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Margaret Odhiambo: I nearly gave up on rabbit farming

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It is easy to assume that farming is mere walk in the park, especially when you see a farmer’s venture thriving. But before a farmer starts reaping the benefits, they go through numerous challenges. Margaret Odhiambo, a rabbit farmer from Bondo, Siaya County demonstrates this reality. “I started rearing rabbits last year after my kids interested me in the idea.

We started with a lot of excitement, but the journey has also been sobering,” says the teacher. To start off, she bought a Flemish Giant buck from a farmer in Kakamega at Sh3,500 and other four mixed breeds. She spent Sh8,000 to buy rabbits and Sh20,000 for putting up rabbit structures. It was all smooth, then the storm set in.

After about six months into the venture, she faced the problem of rabbit diseases, lack of feeds and vaccines. She tells Smart Harvest: “I lost more than 20 rabbits in one week. We just woke up one day and found the animals dead. I was shocked and called in a vet the next morning. The vet examined the animals and told me they died due to a mite infestation. I had no idea how I could control them.” That was a wake-up call for her. She was advised to start using Servin Dust (a powder for killing mites).

She dusts the powder on the rabbits and their hutches. “Since I started using these remedies, I have not experienced any animal deaths related to that disease. I have also been giving them antibiotics and multivitamins,” she says. She also faced some challenges during the dry season because she was forced to travel long distances in search of feed. “I usually feed them on pellets which I buy at Sh500 per 10kg pack. This I supplement with vegetables and fruit remains which I collect from the market,” she adds.

Being a teacher and a farmer is hectic, and so Ms Odhiambo has to work smart to juggle the two roles. On a daily basis, she wakes up as early 4:30am, prepares and heads to school to monitor the students for the morning preps. She comes back to the house at around 5am to clean the rabbit cages and feeds them before going back to school for the morning classes.

When there is a doe that are about to kindle, she is forced to wake up in the middle of the night to check on the animal to ensure the delivery is safe. “Most rabbits give birth at night and if you leave them unattended, the animal might accidentally step on its kits (baby rabbit),” she says. The Deputy Principal at Nyamonye Girls Secondary School in Bondo, Siaya County says she loves rearing these animals because rabbit meat has a ready market and fetches good money.

The animals also mature and breed fast. She says, “I started with a small structure not knowing the rabbits would multiply very fast. From the five rabbits that I bought, I now own more than 100.” Another plus of rearing rabbits is that it requires little space and the returns are good.

“The returns are quite impressive. A mature rabbit fetches about Sh4,000.” She uses the locally available materials like wood planks and second-hand iron sheets to build the rabbit hutches. Odhiambo who expects more than 50 bunnies in the next few weeks says she keeps more than 20 bucks which she fattens and sells them for meat to her colleagues and other locals.

“Rabbit meat has a big market but the only challenge that most farmers experience is meeting the market demand. If you were to supply around 100kg of rabbit meat per week to a restaurant, it means you must have a not less than 100 rabbits at any given time,” she explains adding that this is why she has been selling to domestic consumers.

She sells mature rabbits at between Sh800 and Sh1,500 while 2 month-old rabbits for breeding at Sh600 to Sh800 for does and bucks respectively. “We have also tried to put up structures to the recommended type but not to perfection,” she says.

Odhiambo looks forward to being a major player in the county’s white meat market by establishing her own butchery that specialises in rabbit and poultry meat.

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