer account for 24%, France 18%, Italy 16 %, spain 12% and other places combined (Australia, America, and Africa 15%). The 2 main African producers of rabbit are Ghana and Egypt both with 7000-8000 tonnes of carcass per year. Rabbit productions gradually becoming an important component of animal production in Nigeria.
Some characteristic features that made the rabbit the most beautiful and most important animal in the whole world include; Small body size which gives rabbit more edge over all animals, they require small quantity of feed and also uses an in-expensive and easily constructed hutch/house. Rabbit also provide small carcass that can be consumed by a family in one meal eliminating the need for meat storage and refrigeration which is so good for a country like Nigeria that has poor power supply. That’s why rabbit are called Biological refrigerator.
Rabbit’s short generation time, rapid growth and high reproductive potential is legendary, rabbit are induced ovulator (no heat period) and will breed 24 hours after parturition(giving birth) they are in constant state of reproduction and have no heat period compared to other livestock. There gestation period is between 30-33 days which make it possible for rabbit to have 3-5 litters per year about 20 offspring per year is guaranteed that’s massive though.
Rabbits can utilize non-competitive feeds such as grain free diet based on forages, green grass such as weeds, tree leaves, tropical legumes, vegetable tops, waste food with supplement of table scrap and bye product such as rice bran and corn bran which make them non-competitor of food with human being. Rabbits are ranked second to chicken which needs 345mj to produce 1kg of meat in the case of rabbit 430mj compared to sheep 17380mj and cattle 1830mj needed to produce 1kg of meat
For the record rabbit meat has the highest nutritional value which is low in cholesterol, fat, sodium iron, saturated fatty acid but high in proteins and essential amino acid. Rabbit has 20.8% crude protein, 10.2% fat, and 67% water compared to chicken that has 20% crude protein 11% fat and 67.7% water and beef 16.3% crude protein 28% fat and 55% water. There are no cultural or religious biases against consumption of Rabbit meat.
Rabbits exhibit a characteristics that no animal in the world has called copophragy or pseudo rumination; it’s a process where animal eat its own faeces don’t be surprised that’s one of the beauty of rabbit that differentiate it from other animals. Rabbit produces 2 types of faeces; the hard type in the day and the soft type in the night. Rabbit eat the soft faeces produced in the night which gives him vitamin B complex and bacteria protein. A Rabbit would die if prevented from eating the soft droppings in 7 days. While the hard faeces produced in the day is useful manure for fertilizers and could be used to produce worms to feed chicken and fish.
Rabbit production is not capital intensive compared to other livestock. Very low capital is needed in running rabbitary business, a farmer can start a small backyard rabbit farm to produce enough meat for the need of the family, Rabbits can also be produced by urban dweller since they are noiseless and they don’t produce heavy litters compared to chicken. Rabbits can be raised in old packaging material and unused garage without infringing peace of the neighbor. Rabbit are useful tools in research and serve as genetic resource pool. Matured body weight ranges from less than 1- 10 kg
Some limitation in production of rabbit include high susceptibility to heat stress at temperature above 30oc production can severely be affected and limited. So construction of rabbit hutch/cages should be in cool microclimate shady areas where there is good air circulation. Another limitation which is the most important is disease, such as enteric diseases, respiratory diseases such as pseudo tuberculosis, mastitis, external parasites etc. prevention of these diseases can be achieved by good bio security, sanitary measure and prophylactic treatment.
ABOUT the Contributor,
Femi Adesola a Graduate of Federal university of Technology Akure, he studied Animal production and Health and he is currently a youth corp member in Obasanjo Farms Ota.Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org