By Vina Medenilla
It’s difficult to imagine rabbits as food because they have always been nurtured as pets.
In the Philippines, where rabbit farming is still unpopular, it may take time for the industry to develop and catch up to prevalent meat sources like chickens.
Despite such setbacks, the local government and Philippine rabbit farmers remain steadfast in championing cuniculture, or the breeding and raising of rabbits for meat, fur, or wool as livestock.
If you ever think of starting a rabbit business, here are some basic and important pieces of information that you should know from four budding farmers who grow and sell rabbits through their businesses, namely Healthy Rabbits PH, and Quadro Rabbiteros.
When getting into the rabbit business, it is crucial to be familiar with the industry language.
The four agriprenuers, who go by the name ‘Quadro Rabbiteros,’ highlighted this, saying that kits are rabbits that are under two months old; grow outs are rabbits that are between three and four months old; matured rabbits are those that are six months of age or older and may serve as breeders.
They also pointed out that not all rabbit breeds may be kept as pets and/or raised for their meat. Based on the group’s experience, several examples of rabbits that make excellent household pets are the lionhead, Holland lop, Lion lop, Himalayan, and Netherland Dwarf, whereas common rabbit meat types include New Zealand White (NZW), Californian rabbits, Mini Rex, and PS 100.
Kirby Bonaobra, one of the four rabbit growers, mentioned in a vlog on their YouTube channel that the Mini Rex breed is known for having carpet-like fur, suggesting that their pelt or skin are fit for processing into gloves, carpet, jacket, and the like.
Pellets or feed, as well as forage crops, may be fed to rabbits. Some examples of common grass that you can give your bunnies are Napier, Paragis (Indian goosegrass), Guinea, carabao, Bermuda, and hay or dayami.
Kangkong, bamboo leaves, madre de agua, camote tops, as well as leaves of banana, malunggay, mulberry, and papaya are some alternative crops.
Make sure that whatever you give them is clean and dry to prevent diarrhea. To guarantee their safety, always know where the foraged plants come from.
Jason Dam, also one of the four, suggests washing and air drying the plants for 24 hours before feeding them to the rabbits. Dam also encouraged giving the rabbits natural food as much as possible, specifically forage plants, for better digestion.
In another vlog, Chino Agngarayngay, who is in charge of farm operations, stated that since rabbits are prone to stress, it is important to be careful about the factors that may cause stress, such as noise and heat.
Make sure to also provide an environment where they will not be exposed to extreme heat to lessen the probability of heat stroke.
Diarrhea is a common health issue among rabbits. Its primary symptom includes watery or wet manure. This could be due to contaminated food, improper dietary transition (sudden changes in feeding pattern), or the use of the wrong medications.
In the case of Quadro Rabbiteros, when this happens, they supply their rabbits with pure forage, without any blend of pellets or other feed, and give them anti-diarrheal medication prescribed by a veterinarian.
Charles Chavez, who handles the Healthy Rabbit PH’s finances, marketing, and sales, also gave a tip, saying that when a rabbit has diarrhea, it is best to keep it isolated from the others and to immediately sanitize its cage to prevent the spread of infection.
Rabbits are also prone to a skin condition called mange. This results in dry, scaling red skin on their feet, ears, and nose. An unsanitary environment and poor grooming habits may contribute to this disease.
The group prevents or cures this by using ivermectin granulated powder and ivermectin sterile solution or injection.
The last condition is sore hocks, which is an inflammation of the rabbit’s heel or foot brought on by either being overweight, remaining in a stationary position, and/or walking on rough and dry flooring. The easiest cure for this, according to Chavez, is a quick-heal wound spray for rabbits applied once or twice a day.
The list of the important things in rabbit farming may go on and on, but these are the fundamentals that aspiring or beginner rabbit raisers must understand.
Photos from Healthy Rabbit PH’s Facebook page
This article appeared in Agriculture Magazine’s December 2022 issue.