Things to consider when planning a meat production:
The Altex sire breed of rabbit is a cross that was developed at both Alabama A&M and Texas A&M. The rabbit breeds crossed to produce this line include Flemish Giant, Champagne d' Argent, and Californian.
This cross was selected for over 20 generations of yielding a heavy 70 day market weight. The color markings are that of the Californian rabbit, but the weight of the rabbit is heavier ranging from 10 to 20 pounds. Its fur is also less dense, making it more heat tolerant, allowing for better production.
The terminal cross for this production line consists of crossing an Altex buck and a New Zealand doe, or a Californian doe. The weaned offspring reach market weight a week earlier than just crossing purebred New Zealand rabbits.
Industries Using Market Rabbits - Meat Production
Rabbit meat production is a growing industry in the United States with the east coast being the prominent meat rabbit producers. Due to the nutritional value and benefits of rabbit meat, in combination with the increase of health conscious individuals, rabbit consumption is increasing worldwide. Rabbit meat is avidly consumed throughout Europe, with the largest consumption and production in France, Italy and Spain.
Selling the product
In the meat rabbit market, you can make a profit at various steps in the processing chain. A rabbit breeder can be as involved as an all inclusive operation that breeds, processes and sells its own product. Their involvement can also be as limited as a breeder that sells its live product, a meat rabbit, to a processor that takes care of the rest. How involved you want to be in the processing is up to you and your resources.
For the most part, an all inclusive operation is a lot more time consuming, but more profitable than selling to a processor. A rabbit breeder who has a medium level of involvement pays a fee to have the animals processed and then markets the rabbit meat themselves. This type of business is not as intensive as the all-inclusive, but it still allows the breeder to be more involved in the final product and has the potential of finding a better selling price than the processor.
Click here to explore various rabbit processors throughout the United States, but do not limit yourself to this list! There may be butchers or processors in your town that process other meats and could potentially process your rabbit. Do your homework to determine your local options! The following chart will outline the various marketing relationships that are possible between breeders and processors.
Rabbit meat is an all white meat that is low in fat, high in protein, relatively low in cholesterol, low in sodium, highly palatable and easily digested. Rabbit has a higher percentage of protein and a lower percentage of fat than chicken, turkey, beef, or pork. Not only is it a rich source of unsaturated omega fatty acids but it a rich lean source of protein that can be substituted for red meat and poultry in most recipes.
Most commercial rabbitries find that it is necessary to produce a minimum of
fifty fryer rabbits per doe per year to make a profit. Anything less than that amount of production is not acceptable. That means that a commerical rabbitry must plan to raise at least 8 litters of young per year. To attain this goal, the commercial doe is re-mated 14 to 28 days after kindling and the litter is weaned
at 4 weeks of age. This allows the doe 2 o 3 weeks "rest" prior to the next kindling. Using the above mating practices, the commercial doe will kindle
between 60 to 80 kits per year.
One must anticipate that not all does will mate successfully on the first mating and there will be some death losses of kits from kindling time to market. With appropriate management, rearing 50 kits per doe per year is an attainable goal.
Today's rabbit can readily attain the growth potential of a 4½ pound fryer in
11 weeks; as well as achieving a sixty percent dressing percentage. Most commercial producers attain a ratio of 3½ to 4 pounds of feed for each pound
of live fryer meat produced.
Utilizing the above realistic production parameters of one doe producing eight young per litter, the doe can produce sixty four 4½ pound fryers; or, 288 pounds of live meat per year. Therefore, four does and one buck can produce more live meat per year than one beef cow on less feed and in a much smaller space. If one considers the potential production that the rabbit has, this can be considerably increased. The domestic rabbit must be given consideration as a future production animal for excellent quality edible protein.
Choosing a breed:
The most popular breeds of domestic rabbits for meat production are the white New Zealand and the Californian. These breeds are most desirable because they have white bodies, which aids in the cleaning process as stated in the Meat Processing Activity, and have very desirable growth characteristics for both the processors and growers. In some studies it has been shown that breeding various specific purebreds with others will produce a special rabbit, called terminal cross, that will have improved growth, conversion, and desired yield characteristics. There are a variety of different terminal cross patterns used, some involving Californian and New Zealand and others Dutch or Chinchilla.