Rabbit farming, like any business, requires dedication and hard work. The rabbit farmer should have a properly outlined goal and direction for the rabbitry.

By Art and Vangie Veneracion

Based on our experience at AVEN Nature’s Farm, we can say that it is best to start with a small manageable rabbitry. This will allow for the verification of information and methods gathered from readings and research. Rabbit raisers can put into practice the theories they gather and verify these in their daily rabbitry chores.

It is better to purchase initial stocks while they are still young, preferably two-month-old kits. Starting with a young herd will allow the rabbit raiser to be familiar with their habits. Keeping updated and relevant records, as well as maintaining a healthy and clean rabbitry, will be perfected before starting to breed stocks.

Multiple products can be derived from farming rabbits. The main product focus and the goals of the rabbitry should, however, be clear from the beginning. There are variations in production methods and practices, depending on these factors.

Some of the products that can be produced from rabbit farming are:

* Live rabbits : The rabbit farmer can sell live rabbits as:

1. Pets

Rabbits are indeed popular as pets. Pet shops are very much willing to purchase rabbits, even at the very young age of one month. There are several rabbit breeds that are appropriately raised for this purpose. Medium breeds that are raised for meat may also be sold as pets.

2. Show animals

These are raised differently from rabbits  raised for meat. Particular attention is paid to breed characteristics, appearance, and traits, as well as fur quality.

3. Laboratory and research animals

Medical students use rabbits for their laboratory experiments. Medical, pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, on the other hand, use  rabbits for their research and studies, and also to test their products. For these purposes, buyers may require a specific rabbit breed, age, sex, or size.

4. Breeder stocks

Rabbit farmers who intend to sell their rabbits as breeders should  keep records on items such as birth data, pedigree, and parental qualities. They should be able to give this information to buyers and be available for consultation from time to time. Quality is a prime consideration for this market.

Rabbit meat 

Rabbit farmers that raise rabbits for meat may be classified into three categories.

1 Those that process their own rabbits and consume or directly market them as fresh or frozen meat, cooked food, or other food products;

2. Those that opt to pay for the processing of their live rabbits then consume or sell the processed meat. As of this writing, many rabbit raisers fall under this category; and

3. Those that sell their live rabbits to processors.

Rabbit farmers should first be consumers of rabbit meat. After all, this is the reason why rabbits were brought to the Philippines by U.S. Peace Corps volunteers after World War II. Aware that food was potentially scarce, the volunteers introduced the rabbits as livestock to augment local food supplies. Rabbits are appropriate for this purpose since they multiply fast and supply healthy, nutritious meat.

Only if they are consumers of rabbit meat will rabbit raisers be able to sell their product convincingly. Their savings on food expenses are effectively the income of the rabbitry operations.

Other Byproducts 

After processing rabbits for meat, rabbit raisers will also have the following byproducts:

1. Rabbit pelts

Rabbit skin is tanned to become first class leather, whether hair-on or without hair. The safest way to tan  rabbit pelts is to have them processed by those who specialize in this work. At AVEN Nature’s Farm, we freeze rabbit skin and send them to a tannery in Meycauayan when the quantity is substantial for tanning.

The quality of tanned skin is dependent on the quality of the skin. Good quality skin comes from healthy rabbits—the result of good rabbitry management. Further studies and product development are needed for us to be able to produce finished products from rabbit pelts.

In cold countries, rabbit pelts are used in clothing, particularly jackets, gloves, hats, and garment linings. They are also used for slippers, bicycle seat covers, toys, belts, and other crafts

2. Rabbit paws and tail

The rabbit paw has long been considered a lucky charm. Both the paws and tail may be made
into key chains or trinkets.

3. The rabbits’ head and bones may be sold to manufacturers of animal feed, particularly dog food.

4. Rabbit Wool

Angora rabbit breeds are raised for their wool.

5. Rabbit Manure

This can radically improve soil structure when applied as fertilizer. It contains more nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium than many other types of manure. It also has many minerals, lots of micro-nutrients, and other beneficial trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, copper, and cobalt. It will not burn plants even when applied fresh and does not smell as strong as other manure types, making it easier to use. It is also a good component for compost. Many organic farmers raise rabbits for their manure, which is considered prime fertilizer and is ideal for plants and crops.

6. African Night Crawlers (ANC)

African Night Crawlers (ANC) may be grown under the rabbit cages. Rabbit manure, along with wasted feed, makes excellent worm feed. The ANCs break down and clean the beds under the rabbit cages, turning the manure
into black potting soil. This makes the rabbit raiser’s job easier because the immediate conversion of the manure into fertilizer helps eliminate bad odors  and fly infestations. The ANCs in the bins are continuously supplied food by the rabbits, and in turn, these multiply rapidly.

ANCs are also a source of revenue in the rabbitry since they can be sold to producers of vermicompost and organic fertilizer In addition to the valuable products that can be had from rabbit farming, raising rabbits is also good for the environment since rabbits produce less methane gas—which contributes to climate change or global warming—than other animals or poultry. Rabbits have a much smaller carbon footprint than other animals because they convert calories into pounds more efficiently. According to Slow Food USA, “A rabbit can produce six pounds of meat on the same amount of feed and water it takes [for] a cow to produce just one pound.”

Before we conclude our discussion of Rabbit Farming, we would like to share with the readers of Agriculture Magazine some of the useful links and resources we have utilized for the knowledge and background information that guided our rabbitry:

• A Complete Handbook on Backyard and Commercial Rabbit Production – Peace Corps Information Collection Exchange (ICE);

• Raising Rabbits 101 – 3rd edition by Aaron Webster;

• Debmark Rabbit Education Resource;

• AZ Rabbits;

• Mother Earth News;

• Rabbits Today;

• Rise and Shine Rabbitry; and

• The American Rabbit Breeders Association, Inc. for the pictures of rabbit breeds. At this point we cannot anymore acknowledge direct quotes from one source (or distinguish one from the other), because there has been an information overlap. But this somehow serves as validation for us, while verification is effected in our daily rabbitry chores and
activities.

We should however, note that what one reads online, except for factual data, should not be taken as gospel truth, especially those written for countries with weather conditions different from the Philippines.

In the same manner, we urge readers to practice prudence in accepting the things we have shared. We are sharing what we have learned during the course of raising rabbits to help new rabbit raisers minimize costly mistakes. These practices work for us now, but we are and should be open to improvements and changes in our methods as we grow our
rabbitry.

The basics of raising rabbits are more or  less the same, but the particulars may differ based on local conditions. We should remember that rabbits are creatures of habit and may develop particular traits based on particular environments. We should be able to keenly observe our herd and take note of the uniqueness of our rabbitry.

We would also like to acknowledge the various training seminars on natural and organic farming that we had the
privilege to attend. We are sharing our accumulated knowledge and experiences with Agriculture Magazine readers to “pay it forward” and hopefully, increase the tribe of those who are pursuing the advocacy of growing the local rabbit industry. We believe that raising rabbits will benefit our farmers and communities in terms of additional income and
improved nutrition. A healthy population will be productive, and a productive populace will move communities to growth
towards national prosperity.

On this note, we say, “Happy rabbit farming, everyone!”

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2016 issue.