If Arlene and I were starting a new
commercial rabbit meat business today. Reading this could answer a lot of questions a
prospective grower may have on getting started.
I have lots of e-mails from people
requesting information about starting a commercial rabbit
business. 99% of these are directed to www.ardengrabbit.com.
posted in April 1996 up through today, this web site has
been the largest inspiration to new prospective commercial
meat rabbit growers.
The answer to enough good quality rabbits
being grown to fill all the orders, will come from growers
operating rabbitries with common sense management practices
that produce profits high enough to properly pay growers.
Arlene and I know it can be done because we are doing it and
have been 32 years.
If Arlene and I were starting a new
commercial rabbit meat business today. The following is how
we would do it. I would personally like to see new growers
and present growers give this information some deep thought.
Especially if you have been disappointed with a rabbit
operation that will not produce enough profits to pay all
the bills and pay you too.
Decide what your markets will be. The
most sought after is a market of selling to a processor on a
regular schedule. One that will and can pay you for your
rabbits on every delivery. This can only be profitable in
the first year if you are less than an 1.5 hours drive of
the processor. Delivery cost and shrinkage from longer hauls
will eat up all your profits.
If you are located where there is no
processor or is to far away. Ask yourself, do I want to be
the processor? Or am I willing to work with others in my
area to form a coop to open a small processing plant?
Rabbits are regulated under federal food and cosmetic act
enforced by FDA and is available by most states at no cost.
USDA is not required and is available only if it is
purchased for rabbits. The cost of USDA inspection is so
expensive you will be doomed before you get started.
Alternative markets are available for
small operations. Personally I would not put any money into
a rabbit business depending on these markets. Some people
have seemed to be successful selling to these markets. As
far as I checked into this, I think the markets will fold
before you ever get big enough to be very profitable.
Plan and get set up with shelter space
before you get rabbits. The rabbits need a place where they
can be cared for. A commercial meat rabbit business is a
business and should be started and run as one. Name your
rabbitry. Open a bank account in that name. Apply for a
federal ID tax number and a state ID number. Write a
business plan with all the information you have researched.
Then you have a legal legitimate operation that will pay
taxes or give you tax credits that are worth money.
If you own a time clock use it or at
least keep track of all time spent working in your rabbitry.
Write down when starting and when quitting each day. Pay
yourself a minimum wage for this time. Deduct taxes and FICA
and pay the federal and state their taxes due. This can give
you tax credits until the rabbitry becomes self supporting
and pays all its own way and you too. You would not take a
job working for another company for no pay, so do not work
for your self either unless you get paid.
If you already have barn space or some
kind of shelter. Choose cages large enough (30 x 36 x 18
minimum) to leave the bunnies with mother 8 or 9 weeks and
harvest to market off mother. If you need to build shelter,
Plan so you can expand in small sections as needed. I
recommend not ever stacking cages. This was one of our
biggest mistakes when we started. Stacking 3 high to start
then down to 2 high and then reworking barns and cages for a
single level. The cost of labor to clean will eat up
profits. Also the added stress on the rabbits kill profits.
Always work for un crowded barn conditions.
Choose a breed of rabbit you have a
market for. You may sell to a processor that wants NZW only.
Most time this is because they are needed for laboratory
biological. If Californians can be sold they have the best
tasting meat and can be grown more economically. A big
savings on feeding breeders can be had by selective
selection from Californians.
I would start with 10 does 10 to 12 weeks
old and 2 bucks. One buck same age as the does and a
different bloodline. The second buck could be younger from a
third different bloodline. The younger buck to use to breed
junior does from original 10 does. Sell the bucks and keep
All the information I have gathered shows
the 42 day after kindle breeding system the most profitable
by a far margin. Some growers use the 11 day and 14 day
after kindle breed back. These same people are always
talking about 30% of bred does missing. All the information
I have gathered shows 2% to 5% misses on the 42 day. I
believe this to be true because we run 2% to 3% misses and
have been steady with this for over 32 years. When figuring
the extra cost of cages, buildings, high performance feed,
and extra labor moving bunnies. The faster breed back will
eat up your profits.
I am not a feed expert. I do not know of
any new rabbit growers that are. I put my time in finding a
reasonably priced pelleted feed. This feed must be
manufactured by a quality feed company. After I find a good
feed company I stay with them.
Actually your rabbits are same as
employees. They work for you and you pay them by shelter and
feed. I think a lot can be gained by having a set routine
that is followed. Decide on a set list of management
practices for these employee rabbits and stick with it.
Changes like trying a new breed system this week and another
next month leaves the rabbits like human employees. Not
knowing how to be happy.
Rabbit sale prices are set by market
conditions. The best way to increase profits is by more
efficient management practices. Lowering cost pennies at a
time. A little here and a little there. Lowering stress
prevents disease. Medications are very expensive.