Funding opens export window for rabbit farmers

Rabbits meat is packaged for sale. Kenyans can now rear rabbits for export. Photo/FILE

Rabbits meat is packaged for sale. Kenyans can now rear rabbits for export. Photo/FILE

Business Daily by MWANGI MUIRURIPosted  Tuesday, May 10 2011 at 00:00

Rabbit farmers have received Sh10.4 million fund, opening an opportunity for Kenyans to either bred high-yielding grades for primarily their meat or cash in on the large quantities of fur generated during the slaughter process.

The fund is aimed at assisting farmers turn to commercial rabbit rearing and export to markets like UK and China.

The National Council for Science and Technology has set aside Sh10 million for rabbits value chain project whereas the government has allocated the sector Sh400,000.

Rabbit and fur farming is a moneyspinner for many farmers in developed countries who rear rabbits and sell its fur to markets like China where it is used as trim on fashion accessories such as handbags or gloves.

Prof Margaret Wanyoike, the science and technology council chairperson said, “We will support rabbit meat processing groups to identify windows of opportunity through value addition of rabbit products.”

She said value addition pilot projects in Murang’a, Kiambu, Nyandarua, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu and Nairobi counties will start soon while addressing participants at a rabbit exhibition day in Meru County last week.

The Sh400,000 government allocation will procure rabbit breeding material through the National Rabbit Multiplication Centre based at Ngong’ in Nairobi County, said head of rabbit section Daniel Borter.

“The ministry is planning to expand the multiplication centre and has allocated the amount for purchase of breeding stock and expansion of facilities,” Mr Borter said.

Kenya is facing a shortage of breeding stock and plans are under way to import.

“We are faced by a threat of inbreeding in the country as most rabbits currently trace their origins from the Ngong’ centre. This centre needs to be revamped and expanded as well as opening other multiplication centres in other parts of the country,” he said.

Rabbit consumption is growing in Kenya as consumers seek healthier options opening opportunities for more farmers to rear, but lack of breeding stock is locking many out of the lucrative sector.

On average, breeders are selling their rabbits at between Sh2,000 to Sh5,000.

“There is such a strong hype in favour of taking up rabbit farming. If we can develop local market, we are sure that our farmers will benefit,” he said.

The ministry plans to support rabbit production through livestock extension services throughout the country, Mr Borter said.

Government estimates show total population for rabbits in the country stands at 600,000.

“The potential for rabbit production to grow into a vibrant cottage industry is enormous because of low capital requirements,” he said.

The government is looking to meet market tendering demands and establish Nema certified slaughter houses, offer freezed and canned meat into the market and run a cooperative society that will group small cooperatives.

As the Government lays its foundations to promote rabbit sector, private breeders have already set off towards maximising their profits by establishing the first abattoir in Kiambu County.

According to Central Rabbit Breeders Association (CRBA) chairman Samuel Kimani, the abattoir will cost the 800 members Sh1.2 billion.

Mr Borter said the priority objective now is to more offices will be opened at County levels and relevant information be imparted through them to rabbit breeders.

Erratic prices

The offices, Mr Borter says, will be directed to support formation of farmer associations for purposes of organising production and marketing.

“The government has since launched rabbit farmers associations with its headquarters in Thika Town and we are sponsoring a Rabbit Stakeholders Development Forum meant to popularise production and their meat throughout the country,” he said.

However, Mr Borter warns that rabbit products are thriving on erratic prices since there are no laid down structures to regulate and control the market.

The CRBA secretary Lucy Ndung’u says the government has lagged behind in policy formulation and was relying on established breeders to teach it on how to run its affairs in rabbit matters.

“We are beyond starters and we have been importing our breeding stocks from the Western countries,” she said.

Ref: Business Daily

Where rabbit meat competes with ‘githeri’

The Standard, Published on 03/02/2010
By Wairimu Kamande

They were once regarded as pets for boys and shunned by grown-ups who would never be seen eating their meat. Many parents barred their children from keeping the animals or only allowed them if they made sheds far from the homestead.
But many farmers in parts of Central Province have broken the rabbit taboo and taken to rearing the animals with new-enthusiasm. In most parts of Murang’a, Kiambu and Kirinyaga districts, rabbit cages stand in many homesteads, indicating how the concept has taken root.

While githeri (maize and beans) and irio (mashed mixture) are the commonest food in the region, many families now easily afford rabbit meat.

Rather than slaughter the largest cock in the compound during festivities, many farmers are now likely to be seen skinning the largest buck from a cage that could have as many as 200 rabbits.

Following critical diminishing of land for rearing livestock and farming in areas like Muranga, several NGOs have been promoting rabbit-keeping which requires just a small space on which to put up elevated sheds.

Several areas
Through Rabbit Breeders Association of Kenya, operating in several areas in the province, small scale farmers have been introduced to exotic rabbit breeds that grow to an average of four kilogrammes.

They have also been connected to a ready market whose demand is growing.


Gerald Muriuki shows prospective farmers some of his rabbits.
Photo : WAIRIMU KAMANDE / STANDARD
The impact of rabbit farming was evident at Thika Municipal Stadium on Wednesday, last week, when the Rabbit Breeders Association hosted an exhibition for farmers. About 2,000 farmers from all over Central Province turned up, many of them carrying rabbits for sale and others seeking information on how to rear the animals.

The chairman of the umbrella group Peter Waiganjo said they started introducing exotic breeds in 2004. The number of member farmers has grown to almost 1,000, marketing rabbits worth Sh875,000 per month. Mr Waiganjo said demand for the meat and for breeders was so high they have not satisfied it.

While most of the animals are sold live between farmers and consumers, two rabbit meat butcheries have been opened in Murang’a and Gilgil towns. A restaurant specialising in the meat has also been opened in Murang’a. He said as the animals are reared widely, residents of the region who were once skeptical of eating the meat due to cultural and religious beliefs have embraced the delicacy.

During the exhibition at Thika, farmers applauded as the Government promised to include rabbit keeping under Livestock Management System. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Livestock Development, Kenneth Lusaka, who was the chief guest, said the move would help farmers create wider awareness. This, he said will prevent unscrupulous persons from exploiting farmers. He added that the Government was expanding multiplication centres to provide quality breeding material.

Rabbit production stands at 600,000 nationally, we would like to see this production increased,” Lusaka said.

Violet Munji, the author of A Guide on Commercial rabbit Farming Kenya, explained that of all livestock, the rabbit is most cost effective to rear.

Book on rabbits
Mrs Munji, from Banana in Kiambu District, who sold over 1,000 copies of her book at the exhibition, said: “I started with about 20 rabbits and now I have a stock of over 200, which I mainly sell for breeding.
Rabbit meat is classified among white meats and is said to pose minimal health risks compared to red meats,” said Mrs Munji.

Hellen Wambui said she ventured into rabbit farming after she got disappointed in poultry farming. Chicken require a lot of tender care throughout the day yet the returns were minimal. I often incurred losses,” she said. She decided to try her hand in rabbit keeping, which the Juja resident says she has never regretted.

A two-month-old rabbit for breeding fetches for at least Sh2,500. It is for this reason that most farmers rear rabbits to sell for breeding. Peter Muriuki who rears rabbits for meat says he had problems marketing the meat. To his rescue, however, came Gilgil Rabbit butchery that sells rabbit meat.

According to George Kihara, the chairman of the Gilgil group of rabbit farmers who started the initiative, a kilo of rabbit meat costs Sh300. An adult male rabbit can weigh upto four kilograms. He adds that they separately buy Rabbit hides from farmers at Sh100 a piece.

Meat and hide
Besides the meat and hide, the farmers say the animal’s droppings are used as organic manure and their urine is used as organic spray to fight pests in vegetables and other crops.
A litre of the urine costs Sh100,” says Gladys Auma, a farmer based in Thika. It is the potential of the unexplored sector that prompted farmers like Muriuki, Kihara and others to form a group that would help them source for breeding stock and market their products

Rabbit-keeper breeds a thriving family business

Charles Kamau and one of his rabbits. His ambition is to become the largest rabbit poultry farmer in Kenya despite operating from a small piece of land in a Nairobi slum.

Business Daily By MWAURA NDUNG’U

Posted Tuesday, March 8 2011 at 00:00

Just like China’s rabbit king, Ren Xuping, who started with only two rabbits but became the most renowned rabbit keeper in China, Charles Kamau from Soweto slums in Kahawa West is following the steps of the “Chineses master” as he trains his eyes on becoming Kenya’s largest rabbit and indigenous poultry dealer.

With little space in his 30 by 40 feet plot, Kamau says space can never be a hindrance towards attaining his dream.

He started the humble venture seven years ago after he lost his job in the hospitality industry.

He was determined that his family would never lacked meat even if he went without a regular income. But now, the venture has become a thriving family business.

“When I lost my job in 2004 and with a family to feed, I started growing sukuma wiki (kales) by the banks of a nearby river to earn a daily bread,” he says. The farming was not doing very well until one day one of his colleagues advised him they would improve if he applied fertiliser.

“I had no money for fertiliser and so an idea to keep several indigenous chicken and rabbits that would be the source of meat for my family and also manure for my farming struck my mind, “he explains.

He says rabbits and chicken required a little space thus settling on the idea. I started with three bucks that delivered 35 kindling after a period of three months, “says Kamau.

As a starter who had no idea how to handle the animals, a disease struck and wiped out all the kindling. Frustrated and willing to realize his dreams, Kamau started searching for information from animal health experts and experienced farmers on how to deal with the problem.

“I did an extensive research on animal husbandry from experts, prison department who were then keeping the animals and today, my stable of rabbits has grown to become the family’s main source of income, “he explains.

According to him, as the number of rabbits multiplied, he was forced to demolish the roof of his three roomed house to put up more hatches.

“Two years ago, due to minimum space, I demolished the roof of my house to build the first phase of hatches that would accommodate more rabbits and indigenous chicken that I have now started keeping, he says adding that the new structures has a capacity of 570 rabbits.

Kamau says the 9 by 9 ft hatch has been divided into several cubicles measuring 3ft by 3ft by 2ft and each accommodates nine rabbits. I used local materials and waste timber to put up this structure as I did not have enough resources, he says.

According to Kamau, the second phase which he completed mid last year was put up with money he got from selling the rabbits.

“I had and still have all breeds of rabbits including the California white, Chinchilla, the Flemish giant, German’s Franks Veda and New Zealand. With rabbit farming open up in the country, many farmers flocked at my place. I sold 100 rabbits for Sh3,000 each fetching a cool S 300,000,” Says Kamau.

Apart from expanding the structures, Kamau says he decided to join Kabete agricultural training institute to learn about animal nutrition.

My aim was to learn on how to feed the animals well so that they could gain the desired weight and good health, “he explains.

After the course, Kamau says he started making his own feeds.

I just buy the required ingredients and take them to the miller, then take them to Kabete agricultural institute for aflotoxin tests, he says pointing at sacks of feeds that he has produced himself.

A member of rabbit breeders association of Kenya, Kamau says he sells the feeds to some of his colleagues in the association.

He advices upcoming farmers to join an association as that eases marketing.

He says he sells a kilo of rabbit meat for Sh520 and some rabbit breeds like the Flemmish giant can fetch seven to eight kilos if fed well. interested farmers from as far as Nyeri, Eldoret and Kiambu flock his humble farm to learn and buy the animals.

According to him ,coming up with disease resistant and weighty breeds lie in cross breeding the rabbits.

California white and the New Zealand which came with colonialists are the most popular in Kenya.

I just cross-breed them with other breeds like Chinchilla, Ear lope or the Flemish giant to produce good quality rabbits, he says.

With marketing strategies set by the association, he says, his customers come from as far as Eldoret, Githunguri, Murang’a and Nyeri.

I breed the rabbits that I later sell to upcoming farmers although the demand is too high I cannot service it,” says Kamau.

According to him, he has been given an order by Arabian nationals living in the country to supply them with 30 kilos of rabbit meat every month.

Middlemen who supply to five star hotels also rely on him partly.

“Some get huge orders but to raise the required amount is rather hard for them as not many Kenyan farmers have adopted rabbit keeping whereas rabbit meat is becoming popular by day,” he says.

Kamau hints that as the farmers are constantly warming up to this farming, he gets tens of those willing to start everyday at his farm.

“I used to educate them for free on rabbit keeping because I wanted as many farmers to start keeping rabbits for us to have a reliable supply that would be at par with the demand,” he says adding that as the number of visitors soared, he started charging them Sh1,500 per session of training an individual on rabbit keeping.

The fee caters for tea, snacks, seminar and also chemicals that he use to disinfect germs that might be carried by the visitors into the hatches.

“Last year, our association got an order from China to supply a consignment of 22,000 pieces of rabbit fur per delivery but because Kenyans are yet to adopt rabbit keeping fully, we could not raise that amount,” says Kamau.

Dairy farming

He says with establishment of rabbit meat processing factories in Gilgil and the proposed one in Limuru, rabbit keeping stands to be a major income generating activity just like dairy farming in Kenya

Kamau says he manages to save Sh20,000 per month with a micro finance from rabbit sales, educate his four school-going children in private schools and also feed his family of eight.

“I have also managed to buy several plots in Nairobi and recently I procured a car and a 12 acre shamba in Thika where I am planning to establish a rabbit and indigenous poultry farm , “he says.

He says rabbits are the easiest animals to keep as they consume only 120 grammes of feed daily.

He attributes laziness and ignorance as the source of poverty in Kenya.

Ref: click here

Rabbit Delicacy

Rabbit delicacy

How to Skin a Rabbit

Here is the easiest way to skin a rabbit.

Raising rabbits in the tropics

Looking basic  information on rabbit farming, here is a summary.

The importance of the domestic rabbit as a supplier of meat for human consumption is widely recognised throughout the world. The document ‘Rabbit Technology for Warm Climates’ is designed as a text for students, teachers, and practitioners.

DESCRIPTION OF THE TECHNOLOGY:

Background

The importance of the domestic rabbit as a supplier of meat for human consumption is widely recognized throughout the world. In Europe and the United States commercial rabbit farming has been practised for many years and standards of husbandry raised.

There are also successful rabbit farms in the tropics and sub-tropics. The size of these varies from the large commercial rabbitries to small backyard rabbitries. Apart from being a good source of meat, rabbits provide useful skins, manure and, with some breeds wool. Rabbit meat is often relatively expensive in tropical countries, but this is more a function of its scarcity and small number of producers, and is not related to any problems in raising rabbits.

Rabbit technology for warm climates
The document ‘Rabbit Technology for Warm Climates’ Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 is designed as a text for students, teachers, and practitioners and includes sections that consider the following topics:

  • The reasons why people keep rabbits
  • The disadvantages of keeping rabbits
  • The different ways in which rabbits are kept.
  • Breeds, breeding and keeping records
  • Mating, pregnancy and birth
  • Rearing, handling and general management
  • Feeding, including examples of general rabbit rations for home mixing
  • Housing
  • Diseases and other health problems
  • Preparation of rabbit products, including slaughter, preparation of the carcass, treatment of skins, manure and composting.

 

Reasons for keeping rabbits

Most of the countries in both the tropics and sub-tropics face an increasing demand for meat production, especially in expanding urban areas. The rabbit has several points in its favour as a meat producer, and can be raised either on a small-scale by individual households, or on larger commercial scales. Furthermore, there are few cultural or religions or beliefs which do not allow the eating of rabbit meat.

Rabbits can be fed on a great variety of locally available foods, some green leaves and kitchen vegetable scraps can be given to rabbits at almost no cost. By-products, like waste beer malt, are another cheap food. Commercial rabbitries buy more expensive concentrate rations for their rabbits. Rabbits can breed and grow quickly. This means that a rabbitry can expand quickly and take advantage of a plentiful food supply. Even the backyard rabbit keeper can provide a constant supply of meat for his family. Rabbits skins can be used for several purposes (mats, rugs and clothes). The manure is a valuable organic fertilizer for use in a vegetable garden. Housing can be built from pieces of wood and/or bamboo. No special materials or equipment needs to be bought for the construction of a backyard rabbitry.

The number of rabbits in a group can easily be matched to the rabbit keeper’s resources, for example available space, or quantity of feed supply. Even six does and one buck will provide a useful supply of meat for the family. The small size of rabbits means that they can be easily handled and cared for by women and children. It also means that the carcass is small enough to be used at once, without having to store any part of it.

The disadvantages of keeping rabbits
There are very few disadvantages of rabbit keeping. The small size of rabbits means that they are more easily stolen or attacked by predators. They need to be protected from these by fences and other barriers. Large numbers of rabbits require a lot of labour, particularly if they are kept in individual hutches. Each hutch has to be cleaned out daily. Each rabbit needs to be fed and watered two times daily.

The production must also be aligned with and liked to the market and correspond to food habits (or preferences) of consumers. However, where there is no tradition of consuming rabbit meat, a programme of awareness raising amongst consumers may be required.

Climate and environmental requirements
Rabbits need protection against extremes of climate. They are especially sensitive to heat and must always have access to shade. According to (LEBAS et al. 1997) http://www.fao.org/docrep/t1690e/t1690e00.htm rabbits can no longer regulate their internal temperature and hyperthermia occurs at temperatures of between 30 and 35°C. They are better adapted to highlands and sub tropical areas than to lowlands areas with high temperatures.

Production systems
There are three main systems for production of rabbits:

  1. Small-scale backyard rabbitry. Here the aim is to provide meat for the household.
  2. Small commercial rabbitry with from ten to 50 breeding does. The aim of this type of rabbit production is to sell rabbit meat for a profit. The rabbits are usually fed on concentrates as well as bulky foods.
  3. The large commercial rabbitry. These are currently less common in the tropics. As well as the meat they provide, they serve a useful purpose in the multiplication of breeding stock for distribution.

 

Housing
If the animals are not comfortable, they will not do well. Major considerations include:

  • Space: There must be sufficient room otherwise stress, fighting and injury may result.
  • Suitable temperature: The ideal temperatures range is 10-20°. This is very difficult to maintain all the time, and especially so under tropical conditions. In general rabbits can tolerate cold more easily than heat. However they may suffer as a result of cold draughts or sudden changes in temperature.
  • Dry conditions: The rabbit cannot tolerate constantly wet conditions, so the hutches must be rainproof.
  • Ventilation: Movement of fresh air through the rabbitry is essential, especially in hot weather. This air must be free from smoke and dust.
  • Security: Rabbits are easily frightened by sudden noise and the presence of predators such as small wild carnivores, snakes, rats, dogs and cats. A rabbitry should be built in a quiet place and if necessary a fence should be built to keep predators away from the rabbits.
  • Cleanliness and hygiene: Disease is much more likely to occur under dirty conditions. Rabbits themselves are clean and animals and prefer to be kept in clean surroundings.
  • Food and water: Without regular feeding and a plentiful supply of clean water, rabbits will not thrive. In the absence of these, even for short periods, they may suffer stress.

 

Designs for housing are presented in the document ‘Rabbit Technology for Warm Climates’ Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. In addition, further information on the rearing and management of rabbits is presented by (LEBAS et al. 1997)http://www.fao.org/docrep/t1690e/t1690e00.htm and in a series of fact sheets prepared by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute.(CARDI). These are available on the Smallstock in Development CD-ROM (CAMPBELL et al 2006) and include:

  • Rabbits: a production guide. CARDI Factsheet AP-F/2-80.
  • Rabbits: diseases and their control. CARDI Factsheet AP-F/5-80.
  • A guide to breeding rabbits. CARDI Factsheet AP-F/4-80.
  • Rabbits: management. CARDI Factsheet AP-F/3-80.

REF: Click here

Rabbit farmers line up Sh1.2 bn processing plant

Farmers are selling their rabbits at between Sh2,000 and Sh4,000 while others are selling for as high as Sh10,000. Photo/ERIC WAINAINA

This article was published by the Daily Nation on 13th January 2011

By MWANGI MUIRURI

Rabbit farmers from Central and Rift Valley regions plan to set up a Sh1.2 billion processing factory, a move that is will enable them sell more in the local market and export.

The factory to be located in Kiambu County will have a slaughterhouse, a packaging section and a refrigerated- truck to transport products.

Bernard Kimani, the chairman of the 800 rabbit breeders who are behind the plan, said the high demand for meat which one farmer cannot fulfil and the stringent public health rules has forced them to set up a factory.

“We are struggling to access both the local and international markets owing to tough procurement rules and the only way out is to establish structures for our budding cottage industry,” Mr Kimani said.

Lucy Ndung’u, a member, also said some farmers are getting rabbit meat orders of 1,000 kilogrammes per week, but individually they cannot cope though a processing plant can easily meet the demand.

The factory will likely start processing rabbit meat by December this year, said Mr Kimani.

The members will meet 20 per cent of the total budget with the rest being sourced from the government, financial institutions and Constituency Development Funds.

Kenyan rabbit farmers have been locked out of local and international markets due to failure to adhere to public health and environmental safety demands.

“Our clients say they will only accept rabbit meat that has been certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards and Public Health Officer as safe for human consumption,” Mr Kimani said, adding that this will now easy as an officer can visit the factory to assess the meat as opposed to visiting individual farmers which in most cases is impossible.

Supermarkets also demand that farmers meet the cost of freezing and canning for the rabbit meat products and also establish slaughterhouses that are certified by National Environment Management Authority.

“To effectively qualify, we have seen the necessity of coming together so as through cost sharing we can meet those demands,” he said.

Breeders say demand for rabbit meat is growing and local farmers are struggling to supply.

Ms Ndung’u says she has been receiving tenders from Safari Park Hotel, Tuskys and Naivas Supermarkets to supply the outlets with 1,500 kg of rabbit meat per week, but she has not been able to cope.

She says the proposed plant will help the breeders realise their potential enabling them jointly venture into the market.

The Ministry of Livestock Development says the factory will boost rabbit rearing and promised to support the project.

Daniel Kipleel Borter, an officer at the ministry’s rabbit development office, said the project will be given technical support and breeders trained on market trends.

But Mr Borter says the market is likely to face supply hitches as breeders are charging high prices for rabbits to rare.

“Farmers are selling their rabbits on average at between Sh2,000 and Sh4,000 with some selling at as high as Sh10,000 for a rabbit,” he said

Kenyan breeders have missed opportunities in the export market owing to huge volumes required and the stringent safety regulations that can only be realised through establishment of such certified facilities and increase of breeders.

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