Rearing rabbits is her passion and money maker [Daily Monitor, The (Uganda)]
(Daily Monitor, The (Uganda) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) My name is Beatrice Luzobe. I am an agriculturalist who specialised in animal husbandry. I started rabbitry (rearing of rabbits) in 1990 when my husband and I bought three rabbits—one male and two females—to rear in the little space behind the house we were staying in then.
The fact is that rabbits are small-bodied animals that need little space and input. Also, they are very prolific and efficient converters of feed into meat. The meat is nutritious, high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol. They can also be raised for non-food purposes.
This revealed to me how rabbitry is an important enterprise in areas where there is shortage of agricultural land and for the unemployed youths who lack the critical production resources (land and capital). Rabbitry provides an excellent option to people who are conscious about dieting and are avoiding high fat / high cholesterol foods as much as possible.
Customer preferenceRabbit farming caught my attention because I had been involved in promoting it but the nature of my job hindered me from putting in the necessary effort. But I gained enough experience. I did not want to invest where most were doing so, such as crops like maize or potatoes.
Just after three months, the three we started with had multiplied such that we were able to have rabbit meat every weekend. We did not think about getting a market for them but later we started taking them to people's offices and convincing them to try rabbit meat. This went on for some time till we formed a company, Learn Enterprise Limited (LEL), in 2009.
We had carried out a market survey and found out that the consumers wanted ready meat not live animals. This made me realise that there was more money with value addition. I decided to quit my job in 2010 to do what I had been training farmers and service providers to do for more than 20 years. From a community development perspective, I made great strides but on the business side, there were glaring gaps.
Management Later, I established RabFarm, a commercial farm, in Kisaasi on Komambogga road. It is on this same land that I have a home. There are 60 females (does) and seven males (bucks), which are specifically for breeding. These ones plus others brings the total number to 400 rabbits. The rest are separated for meat, kept in different units (cages) for easy record-keeping.
Rabbits take an average of six to seven months to mature and at that age, they are able to breed. A female will be able to deliver a litter a month after mating. The kits (young rabbits) suckle for one and half months and are weaned (separated them from the mothers) to ready the does for the bucks. I expect each breeder to produce after two months. Although a rabbit can conceive a day after delivery, it's better to give it a rest period.
I keep the breeders and the other males in different cages because of their behaviour. Rabbits are territorial, so they feel safer when they are alone. I only take a male to the females when it is time to mate.
Towards the delivery time, I put the does in boxes where they give birth from and also feed the kits. By four months, they are ready to be slaughtered for meat. I do not allow them to go beyond that time because they become sexually active and yet I do not give them separate cages like the breeders.
We slaughter about 30 rabbits depending on the number of orders placed. One weighs about two kilos, after the whole process of removing the skin and the rest, there is half of this in meat weight, which is one kilo. I sell an average of 30 kilos of rabbit meat per week. The packed product is sold under the brand name, Rab-Bite.
Good money There also individual buyers who get it at Shs15,000 per kilo farm gate price. I only supply smaller supermarkets in Bukoto and Kamwokya because I have not reached the capacity of supplying the larger supermarkets and and hotels. The earnings range from Shs1.5m to Shs2m per month.
This money is made from the meat, trainings and the products made from the skin like handbags. I do not incur a lot in transport while delivering the meat. The live rabbits that are sold to farmers cost from Shs20,000 to Shs30,000 depending the age and the size.
I have two types, which include the exotic New Zealand White Pure, cross breeds and a few local males for breeding. I also train farmers; a one-day session lasts for eight hours at the cost of Shs20,000 while a two-day session costs Shs100,000. I employ five people at the farm including the technical person.With rabbitry, good money can only be realised if one has many well-fed rabbits. They are fed on forage (commercial feed like that given to poultry) and supplemented with grass, matooke peels, and maize leaves for better growth.
They also need a clean environment as this prevents 80 per cent of the bacterial diseases, protozoa and worms, among others, because there is no particular vaccination apart from prevention.
Monday is a farm day where I follow up on the records, and production of the animals, among other things. In my absence, I delegate to the employees to record whatever goes on, like the number of slaughtered animals sold, the number of newly born kits, from which breeder unit, or how many died. Thursdays and Fridays are days for training. Saturday is a day for slaughtering and packaging. Other days, I am out for other consultancy work.
ChallengesThere is lack of rabbit mesh in the country that is used when building the rabbit houses. This is a specific kind of wire mesh used in rabbit house construction.There is fluctuation in prices of feeds like the maize bran and the problem is that the prices never go down. This has an implication as maize bran is the biggest component in feeding.Rabbits need a lot of fibre, which calls for other products like wheat bran, which are very expensive. The poor quality of maize bran that is sold on the market is also another problem.
Lack of tattooing machines that can be used to label rabbits. These animals cannot be tagged like cows and goats; they are likely to harm themselves while pulling off the tag.
AchievementsI have been able to promote rabbitry and also earn from it. Many people have taken up it as a commercial enterprise. I have been able to train many people (about 20 per month) and I am happy that they are taking up the business. Providing employment to a few Ugandans, (the youths I employ at the farm) is another achievement that I have registered.
I also have eucalyptus and terminalia trees on 20 hectares of land and they are at different levels of growth. Currently, I have a block of five hectares of terminalia that I am replanting.I have earned more Shs50m from the tree business since 2002. Trees need patience because they take long to grow. Eucalyptus trees take at least three years to reach a stage where you can be able to sell while terminalia take six years.
Future plansRab Farm is planned to be a model farm with high-yielding adaptive breeds, based on professional farming methods, modern processing techniques, efficient marketing systems and innovative capacity building approaches for out-growers. The other plan is to shift the whole farm project to Mukono because there is enough land of about one acre to accommodate everything.A business plan has already been drawn to ensure the viability before expansion and inform prospective stakeholders and financiers.
I advise current and aspiring farmers is to get out of the "get-rich-quick syndrome", rabbitry has higher returns to investment because you build your own stock. Rabbits for any purpose are safer to buy after one month of suckling and mother care.
Expert take :What one should know about rabbit farming - Know that like any other livestock business, rabbitry requires investment into buildings, facilities, feeds, veterinary services and labour. The level of investments depends on the location and availability of inputs and materials..- Rabbitry is a "TLC" (tender-loving and caring) project, which requires daily attention, record keeping and serious follow up of breeding and maturity dates.- Acquire information from technical people and experienced farmers and avoid opportunists who masquerade as experts (knowledgeable people) in the field.- Get good breeds from farms with technical persons or experienced farmers to avoid the temptation of becoming a breeder, unless you are technically qualified.- Scale-up productions to economically viable and sustainable levels and also concentrate on the meat market and deliver ready-to- cook product because this is convenient to the consumers who may not even know how to slaughter and process it.- Know the types of rabbits to rear and the kind of material to use. - Price the product close to that of the biggest competitors like chicken meat among others because over pricing may make a onetime big kill but cannot sustain the business. - As a national concern, rabbit farmers will have to get together again, to have a voice that will lobby government for funds. There is a need to create a critical mass for services and inputs providers, for example technical advisors, financiers, feed manufacturers and fabricators for facilities like drinkers and feeders.
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