Commercial Rabbit Production
Commercial rabbit production. What does that even MEAN?!
In the most basic definition, commercial rabbit production is the production of rabbits for profit. Whether a rabbitry is a commercial rabbitry is not dependant on breed, intended use, or size; if the goal is to make a legitimate profit from raising rabbits, the rabbitry is a commercial rabbitry.
In commercial production rabbitries, numbers are not the only goal or even the primary goal, and the scale of the rabbitry has nothing to do with it’s status as a commercial rabbitry. Plainly put:
Commercial rabbitries raise rabbits to make money.
Every commercial producer has production goals based on their target market(s). Without a doubt, profits typically increase as working doe numbers increase, but that is only true when those does actually do their job.
ARBA Commercial type, “six class”, rabbits are those generally bred for commercial markets. “Six class” refers to the three age and weight divisions for each gender that should correlate with use as fryers, roasters, and stewers which are raised, harvested, and sold for human consumption. But the human consumption market is not the only commercial market available to producers. Others include the pet and exotic feeder, bio-medical, fur, pet/companion, and the hobby markets.
The most common pure breed of rabbit raised commercially is the white New Zealand, but I would personally be very interested in seeing an accurate breed poll of all commercial market producers.
There are a whole lot of us who don’t produce just white rabbits, and even when we do produce white rabbits, they are not all purebred New Zealands. There are a good many human consumption market producers who have moved to hybrid lines such as the M70, Tamuk, and Altex due to their often superior fertility and mothering abilities, as well as improved growth rates, feed conversion, and decreased days on feed.
Raising for commercial markets is often viewed as somehow “less” than producing for hobby markets. In fact, we are often ridiculed for what we do by hobby producers who claim we produce “junk” rabbits or that we provide less than stellar care for our stock.
Let me bust a few myths:
Myth: Commercial producers don’t care about their rabbits.
Fact: Commercial producers know that if their rabbits do not receive THE best care, nutrition, and housing they will not be productive and will cost more to keep than they will ever produce in profits.
Myth: Commercial producers just use does up and throw them away.
Fact: Commercial producers know that it takes 4-5 months for a doe to grow to producing age/size. Once that equipment and resources investment has been made to grow a doe to that point, she needs to BE productive and STAY productive.
Commercial producers work with the natural biology of a rabbit by keeping does bred on a semi-intensive to intensive schedule, because nature designed rabbits to BE highly productive animals.
They have a very short gestation period, an incredibly short period between giving birth and being willing to breed again (less than 24 hours), as well as a lactation/rearing cycle that coincides with that natural reproductive rhythm.
By working with the does natural breeding rhythms, we not only keep them in optimum condition, but also at peak production.
Myth: Commercial production facilities are inhumane, abusive, and fraught with neglect.
Fact: Abused, neglected, and highly stressed animals are NOT productive animals. To abuse or neglect production rabbits would directly result in decreased production, increased expenses, and lost profit. Commercial producers are business people, whose entire purpose is to make a profit; to intentionally do, or allow, anything that will absolutely directly decrease profit potential would be infeasible.
Do abuses and neglect occur in this industry? Absolutely. They occur in every industry where humans are involved. Do the actions of a very few, select individuals accurately define and represent the processes and procedures of every single producer? Absolutely NOT.
Myth: Commercial breeders don’t care about conformation/type and just flood the marketplace with junk rabbits.
Fact: Let’s be clear about this….the “type” used to define an ideal individual of any commercial, “six class” breed ORIGINATED with commercial production stock. Those breeds were “ours,” not the exhibitors.
As of 1997 ARBA removed slaughter classes from their SOP, and since then the hobbyist exhibitor has defined those breeds, not the actual commercial producers.
Take a look at the SOP pictures of the commercial type, six class, breeds and see how much show rabbits of commercial breeds have changed in appearance since 1997. Now, see if you can find a SINGLE actual commercial producer who is utilizing stock that looks ANYTHING like what you see on show tables.
No, can’t find one? There IS a reason for that, and it has nothing to do with what looks pretty according to some Judge. It has everything to do with what will actually produce, grow, and satisfy the processor/consumer.
Commercial production demands certain carcass traits, which certainly do correlate to conformation points, but there’s a whole other side of the equation being ignored by hobbyists. Commercial producers need not only that ideal frame/carcass, but also early fertility, great mothering ability, rapid growth, and great feed conversion.
Some say it’s a case of puh-tah-toe vs poe-tay-toe, but commercial producers will tell you it’s a matter of production and profit versus hobby. We’re happy to keep our “junk,” by the way, and you can keep your ribbons.
Myth: Commercial producers don’t care about anything but the next paycheck.
Fact: We are actually working toward at least the next two to four paychecks every time we deliver a load.
We have to plan ahead for the next breeding cycle, kindling cycle, weaning cycle, and finishing cycle.
See, when we deliver a load, the mothers of those kits have already delivered and weaned at least one more litter, and are bred again. We have planned ahead for feed, health checks, sanitation, cage space, and maintenance because there’s no such thing as a day off in most commercial production rabbitries.
Those of us who are successful are constantly looking into and developing more markets, evaluating our herds, making wise investments, and planning as far ahead as we feasibly can. We work hard at what we do, and we arw always looking for ways to be more efficient and better.
So, do you consider yourself a commercial producer? We’d love to hear from you!