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Rabbit rearing which is highly popular in the developed countries is presently becoming more accepted in  Kerala on account of their ability to multiply fast and generate supplementary income .Rabbit rearing was earlier considered as a hobby and was not looked upon as a possible business venture. However with the people  becoming more health conscious and money spending not being a problem among the urban affluent  population ,the popularity of rabbit meat as a healthy alternative  has come up in a big way among the food loving people of Kerala .This boosted  the scope of rabbit rearing in the state .With the trend shifting from rearing rabbits merely as pets to that of an income generator units  with broiler rabbits such as Newzealand White, Soviet Chinchilla, Grey giant  and White Giant , rabbit farming  has come up as an option for alleviating rural poverty among the farming community . The animal being very docile and easy to care for could be reared by women folk as well as by children  .

NUTRITION: Rabbit meat offers excellent nutritive and dietetic properties with high protein content and high levels of essential amino acids .Combined with elevated amino acid levels and easy digestibility ,rabbit meat proteins  has a higher biological value. Rabbit meat is characterised by its low sodium content which makes it particularly attractive for persons with hypertension .

Kerala is a state where around 70% of the population are non vegetarians .Meat is a major source of Saturated fatty acids and cholesterol which has a negative impact on health leading to cardiovascular diseases, hypertension ,obesity and diabetes  .Nutritionist not only  recommend limiting fat intake but also advise to consume large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).Rabbit meat has higher PUFA content as compared to any other meats .Rabbit meat also contains the lowest cholesterol levels (55mg per 100 gm of meat) of all popular meats like chicken beef . Rabbit meat has the merit of being classified as the most preferred choice  among the non vegetarians and will become  the most moving item in the meat market if people are more aware of its merits  .

Krishi Vigyan Kendra of Pathanamthitta District has been promoting Rabbit farming for the past few years through Trainings ,demonstrations etc.  Rabbit farming though  still in its infancy  as far as India is concerned ,several farmers are  willing to take up rabbitary as an option for generating more income given that  initial investment is comparatively less and less requirement of space

One such farmer is Ajay Simon of Ranny in Pathanamthitta District of Kerala who had an interest in rabbit rearing during his school days .He However converted his hobby into a business venture .

Interventions :

Technology: Broiler rabbits are reared for meat purpose mainly and they have the capacity to attain 2 kg body weight by 90 days of age. There are different breeds of rabbits and among these most suited to the climatic conditions of kerala are Newzealand White , Soviet Chinchilla ,Grey Giant and White Giant .

Process and employment generation :.Ajay  started his rabbit farming experience with 3 rabbits in 2011 which died after 20 days and was a great failure due to lack of knowledge on the  scientific aspects of rabbit rearing  .He however was not willing to accept this failure .He took it up as a challenge and attended  vocational trainings provided by Krishi  Vigyan Kendra , Pathanamthitta  covering all aspects of rabbit farming .He came to understand that extotic  broiler rabbits such as New Zealand White ,Grey Giant, Soviet Chinchilla and White Giant were most suitable for rearing under the climatic conditions of Kerala. He came to under the various techniques involved in the rearing of rabbits-its feeding and nutrition, its reproduction ,Housing ,Marketing and economics.Armed with this knowledge he decided to  startup with a single unit of  10 rabbits and bought  45 day old New Zealand White and Soviet Chinchilla  kits .He designed his own 10 unit rabbit cages  with 10ft length ,4 ft Breadth and 1.5 ft height to rear 10 rabbits and housed it in a temporary shed of 600 sq.ft constructed with  poles ,fishing nets and having silpauline sheet as roof . He found that he could rear them very easily and it was profitable also . So, he decided to expand his farm and bought 30 numbers of different varieties of broiler rabbits such as White Giant, Grey Giant and Flemish Giant  from other farms .Later on acting on the advice of KVK experts and Scientists from  the Rabbit Section of Central Sheep and Wool Research Station at Kodaikannal , he bought 60 more numbers of breeder rabbits .Thus now his farm after expansion has an area of 1000  Sq.ft with 100 numbers of Parent Stock .

All the works at the farm are done by him and his family  and thereby saves cost on labour. Everyday early in the morning  he cleans all the cages and the shed and observes the rabbits to detect any signs of illness . He says that cleaning and disinfection itself can reduce the incidences of diseases in the farm. All the rabbits are provided with Concentrate feed @ 100-150 gms per day based on their conditions. Lactating rabbits  and pregnant rabbits are provided with adlibitum feeds  .Cool drinking water  is provided through out the day through automatic watering system. He takes special care during breeding of rabbits  .He avoids inbreeding in his farm and always breeds unrelated rabbits .For This he takes the female to the bucks (male rabbits )cage and once breeding is over he takes back the female to her cage immediately .If every thing goes on normally ,the bred rabbit will deliver after  28 to 30 days .Number of lits during each delivery varies .Sometimes it may go up to 12 kits whereas sometimes it may be just 1 kit. Anyway, these kits are given special care for 30 days and then are weaned from its mother who is then rebred. In this way he says he get around 40 numbers of kits from each mother every year. The best   rabbits got in this way are separated for breeding purpose and rest of it is segregated for meat .The rabbit bunnies separated for breeding is reared for 60 days to make it ready for sale at a rate of 440 /bunny or at the rate of Rs.4400 per unit of 10 rabbits . The rabbits   bunnies segregated for meat purpose are reared for 90 days and when they become   2kg  in weight they are sold  @ 200 /rabbit on  live wt basis .Rabbits are  also slaughtered  and meat is provided on enquiry basis @ of Rs.400/kg. He also makes cages for rabbits costing around 8500/cage of 10 rabbits.


Economic gains

Thus a unit of 10 rabbits of 60 days old along with cage fitted with automatic feeding and watering system will cost around 13500/-. This unit of 10 rabbits ( 8 female +2 male ) needs to be reared for another 4 months before they can be bred. Taking into account the gestation period of one month and an average production of 5 kits per doe and an average of 6 kindlings  in a year ,it is expected that around 200 kits will be born in a year  .If 5% mortality is present then around 190 kits will be available for rearing .Hence in a year it is expected that a unit of 10 rabbits will be able to produce 2190 kits .The potential net  income from this unit after taking into account the cost incurred for feeding and management will be around 35000 to 40000/-. According to Sri Ajay , “To set up a small unit of  10 rabbits,it will ost you around Rs. 15000  and wthin one year of production itself we can around get  break even in this business .So,whatever we get from the second year is purely profit.” His rabbits and cages are in much demand. Ajay feels that marketing is not a problem though public awareness about the virtues of rabbit meat will make  it more lucrative .

Horizontal spread:

Ajay with his rabbit farm  is now not only a successful farmer but an  entrepreneur as well  .He tries to promote rabbit farming in which ever ways possible .He is always ready to share his experiences with the people and encourages them to start up small units .He is also a master trainer in the field of rabbit rearing His success as a rabbit farmer and an entrepreneur is in the way in which he amalgamates his  knowledge and hard work  with willingness to meet challenges and work forward

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