Small livestock such as sheep, goats, rabbits, ducks, chickens and many others have in common the characteristic that they are relatively undemanding in their feeding requirements and easy to house and manage. They provide the same products and services as larger livestock, such as cattle, but are less risky, are easier to replace as they are not so costly and reproduce faster. By optimising the management of the animals as well as the integration of the animals into the farming system, the total production of the farm can increase considerably. The raising of small animals also offers opportunities for a regular cash income throughout the year.
Raising rabbits has been done by many 4-H youth, and Easter-time stimulates some interest in them. Raising rabbits is a good example of non-profitable activity unless it is done on the proper scale and in the proper areas. There is not high demand for the now-almost-unknown meat. Chicken suffices and is popular. We believe that a packaged frozen product can be developed along with a canned stew-meat alternative. Rumors are that fur is no longer widely acceptable. In the face of these obstacles, we nevertheless propose a profitable local production industry with marketing done elsewhere.
Involvement of youth and many people, even at a very small scale, in Rural System.
Computer-aided selection from among the breeds:
The objectives are for optimizing on size, metabolic efficiency, meat yield, fur quality, pelt quality, and local appeal.
Ideas and practices will include:
The following is from ATTRA (2003) National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
QUESTION from Virginia: What are the inspection and chilling requirements for on-farm rabbit processing and marketing?
ANSWER: Usually rabbits are considered a non-amenable species, meaning that they are not covered under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and, therefore, do not need USDA Food Safety Inspection Service inspection to be marketed. However, many state or local health codes need to be observed. You should contact Barry Jones or Gary Milton with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, at (434) 947-6731, for information on Virginia's requirements for rabbit processing.
Below are three on-line resources dealing with rabbits and rabbit processing. According to these publications, rabbit carcasses should not be left in cooling water for more than one-half hour. Rabbit carcasses will absorb water, and the water is considered a contaminant. It is recommended you remove the rabbits from the water and place them in a refrigerator or cooler until your customers can pick them up.
See Meat Processor strategy
Anon. 2003. Rabbit production: Slaughtering and dressing rabbits. Mississippi State University Extension Service. 5 p.
Anon. No date. Raising rabbits: Helpful suggestions for beginners. Cooperative Extension, Washington State University. 12 p.
Graham, Paul P., Mark S. Price, and Norman G. Marriott. 1998. Rabbit processing. Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech. 6 p.
Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 2, 2005