Rabbit production is one of the livestock enterprises with the greatest potential and room for expansion in Kenya. This is because of their minimal investment requirements and ability to reproduce fast. Their feed requirement is low, especially with regard to demand for grain. Their housing and disease control management requirements are also low yet their meat is highly nutritious and healthier source of protein when compared with other sources of meat.
Rabbit production has experienced a steady growth in the past few years, with gender biases associated with its production fading away. This is a significant change considering that for many years rabbit production in Kenya was confined to the youth, mainly 4-K club members and young farmers. Though rabbit meat marketing is yet to gain ground, there is hope that with the growing awareness of the benefits of rabbit meat, it will be possible for rabbit meat to be introduced into the regular meat market.
The realization that rabbits are well suited to rapid production of protein has increased the number of industrialized production units just like in poultry. The most popular breeds used in the meat industry are the New Zealand White, Californian, Flemish Giant, French Ear lop, Chinchilla and Dutch. Other breeds include the Angora primarily kept for fur and as pets; most of the locally available breeds are cross breeds.
Important facts about Rabbits and Rabbit meat
1. Rabbits grow fast especially if fed well reaching maturity at 5 months and slaughter weight at 3 months.
2. They require less land (space) with diminishing land size; therefore can be kept at the backyard.
3. They can derive their feed requirement entirely on greens only.
4. They are prolific each doe capable of reproducing 4 times a year an average of 8 kits per kindling.
5. They have one of the highest feed conversion ratios at 4:1.
6. Rabbit meat is white meat of high quality, easily digestible with low fat, low cholesterol and high protein compared to most other meats
7. The unsaturated fats (good fats) in rabbit meat make 63% of the total fatty acids
8. Rabbit meat is lower in percentage fat than chicken, turkey, beef and pork
9. Rabbit meat provides the lowest calories per kilogram of meat consumed compared to other sources of meat.
10. Rabbit meat is one of the cleanest meat as it is raised off the ground
11. Other important products from rabbits include manure, skins and fur. They can also be produced as lab animals