Rabbit farming

Senwes Scenario visited a rabbit farmer in the Ventersdorp district. Abraham Maree saw an opportu­nity to start farming with rabbits about two to three years ago when their family farming business needed an extra income. “Rabbit farming is an ongoing pro­cess, they multiply at a fast rate, thus you are able to slaughter every 3-4 weeks,” Maree said.

After completing a training course with the Coniglio (Italian for rabbit) Rabbit Farmer Group, Maree started farming with the New Zealand White breed. They had extra buildings on the farm which now house the animals. Coniglio supplied them with the first breeding pairs and the cages; now they also slaughter and sell to the Coniglio branch in Randfontein.

Rabbits need to be watched constantly and Abraham has two people employed to help him with his rabbitry. Their cages need to be cleaned on a daily basis and disin­fected once a month. The shy animals have sensitive stomachs and their feed has to be right to avoid possible diarrhoea. Abraham mentions that he feeds them pellets and hay. Their slaughter age is 8 - 10 weeks and their live weight needs to be at least 2,2 kg. Currently, they are sold at R53 per kilogram.

With any business there will be highs and lows and Abrahams describes the highs as “the animals being calm”, which makes it easier to work with and the lows that they need to be watched constantly, which makes it difficult for a farmer who farms with other livestock.

Another challenge is that there aren’t any veterinarians in the country who know a lot about rabbit diseases, so farmers have to learn from each other. Abraham mentioned that there is a rabbit farmer Whatsapp group where farmers share their experiences and give tips to other farmers.

Rabbit meat is very high in protein, has very little fat and is ideal for people with digestive problems, cholesterol and diabe­tes sufferers. It is also a high protein source for fitness fanatics and body builders.

Abraham’s tip for people interested in rabbit farming: “Do the necessary research first, start with at least 100 breeding rabbits and be patient."