Bajopas Volume 3 Number 2 December, 2010
To our understanding, information on the problemsand prospects of rabbit farming in Nigeria is scanty.Few of the information available are unable toelucidate the major intricacies involved in rabbitfarming. This paper therefore presents firsthandinformation on the review of management proceduresin rabbit production; examines the potentials andproblems that may be envisaged in rabbit productionin Nigeria. Suggestions were made to improve rabbitfarming and useful recommendations were made inorder to meet the ever-rising protein needs in Nigeriain order to meet the WHO prescriptions.
Breeds of Rabbits
The United States Department for Agriculture (USDA)has classified rabbits according to size, weight andtype of pelt. Small rabbits weigh about 1.4 – 2kg atmaturity, medium breeds 4 – 5.4kg, and large breeds6.4 – 7.3kg (USDA, 1972). Based on this classification,two most popular breeds for meat production includethe New Zealand white and the Californian. Thesebreeds are most popular because they combine whitefur and good growth characteristics. The New Zealandrabbits are slightly larger than the Californian, 4 –5.9kg and 3.6 – 4.5kg respectively. The New Zealandrabbit has a completely white, red or black body,whereas the Californian is white with colored nose,ears and feet. The two most popular rabbits for furproduction are the Rex and the American Chinchilla.The Rex is slightly smaller than the AmericanChinchilla, 3.2kg versus 4.5kg (USDA, 1972). At present there are many breeds of rabbitbeing used for both meat and skin production indeveloping countries. For example in Brazil there arethe New Zealand White, Californian, Chinchilla,Palomino, Hollander, Rex, Dalmation, Flemish Giant,New Zealand Red, Barboleta, Champaigne, d'Argent;in Ecuador there are the New Zealand White, Blue Viennese, Silver German and Angora. In Malawi thereare the New Zealand White, Californian, Angora, Rex;in Nepal there are the Californian Hybrids while inGhana there are the Thuringa, Blue Viennese, FlemishGiant, Checkered Giant, Lop, Californian, Alaska, andthe Yellow Silver (USDA, 1972). In Nigeria, thecommonest breeds include the New Zealand white,Californian, Angora, Rex amongst others (Aduku andOlukosi, 1990). All of these breeds of domestic rabbits aredescendants of the European wild rabbit,
(Aduku and olukosi, 1990). Although manyof these are breeding successfully in various countries,the most popular breeds are the New Zealand Whiteand the Californians. These two breeds are also themost popular in commercial rabbit industries in thedeveloped countries. The various production traitssuch as fertility, growth and feed conversion rateswhen considered, under commercial conditions, NewZealand Whites and Californians are amongst thebetter breeds available for meat production(Bombeke,
Housing constitutes an important factor for asuccessful rabbit production. Housing types includethe cages, pens, paddocks, underground and insulatedhousing, housing made from locally sourced rawmaterials such as bamboo, and rabbits kept on freerange make for themselves houses in holes. In manyrural areas of developing countries, the materials forbuilding cages and insulated housing, and electricity topower fans and ventilators which are used incommercial rabbitries in the developed countries areoften not available. When available the cost may betoo high to justify their use in anything but highlydeveloped commercial rabbit industries. It is possible,however, to construct rabbit housing from locallyavailable materials such as old packing cases,intermeshed branches or bamboo strips (Action forFood Production, 1974), or local hard wood orbamboo-like material (Owen,
2008).Housing made of wood would have to berenewed more frequently due to gnawing than thatconstructed from wire for example. Rabbit housing intropical countries should be designed and situated tokeep the rabbits as cool and quiet as possible, to keepout predators such as python and cats, and to keepout dogs and children which may disturb the rabbitleading to general unthriftiness. The housing shouldbe made of bamboo or bamboo-like materials andnailed or, especially in the case of bamboo, tied toupright supports with local cords or vines; wire couldperhaps be used for exposed ties to minimize gnawingdamage (Owen,
2008). Rabbit housing shouldbe built under trees or such natural shelter as existsand, if possible, sited to take advantage of breezes(Bewg, 1974).Flooring can be made of hard bamboo-likematerial slatted together. Bamboo flooring of this typeis recommended for adult rabbits only, as youngrabbits tend to slip on the smooth slates and candevelop deformed legs. Splitting and weaving bamboostrips into a mat provides much better footing for allrabbits. The outer surface of the bamboo should faceupwards in order to minimize damage from gnawingand to facilitate cleaning (Owen,
2008).Nesting boxes can be constructed from thinnermaterial or even from clay. Wire has many advantageswhen used for rabbit housing, especially for floors andthe fronts of cages. It should be noted, however, thatthis material can rust rapidly in warm humid climatesif not galvanized or if the galvanized coating isdamaged. Possibly it’s most important use would be inmaking ties (Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries andFood, 1973).For water supply, sprays and the installationof sprinklers in the rabbitary is very useful. In aridareas where the water supply is restricted, theconstruction of underground compartments withinspection hatches could be important (Templeton,1968). This would assist in keeping rabbits cool in hotclimates though, would be relatively difficult to cleanand may lead to increased parasites or diseasespread. Therefore this type of housing has beendiscouraged in Nigeria.