The flourishing world of rabbit farming

Rabbit farming in Kashmir holds employment opportunity for unemployed youth
Representational Photo
Representational Photo

Aadil Hussain Baba

Mankind has always been in search of different means of survival for food production, to fulfil the demand & supply of a growing population either by farming or by livestock production. These have indeed created a source of income and employment, acting as a backbone for sustainable development. In addition, they have created a threshold for national income and in return peace, progress, and prosperity of any nation. With the growing population and rapid urbanization, and industrialization, the land dimensions are shrinking day by day at a pace that by tomorrow hardly there will be any land available for construction and other agricultural allied activities. Mankind has to search for other options to meet the demands which will not only satisfy calories intake but also be economically proportionate to the graph and will create equal employment opportunities and avenues.

One such venture is cuniculture: an agricultural practice of raising and breeding rabbits for meat and fur. Rabbit farming once considered a niche market, has now become a thriving industry worldwide. With a growing demand for lean and healthy protein sources, rabbit meat has emerged as a viable option for health-conscious consumers. Moreover, the soft and warm fur of rabbits is highly sought after for clothing and necessary production. As a result, rabbit farming is no longer limited to small backyard operations but has expanded to commercial farms and cooperatives, providing ample operations for entrepreneurs and farmers alike. Rabbit fur is prized for its softness and can be found in a broad range of coat colours and patterns, as well as lengths. One such example is the Angora breed, whose long silky fur is often hand spun into yarns. These yarns can be used to knit various garments and blankets whose market value is significantly higher. Rabbit Pelts are used to make clothing items like baby booties, fur hats, leggings, shirts, socks, and sweaters, pillow covers. blanket covers, bedding, and a full rabbit fur coat, which requires many pelts.

Rabbits known as “Micro-Livestock” can be a very lucrative income source for uneducated youth. As rabbits need small space for living, minimal capital, relatively less labour, and less feed/fodder for survival compared to the “Macro-Livestock” farming business sector. Rabbits are fast-growing animals. Rabbits have an average pregnancy length of 30 days, and one doe gives birth to 1 to 12 kits in every kindling. Does a small litter size, have produce, longer pregnancies than those that produce larger litter? The average birth weight of each kit is up to 30-40 grams depending on breed. The female can become pregnant again after a few days after kindling, however, this practice isn`t recommended for any fruitful farm management, as Doe can get under stress and can develop many gynaecological problems. The best weaning age of kits is 30 to 45 days and at weaning age the kit now Weaner gains weight upto 700- 900 grams depending on breed and diet. A weaner becomes an adult at the age of 5-6 months and can continue to reproduce up to 4-7 years of age.

Department of Sheep Husbandry Kashmir in 1970 established the sole Rabbit Farm (Angora Rabbit Farm) in Wussan Village Tehsil Pattan of District Baramulla with a vision to make it a source of livelihood for sustainable development and socioeconomic development. The Farm is located over 115 kanals of land where a major portion of this land is utilized for the cultivation of both Rabi and Kharif crops. Thus, provides fresh grasses and vegetables to Rabbits in its backyard and the surplus fodder is supplied to Sheep Breeding Farms throughout the lengths and breadths of Kashmir Division. At present, this Farm is housing Various Breeds -Angora, Californian, Newzland White, Gray-Giant, Black Brown, and Soviet Chinchilla. This Farm is very much accomplished in establishing over 40 plus private Rabbit Farms in its surroundings, by providing logistic and other support. Thus, they have become a source of livelihood for them. The Farm is annually selling over 2000 plus animals to buyers throughout the Kashmir division, against a proper GR as per breed value paid by the buyer, which is later deposited into Government Treasury. The Rabbit Farming industry has not been as popular as other farming practices due to social factors and a lack of knowledge and market. In these tough times of the global economic downturn, educated unemployed youth have a vast potential and opportunities for establishing such units. Starting Rabbit farming can be a lucrative and reliable venture for any entrepreneur since rabbits are used as a vegan pet, and can be a commodity for the pet market, and as a companion to overcome anxiety, stress, and solitude for a pet lover. Rabbits are used in research to produce serum antibodies, as models for disease or biological systems, and as test animals for products. Kashmir is a place of voracious meat eaters and the Rabbit meat market has vast opportunities as it can bridge the gap between demand and supply and can fulfil the daily dietary protein requirement as per international standards at affordable prices in compare to beef & mutton. However, there are still many social taboos still wrongly understood by society regarding rabbit meat consumption, despite the fact it is halal. In terms of white meat, rabbit meat is one of the best - it is dryer and has a gamier taste than other meat. Rabbit meat is an ideal keto diet, it is very rich in proteins and less fat, this high protein percentage in comparison to fat makes it convenient to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and its lower sodium percentage is beneficial in preventing hypertension. The presence of Linoleic acid in Rabbit meat reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes and by its anti-carcinogenic properties thus reducing the risk of cancer development. Rabbit meat contains a rich quantity of phosphorus, zinc, copper, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin E.

Rabbits belong to, Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Family Leporidae, Order Lagomorpha, and Genus Oryctolagus Species. Rabbits have two sets of incisor teeth, one behind the other. This is how they can be distinguished from Rodents. Rabbits are herbivores that feed by grazing on grass and vegetables, which contain a good proportion of cellulose that is hard to digest and is naturally digested by hindgut fermentation. The unique musculature of the caecum allows the intestinal tract of the Rabbit to separate fibrous material from more digestible material ‘the fibrous material is passed as faeces, while the more nutritious material is encased in a mucous lining as Cecotropes “night faeces” which contain a higher percentage of minerals, vitamins, and proteins that are necessary for rabbits’ health. Rabbits eat these to meet their nutritional requirements, thus undergoing a double–digestion process. This process serves the same purposes in rabbits as rumination does in cattle & sheep.

Rabbit faeces, named bunny honey, is the best source of bio–fertilizer as it contains richer quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus than cow manure and chicken manure and can be a preferred tonic for Soil Health over inorganic fertilizers and are thus benefiting the environment.

The author is a Flock Supervisor in Sheep Husbandry Department Kashmir posted in Baramulla.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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