From six rabbits to over 800

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MOST people in Zimbabwe rear rabbits as a pastime, unaware that rabbit rearing has the potential to generate substantial revenue.
Rabbits have the potential to be one of the most profitable species to raise as they often give birth to large litters and offspring that grow fast and reach either market or breeding weight more quickly than any other species.
They do not require large amounts of space compared with most other species and are generally quiet, non-demanding animals that quickly multiply.
The Patriot visited Brigadier-General Morgan Munava who is rearing rabbits in his backyard in Cranborne West, Harare.
Brig-General Munava began the project in 2012 as a hobby before realising its viability.
“I started this project two years ago as a hobby after I was given six breeders by one of my relatives,” Brig-General Munava said.
“However, with these six rabbits I developed passion to continue raising them and I bought 10 more breeders.
“The number started to multiply, but at a slower pace because I was not fully committed to the project.”
It was only in August, this year that Brig-General Munava decided to commercialise the project after people and organisations began buying the rabbits at a favourable price.
“In August, I had only 146 rabbits that I sold at a smaller scale to few individual regular buyers,” he said.
“However, I was approached by hotels and big retail shops who wanted to buy the rabbits in large quantities as the meat was on high demand.
“I then realised that there was huge potential in rabbit farming and started to breed the rabbits commercially to meet demand.
“From August to November I managed to grow the rabbits to over 800.”
Consumption of rabbit meat continues to increase internationally due to good health effects of the white meat.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), almost every country in western Europe regularly imports several thousand tonnes of rabbit meat a year, and the trend is upwards.
Rabbits are herbivores which efficiently convert fodder to food.
The whole point of meat production is to convert plant proteins of little or no use to people as food into high-value animal protein. In efficient production systems, rabbits can turn 20 percent of the proteins they eat into edible meat compared to other species such as pigs that can covert 16 to 18 percent and eight to 12 percent for beef.
Brig-General Munava intends to produce 10 000 rabbits in the next three years.
He said he was failing to meet the increasing demand from upmarket food outlets who want the rabbit meat.
“I have continued to receive more orders locally and internationally for the rabbits that I cannot continue conducting the project at my home, but at the farm where there is a good environment to breed more animals,” he said.
“I intend to start exporting rabbit meet after meeting the local demand.”
“Currently, I am selling a rabbit at an average of US$8 and usually sell 80 animals at a time.”
Rabbit farming, said Brig-General Munava, is a viable project as it is less demanding compared to raising other species such as broilers and pigs among others.
He said production costs were low as the rabbits fed on natural grass or vegetable foods that are readily available.
“A rabbit can have an average of eight to 18 litters that can take at least three months to mature and ready for the market weighing about 4, 5 kilogrammes,” he said.
“Rabbits can go on heat soon after giving birth and take at least a month to have more litters that means there is sustainability in breeding.
“It is not very expensive to breed rabbits; I feed them with vegetables from my garden and pallets to supplement their diet.”
Brig-General Munava said the most important aspect of successful rabbit rearing was proper infrastructure for breeding.
“Rabbits are very sensitive to excessive heat and dampness which one should avoid by having proper cages to keep the animals,” he said.
“With proper infrastructure there are less complications that might develop on the animals as rabbits are disease resistant.”
Brig-General Munava’s unique project is an inspiration to relatives, colleagues and friends.
He said his project was his own way of embracing indigenisation and economic empowerment hence his desire to expand it in order to meet local demand for rabbit meat, while exporting.
Rabbits have a number of characteristics important in the smallholder, subsistence-type integrated farming and gardening production systems.
Most importantly, starting a rabbit project requires minimal initial capital.
Additionally, a rabbit can easily be sold when money is needed to meet immediate family needs.
Rabbits require small amounts of feed and use inexpensive, easilyconstructed housing.
The world production of rabbit meat is valued to be about one million tonnes a year, of this the 54 percent is produced in the European Union.
The four biggest world’s producers China, Italy, Spain, and France contribute to almost three quarters of the world production.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Morning. Is there any way we can get contact details and an address to visit Brigadier-General Morgan Munava rabbit project in Cranborn West as we are inspired by this article as a beginner in a rabbit rearing project. We ourselves carry breading stocks of 40 breeders but face technical problems rearing the young and are looking for solutions. We are in the process of growing slowly targeting 200 breading stock by the end of 2015. We as well have started off slow with two females and one male in Feb 2014 and have grown to 40 breeders to date with a few sales here and there to sustain our small project which is now too large for our back yard project. We are relocating to Belvedere were we will have more space. I for saw a project worthwhile when I acquired our first three rabbits as pets and have since grown. I certainly think it is worth while creating or recreating a rabbit breeding association. To assist all that wish to go into rabbits as it will assist small farmers and individuals in a large way. Like said in this article if rabbits are reared correctly they are a worthwhile revenue and income to sustain small farmers and individuals.

    T . A . Cooper

  2. Hi Trevor, may you please keep me updated if you get hold of the Brigadier or if you manage to create or re-create the Rabbit Breeding Association.

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