Rabbit rearing has been practiced in Uganda since the 1870’s when Christian missionaries first introduced the long-eared animals. From the 1970s to 1980s, there were efforts to promote rabbit through importation and multiplication of exotic breeds mainly New Zealand White by Government but there was little success. This was mainly because the numbers of the enterprises attracted to rabbit farming were very few. In the 1990sn however, there was a phenomenon growth in rabbit farming when various organizations and institutions promoted rabbit for food and income generation
The interest in rabbit farming has not yet picked up because of the following challenges:
- Ugandans traditionally do not rear rabbits and little interest has so far been created.
- The Ugandan farmers lack the technical knowledge and best practices on rabbit farming. They tend to believe that rabbits can be raised the same way they raise free-range poultry except rabbits needs some protection from dogs.
- The rabbit extension services are limited and most veterinary professionals have not taken keen interest in rabbits disease control
- Rabbit meat does not have a ready market
- Overpricing of rabbits and their meat made difficult for people to become interested in eating rabbit meat.
- Rabbits are easily killed by dogs and stolen by people as they do not make noise.
- There has been many opportunists who masquerade as experts in the field hence misleading the farmers.
Description of Rabbits
Rabbits mature very quickly and reproduce rapidly. In a year a single female rabbit (doe) can produce 60 kittens. The rabbits can feed on garden and kitchen waste and they take up very little space and are quiet, making them suitable for urban and suburban environments.
Breeds of rabbits
The most common rabbit breeds available in Uganda include the following:
- Dutch Rabbit is black or brown with a white band of fur around its body at the
- Shoulder and a white band down the middle of its face. It is a small breed, which weighs 2.5 – 3.5 kg at maturity.
- Chinchilla Rabbit is a breed that is blue grey colour with a white belly has a Characteristic ruff or dewlap, which is a thick fold of skin around the chest, weighs 3-4.5 kg at maturity.
- New Zealand White is a breed that’s white in colour and is very popular for its good meat and skin it can weigh 3 to 5 kg at maturity.
- New Zealand Red This breed has the same characteristics as the New Zealand white except that it is red in colour weighs 3-4 kg at maturity.
- Californian Rabbit is white with black tipping on the nose, ears, feet and tail it’s popular for its good meat and the mature rabbit can weigh 3-4kg at maturity.
Feeding Systems for Rabbits
There are three possible feeding systems and the choice of each depends on the capability of the Rabbit farmer and the market conditions of the Rabbits.
- Extensive system of feeding this is total dependency on forage and kitchen wastes this system of feeding is cheap and the ease of supplying the quantity of food required but on the down side this feeding supplies of forage vary in the different seasons of the year and therefore the quality of feed is not assured and is usually poor. It also requires alot of labour and there are greater chances of having disease and health problems.
- Intensive system of feeding involves total dependency on prepared concentrates from the feed meal or commercial feeds this system is good because there is little risk of disease transfer and a high level of production can be achieved also the nutritional requirements of the Rabbit can be met with certainty the downside of this feeding system is very costly and depend on the supply of commercial feeds, which may not be readily available.
- Semi-intensive system of feeding this system falls between extensive in terms of advantages and disadvantages. It is also the most suitable system for small scale Rabbit keepers as it makes use of the forages which are normally available and concentrates which can be made at home at critical times such as pregnancy, lactation and post rearing.
Description of Rabbit Meat
Rabbit Meat is white meat, rich in Protein with low fat and lower in cholesterol and provides an excellent option to people who are conscious about health dieting and are avoiding high fat or high cholesterol foods as much as possible
Rabbit have minimal effect on climate change because their production of methane and effects of overgrazing are negligible and they can also be raised for other purposes including educational purposes.
Key players in rabbit rearing
- RabFarm with main product being rabbit meat, branded “RAB-BITE”.
- Tropical Rabbits Farm in Buloba is for Breeding Rabbits.
- National Vocational Training Institute (NVTI) and local artisans for the fabrication of Rabbit facilities.
- NUVITA is the sole manufacturer of Commercial Rabbit Feed.
- LEL sensitises and trains farmers at a fee, both in the rural and peri-urban areas, in order to increase production and sustain the market as a whole.
Areas that rear rabbits
- Kampala District
- Mukono District
- Mbale District
- Tororo District
- Mpigi District