Raising livestock on your homestead can be challenging and costly. When first deciding which type of livestock you want to include into your homesteading lifestyle, rabbits should be one of your top picks. The initial investment cost will quickly and easily be recuperated. There are many benefits for having rabbits but the most obvious benefit is the meat.
Raising Rabbits for the most obvious benefit: Meat
Rabbits actually are the most efficient of all livestock in converting feed into muscle mass. What that means is that you will use less pellets/grass/vegetables/weeds per pound of meat to raise a rabbit to harvesting size than for any other livestock animal, including chickens and fish. In addition to that, rabbits mature faster at reaching their ideal harvesting size than chickens and fish. For example, if you start incubating eggs the same day that the rabbits are bred, rabbits will be ready to harvest about a month before the chickens are.
A rabbit will provide enough meat for a family dinner, unlike goats, cows, and pigs which will provide a lot more meat, but will also require refrigeration or other means of preserving the excess meat. Rabbit is an all-white meat that is low in fat and cholesterol while being very high in protein.
Rabbit Meat for Cat & Dog Food
Rabbit meat can also be an important source of food for your dogs & cats! Unfortunately, commercial dog food takes a whole lot of storage space, doesn’t have a long shelf life, and isn’t always the healthiest option. Because dogs and cats do have important roles at protecting your homestead, wouldn’t you want them to live the healthiest life possible? Rabbit meat, along with a balanced diet will ensure they receive their necessary nutrients while not breaking the bank.
Breeds of Rabbits
Just like the are many species of apples, oranges, tomatoes, etc. you must remember, that not all rabbits are created equal. In fact, there many rabbit breeds raised specifically as a pet. The most popular commercial meat breeds to consider raising include the New Zealand White, Californian, Satin, and Flemish giant (for larger families). Doe rabbits are strongly suggested to be bred at least twice per year, in order to maintain higher numbers of kits in the litters. If a doe is bred only once per year, the number of kits in each litter will be lower. Of course, a doe rabbit can be bred much more often if necessary.
For more information on the different types of commercial meet breeds, please sign-up for one of our Rabbit Courses.
Rabbit manure is by far the most desired of all manures by gardeners. It contains higher levels of nitrogen, compared to any other common (chicken, cow, horse, goat, pig, sheep) livestock manures. Nitrogen is what you need in order for growing lush salad greens and the early phases of corn, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Rabbit manure, like all other livestock manures, is very high in organic matter, which will improve drainage and soil structure.
Rabbit manure has all the benefits of other livestock manure, but with a substantial advantage. The manures from most other livestock are physically “hotter” in temperature exertion and must be composted before adding to the garden. On the other hand, rabbit manure are cooler in temperature exertion and can be applied directly into the garden. One other amazing beneficial feature is that the rabbit manure size is a perfectly pelletized sized ball, making controlled application a piece of cake!
Nutrient Composition of Rabbit Meat
|Nutrient||Amount of Nutrient|
|Unsaturated Fatty Acids
(% of total fatty acids)
|Pantothenic Acid (mg/kg)||0.10|
|Vitamin B12 (µg/kg)||14.9|
|Folic Acid (µg/kg)||40.6|
¹Wet weight basis
²Dry weight basis
³Lukefahr, S.D., C.V. Nwosu, and D.R. Rao. 1989, Cholesterol level of rabbit meat and trait relationship among growth, carcass and lean yield performances. J. Amin. Sci. 67:2009-2017
⁴Amino acids expressed as percentage of protien.
Adapted from Rao, D.R., et al. 1979. Nutritive value of meat.
The Domestic Rabbit: Potentials, Problems, and Current Research. Oregion State University Rabbit Research Center, Corvallis. Pp. 53-59.