The Basic Guide You Need To Earn A Living From Rabbit Farming In South Africa:
Though rabbit meat may not be as common as chicken, beef or pork, there’s no doubt it’s a very lucrative business; every year, over one million tons of rabbit meat is consumed worldwide.
The world’s four biggest producers and consumers of rabbit meat are: China, Italy, Spain and France.
In Africa, the consumption of rabbit meat is gradually taking off and a few farmers on the continent are already enjoying the benefits of this niche business.
In this article, I’ll share the success stories of three farmers in Ghana and Kenya who have achieved remarkable success with their rabbit farms.
For those of you reading this who don’t know, rabbit meat contains the highest amounts of digestible proteins and the lowest cholesterol and fat of all types of meat. Rabbits are also easy to raise; they’re clean and require little capital, labour, time and space to manage.
This article will open your eyes to the amazing benefits of the rabbit business and offers some valuable and free resources you can use to get started. I had fun doing the research for this article. I hope you have fun reading it!
Three successful African Rabbit Farmers you need to know
Africa already boasts of a few rabbit farmers who started from nothing but have built remarkably successful rabbit farm businesses. Their success in spite of capital and skill challenges will inspire and encourage you to take action on your business ideas.
Let’s meet them!
Farmer Brown (Ghana)
Adotei Brown (popularly known as ‘Farmer Brown’) quit his Civil Service job in 2002 to start his rabbit farm on a small scale with three does (female rabbits) and one buck (male).
With just about 10 Ghanaian Cedis (about $3), he reinvested all his profits into the business. Today, his farm grows nearly 3,000 rabbits every year and slaughters up to 500 every week for sale to grocery stores, restaurants and hotels. The average price for his rabbits is about 20 Ghana Cedis (about $6) and business is booming.
Farmer Brown has become a popular advocate for the consumption of rabbit meat in Ghana. He has a special eatery for rabbit meat on his farm, which attracts visitors, including tourists.
His eatery serves tasty rabbit meat in different forms: grilled, smoked and cooked. He also has a thriving grasscutter (bush meat) farming business that runs side-by-side with the rabbit farm.
Farmer Brown has dedicated himself to training more young people in Ghana to take up rabbit farming. To assure a steady market for the young generation of farmers he trains, he buys mature rabbits from them to ensure they have a steady cash flow from the business.
Moses Mutua, CEO Rabbit Republic (Kenya)
Popularly known as ‘Mr. Rabbit’ in Kenya, Moses Mutua grew up in a poor family and couldn’t further his education because his family couldn’t afford to pay for it.
Although he always wanted to become a policeman, he never reached that dream. Instead he got a job as a security guard and worked at it for five years before he got fired.
Before he became Mr. Rabbit, Moses had already tried greenhouse farming, fish farming, organic farming, but settled on rabbits because they are the most lucrative domesticated animals in the world in terms of time, space utilisation and profit margins.
Moses learned everything about rabbit farming from the internet (by using Google) and finally started a small rabbit farm with just six rabbits. That’s how his company, Rabbit Republic, was born. (photo credit: nafis.go.ke)
Today, Rabbit Republic has a turnover that’s more than Sh10 million (about $100,000) and slaughters about 2,000 rabbits every month.
His business has attracted investors and Moses is currently developing a five-acre farm that will breed about 30,000 rabbits. The video below shows Mr. Rabbit in action on his farm as he explains the profitability of the rabbit farming business and why more entrepreneurs should seriously consider it.
Rabbit Republic now has a network of over 1,000 rabbit farmers across Kenya who receive free training and support and in turn sell their mature rabbits to the company.
This expansion has paid off as Rabbit Republic has now opened shop in neighbouring countries; Uganda and Tanzania. But that’s not all. By mid-2015, the company plans to export one ton of rabbit sausages to the US and Europe where the demand for healthy meats (like rabbits) is growing.
Mr. Rabbit wants to make Kenya a major player in the untapped global rabbit meat market. Currently, China, Italy, Spain and France are the leading producers of rabbit meat which has earned a reputation as a ‘super meat’ due to its nutritional and health benefits.
Rabbit Republic is now partnering with universities and local/international organisations to train more youths and women on rabbit farming as a means to alleviate poverty.
Charles Kamau (Kenya)
Charles started a small rabbit farm in 2004 to provide organic fertilizer for his vegetable farm. He lost his job in the hospitality industry and had to do something to feed his young family. His first attempt at raising rabbits was a disaster because he lost all his animals to diseases.
Despite his frustration, he did some basic research, learned from his mistakes and started again. This time, it was a huge success and he even had to demolish part of his house to create more space for his thriving rabbit business.
Charles Kamau stocks a wide range of rabbit breeds which he sells to new farmers and also slaughters rabbits which we supplies to local meat markets.
His top customers include foreign nationals living in Kenya, restaurants and five-star hotels. In fact, he once got an order from China to supply a consignment of 22,000 pieces of rabbit fur but was unable to meet that huge request. This just shows how big the demand for rabbit products is.
Charles says he is now able to save more than Sh20,000 (about $220) every month from his rabbit business. The business also provides money to feed his family and pay school fees for his children who attend private schools.
A few years ago, he was able to buy some plots of land in Nairobi (Kenya’s capital city) and recently bought a car and a 12-acre property where he is planning to establish a much larger rabbit farm.
3 Reasons why you should seriously consider rabbit farming
The success stories of these rabbit farmers prove the huge and largely untapped potential of the rabbit farming business in Africa. In this section, I’ll reveal three major reasons why you should seriously consider the rabbit farming business opportunity. Here they are:
#1 There is a huge market opportunity for rabbits
The growing rate of heart disease and related ailments has increased awareness of the harmful effects of cholesterol in our diets.
More people are now going for ‘white’ meat which contains low amounts of cholesterol. Unlike ‘red meats’ (especially beef and pork), white meats like ostrich, poultry, fish and rabbit meat contain less fats and cholesterols and have higher health benefits. (photo credit: thesaucysoutherner.com)
Apart from fish, rabbit meat has the highest amount of protein and contains the lowest fat than all other types of meat. It contains less calories and Sodium than other meats but contains more calcium and phosphorus (which is very good).
As a result of these properties, rabbit meat has become the ‘super meat’ for people looking to eat healthy meats and live a healthier lifestyle. Rabbit meat is also very widely accepted. Unlike snails and pork, there are hardly any religious or cultural taboos about consuming rabbit meat.
More than 700 million rabbits are slaughtered worldwide every year, producing about 1 million metric tons of rabbit meat. The world’s leader in rabbit meat production is China, representing over 30% of total global production.
Rabbit meat is popular in countries such as Italy, Spain, France and China. These countries consume the most rabbit per person (about 8kg per person) and are the best export markets for rabbit meat.
Rabbits produce high quality skins that are used to make fur garments (like clothing, hats and boots), and to cover bicycle seats, etc. Another significant use of rabbits is in cosmetic, medical and pharmaceutical research laboratories. Rabbits are also purchased by people who want to keep them as pets.
#2 Rabbit farming is lucrative because rabbits multiply very fast
A single doe (female rabbit) can give birth to (litter) up to 40 kits (baby rabbits) in a single year. This means you can start with two mature breeding rabbits (one male, one female) and end up with over 40 rabbits in less than 12 months. That’s because rabbits can breed throughout the year and it takes just about a month (30-33 days) for a pregnant doe to produce baby rabbits.
After they are born, rabbits grow very fast and can reach maturity and market size in less than 6 months. One of the reasons for this fast growth rate is that rabbits are efficient converters of the food they eat.
Compared to other livestock animals (poultry, cattle, pigs etc), rabbits convert up to 20 percent of the proteins they eat into body weight. That’s higher than any other animal!
A mature rabbit ready for market can sell for up to $22 (depending on the location and customer). However, the cost of raising a rabbit comes to about $1 per month.
According to Moses Mutua (CEO of Rabbit Republic), the resources and cost incurred on raising one cow is equivalent to what you’d use to raise 40 rabbits. As a result, rabbits offer a higher profit potential than cattle and other livestock.
And because rabbits mature quickly and multiply very fast, they offer one of the best opportunities to quickly recover your costs and investment in a short period of time.
#3 Easy to start, cheap to operate and maintain
Rabbits don’t need any elaborate preparation or huge capital to start up. You can start with two rabbits (male and female) using a basic cage made of wood and chicken wire.
Unlike chickens, cattle and pigs, rabbits are not noisy animals. They are very clean animals and don’t easily get attacked by diseases.
Above all, rabbits don’t require a lot of space like other livestock; it’s the ideal animal to raise in your backyard or any place with little space.
Raising rabbits is not labour-intensive like cattle and poultry. Rabbits are easy to feed and often don’t need a lot of attention. As a result, a rabbit farming business can be run on a part time basis.
Some kitchen waste, grass, plant leaves etc. are favorite foods of rabbits. In fact, a single rabbit needs just about 120 grams of food daily. You can feed it in the morning before you go to work and then in the evening when you return.
So, in terms of capital, time, space and labour needs, rabbit farming beats poultry, pig farming, and cattle farming.
Ready to start your own rabbit farm? Here are two important tips.
If you’re excited about everything you’ve read so far in this article and can’t wait to join the small but fast growing league of ‘rabbit entrepreneurs in Africa, here are two very important things you need to do to get started:
#1 Learn the nuts and bolts of rabbit farming
I don’t believe you must pay someone to teach you how to raise rabbits. People like Moses Mutua (Rabbit Republic) learned everything about rabbit farming on the internet.
There are lots of free manuals and videos online that will help you. I have done some homework for you and found two of the best manuals on the internet that you can use to learn everything you need to know about rabbit farming. Here they are:
- Rabbits, A Producer’s Manual – This 61-page manual is the most comprehensive book on rabbit farming you will ever find. It contains everything you need to know about rabbits including breeding, slaughter and packaging. I strongly recommend it.
- Raising Rabbits for Meat – This is another great resource for learning everything about rabbit farming. It’s written in very simple language which makes it easy to understand. It covers a lot of topics including how to build rabbit hutches and the common diseases that affect rabbits. You’ll surely enjoy reading it.
#2 Find good breeder stock to get started
Breeder stock are the first rabbits a new farmer starts her rabbit business with. Like I mentioned earlier, the minimum stock you need to get started is one male (buck) and one female rabbit (doe).
If you want, you can start with more does; one buck can service up to five does. Ask around for local farmers who can sell you a good breeder stock. Ask for evidence that proves the gender of the rabbits you buy so you don’t end up with all males or females.
Keep in mind that there are several breeds of rabbit. However, some breeds are better suited for commercial farming than others.
Commercial breeds grow into large sizes and produce faster. Show rabbit breeds, which are often smaller than commercial breeds, are popularly used as pets or raised for their fur and may not be suited for commercial meat production.
The best places to find rabbit farmers are your local livestock markets, Agriculture ministry or department or through local farmers’ associations.
When do you want to get started?
This article has shown you how three rabbit farmers in different parts of Africa achieved remarkable success in the rabbit farming business.
We also looked at three reasons why more African entrepreneurs should consider joining the rabbit farming business. And finally, we shared some valuable resources that would help you get started as soon as possible. (photo credit: nourishnetwork.com)
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