A Proposal on Rabbit Farming as a Veritable Tool for Economic Empowerment
According to United State Department of Agriculture, circular Number 549 results, extensive test had proved that domestic rabbit meat is the most nutritious meat known to man. It is the only all white meat that has cholesterol levels and fat percentage at a much lower level than chicken, turkey, beef, or pork meat. Compared cholesterol level showed that rabbit meat has 82mg, chicken has 110mg, beef has 115mg and mutton has 125mg per 8 ounces serving of all the mentioned meat. Nutritional Value of Rabbit Meat, Issue Number 5 (2004) state that rabbit meat is fit to provide special diet for people having heart diseases and for the aged. Rabbit from farm to table can be as fresh or frozen rabbit meat which is sold all year round. Rabbit sold in United State of America as food are labeled as fryer they are young rabbit weighing between 1.5 to 3.5 pounds and at less than 12 weeks of age. The flesh is tender, fine grained and pearly pink color should be cooked as young poultry. Mature rabbits are labeled as roasters, they weigh over 4 pounds at over 8 months of age. The flesh is firm, coarse grained and is slightly darker in color and less tender, stewing would be better. The inner organs, the liver and the heart are called Giblets.
History about rabbits keeping
National statistics do not include rabbit production and the few basic statistics from (FAO 2008) survey suggested a possible world output of roughly 1 million tonnes of carcasses which would mean a per capita consumption of approximately 200 g of rabbit meat per person. Albama University (1989) documented a historical description of how rabbit keeping started in the world.
The document analyzes that the wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus of southern Europe and North Africa was discovered by Phoenicians (Greeks) when they reached the shores of Spain about 1000 BC. The Romans contributed to spreading of the rabbit throughout the Roman Empire as a game animal which was a better alternative as it saved waste over bigger animals’, because the hunted rabbit was all eaten since there was no refrigeration. In the sixteenth century there was a first indication of controlled breeding as domestication was started by the monks, since it provided them with a more delectable dish than the tougher wild rabbit which then spread across France, Italy, Flanders and England. Albama University records that an organisation (Agricola 1595) had mentioned the existence of grey-brown (wild), white, black, piebald (black and white) and ash-grey rabbits while (Olivier de Serres 1606) classified three types of rabbit: the wild rabbit, the semi-wild or “warren” rabbit raised inside walls or ditches, and the domesticated or hutch-bred rabbit. Rabbit rearing in hutches (domestication) sprang up all over rural Western Europe and also in city suburbs where they were kept in the back yard together with poultry. European colonial expansion saw the introduction of the rabbit in many countries where it was unknown, such as Australia and New Zealand. Sailing vessels distributed rabbits on islands in various sea lanes to be used as a source of food by sailors’.
Cheeke (1980) appreciated that due to rabbit domestication activities like hutch rearing system and selection of breeding materials rabbit population exploded. Backyard rabbit production had to shift to rational production that led to rationalized breeding techniques and hutch hygiene improvement through formation of breeders associations. The Second World War saw the extensive development of rabbit production throughout Europe and Japan to cope with meat shortages. Under these demanding conditions, rabbits demonstrated their highly efficient feed-conversion capacity. Europe accounts for 85% of world rabbit meat output since there is Industrial rabbit production in units of 200 to 1 000 hybrid does reared in buildings with artificial light and controlled ventilation. The breeding females are exposed to artificial lighting for 15 to 16 hours a day and produce all through the year. They are reared in one- to four-storey mesh cages (flat-deck and battery).
In Africa, several countries have been promoting rabbit production. The Ghana government started the National Rabbit Project in 1971. By 1974 the rabbit breeding herd at Kwabenya, near Legon, had increased to approximately 698 and by 1975 to approximately 1,478 as stated by Mamattah (1978). The project was promoting rabbit production on a small backyard scale, using breeding rabbits (materials) from government Rabbits centre. In Malawi, rabbit production is on a small scale only and there are no development schemes in operation. Most of the rabbits are kept near the main urban areas of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba whereby the herd size do not exceed 30 in number as McNitt (1980) observed. The two main African rabbit producers are Ghana and Egypt both with 7 000-8 000 tonnes of carcasses a year. Far behind come Algeria and the Sudan, with 1 000-2 000 tonnes a year.
Rabbit- other benefits
Rabbits have been associated with several benefits, INFRA – FAO Survey (1981) reported that rabbits have other useful by products e.g. skin, wool and organic manure. The best quality skins are used after tanning for garments, linings and gloves. Russia and Poland make domestic use of all the skins they produce. The wool of the Angora rabbit forms a special sector of the international wool trade. Wool production is mainly concentrated in Czechoslovakia (80-120 tonnes a year), France (100 tonnes) and the Federal Republic of Germany (30-40 tonnes). Domestic Rabbit magazine (1990) stated that manure from rabbits has the following percentages of dry material; 2.20% Nitrogen, 87% Phosphorus, 2.30% Potassium, 36% Sulfur, 1.26% Calcium and 40% Magnesium.