RABBIT farmers across the country are expected to receive an additional 6 000 breeders under the ongoing rabbit pure breed roll-out programme, being bankrolled by local firm, Raymeg Holdings, a corporate member of the Zimbabwe Commercial Rabbit Breeders Association (ZICORBA).
ZICORBA vice president Siphosethu Ncube-Moyo said the association had boosted its breeding stock by more than 1 000 pure breeds over the past 10 months, laying a strong foundation for sustained growth of the country's cuniculture sector.
The association has been playing a significant role in efforts to commercialise rabbit production in Zimbabwe, which has seen active participation of women and youths.
ZICORBA also successfully led the process of building the country's first rabbit abattoir, which was completed in Harare last year.
Marketing agreements have already been concluded with major retail operators that include Pick n Pay and TM Supermarkets, Spar Zimbabwe and Choppies.
An estimated 30 tonnes of rabbit meat is now being consumed on the local market.
The amount of rabbit meat consumed across the globe reached 1,5 million tonnes in 2018 after picking up nearly 3 percent while total consumption has registered exponential growth of similar margin since 2007.
"We are very encouraged by the progress made since we first launched the pure rabbit breed roll-out programme about 10 months ago with an initial stock of 180 imported rabbits.
This is part of our strategy of ensuring that our rabbit farmers have adequate quality breeding stock to produce unencumbered," Ncube-Moyo said in an interview with the ZICORBA mouthpiece, the Bunny World newsletter.
Under the pure breed roll-out programme, ZICORBA members receive breeding stock which they pass on to the next member after they kindle twice.
Tapiwa Nyagwambo, a ZICORBA member based in Mashonaland East and beneficiary of the pure breed roll-out programme, said he was "very impressed" with the performance of pure breeds versus local hybrids.
"At personal level, I believe the programme is a huge success as I received 19 kits from 3 New Zealand White does from their first kindling.
"The does have shown a very good mothering ability after attaining a 99,9 percent survival rate at weaning and the weight gains are remarkably excellent," he said.
"The most noticeable advantage that I saw in comparison with the hybrid rabbits is their high feed to meat conversion ratio which was proven by weekly average weight gains of 150 grammes reaching about 1,8-2 kilogrammes at 8 weeks for weaners, which is very good for meat rabbits and enabling the breeder to sell at the premium age," Nyagwambo added.
Munyaradzi Chioto, a Bulawayo-based rabbit producer said: "The New Zealand breeds that I received have a high reproductive rate compared to native breeds that I have been rearing.
"In the past, I used to specialise in native breeds which took 6 months to grow, which were very costly, however, the 4 pure breeds I received were a good boost to my rabbitry. With the use of the pure breed buck, we have managed to get 65 kits which are growing fast like never before."
Harare-based rabbit farmer and ZICORBA member, Neil Francisco, said: "The pure breed programme is a real success. I received New Zealand White pure breeds in February, I started breeding them in April, and to date I have 13 kits from 3 does. In August, I expect more kits before I pass on the initial breeding stock to the next farmer."
Mrs Anna Mary Gapa of Gokwe said: "The pure breed roll-out programme is a huge success. My does kindled 20 kits in May 2022.
"They are so healthy and growing vigorously with all their traits of purity. My intention is to phase out all my small breeds and replace them with these pure breeds."
Another beneficiary of the pure breed roll-out programme Kingston Rakupeni, a ZICORBA member based in Manicaland, echoed the same sentiments. "I managed to successfully breed the pure breeds that I received in September last year and got 10 live kits from the two does.
With less difficulties, I raised these kits to maturity and they commenced breeding in March 2022 with great success. I also managed to raise another 10 live kits and handed the initial breeding stock over to another farmer," Rakupeni said.
Rakupeni encouraged all beneficiaries of the programme to ensure that proper care is given to the breeding stock to so that as many farmers as possible could benefit