One rabbit farmer has discovered a cheap way of boosting the weight of his herd by more than a kilo by crossbreeding of a superior breed with an inferior one.
Twenty-one-year-old Ng’atu Mbaluto said curiosity has seen him increase the average weight of a California White rabbit from an average of three to five kilos.
Since he started rearing rabbits, the California White never weighed more than three kilos until he mated it with chinchilla-a giant superior breed. A mature giant Chinchilla can weigh between five and six kilos.
He has a herd of 50 rabbits, which include chinchilla, California white, and New Zealand White breeds.
“Chinchilla is a heavy breed, which if well fed can be twice the weight of the California White. I used to practice pure breeding. But when I crossbred the Chinchilla with the California White, the results shocked me,” he said.
The 11 hybrid off-springs, which he calls ‘grafted’ rabbits, hit between four and five kilos each.
One of the ‘grafted’ rabbits was crowned the champion during the Machakos County Agricultural Society of Kenya Show of 2016.
It has more fur, which is, however, not pure white as the California White. Chinchilla is grey or brown.
Ready rabbit market
Mbaluto sells his rabbits to Peter Mulei Supermarket in Machakos town.
“A three-kilogramme rabbit earns Sh4,000 at this supermarket. I expect to earn more than Sh5,000 from the grafted rabbits because they are almost twice the weight of New Zealand and California White,” he said.
Early this year, he sold 30 rabbits, which earned him Sh120,000. He sold them at Sh4,000 to the supermarket. He also sells the animals, which are also reared as pets, to individuals.
Rabbits are better than goats
Mbaluto prefers rabbits to goats because these small animals are more cheaper to keep than goats which need more space and feed. A maturing indigenous goat for instance, can cost Sh5,000.
At the same time, goat meat is more available in village butcheries, therefore, cheaper than that of rabbits.
“I feed the rabbits with weeds which I collect from farms as well as vegetable remains like cabbage and kales,” he said.
Rabbit feeding in arid areas
Given that Machakos is dry, greens are unavailable for such a big number of rabbits. The youthful farmer buys 50kg feed pellets, which they will consume alongside the little green matter he finds.
The 50kg sack, which costs Sh2,300, can maintain the herd for three to four weeks. he collects faecal matter and mixes it with urine for use in his their farm.
The gestation period of a rabbit is 30 days. Multiplication rate is high and if their number is not watched, they can starve to death.
It takes about 10 months for the rabbits to reach three kilos.
Mbaluto maintains his operational stock at 20.