Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
RABBIT Breeders and Producers Association of Zimbabwe (RBPAZ) will soon embark on an extensive outreach programme aimed at promoting the rearing and consumption of the small stock.
RBPAZ executive chairman Mr Jonathan Tembo said the rabbit industry in Zimbabwe was slowly developing and was composed of numerous backyard farmers especially in Harare and surrounding areas.
“Farmers want to be sure of the market or demand for rabbit meat first. In the past two years Rabbit Breeders and Producers Association has concentrated more on mobilising farmers to go into rabbit farming so that we can sort the supply side. For capacity building we have been offering training on A to Z on rabbit farming.
“Lack of resources has been a great hindrance for most people when it comes to actually starting their projects. Unfortunately the association has not been funded and so has had its own challenges which we have had to innovate around. However, we are happy that some people have started rearing rabbits in Bulawayo which is a good step,” said Mr Tembo.
In an effort to promote rearing of rabbits across the country, RBPAZ opened offices in Bulawayo to cater for the southern region.
“In Harare we are now distributing our brand —Rabbitos-Tsuro-Umvundla through some selected supermarkets as supply is still a challenge. The next step starting this June is to start marketing rabbit meat to consumers and positioning it as a healthier choice of meat.
“We will take advantage of the movement towards healthier choices of foods. We anticipate an increased demand and pressure of farmers to produce rabbit meat. Rabbit production has a 50 percent gross margin,” said Mr Tembo.
He said rabbit producers should ensure that their animals are raised in a conducive environment for optimum growth and production.
Narrow and long structures are recommended to ensure good ventilation and elimination of ammonia and other gases.
It is highly recommended to raise rabbits in cages with self-cleaning floors than a deep litter system.
RBPAZ is working with various suppliers of housing and cages to reduce initials start-up cost.
The world production of rabbit meat is over 2 billion kilogrammes and the world’s biggest producers are China, Italy, Spain and France.
“Rabbit meat is one of the most nutritious meats known to mankind. It is a white meat and compared to other meats contain the highest percentage of easily digestible protein, lowest sodium, fat and cholesterol and calories content and offer the highest phosphorus and calcium content. This lends itself to several market segments of consumers from weight loss diets, low cholesterol diets, low sodium (salt) diets and the mass market as well,” said Mr Tembo.
RBPAZ offers full day training on how to breed rabbits for production. This is to ensure a quality breeding stock is distributed to farmers.
Some of the phenotype and genotype breeders aim to include feed conversion efficiency, good mothering ability, high growth rate and high meat to bone ratio. Breeding stock is selected on the basis of health, adaptability, genetic quality and earlier mentioned qualities.
“Commercial breeds like chinchilla and New Zealand are very good meat breeds and the climate in Zimbabwe is very suitable for them. They have good feed conversion efficiency and are resistant to common diseases. They also have good liter size and excellent growth rate, which are key determinants to profitability and success of rabbit farming,” said Mr Tembo.