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Profits in Raising Rabbits

Profits in Raising Rabbits

At the current time there is a high demand for rabbit meat but not nearly enough suppliers.  Many restaurants are adding it to their menus in an attempt to be more European.  There are some grocery stores that carry rabbit meat but most are unable to, due to the lack of supply. Cruise lines are big buyers of rabbit meat.  Research facilities and universities also purchase a lot of NZW rabbits for medical research and testing.  So with all this demand, why is it so hard to make a living off rabbits?

Because RABBITS ARE A VOLUME BUSINESS, bottom line.  A large number of does would have to be managed to earn big rewards.  It is very difficult to make substantial money from breeding rabbits, unless you are a commercial breeder with hundreds of rabbits and on a continuous breeding program.  Even then, the returns may be low when the costs of employing staff for cleaning and for the care of the rabbits are taken into account.

Rabbitry Cage - Profits in Rabbits

There can, however, be huge profits in raising NZW rabbits, if you’re lucky enough to be in the market for rabbit serum, or blood which has been cleaned.  This is blood that is close to a humans blood and therefore in very high demand for medical research.  This blood can be sold for $15,000 a gallon or higher.  However, getting your name on the list of  biomedical sellers is not easy;  it’s almost impossible, plus you would have to be able to provide a very large amount of rabbits.

So, is there any profit in raising rabbits?  Profit, in our opinion, should not be described by the amount of money you make, but by the amount of money you save.  Spending much less at the grocery store on meat, simply by raising your own meat, is the same as making a profit.  This is money that stays in your pocket and this can be considered a profit.  As a backyard grower, you probably won’t be able to quit your day job, but even on a small scale, you might be able to save some money.  And as said earlier, this is the same as making a profit.

As with any small business you won’t reach success overnight.  You have to understand one must have a game plan.  You must be able to manage and market the rabbits.  You will also have to know how to budget.  So, there can be profits made in raising rabbits, but like anything else, it will take work and discipline.  In our opinion, a certain number of rabbits are needed to be produced on a yearly basis to reach profits.

In order for the cost (feed, utilities, materials etc.) of the meat produced by a rabbitry to be equal to or greater than that spent at the grocery store;  each doe needs to raise out a minimum of 35 fryers per year.  To attain this goal, the doe would have to be re-mated 10 to 21 days after kindling and the litter is weaned at 4 weeks of age. This would be 7 to 8 litters per year. Using the above mating practices, the doe, if good stock, should produce between 50 to 60 kits per year. The number of kits that are actually raised out will be determined by how good of a mother the doe is and by the job that you do.

Does that do not meet this minimum standard should be culled.  If a rabbit is not producing, it is just eating what little profits there are.  Fryers should reach this “market weight” of 5lbs. by 8 to 10 weeks of age and most certainly by 11 weeks.  The time period may vary depending on your stock, temperature, and protein percentage in your feed.

As said earlier, rabbit meat production is more profitable on a large scale, but some money can be made even with a small amount of rabbits.  A profitable meat rabbit business can be started with just 3 to 4 does and 1 buck, some basic equipment, and a buyer.  With this number of does, enough rabbits can be produced so that a family might consume meat from 2 fryers per week the year-round.  A fryer can feed a family of four.  This can add up to a lot of savings over a years time.

The average price of beef and chicken has risen significantly in the last 20 years.  Beef has increased almost 44% since 1996.  The price for a pound of chicken has increased 300% since 1998. On average, you’ll have approximately $1.00 in each lb. of live weight of each fryer that you raise, whereas most meats in a supermarket cost between $4 to $10 a pound.

An average NZW doe, if good stock, should produce around 200lbs. of actual meat per year.  A 6lb. fryer will produce about 3.5lbs. of actual meat.  Do the math; you may have between $200 to $300 in this 200lbs. of meat, but at the supermarket you would have spent between $800 to $2000 dollars for the same amount of meat.  So, in our opinion, this is profit.  Remember, our figures are based on the stock and feed used by Crossroads Rabbitry.

100_0857Before starting, you’ll need to decide on what type of rabbit to raise.  The 2 most common breeds are the New Zealand White and the Californian as they have the best meat quality.  A NZW X Californian cross is called a smut.  This is a terminal cross that grows out nicely and may also be a choice.  We only raise NZW stock at Crossroads Rabbitry.  If you do decide to start with a different breed, stick with a white breed for its fur.

 

Most all buyers prefer white rabbits and processors want it, as white hairs are not as noticeable on the meat as dark hairs are. The white fur can also be dyed to other colors.  Regardless of the breed, you must start with some good quality stock from a respected breeder in your area.  Good stock is essential as poor breeding stock will produce poor offspring. Visit numerous rabbitries before purchasing any stock.

The cleanliness and orderliness of the rabbitry will be a reflection of the quality of the stock.  Many rabbitries, however, are closed to the public to avoid the chance of bringing in any diseases. If a breeder won’t allow you to, at least look in and see the stock and the operation, do not buy from them.  You should have the right to see what you’re purchasing. You should be allowed to see the facility and the conditions the rabbits are living under.  However, if you do visit a rabbitry, please respect their wishes and request they may have from you.

When buying your stock, look for signs of good health.  Make sure the rabbits are lively; with clear and bright eyes.  Make sure they have soft and clean fur;  Make sure no moisture is around the rabbits eyes, nose or mouth.  Also, make sure the grower has good information and records on the stock.

There are several places to sell your rabbits for a profit;  You can sell to individuals, sell directly to a processor, to a middleman or to restaurants. If sold to restaurants, you would have to become skilled in butchering and packaging your own rabbits.  You may also be required to supply a certain amount of meat each week and also be USDA approved.  If you prefer to leave the butchering to someone else, look for a middleman who takes this labor task and cost out of the equation.

These middlemen make a living from buying live rabbits and then selling them to restaurants.  Sometimes dealing with the middleman is easier and can still be profitable. The pros of dealing with a middleman is that you don’t have to spend time butchering and packaging the rabbits plus you don’t have to be USDA approved. Another benefit is you can sell the number of rabbits you have available at one time instead of having to meet a certain quota required by the restaurant. The con is that the middleman will always pay less than a direct sale to the restaurant will.

We recommend that anyone interested in raising rabbits for the first time to enter into it slowly.  You can always expand later if you see fit.  If you feel you are being successful with your current number of rabbits, you can increase your herd size at a rate suited to your time and financial resources.

On the other hand, if you find that you are not suited for the rabbit business, you can sell the equipment and stock with little or no financial loss.  Remember to always keep both, good financial and production records, or you will not know if you are making progress and a profit or whether you are losing money.

Listed below are some concerns you might consider before starting a rabbitry:

Advantages

  • Raising rabbits can possibly provide extra income in your spare time.  They can be sold to individuals, processors, restaurants, snake growers, pet stores, zoo’s etc.  It can also be a wonderful hobby and provide good bonding time with family members.
  • You can produce your own nutritious and wholesome meat, as rabbit meat is considered the healthiest meat known to man.  You should be able to save money, since your not having to purchase other meats at a higher price from the supermarket.
  • Rabbits require less space than large livestock.  This is important, especially in areas where there is shortage of agricultural land.  Rabbits, on a small scale, can be raised indoors; like garage areas or spare rooms.  A substantial size rabbitry can be operated on less than one acre of land, as very little land is needed.
  • As far as labor, raising rabbits is less physically demanding than most other agricultural enterprises.  It is estimated to take an average of 14 to 20 hours per year to care for 1 working doe and 14 to 20 hrs. per week to care for 100 does.
  • Additional income can also be made by selling stock to other people or by producing and selling earthworms.  Rabbit manure can also be sold.

Disadvantages

  • There is a high initial investment for a building and breeding stock.  An average will be $200 per doe unit (facility, cages, equipment and your stock).  This investment can be less if an existing building can be used for the rabbit housing.  Materials and breeding stock may then only amount to $60 to $100 per doe unit.  These are just estimates.
  • The rabbit industry is not as developed as most of your other agricultural enterprises;  it is therefore considered a high-risk investment.  The market for purchasing your rabbits must be considered.  It is important to have several buyers lined up before even considering the investment.
  • The beginner rabbit producer usually discovers management problems and maximum production is seldom achieved during the first few years.  This is why rabbit farming is called “the eighteen month business”, as most growers exit the business before the second year.
  • Rabbit production is an everyday business with very few days off.  The rabbits must be fed and watered daily.  Low margins do not usually allow for the hiring of temporary labor.

ESTIMATED WORKING HOURS (for 100 does):  It is estimated, under average production conditions, some 14 to 20 working hours per week will be required to care for 100 does. Listed below are average working times per week.  Again, these are just estimates.

  • Mating and palpating the does…….….….….2.5 hours per week
  • Nest care, fostering and weaning……………2.75 hrs.
  • Feeding…………………………………..…….2.25 hrs.
  • Cleaning…………………………………..……4.25 hrs.
  • Monitoring and needed treatments…..……..1.75 hrs.
  • Clean-out (manure)…………………….…….1.25hrs.
  • Sales and paperwork…………………….…..1.25hrs.
  • Managing the operation……………….……..1.25hrs.
  • Miscellaneous tasks……………………….…1.25hrs.
  • WEEKLY TOTAL HRS. (for 100 does)…..18.50 hours per week

COSTS: Naturally cost can vary depending on your setup and size.  A building or shed will be required and other expenses will include the rabbits, cage wire, water drinkers, feeders, nest boxes, feed, fans etc.  Utilities and water costs must also be taken into account.   Below is a list of items needed and an approximate cost.

  • Good NZW stock  – $35 ea.  Stock may cost anywhere between $25 to $60 each (in our opinion, $35 to $50 should be the maximum paid).  However, you should realize, as with most things purchased you get what you pay for.  Spending a bit more on excellent breeding stock is usually worth it in the long run.
  • New Cages – $40 ea.  Cage price will vary depending on the quality of wire used and the size.  Most growers use a 18″ tall x 30″ deep x 36″ wide.  We choose to not go any deeper than 24″ for arm length. You want to be able to reach to the back of the cage with ease for cleaning and breeding.  A large door is very important in selecting a cage.  The cost for most cages will vary between $25 to $75 each.   Additional cages for grow out will be needed and will be based on your breeding program schedule.  On average, you will need 1 to 2 extra cages for every working doe.  Check out our cage and nest page for more info.
  • Feeders  – $5ea.  Fine X Metal feeders are the best and it is advised to use a 9 1/2″ or a 11 1/2″ size.  These sizes will be helpful when the cage is full of kits and you’ll be glad you went this large when you only have to feed once a day.  Prices vary from $4 to $8.  Check out our feed page for more info.
  • Water dispensers  – $ 5 ea.  Use water bottle dispensers or brass nipple drinkers.  It is advised to avoid bowls, crocks, tin cans, or similar-type open waterers.  They are unsanitary and encourage disease.  Your water bottles and brass nipples are around $5 ea.  The bottles merely attach to the cage, whereas the nipple drinkers are attached to tubing or screwed into pvc pipe.  The advantage to nipple drinkers is that they can be supplied by a 5 gallon plastic bucket or a 55 gallon plastic drum, meaning you don’t have to water everyday.  Check out our cage and nest page for more info.
  • Large, metal nest boxes  – $20 ea.  Metal boxes are better than wood as wood boxes are less sanitary and rabbits will chew on them. If wood is used, always avoid redwood, cedar or any treated lumber.  A perforated bottom (pvc or masonite) is needed for the bottom of nest boxes.  The bottoms should be removable for easy cleaning.  Prices may vary from $15 to $25 ea. depending on size.  Check out our cage and nest  page for more info.
  • Cooling fans – $25 ea.   One expense to think about is cooling.  Rabbits cannot tolerate high temperatures.  They can die if temperatures in your building get above the 90′s, plus bucks may go sterile.  Box fans help or they’re are other little tricks you can do:  place frozen water bottles in each cage, use ceramic tiles or wet towels for them to lie on.  A sprinkler system on the roof helps.  The best solution is shade trees.  Check out our housing page for more info.
  • Heaters – $50 ea.  Heat may be needed in the colder months to prevent water from freezing and help with new born kit survival.  Oil filled radiator type heaters work well in small areas.  Large areas may require kerosene or propane types.  Prices may vary from $40 to $400 depending on type used.
  • Feed – $12 ea.  A 50lb. bag of feed can vary, depending on the brand and its ingredients.  An average cost will be $10 to $20 per bag.  Food will be your biggest expense and should be bought in bulk if possible.  It must, however, be stored in a dry area and not be allowed to become damp.  It needs to always be fresh.  Check out our feed page for more info.
  • Hay – $5ea.  Hay is a very important part of your rabbit’s diet.  A rabbit’s digestive system is one of balance. It needs the right nutrients moving through the body to supply it with energy, growth, and healing ability.  A good quality hay will provide these nutrients.  Prices vary for bales of hay from $3 to $10.  Check out our feed page for more info.
  • Feed Cart – $35 ea.  There are numerous types of feed carts.  We use a baby jogging stroller with a bucket strapped in.  These can be purchased used at Goodwill or thrift stores.  These work well and will roll over most anything.  Other types of carts will cost $25 to $200.  Check out our feed page for more info.

START UP ESTIMATE COSTS:   (for 3 Does and 1 Buck / building not included)

  • Stock:   ($35ea. x 4)…………………………………………………………………..$140
  • Cages:   ($40ea. x 7) / 3 extra cages needed for grow-out)..……………………..$280
  • Feeders  ($5ea. x 7).………………………………………………….……………….$35
  • Water Dispensers (bottles or nipple drinkers):  ($5ea. x 7)………………………..$35
  • 3/4″ PVC Pipe and fittings:  (Optional for Edstrom threaded nipple drinkers)……$20
  • Flex Tubing and fittings: (Optional for Edstrom barbed nipple drinkers).…………$15
  • Nest Boxes:  ($20ea. x 3)…………………………………………………………….$60
  • Cooling Fan:  ($25ea. x 1)……………………………………………………………$25
  • Heater:  ($50ea. x 1)…………………………………………………………………..$50
  • Feed:  ($12ea. x 1)…………………………………………………………………….$12
  • Hay:  ($5ea. x 1)………………………………………………………………………..$5
  • Miscellaneous Items:  (latches, rings, bucket, shovel, snips, wire brush etc.)…..$75
  • APPROXIMATE TOTAL PROJECTED START UP ………………………….…$753

PRACTICED BREEDING SCHEDULES   (These schedules are based on the average 31-day gestation period.)

Days After Kindling                             Yields No. Litters per Year

  • 42 days after kindle                                                   5
  • 35 days after kindle                                                   5½
  • 28 days after kindle                                                    6
  • *21 days after kindle                                                  7
  • *14 days after kindle                                                  8

*It is our opinion, to realize a profit from raising meat rabbits, one must select the 14 or 21 day re-breeding schedule. The key to profit or loss is based on the pounds of meat produced per doe.  This opinion is based on a commercial level. These schedules will require additional cages for growing out fryers and will require weaning the fryers from the doe at 30 days.

This will allow the doe an adequate rest period before her next litter.  With this schedule, 7 to 8 litters per year can be produced.  Eight fryers can be placed in a 18″ x 24″ x 36″ cage.  Good management, good maintenance of the rabbits, and good record keeping are required with these two schedules.  If these 3 things are performed adequately, it should produce a profit if you receive the normal meat market price.

Rabbitry Feed Cards

MEAT MARKET PRICES:  The market varies across the country from processor to processor.  (It can range anywhere from $1.15 to $2.00 per lb. received.)  Most processors require that fryers purchased be between 4.5 to 6lbs.  The following amounts received are for a 5.25lb. fryer.

  • $1.15 per lb…………………………….$6.04
  • $1.25 per lb…………………………….$6.56
  • $1.35 per lb…………………………….$7.09
  • $1.50 per lb…………………………….$7.88
  • $1.65 per lb…………………………….$8.66
  • $1.80 per lb…………………………….$9.45
  • $2.00 per lb…………………………….$10.50

DATA PROJECTIONS per DOE:  Data will vary depending on stock genetics, breeding schedule and mortality rates.  Note: This information is based on the stock and feed of Crossroads Rabbitry.

Breed Back Schedule (Days after Kindling) 14 21 28
Conception Rate Percentage  85%  85%  85%
Number of Litters Born per Year  8  7  6
Kits Born Alive per Litter  8.8  9  8.5
Death Percentage before Weaning  15%  15%  15%
Weaned Kits per Litter  7.5  7.7  7.2
Death Percentage after Weaning Kits  5%  5%  6%
Raised Kits per Litter  7.1  7.3  6.8
Replacement Kits per Doe per Year  1.5  1.4  1.3
Number of Marketed Kits per Doe per Year  55.3  49.7  39.5
Average Shipping Weight per Fryer (lbs.)  5.4lbs.  5.4lbs.  5.4lbs.
Marketed Fryer per Doe (Ibs.)  298.6lbs.  268.38lbs.  213.3lbs.
Marketed Roaster per Doe per Year (lbs.) ( X 0.5)  7.5lbs.  7 lbs.  6.5lbs.
Total Marketed Meat per Doe per Year  306.1lbs.  275.4lbs.  219.8lbs.

Cost/Benefit Analysis:  On average, you can expect the doe and her litter together, up to the market delivery date, to consume approximately 3.5 to 4 pounds of feed per pound of the total litter’s weight gain. Note: This information is based on the stock and feed of Crossroads Rabbitry.

Feed Price (in cents) per lb. ($10/50lb. – $400/ton) 20 cents 20 cents  20 cents
Feed Use per Doe and Litters per Year  1148lbs  1033lbs.  824lbs.
Feed Cost per Doe and Litters per Year  $229.60  $206.60  $164.80
Meat Price per Pound Received  $1.50  $1.50  $1.50
Meat Income per Doe and Litters per Year  $459.15  $413.10  $329.70
Meat Income Minus (-) Feed Cost per Doe and Litter per Year  $229.55  $206.50  $164.90
Cost Price Rabbit Meat per Pound  $0.75 $0.75 $0.75

TO BE CONTINUED…………………………….

PLEASE NOTE:  In order for us to provide healthy and disease free New Zealand White rabbits, we maintain a CLOSED RABBITRY.  Potential buyers will, however, be able to view enough of the building’s interior to observe the rabbits and the conditions they live under.  We’re sorry, but no outside rabbits, dogs or cats may be brought onto the property.   Thank you for understanding.

THANK YOU for visiting the Crossroads Rabbitry web site; home of Quality New Zealand White Rabbits.


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