Raising rabbits for meat and fur is a good way to make money but only if you do it on a large scale, and it should be done as supplementary income only. The initial costs in setting-up is small, rabbits breed quickly and frequently, they have large litters and grow to a good marketable size in a very short time. However, it is a full time job with daily rabbit care and good feeding needed.
Like any business, if you are wanting to make a profit with rabbits you really need to assess the market. Do your homework first, before making an investment to see if there is a market and where the market is. Is there a market for rabbit meat, rabbit fur or both?
Once you have established whether there is a market or not, find out where you will be able to slaughter the animals. Some slaughter houses will expect you to transport the live animals to them. And sometimes you can find a local butcher who will be able to slaughter and dress the rabbits.
Your New Zealand white rabbit should have a low set body, deep shoulders, and short neck, legs and ears.
Your rabbits will continue to make money for you as long as you maintain good breeding stock. Therefore, not all your rabbits will be sent to the slaughter house. Your breeders will soon need replacing and your litters should be examined for breeding potential. These then should be kept back and used as breeding stock when you need to replace or increase your stock.
Presently, farmers in Europe can get 2 Euros a kilo for their rabbit meat, which they consider to be a good price. When you have a dual-purpose rabbit like the New Zealand white rabbit then the sale of those pelts can range from anywhere from 15-50 cents depending on who your market is. However, the Chinchilla Rex commands the most money for its fur coming in at about 15 euros a pelt. Next comes the Castor Rex at 10-15 euros each and then the White Rex at 10 euros each.
One has to remember too that when the kittens are born you will also suffer losses. Many rabbit breeders expect losses of 25%. Rex animals are more difficult to breed and their average litter is about 6 kittens. Their conditions are different too. They have to be kept in separate cages to protect the fur. They are sent to slaughter in individual boxes and their slaughtering is done manually and slowly so as not to damage the fur.
In the USA, meat is sold at $.30 to $.60 per pound and $4.00 to $16.00 per pelt, depending on the breed.
A good New Zealand white doe can be bred at the age of 6 months and if conditions are ideal she can be bred 4 times a year. Breeding does are usually kept for 2 years before they are slaughtered. On average they can give birth to 80 young a year. The buck may be bred up to 7 times a week effectively. He can be used for mating at the age of 7 months.
The young are born within 28–31 days of mating and a normal rabbit litter is around 6-8 kittens but can range from two to twelve. The rabbits should be kept until they weigh about 1.8-2 kg each before sent to be butchered. This normally takes about 2 months. However, one should also be aware that by the time the rabbit is butchered and dressed it will have lost about 33% of its original weight. The bigger the breed, the more loss there will be, sometimes as much as 45%. Therefore a 3 kg rabbit before being butchered will weigh about 2 kg after being butchered.
The other advantage of raising rabbits is that they can be bred throughout the year bringing a steady income. A person on their own with no extra help can easily manage to look after 500 does. However, most people who raise rabbits for profit as a backyard venture operate much smaller farms. However, even working with 100 does will bring in a healthy and steady monthly income.
Just because you are raising rabbits for profit doesn't mean that don't have to give them the same treatment you would if it were a pet. In fact, because these animals are the lynch pin to your profit they should be given extra care and attention. The most important is of course housing and food.
Rabbits need plenty of light and fresh air. Their hutches can be simple structures of wood and wire. However, they should have a roof that protects them from the sun as a rabbit's fur should not be exposed to the sun if you are raising rabbits for fur. Also, there should be a canvas curtain that can be dropped over the cases to prevent chilling winds and rain from entering. In the hot summer months a sprinkler system can be placed on the roof to cool the hutches down.
The rabbit hutches should be 10 feet square in space for each rabbit. Individual hutches can be made using the following dimensions: 4 ft x 2.5 ft x 2 ft. If you live in area where you have cold winters then the top, sides and backs should be built of wooden board to give added protection. If, however, you live in a warm climate you will need to give your rabbits better circulation and to take advantage of any breeze. The cages here can be made out of wire netting on all sides. Using a 1 inch wire netting is sufficient. The floor of the cages should be 2 cm metal hardware cloth that allows the rabbit stability when walking and allows for the droppings to fall through to the ground.
Raising rabbits has an excellent by-product for your garden and veggie patch! Rabbit manure is very good for the compost heap and so it is advisable to buy or make deep metal trays and place these directly under the cages. This then makes for easy cleaning and easy transportation of the manure to the compost heap when they are full. Cleanliness is vital for good rabbit raising.
When the young rabbits have reached the age of 8-10 weeks of age they will need to be separated and placed in individual cages. This is to prevent the rabbits from fighting, as they will if you don't separate them.
When raising rabbits your breeding does should have their own nesting boxes. These rabbit nesting boxes should be 1 1/2 feet long, 1 foot wide and 1 foot high. There should be a 7 inch door cut in the box which is cut 5 inches from the bottom. This then prevents the young rabbits from falling out of the boxes.
You will know when your doe is needing her nest box when she starts pulling the fur from her dewlap. She will also take the hay that you are feeding her to create a nest.
When the kittens are born they are hairless and born with their eyes closed. Fur begins to grow in by day 5 or 6 and after 10 to 12 days their eyes will open. At the age of three weeks their mother will begin to wean them off milk and they will then begin to eat hay and pellets.
Rabbits should be fed twice a day and greens and water are the basis to your rabbit's diet but if you introduce anything new to your rabbits do it slowly, as their digestive systems can become upset. Not all greens are good for rabbits. Never feed them lettuce. Lettuce contains lactucarium, which can give your rabbit diarrhea so badly that it can become fatal. Other common foods to avoid include cabbage, parsnips, swedes, potato tops, and tomato leaves.
Hay should be given as part of their diet. It should be well dried and free of mold. Alfalfa, clover and even peanut hay is acceptable. Oats, wheat, barley and corn can also be fed to give a more balanced diet, with occasionally small amounts of sulfur, charcoal and cod liver oil. Watch rabbits though! They are very crafty animals and will favor barley and wheat over corn. Rabbits also like carrots and should be fed the odd one now and again. Finally, a block of salt should be placed in each hutch so that the rabbit can nibble on it when needed.
If your rabbit hutches are kept clean and they are fed properly they will suffer from few illnesses, especially when compared to other livestock. However, there are 2 illnesses that can occur with raising rabbits and that is the snuffles and coccidiosis which is a worm infection that chickens also suffer from. Any rabbit that has either of these 2 diseases should be destroyed immediately and their hutches thoroughly sanitized and sterilized to prevent the rest of your rabbits from contamination.
Raising rabbits is a pleasurable experience. Success to raising rabbits for profit are determined by 3 things: a good breeding program, proper equipment and good care. We hope that raising rabbits for you means making a profit in the process!
See more information on breeding rabbits and raising colony rabbits.
Part 1 of the series on raising rabbits looks at equipment needed for rabbit raising as well as helpful hints in getting started. This series has been in the works for six months as they have tried to capture video of kits at various ages and stages of growth.
This new series is about raising rabbits for MEAT, i.e, to EAT. Be forewarned that we will discuss rabbit raising in that format and later videos will show some butchering - with a warning before it actually comes up. So for the PETA crowd, men of the other gender and the "we won't eat anything with eyes" crowd, you'll probably want to skip these videos.
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