Management practices in rabbit farming that aid productivity
One major way to be successful in rabbit farming is by understanding the behaviour of rabbits, their need and the proper way to manage them.
This is one big challenge most beginners in rabbit farming have had overtime; not many understand the various management practices in rabbit farming.
How to cope with maintaining the daily demand of their rabbits in terms of their needs and the operational needs of the farm.
Rabbits are calm and humble animals, they love the attention you’re giving them. It also shows that they’re not afraid of being picked up every time you interact. Understanding how best to interact with them helps to ease the stress of managing your farm.
Here are the management practices in rabbit farming
There are many management practices in rabbit farming that you will come across as your rabbits grow, They include the following in no order;
- HANDLING: Rabbits are fragile animals; thus, care should be taken when carrying them. You need to be careful, in order not to damage the spine of the rabbit.
The most ideal, safe and humane way of carrying a rabbit is holding the ears with the neck fold towards its back with one hand, then lifted and supported with your second hand at the tail end.
- MATING: Basically, the Doe is taken to the buck for Mating. Mate with good active bucks. You can keep the male and female in a cage for a few minutes but restrict the male from climbing the female by pushing it away.
Do this up to 4 times just to increase the volume of semen that the animal will release when you finally allow it mate.
You can re-mate them again the next day to be extra sure. When Mating is successful, the buck falls to its side with a characteristic sound.
Note: Mating should be done early morning or late evening.
But before Mating, try to observe the Doe to confirm the readiness for Mating. In this case, lift the rabbit with one hand (as explained in handling), and use the other hand to open the genital area – A pinkish red coloration of the vulva is good for Mating.
Rabbits are induced-ovulators and therefore they don’t undergo oestrus i.e their eggs are released only after mating, unlike other animals which release eggs at specific biological times.
Rabbits attain sexual maturity at about 5-6 months but do not breed them until they have attained about 2.5kg – 3kg of body weight to aid acceptance and successful pregnancy through to parturition
- PALPATION: To detect pregnancy in rabbits, a procedure called Palpation is carried out. At 10 days of pregnancy, the uterus is stretched out and the foetus is already noticeable.
At 14 days (the best time to palpate), the foetus is more organized and feel like pebbles. It is advisable not to palpate from 20 days upwards as this can easily kill the developing embryo.
So, as a management practice; after mating, take your records and return after 14 days to palpate. With proper palpation, you can confirm if the rabbit is pregnant or not.
- PREGNANCY: The Gestation period in rabbits is between 28-32 days. Within this period, the rabbit is undergoing a series of physiological changes and therefore ought to be properly catered for.
During pregnancy, rabbits should be provided with unlimited access to good water, this will determine the level of milk secretion after parturition.
Pseudo-pregnancy also occurs in Rabbit, a condition in which a rabbit poses to be pregnant, but it’s not. Some rabbits go as far as pulling furs for nesting but no birthing will be recorded.
This is caused by the release of the hormones after a non-successful Mating, thus making the rabbit behave like a pregnant Doe. Fur pulling in Pseudo-pregnancy occurs between 14-16 days.
It is also worthy of note that rabbits can absorb their pregnancies. This occurs when they are fed a low-quality diet.
Abortion can also happen as a result of poor feeding, low-quality diet, administration of strong antibiotics during pregnancy. Ivermectin should not be given during pregnancy also.
It is advisable to withdraw all medications from pregnant does. Multivitamins cause overgrown kits, leading to tears and blood loss at parturition, this easily kills some does.
- PARTURITION: From record, a rabbit farmer should know when his/her rabbits are due. On the day or few days to kindling, in most cases, the rabbit begins to pull fur in preparation for a nest.
Some rabbits don’t pull fur until after parturition, some don’t pull fur at all (It depends on the individual rabbit), thus in cases of fur absence, shredded papers can be put in the kindling box to aid nest formation. In a few minutes, the rabbits should be done with parturition.
Rabbits do clean up themselves immediately after parturition by eating the placenta. No need to panic over rabbit parturition as it is usually stress-free.
But in cases of prolonged or delayed parturition, Jute Leaves can be given to the rabbit to aid delivery.
- WEANING: Weaning is one of the most important management practices in rabbit farming. Kits can be weaned from 3 weeks upwards, but it is better to wean at week 5-6, just for the kits to gain stability.
At Weaning, the Doe is removed from the hutch and not the kits. Immediately after weaning, it is advisable to do this routine:
- Add Tylodox, Anti coccidiosis and multivitamin in water for 3 days straight
- Bitter leaf/Tridax weed for another 2 days straight
- Ginger and Garlic solution for the next 2 days straight
- The above is repeated for another one week
At weaning, apart from the stress of separation, the rabbits are just adapting to life and thus, extreme care is required.
All medication to be given should be very mild in order not to take a strong toll on the newly weaned kits.
- SEXING: Sex can be determined from birth (by an expert only) but is more visible at 5-6weeks. Male genitals when observed points out like a blunt pencil while the female genitals show a V-shape slit.
- FEEDING: Feeding is among the most crucial management practices in rabbit farming. Rabbits are Herbivores and are pseudo-ruminants. They are also called Caecal-fermenters. Concerning these, their feeds should contain quality hays and formulated diets of nearly-balanced nutrients.Requirements in Rabbit Production varies with the physiological stage of the animal. The requirements of a lactating Doe differs from that of Gestating and Dry Does. It is therefore important to understand these factors before jumping into the feed.Read also: FG Secures $1.2bn Loan from Bank of Brazil to Boost Agro-processingThe unlimited requirement is quality hay. Rabbits fed on quality hay, tend to be stronger and healthier (Depending on the hay type, quality and quantity supplied).
- HOUSING: When rabbits are raised for business and not as pets, it’s important to take note of their housing patterns for maximum output
Breeding animals should be kept with the utmost care. Matured Breeding Bucks are to be kept individually in single rooms because they are territorial. The same goes for the breeding Does because they will need to prepare their nesting boxes for parturition.
Rabbits can also be kept in groups called Colony. A Colony usually contain 1 Matured Buck and 3 – 4 Breeding Does in a large room.
Weaners can be raised in groups till the Grower stage (But at the Grower stage, males should be separated from the females to prevent indiscriminate Mating).
Separation into breeding and Meat animals should be done at the Grower stage.
When constructing your cage, note the following:
- The Typical room dimension of a matured breeding rabbit is 2ft by 2ft while the height can range between 1.5 and 2ft
- Hutches should be well ventilated
- Cages should be away from direct sunlight and rainfall, rabbits are sensitive to extreme weather conditions.
- Cage base should be away from the ground and possibly dipped in used Engine oil to prevent termites invasion
- Housing should be sited away from predators e.g Snakes, Cats, Rats etc.
- Hutches should be easy to clean
- Hutches should be able to accommodate the Feeder and Drinker simultaneously (If you are not using Nipple System and J-Feeders)
- Hutches designed for Does should be able to contain the Kindling Box and provide free space for the Doe to stretch herself
- Group housing is favorable to Weaners. An intensive system should be able to provide a grow-out Hutch for her Weaners.
- Try as much as possible to manage your resource but don’t compromise quality
Other management practices in rabbit farming to take note of include
Identification of rabbit breed
As a beginner, identifying some breeds will still be difficult. Some breeds are confusing e.g New Zealand white & Hyla, New Zealand Red & Cinnamon & some dutches.
What you can do is be 100% sure of the integrity and reliability of the farm you are buying from. Tell them the breed you want and tell them you are buying for breeding. Don’t make the mistake of buying meat animals for breeding.
Also, do not open the bucks hutch regularly. You open the hutch only when you want to breed and let the male mates then the females. After mating, return him to the hutch inside d colony.
Summary of the management practices in rabbit farming
To be frank, rabbit farming may seem tedious especially if you are a beginner but with a good understanding of how to manage and provide adequate care to them, you will excel greatly in rabbit farming business.
The management practices in rabbit farming aren’t as stressful as they may appear, rabbits are less demanding as your farm grow.
You also get used to other means of substituting one practice and another as well as dropping along the line, the ones that are not necessarily important.
So, as a rabbit farmer, which of the management practices have been most challenging to you?
Drop your comments in the comments box below, we will love to hear from you.