White New Zealand rabbit raring: A profitable enterprise

Dr Awadhesh Kishore By Dr Awadhesh Kishore, 1st Feb 2018 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
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Rabbit farming is widely practiced round the world. Herbivore animal is a mammal in the family Leporidae. Meat is leaner than others. Animal can utilize wastes of vegetables and fruits. Manure is used as an organic fertilizer and also fed to poultry and ruminants. Rabbit manure is used as a household source of alternative energy. Pelts are used for clothing and accessories. Production system needs less time and cost compared to small or large ruminants. Rabbit is also laboratory animals.

White New Zealand rabbit raring: A profitable enterprise

Awadhesh Kishore
Professor, Animal Nutrition,
Department of Animal Sciences,
Hamelmalo Agricultural College,
Keren Eritrea, Africa


Rabbit farming is widely practiced round the world. Herbivore animal is a mammal in the family Leporidae. Meat is leaner than others. Animal can utilize wastes of vegetables and fruits. Manure is used as an organic fertilizer and also fed to poultry and ruminants. Rabbit manure is used as a household source of alternative energy. Pelts are used for clothing and accessories. Production system needs less time and cost compared to small or large ruminants. Rabbit is also laboratory animals.

Key words:
Herbivore, Laboratory Animals, Meat, Pelts, Rabbit, White New Zealand.


In most of the developing countries, the agricultural production is almost low and is not sufficient to support the population. The demand of animal products, namely meat, eggs and milk as human food is continually increasing (Delgado et al., 1999). The consumers of today pay great attention to the health aspects of food, like low fat content and organic origin. Animal protein is usually scarce and too expensive to be afforded by the majority of the population. The poverty and lack of space for livestock, especially in high population density areas, the development of mini-farms like intensive rabbit rearing remains a key solution to fight against animal protein malnutrition. The climatic conditions of India are suitable for rabbit farming and can be adapted more conveniently compared to farming of other classes of livestock. Rabbit production, therefore seems a timely need to bridge deficiency of animal protein in the country.

Rabbit products

Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world. There are eight different genera in the family classified as rabbits, including the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), cottontail rabbits (genus Sylvilagus; 13species), and the Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi). There are many other species of rabbit, and these, along with pikas and hare, make up the order Lagomorpha. Rabbits are herbivores that graze on grasses, forbs, and leafy weeds, thus their diet contains large amounts of cellulose, which is hard to digest. Through hindgut fermentation they digest cellulose present in their diet. They pass two distinct types of faeces: hard droppings and soft black viscous pellets. The pellets are known as caecotrophs and are immediately eaten by the same animal (a behavior known as coprophagy) to digest their food further and extract sufficient nutrients.
Rabbits have a potential to be meat producing animals in the tropics due to their unique characteristics such as small body size, short generation interval, rapid growth rate and ability to utilize forage or agricultural by-products. They can utilize wastes of vegetable and fruit markets as feed. Rabbits could contribute significantly to solve not only the problem of disposal of waste and but on the other hand meat shortage also (Taylor, 1980; Lebas, 1983). The manure from the animals could be used as an organic fertilizer for crops (Mikled, 2004).
Rabbit production is widely practiced all over the world and has proved to be rewarding for both the producers and consumers. It's especially very promising, given the fact that rabbits provide a good quality meat and require a small capital and space.
The practice of rearing of rabbits for meat purpose is termed as cuniculture. Leporids are common in Europe, China, South America, North America, some parts of the Middle East. Geng, (2014) estimated world's annual rabbit meat production to stand at around 200 million tons. The highest rabbit meat consumption is in Malta followed by Italy, Cyprus, France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. Rabbit meat is leaner than beef, pork, and chicken. Rabbit products are generally labeled in three ways, the first being Fryer, including young rabbit between 2.0 and 2.3 kg or up to 9 weeks age. This type of meat is tender and fine grained. The next product is a roaster including adult rabbits between usually over 2.3 kg and up to 8 months in age. The flesh is firm and coarse grained and less tender than a fryer. Then there are giblets which include the liver and heart. Compared with the meat of other species, rabbit meat is richer in protein and certain vitamins and minerals, and less fat. Rabbit fat contains less stearic and oleic acids than other species and higher proportions of the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids like linolenic and linoleic acid, etc. Meat from rabbits has a low cholesterol level, high protein: energy ratio and is relatively rich in essential fatty acids (Iraqi, 2003).
Rabbit pelts are used for clothing and accessories, namely scarves or hats. Angora rabbits are kept in their long, fine hair, which can be sheared and harvested like sheep wool.
Rabbits are good producers of manure. Their urine has high nitrogen content. Elemele et al., (1980) reported that dry rabbit manure contains 18.8% crude protein, 9.0% moisture, 13.5% crude fiber and 19.2 MJ gross energies per kg. In the same study, 100 g of rabbit manure per kg of diet was fed to broiler chickens with no decline in growth rate as compared to performances on a standard diet. Rabbit manure has also been experimentally fed to poultry and ruminants (Swick et al., 1978). Sicwaten and Stahl, (1982); Jacobs, (1986)and Trujillo et al., (1991) used manures of rabbit to produce methane gas as a household source of alternative energy.Houdebine et al., (2009) reported that rabbit milk has great medicinal or nutritional values due to its high content of protein.

Importance of rabbit production

Production systems with small or large ruminants usually need a long time and high cost to produce a saleable product but in comparison, rabbits subsist on inexpensive diets based on forages under small-scale farm conditions in arid and tropical regions (Ruiz-Feria et al. 1998). Agricultural by-products, foliages and weeds, cassava root meal, rice bran, natural grasses and leucaena can be used as feed ingredients in rabbit nutrition (Lukefahr and Cheeke, 1991; Ha et al., 1996; Ruiz-Feria et al.,1998).
The rabbit offers a role as an alternative food resource, particularly for people in developing countries. Schlolaut, (1985) considers this animal as a better improver of protein for supply to the human and realization of monetary income by putting into effective use the waste materials that are inedible for humans in comparison to other species.
Rabbits are also used as laboratory animals in experiments dealing with nutrition and medical research.


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Elemele, H.O., Rao, D.R. and Chawan, C.B. 1980. Evaluation of rabbit excreta as an ingredient in broiler diets. Br. Poult. Sci., 21, 345-349.
Geng O. 2014. French Rabbit Heads: The Newest Delicacy in Chinese Cuisine. The Wall Street Journal Blog.
Ha. L.T.T., Suc, N.Q., Binh D.V., Bien, L.T. and Preston T.R. 1996. Replacing concentrates with molasses blocks and protein-rich tree leaves for reproduction and growth of rabbit. Livestock research for rural development, 8.
Houdebine, L.M. and Fan, J. 2009. Rabbit Biotechnology: Rabbit Genomics, Transgenesis, Cloning and Models. Journal or Publisher.
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Jacobs, L. 1986. Environmentally Sound Small-Scale Livestock Projects. VITA Publication Services, Arlinghton.
Lebas, F. 1983. Small-scale rabbit production, feeding and management system. World animal review, 46, 11-17.
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Mikled, C. 2004. The integration of small ruminants and the agricultural systems in the royal project foundation area. In: Ledin, I. (ed), Proceedings from small ruminant research and development workshop, Mar. 2-4, Hanoi. Agricultural publishing house, Ho Chi Minh City, pp. 131 -133.
Ruiz-Feria, C.A., Lukefahr, S.D. and Felker, P. 1998. Evaluation of Leucaena leucocephala and Cactus (Opuntia sp) as forages for growing rabbits. Livestock research for rural development, 10. Retrieved from http://www.cipav.org.co/lrrd10/2/luke102.htm.Accessed on 20/07/2008.
Schlolaut, W. 1985. Nutritional Needs and Feed of German Angora Rabbits. J. Appl. Rabbit Res., 10, 111 – 121.
Sicwaten, J.B. and Stahl, D. 1982. A Complete Handbook on Backyard and Commercial Rabbit Production. Peace Corps, Information Collection and Exchange, Office of Program Devpt. CARE, Philippines.
Swick, R. A., Cheeke, P.R. and Patton, N.M. 1978. Evaluation of dried rabbit manure as a feed for rabbits. Can. J. Anim. Sci., 58, 753-757.
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Herbivore, Laboratory Animals, Meat, Pelts, Rabbit, White New Zealand

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