One of the California white doe rabbit at Felix Maina’s Forest Lane Rabbit Breeders’s farm In Embu County. He keeps the breed for breeding purposes. Photo, Zablon Oyugi.
There are three major issues to consider when one wants to rear rabbits for commercial purposes. These include building them nice cages where they live, feeding them well and proper breeding.
However, according to Alex Maina, an Embu County rabbit farmer and breeder for four years now, breeding is key to the animals and if not done well a farmer can lose the entire flock due occurrences of inbreeding besides recording low meat to bone ratio, a factor which is key in marketing the animals.
“I remember when I started rabbit farming in August 2015. I used Sh50,000 to buy 10 rabbits from a farm in Kikuyu but due to lack of knowledge in breeding by November the same year all of them had died except some two which survived inbreeding cases among them,” said Maina.
If it were not for the passion the farmer had grown up with since his childhood, he was to abandon the venture due to the disappointments that resulted from the huge loss.
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A year later two Kenyan friends who were in Belgium paid him a visit in a company of some Belgians. They had heard what happened and came to bring him pure breeds to start him off again. The breeds were two doe and one buck Giant Flemish.
In addition, they advised him on how to avoid inbreeding especially when the flock increase when a high number of such cases are reported as most farmers do not keep their animals’ breeding records.
He also started attending farmers’ pieces of training and doing a lot of online research to avoid such a mistake.
“It is during these pieces of training and my research when I realised that most farmers in the country keep rabbits mostly to sell them for meat and not many were investing in breeding which was costing them a lot,” said Maina.
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To him, this was a chance to start a good business in rabbit farming. Therefore, with the help of his friends in Belgium and after naming his farm as Forest Lane Rabbit Breeders he began importing various pure breeds such as California white, Newzealand white, Checkered giant and Giant Flemish from the country.
He also keeps Kenyan dutch, a breed which he says is famous among many Kenyan farmers.
Breeding can be done between different breeds to get high-quality crossbreeds or same breeds to get a pure breed.
Maina rears his breeds generally for breeding purposes including crossbreeding for various farmers seeking such services anywhere in the country.
“For farmers who bring their does for service by any of my pure or crossbreed bucks, I charge Sh300 per doe serviced. However, the does brought to my farm have to be quarantined for diseases such as mange, a ring warm disease that is rampant among rabbits,” said Maina.
“Besides we recommend does that weigh six kilos and above because I have giant bucks which can break their delicate backbones during mating if they (does) are underweight.”
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The farm also sells both pure and crossbreed two months old bucks at Sh1,000, three months old at Sh1,500 and four and above months old which are already mature for breeding at Sh2,000.
According to Maina, most buyers who by the rabbits for meat look for the quality and the weight for better returns. He recommends California white and Newzealand white for the best in tasty meat while a cross between Checkered giant and California white gives both tasty meat and high meat to bone ratio.
Training and market linkages
Maina also offers free training on rabbit rearing for his loyal customers while for one-off buyers he trains at Sh500 each.
“I do not want what happened to me to happen to any other rabbit farmer. That is why even after training, I still keep in touch with the farmers just in case of consultations which I offer freely,” he said.
He also connects farmers to possible buyers who pay Sh500 a kilo of rabbit meat. This is to ensure that the farmers are not stranded with their mature animals.
Maina can be reached on +254 704 124499/+245758383888