Production characteristics and constraints of rabbit farming in central, Nairobi and Rift valley provinces, Kenya
Rabbit farming is a recognized enterprise in Kenya for livelihood support, hunger and poverty alleviation. This study provides information on Production Characteristics and Constraints of Rabbit Farming in Kenya. The field work was carried out in parts of Central, Nairobi and Rift Valley 'Provinces, Kenya. The research aimed to specifically i) determine the production characteristics and constraints of rabbit farming in Central, Rift Valley and Nairobi provinces in Kenya ii) To estimate baseline haematology values of rabbits from Central, Nairobi and Rift Valley Provinces in Kenya and to determine the prevalence and pathology of diseases in rabbits from Central, Nairobi and Rift Valley provinces Kenya. The collection of data was done using questionnaire and observation sheet and secondary data which were collected from the Department of Veterinary Pathology, Microbiology and Parasitology on pathology cases as well as samples collected from live and dead rabbits. The study revealed that rabbit farmers in Central, Nairobi and Rift Valley provinces practice small scale farming largely due to small land space. Forty four percent (44%) of farmers were aged 50 years and above. A large proportion of farmers (51%) had kept rabbits between 1 and 5 years, indicating a sustained interest in rabbit farming. The most common breeds of rabbits kept were New Zealand white (73%), Californian (60%) and their cross breeds (51 %) which were all suitable for meat production. This study revealed that farmers have limited access to technical information in rabbit farming and this was seen in the poor design and construction of the rabbit hutches. Majority of farmers (64%) bought their breeding stock from other farmers, with only a small proportion buying from breeding centres (17%). This practice of buying replacement stock among farmers was likely to lead to inbreeding. The major constraints of rabbit farming are those dealing with production; disease (83%), predators like rats (29%), death of rabbits (69%) and unavailability of rabbit feed (19%). Various intervention measures aimed at supporting rabbit farming are.required. The haematology of the rabbits ranged within the normal values in most parameters. The WBC count in male rabbits however, 17.8 x 103/ Ill, was significantly higher (P>0.05) than in female rabbits in the study (6.67 x 103 / Ill) and ranged outside the values reported for rabbits. This was indicative of an underlying disease or age factor of the rabbits. The eosinophil counts were exaggerated in both male and female rabbits (0-23 in males and 0-19 in females) and this was suggestive of a chronic parasitism of which coccidia were suspected. Coccidia were the most prevalent parasite infection in this study and were observed in 72% of the farms examined. Low numbers of Strongyle nematode eggs were observed in 2.4% of farms and this was indicative of low prevalence of this infection. Psoroptes cuniculi and Sarcoptes scabiei were the most common external parasites observed, Ctenocephalides canis and Echidnophaga gallinacea were only observed in 2 rabbits in the study. Post-mortem and histopatholgy findings showed a high incidence of disease and death caused by gastrointestinal conditions (49%) and respiratory infections (12%). Enteritis was confirmed in 29 cases (31 %), intestinal coccidiosis in 10 (11%) and hepatic coccidiosis in 1 case (1%). Aflatoxicosis (3%) and ear canker (2%) were some pathological conditions recorded. Research and training on rabbit diseases, feeds, marketing and rabbit housing is needed to support the growth of this industry in Kenya.