Raising Rabbits for Profit
Marketing and Production
Shared From Grit Magazine – Written By: Callene Rapp
In order to maintain profitability, it’s important for the rabbitry to produce litters year-round. This necessitates having litters when Mother Nature, and the doe herself, may not think it’s the greatest idea.
Rabbits, like many other animals, are at their most fertile during the spring and summer months, and they experience a period of decreased productivity during the shorter days of fall and winter. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to increase the day length for the rabbit by adding an incandescent light bulb or two to the rabbit barn.
The lights can easily be installed on a timer, removing the need to remember to turn them off and on manually. To maintain reproductive activity in the winter, aim to provide 12 to 14 hours of daylight for the rabbits. Bucks also will experience a period of decreased fertility in the winter months, but it is generally not as pronounced as the does.
Bucks, on the other hand, suffer greater reproductive loss from the heat of summer than does. At consistent temperatures above 85 degrees F, which much of the Midwest and Southern states experienced during the summer of 2011, bucks can become temporarily sterile. This is not generally permanent, and most will recover when cooler weather hits, but when it does happen it can leave a gaping hole in your production. Does will cycle and accept the buck, who should still be willing to work, but no litters are born.
Adding a swamp cooler, cool cell, or misters to fans located around the rabbitry can help lower the temperature and at least cool things off at night enough to give the rabbits some relief from the constant heat.
Unfortunately, these things will increase your cost of production, but if the alternative is to lose animals to the heat, it’s an easy choice to make.
Production costs of raising rabbits
Production costs are a factor that should be seriously evaluated, and regularly re-evaluated, in a for-profit rabbit operation.
Feed cost will be one of the biggest expenses, and also the one most likely to steadily increase. It also is the one that needs to be the most consistent, and the place where the fewest corners can be cut. The summer of 2011 taught many producers exactly how high feed costs can rise, and how much grain markets can fluctuate before trickling down to the consumer.
Several other fixed costs in raising rabbits may not be as readily apparent. Electricity for lights and fans, and water for the animals come quickly to mind, but fuel, processing and other factors of production can very rapidly eat away at profitability. Initial start-up costs for equipment can vary widely depending on your area and which type of equipment you select (such as water crocks versus water bottles).
It’s a good idea to develop a business plan before embarking on a rabbit-raising venture; a good business plan can help nail down all the miscellaneous factors that can seriously affect profitability, and also represent a welcome tool if a producer ever needs to approach a financial institution for a business loan.
Finding your market
Marketing is perhaps one of the trickiest aspects of raising meat rabbits. Restaurants are good venues and appreciate a good-quality product, but changeable menus may mean that they will not purchase regularly, and relying on one or two customers can lead to disaster if they should change their format or, heaven forbid, go out of business.
As far as marketing breeding stock, that market can eventually prove finite, as only so many new breeders will be in need of stock. Farmers’ markets can be a great place to sell fryers to customers who will appreciate the work and dedication that goes into them. But remember the laws governing farmers’ markets vary from state to state, so again, check with the local laws and ordinances before jumping in too deep.
Diversity is a good model both for the farm and for the marketing plan, so explore as many potential outlets as possible, and remember, the best advertising is a good product and good word of mouth.
Raising rabbits for profit can be hard work, and it is certainly not a “get-rich-quick” venture. But for a person with good stewardship skills who isn’t afraid of a little hard work, it can be a very rewarding, and yes, even profitable way to make a living.
To continue reading about Callene Rapp’s Homestead Business, check out Raising Rabbits for Profit on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.