Last week I introduced you to our new doe rabbit, Fiona, and told you about my hare-brained scheme (Yeah, I really just said that.) to start raising meat rabbits. I can’t raise cattle in town. At present, I can’t even have a goat, but I can have rabbits because they can be raised in small, urban spaces and are considered pets by most people.
I can, and will continue to buy sustainably raised meat products from farmers I know and trust, but raising my own meat rabbits is financially a better option for me. Besides, rabbits are greener; they are very efficient converters of plant biomass into meat. If you don’t believe me, read this research paper by Wayne Cook from the Warner College of Natural Resources of Colorado State University. It’s really long and unless you’re versed in the science, probably difficult to read so I’ll just share this statement:
“Calculations for comparisons among herbivores show that rabbits can utilize the herbage biomass potential better than sheep or cattle and sheep are considered more efficient than cattle. (The data) shows that rabbits are about 2.2 times more efficient than sheep and about 2.8 times more efficient than cattle.”
So, even though I don’t have space for sheep or cattle, I can cleanly, humanely and efficiently produce my own meat. Rabbit meat production doesn’t require much space or equipment and the start-up costs are minimal. I’ve done my research. I know there are breeds of rabbits more suited to meat production based on their size, body shapes and growth patterns. Fiona, our doe, is a Palomino rabbit. Palominos are considered a good breed for meat production.
This is Nibbler. Nibbler is a 9-week old buck that we purchased at the fair last Wednesday and picked up yesterday. The kids selected him. I like that he looks like a wild rabbit. My only criteria for rabbit selection other than suitability for meat production was that we couldn’t have any of those zombie-eyed albino rabbits. I’ll be honest, they creep me out.
Nibbler is a mutt, but he is a blend of several varieties of rabbits that are of a good size and shape for meat production. Not all the breeds in his gene-pool were on the “preferred” list for meat production, but most of them were and his parents were of a good size (9-11 pounds). I’m not raising pet rabbits, so I don’t need pedigrees. By diversifying my gene pool, I will actually end up with heartier stock not prone to genetic defects common in straight-breed rabbits.
When we started with chickens I didn’t keep excellent records of our costs because saving money on eggs wasn’t my goal. However, I want to show that rabbits are affordable, sustainable meat that anyone inclined to could raise. We won’t have any meat from our pair for a while because they are young, but I will keep you updated on the expenses as we move forward in this venture. Check back soon for a post about rabbit housing!