How to make a living off rabbits

Discussion in 'Rabbits' started by 6e, Aug 9, 2006.

  1. 6e

    6e Farm lovin wife Supporter

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    I'm curious......is there anyone out there that makes a living, or at least a really good second income, from selling meat rabbits to the processing plants? I've heard tells of people making $30,000 up to $75,000 selling rabbits to Pel-Freez. I'm wondering if this is true.
    If there's someone out there, tell me, how many breeders do you have to have and how many babies a year to make that kind of money and how much of that is really profit?
    If that's true, I may just be interested in doing something like that. We certainly have the space and the knowledge.....
    Thanks
     
  2. lscheopner

    lscheopner lscheopner

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    I am wondering the same thing. We spoke to a processor here before we got into rabbits in case we needed an outlet for the extras. They told us the demand is excellent for the meat but the supply is poor. They will take all we can produce but not sure it is economical to add more does.
     

  3. animalfarmer

    animalfarmer Well-Known Member

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    I am sure that income of some size is possable if you work hard and smart.However, I am also sure that you need to be near a sizable ,honerable, processor. I also feel that no matter what,you must slaughter and dress rabbits yourself so that you can have a continuing market if the processor slows down when you have stock to go.
     
  4. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

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    When I started raising meat rabbits commercially I was paid $1/lb live weight. When I got out of it four years later it was still $1/lb live weight. Today - $1/lb is still a common price and many processors won't pay that much. Expenses have, of course, risen.

    I loved raising the rabbits. It was the most enjoyable thing I've done on my farm. I would have stayed with it if we hadn't had a drought and a well.

    You'll need to buy food in bulk, keep nothing but the rest animals by culling hard, keep excellent records, keep your breeding schedule strict, your animals in excellent health and pay close attention to the business end of this. It's very different from backyard breeding for your own consumption.

    It's hard to say how many fryers you'd need to earn a set amount. The price in your area is a determining factor. So is the quality of the rabbits you raise. Processors aren't likely to put up with a heavily boned carcass (ie: lose any ideas of breeding in Flemish Giant to add to size quickly). Without experience I'd start with a trio of the best breeding stock you can find and start breeding intensively. Find out if you like this and if you're good at it. Keep your best, cull the rest and grow. I wouldn't start out with 100 does. With experience, find a reliable market for your rabbits and start meeting the demand. The processor will either give you a limit or buy all you can provide.

    When you buy new rabbits for the herd be picky. Ask for production records. Keep in mind that backyard breeders don't have processors to please, only themselves. If in doubt, as the processor exactly what he's looking for. When you buy breeding quality rabbits keep in mind that you're likely to be getting the seller's culls. That doesn't mean they aren't quality animals. It only means that you aren't buying the best and should keep working at improvement.

    http://stibbar.com/ This is the software I used. It does almost everything but breath for you. I started out the day by printing off sheets of which does needed nest boxes, which does were due to be bred, what pens should have fryers moved, which pens should have boxes removed, which does should have a new litter (preferably of 8 kits) and much more. You have to keep notes during the day. At the end of the day you enter your data and it's good to go the next morning.

    Rabbit Production by Steven Lukefahr, et al is an excellent book.
     
  5. 6e

    6e Farm lovin wife Supporter

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    Thank you. I've raised rabbits for over 18 years. At my highest count I had close to 150 rabbits. They were all show rabbits. Right now we have 6 NZW. I was reading the Pel-Freez brochure. They have a pickup point fairly close to us, but their rules are somewhat strict. None of them are hard, the only one I don't understand is why no stacking of cages?
    I've been toying with the idea of going into this as a business if it is for sure profitable to do so. I mostly want to know how many breeders a person would have to have to clear a decent profit? Also, what the best feed is that you can buy in bulk and where you get it. The only feed sold at the co-ops around here is Purina at $10 a bag.
     
  6. dlwelch

    dlwelch Well-Known Member

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    I sell to Pel-Freez for $1.00/lb. My average selling weight is 5.4 pounds.
    In order to generate $30,000 in revenue, I need to sell 5,556 fryers.
    To generate $75,000 in revenue, I need to sell 13,889 fryers.

    How many does (or doe cages) will it take? Well....that depends
    on your breedback system. Producers will often rebreed from 7
    to 42 days after kindling. There are pros and cons for each system
    and each system generates different results. *Averages* will
    vary from farm to farm. *IF* your doe (or cage) produces
    35 marketable fryers per year, it will require about 400 does (or doe
    cages) to generate the $75,000 from selling to Pel-Freez.
    (And no, you can't base your *assumption* on 8 litters of 8
    kits weaned per year per doe.)

    How much of that is profit? Another good question and one that
    is hard to answer as there are a lot of variables. I have a friend
    with 600 NZ does who pays 10 cents/lb for feed. He lives 10 miles
    from the mill and feed is delivered and augered into bulk bins several
    times per month. However, I don't live within 500 miles of
    a feed mill who can do that for me. My feed expense is considerably
    higher than his. Transportation is a killer for me. My roundtrip
    to meet the truck is 150 miles. On the other hand, my friend lives
    within eyesight of the processing plant.

    I have been selling to Pel-Freez for 8 years and purchased two
    herds from producers going out of business. I didn't know a lot
    about rabbits and it took me almost two years (and to the point
    of giving up) before things began to click in the profit area.
    That came about as a result of alternative markets which is the
    only way I can remain profitable. As pointed out,
    expenses keep rising and we aren't getting paid more by the
    processors.

    Linda Welch
    Texas Rabbit Connection
     
  7. dlwelch

    dlwelch Well-Known Member

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    That rule was instigated by the previous person in charge of
    the Growers with Pel-Freez. In his position of evaluating
    producers, he felt that the people who were the quickest
    to fail used stacked cages and didn't have insulated barns.
    I've known several commercial producers with large numbers
    of rabbits who tried to make the double/triple tiers work.
    It didn't and they redesigned. One of these was
    a Pel-Freez grower prior to the ban on double tiered caging.

    (I began posting the previous message and got sidetracked by
    a phone call while you were replying.)
     
  8. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

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    I got bulk food from a Canadian company. I live very close to the Maine/New Brunswick border. They blew it into my bins. At $10 a bag (50 pounds?) the best way you can make a living is to stay away from commercial meat rabbits. That's an awful lot of money for a bag of food. I couldn't even guesstimate how many does it would take to make a living with a food bill that high. Have you tried contacting Purina directly? They might be able to work with you. Blue Seal will deliver in bulk. I had a dust problem with their food. Too many fines is hard on the rabbits' eyes and respiratory system. It's also a waste of money on food that can't be eaten. Even a small percentage of fines adds up quickly when you're feeding hundreds of pounds of food a day.

    Stacking cuts down on air circulation which contributes to respiratory problems. Unstacked rabbits tend to be healthier. It's also a tremendous time waster when you have to pull trays to clean the rabbitry. Trays are big and a pain to deal with. They take time to scoop/dump, rinse and return. It's very inefficient. Hanging cages are a much better choice. You can shovel the droppings, wash down the floor (if it's not dirt) and be done. If you wanted to put a decent amount of space between two rows of hanging cages you could do that efficiently. I can't remember what the proper name is for what I used when I had to have two rows....it looks like metal roofing but it's clear plastic....does that sound familiar? It allows light in, and that's important. If you place it at an angle the urine and manure will fall into a bin at the end. It makes for very easy clean up.
     
  9. 6e

    6e Farm lovin wife Supporter

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    With a breed back of only 7 days, what is the life expectancy of any given doe? I would think that they would have a really short life and so how many replacement does would you have to keep back? How many bucks would you need, ratio wise? What size cages do you keep the does in? 24x36? That would seem to be a little tight when the babies get a little larger.
     
  10. Mallow

    Mallow Well-Known Member

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    I was wondering at what point do you attempt to process the rabbits yourself. I mean what all would be involved in getting the permits/inspections/setup to a small scale processing plant for your own rabbits. Anyone have any dealings with going that route.
     
  11. dlwelch

    dlwelch Well-Known Member

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    I can't supply much information regarding a 7 day breed back as I
    have never attempted it. The breeders that I personally knew who
    used a 7 day rebreed stressed the importance of a very high quality
    feed. If using NZ, a 24" x 36" cage would be fine. I think you
    would want the kits weaned at 28 days to allow the doe
    some time to rest before the next kindling. I wean at 28 to 35 days
    and a 24" x 36" works fine for my NZ and Cals.

    As far as replacements retained on a more intensive rebreed...........
    If you have 100 does, you will probably need to retain 100 juniors.
    Culling criteria is subjective. Mine might be more rigid that yours.
    This doesn't mean that every doe in the barn will be replaced
    at 18 months or 24 months. I have does in production who are
    over 3 years old and still going strong. It's not unusual to see
    does produce 12 to 15 litters before culling. (I rebreed at 14 to
    28 days.) I'm guessing that "life expectancy" refers to
    "reproductive life". Does can live a long time but it's not
    practical to have them if they don't pass our culling critera test.
    I can't answer specifically about a 7 day rebreed as I have no
    personal experience.


    A guess of doe to buck ratio: 20:1 ????? :shrug:

    Each state will have different rules. In Texas, it is fairly easy to
    setup to process up to 10,000 of our home grown rabbits. A rough
    estimate of cost for our (small) facility would be about $15,000
    to $20,000. No interstate shipping from Texas as one must be USDA to
    do that.

    I believe that some states do not require a separate facility for
    the processing. I've heard of people using their kitchen for
    their processing facility. In Texas, it must be separate.

    Start with the agency overseeing processors in your state which
    is probably the Health Dept.

    Linda Welch
     
  12. 6e

    6e Farm lovin wife Supporter

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    Linda: I'm curious, how do you have your building set up to house that many rabbits? How big of a building do you have, or do you have several? I've looked all over the internet to find commercial rabbitry designs, but I haven't been able to find any.
    When I had show rabbits we had over 200 rabbits in a fairly small building, but they were stacked 4 cages tall. I can't say that we had any trouble with respritory problems, but the cages were thoroughly cleaned once a week and each pan had pine shavings in it to absorb odor and wetness. The building also was open on the north and south ends and the wind blew through and kept it nice and cool with lots of air flow. We always had very healthy bunnies.

    We are always looking for ways to make a living from here at the farm. We have 5 children (although one doesn't live with us) and with day care being what it is and gas being what it is, it's just too expensive for me to work. Go figure that one out. :shrug:
    Our children are here all the time since we homeschool and the nearest city is an hour's drive from here and we'd like to be able to support ourselves from home, but that's easier said than done. The thing that got me about the rabbits is that we don't need extra land, like with the sheep needing pasture and besides cages, there's not a whole lot of expense involved, IF I can find feed cheaper than what I'm seeing it at.
     
  13. dlwelch

    dlwelch Well-Known Member

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    Google for Raised Center Aisle (RCA) barns.

    Our main barn is 90' long. The fryer house is 45' long and is not
    an RCA type. Sure wish it were!

    I added a photo to my website which provides one view of our
    large barn.

    Linda's rabbitry
     
  14. 6e

    6e Farm lovin wife Supporter

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    I love your barn....not sure how I'd build the raised center part. I'll have to give that some thought. So, to sell to Pel-Freez, the building doesn't have to be totally enclosed? I guess it never said anything about having to be enclosed, all it stated was that it had to have an insulated roof. :p
    That would make it much cheaper to build with the cost of metal going up all the time. Well, this gives me some good ideas. It might be a nice way to earn a little Christmas money. We also thought about selling the meat direct to people, like at the farmers markets, but from what we can see, it gets pretty involved. I hate the Kansas ag site. It's impossible to navigate and it reads like stereo instructions. We couldn't find anything on selling rabbit meat from the farm. All we found were guidelines if you were like a commercial processing (did I spell that right?) plant reselling to stores and such. If I could get someone there to return my calls once in awhile, we might actually get somewhere! :grump:
     
  15. dlwelch

    dlwelch Well-Known Member

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    Our ceilings are insulated. It may not be good to try and work
    around that as I've had a rep from the processor at my facility to
    check for insulation.

    If you have an enclosed barn, you will pretty much be resigned to
    using mechanical ventilation year round. In our area, there are
    many days (few in the summer) when the cool breeze allows us
    to shut down the fans. I would rather keep some money instead
    of sending it to the electric company!

    You might check back at that section of the site from time to time
    as I'm trying to add some photos from other commercial growers.
     
  16. 38-72

    38-72 Member

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    Isn't kind of strange to hear that the the demand is good but the supply is limited. If this were true, wouldn't the price go up (because of a shortage - law of supply and demand)? However, it looks like the price paid is at a stand still. Something doesn’t add up!
     
  17. kidsngarden

    kidsngarden Well-Known Member

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    What is pel freez anyway and how do you get hooked up with them?

    kids
     
  18. 6e

    6e Farm lovin wife Supporter

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    Pel-Freez is a processing plant located over in Arkansas. They sell rabbit meat, but they also supply rabbits to labs. They have pickup points to buy rabbits in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, along with a few other states.
    To get on with them you have to apply for a grower number. They consider new growers every 3 months. If they take you there are rules that you have to follow including, no rabbits raised outside, they have to be in a building and the roof has to be insulated. No double stacking of cages. No chickens allowed in that building and an effort has to be made to keep other varmints out of the building. They only buy white New Zeland rabbits and they check the livers of the rabbits periodically for problems. If there is you'll get a letter telling you to fix the problem. If they re-test and there's still a problem, you stand to lose your growers number. Oh, and no medication in the rabbits system at the time of sale.
    If you do a search on the internet for Pel-Freez, you'll find it and on their website there is an online guide for new growers and an online application for a growers number.
     
  19. kidsngarden

    kidsngarden Well-Known Member

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    I did a search and found the lab stuff. But I didn't see anything about meat or growers. I will look again. I am in WA so I bet I'm likely out of thier range.

    Thanks,
    kids
     
  20. Pat Lamar

    Pat Lamar Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The grower info is on a different web site. Try this:

    http://www.pelfreez-foods.com/growers/index.html

    And yes... you are WAAAY out of range for Pel-Freez! For WA state, you have two options (actually more, but it involves more travel for the rabbits): Nicky USA in Portland, Oregon, and Whole Foods for Pets in Cowiche, WA. Check the list of processors/Market Report on the PRMA web site for more info.

    Pat Lamar
    President
    Professional Rabbit Meat Association
    http://www.prma.org/
    Chairperson, ARBA Commercial Department Committee