Livestock Research for Rural Development 20 (1) 2008 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD News

Citation of this paper

Rabbit meat as a preferred animal protein source in Ekpeye Kingdom of Rivers State, Nigeria

G A Kalio, I Etela* and V E Ginika

Department of Agriculture, Rivers State College of Education, Ndele, Nigeria
*Department of Animal Science and Fisheries, University of Port Harcourt, Choba, Nigeria
i.etela@uniport.edu.ng   and   ibetela@yahoo.com

Abstract

Structured questionnaires were administered to 200 respondents to elicit consumers’ preference for rabbit meat vis--vis its production and protein intake in selected rural communities of Ekpeye Kingdom, Ahoada East local government area (LGA) of Rivers State, Nigeria.  Data were analysed using simple statistics and Chi-square test (X2) analysis. 

 

The preference ranking of animal protein sources in the study area gave grasscutter > bush fowl > rabbit > cattle > goat > sheep, with an assessed availability of 28.8%, 24.6% and 22.0% respectively for grasscutter, bush fowl and rabbit.  Also, 71.7% of respondents agreed (X2cal = 16.60; X2tab (0.05;4) = 9.49), that rabbit meat was popular, available for sale and a cheap source of animal protein. The order of reasons stated in favour of rabbit were taste > availability > cheapness > tenderness > any other reason.  Other attributes include easy management > low labour requirement > less capital investment > commonness > less harmful or destructive. 

 

Efforts targeted at improving people’s preference for rabbit production and consumption by exploiting its other industrial uses have very high promise to increase the protein intake of the farming population, eradicate rural poverty and enhance sustainable rural livelihood.  Scaling-up such approach through governmental agencies and non-governmental or community-based organisations would create employment opportunities for women and youths who comprise the bulk of rural dwellers.

Keywords: Animal protein, farming, meat, rabbit, rural livelihood


Introduction

Rabbit has since been identified as an economy livestock that could bridge the wide gap in dietary protein intake in Nigeria.  It is a micro-livestock producing about 47 kg of meat per doe per year, which is enough to solely meet the animal protein requirements of a medium-sized family under small-scale rural farming systems (Abdulmalik 1994; Hassan and Owolabi 1996).  Available literature shows that the white meat of rabbit is very nutritious, easily digestible and extremely low in cholesterol and sodium levels (Omole et al 2005).  In a related study to determine the profitability of rabbit production in five communities in Etche local government area of Rivers State, Ironkwe and Amaefule (2007) reported between 83% and 140% returns on capital investment.  In spite of these attractive characteristics, indications are that most people in Rivers State of Nigeria still do not appreciate the rabbit meat, which has consequently resulted to its neglect.

 

In recent times, there have been reported cases of low animal protein intakes in most rural communities of the Niger Delta due to alleged declining farming and fishing outputs.  Such declining catches have been largely attributable to population pressure, alleged use of obnoxious fishing methods, environmental degradation and pollution through sand dredging and mostly oil exploration and exploitation activities (Lukefahr and Cheeke 1990; Sikoki and Zabbey 2006).  Strategic promotion of rabbit production and consumption, through improved information sharing at the grassroots, could bridge the protein intake gap occasioned by declining fish catches by local fisherfolks in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.  Thus, a survey was carried out in Ekpeye Kingdom in Ahoada East local government area of Rivers State, Nigeria in 2006 to ascertain the current preference for rabbit as an alternative source of meat and meat products as food for the rural populace and other industrial uses.

 

Materials and methods 

The study was set up as a simple descriptive survey to elicit relevant information from respondents on their perception about rabbit meat as a source of animal protein in Ekpeye Kingdom, Ahoada East local government area of Rivers State, Nigeria.  It was confined to eight randomly selected towns (Edeoha, Ehuda, Ihuaba, Ihugbogo, Odiabidi, Odiemerenye, Ogbo, and Okporowo-Ekpeye) out of the thirty-four towns in Ekpeye Kingdom.  A total study population of two hundred respondents was randomly interviewed from the study area with twenty-five persons each randomly selected per town.  Data collection was done either through direct interviews or administered structured questionnaires filled out by respondents.  Completed questionnaires were retrieved and analysed through descriptive statistics using simple percentages and the results presented in tables.  The availability and preference data for rabbit meat were analysed using Chi-square test (X2) with t at 0.05 level of probability (SAS 1999).

 

Results and discussion 

Findings from the study indicated that the people of Ekpeye Kingdom, Ahoada East local government area (LGA) get their supplies of animal protein from different local sources.  Some of the identified sources of animal protein were grasscutter, bush fowl (“Okwa”), rabbit, castle, goat, sheep and monkey (Table 1).  The study showed that among the identified sources of animal proteins, the highest number of respondents (30%) said that grasscutter was the most available, while monkeys were the least available (2%).  In terms of their preference for meat from these different sources, the number of respondents ranged from the lowest number of 5.5% for sheep and monkey to the highest number of 27.5% for grasscutter.  The higher preference for grasscutter meat among the Ekpeye people has earlier been reported (Clarke and Herbert 1986).   


Table 1.  Animal resource availability and factors for rabbit production

Item

Frequency

Per cent

Ranking

Animals found and available

 

 

 

Grasscutter

60

30.0

1

Bush fowls

50

25.0

2

Rabbit

46

23.0

3

Cattle

16

8.0

4

Goat

14

7.0

5

Sheep

10

5.0

6

Monkey

4

2.0

7

Animals preferred for consumption

 

 

 

Grasscutter

55

27.5

1

Bush fowls

48

24.0

2

Rabbit

42

21.0

3

Cattle

18

9.0

4

Goat

15

7.5

5

Sheep

11

5.5

6

Monkey

11

5.5

6

Rabbit meat popularity

 

 

 

Yes

133

66.5

-

No

56

28.0

-

Undecided

11

5.5

-

Rabbit meat products availability

 

 

 

Yes

147

73.5

-

No

48

24.0

-

Undecided

5

2.5

-

Rabbit meat cheapness

 

 

 

Yes

150

75.0

-

No

35

17.5

-

Undecided

15

7.5

-

Liking rabbit meat

 

 

 

Yes

120

60.0

-

No

63

31.5

-

Undecided

17

8.5

-

Reasons for liking rabbit meat

 

 

 

Taste

65

32.5

1

Availability

60

30.0

2

Cheapness

45

22.5

3

Tenderness

20

10.0

4

Any other reason

10

9.0

5

Preference for rearing rabbit

 

 

 

Easy to manage

60

30.0

1

Less labour costs

50

25.0

2

Less capital investment

40

20.0

3

Very common

35

17.5

4

Not harmful or destructive

15

7.5

5


Similarly, the inhabitants of the communities may have identified the grasscutter meat as being most available due to the numerous scavenging and hunting activities carried out on them in the wild.  Conversely, in the face of increased deforestation activities due to urbanization and/or oil exploration and exploitation, these animals risk being endangered if the current trend is allowed to continue unabated.  Hence, the rabbit holds high promise for ameliorating this pressure on the grasscutter having been ranked third most available and preferred next only to the grasscutter and bush fowl (“Okra”) as shown in Table 1.

 

In addition, majority of the inhabitants agreed that rabbit meat was a popular (66.5%) and cheap (75.0%) source of meat in the area  (X2cal = 16.60; X2tab (0.05:4) = 9.49).  The range in ages of rabbit farmers in Ekpeye Kingdom showed that most of them (50%) fall within the age bracket of 26-35 years and the least (2%) being below 25 years of age (Figure 1).  The observation concurs with that of Ironkwe and Amaefule (2007) who reported a range of 30-50 years making up 85% of respondents.  The maximum colony size per rabbitry of breeding stock: bucks (males) and does (females) ranged between four and twelve, respectively with an average of two bucks and seven does per rabbitry. 



Figure 1.
   The age bracket of sampled rabbit farmers in Ekpeye Kingdom


Among the factors identified by the inhabitants, as being responsible for the production and survival of rabbits, were the vegetation of the area, the ability of rabbits to feed and survive on roughages with little or no proprietary concentrate feeds, their being less expensive to raise, their short gestation period and high prolific nature (Abdulmalik 1994).  The results point to the fact that there are several factors that could be responsible for the production of rabbit in the area.  The findings from the survey to determine the factors that favour the production of rabbits in the study area are also presented in Table 1.  When asked whether they liked rabbit meat, 60.0% said yes, 31.5% said no, while the rest 8.5% were undecided.  The negative response posited by the respondents, were due to very difficult experiences they encountered in the course of rearing bucks (male rabbits) and does (female rabbits). 

 

The behavioural patterns of the animals such as bad temperament, aggressiveness, bad mothering abilities and cannibalism were key reasons for the negative responses by respondents.  Some reasons advanced by respondents for liking rabbit meat, according to their rankings or percentage response (Table 1) were taste > availability > cheapness > tenderness > any other reason (small body mass; easy processing to meat chops).  These findings are in support of Schlolaut (1985) who reported that in some African countries, rabbit meet commands higher demands than other types of meat because of its palatable taste and low fat content.  Further reasons put forward for preferring rabbit production were in the ranking order: ease of managing animals during production > the low labour requirements associated with its production > the requirements for less capital investments > the animal being very common > the animal not being harmful or destructive.  The enumeraretd attributes above were have earlier been ascribed to the rabbit (NAQAS 2001).

 

Other questions were posed to the respondents to find out the array of problems and difficulties encountered by rabbit farmers in the study area (Table 2).  About 62.5% of the respondents responded with a yes when asked whether rabbit feeds and forages were available in the area.  Further questioning on the problems and difficulties confronting rabbit farmers, revealed that diseases and pest may (according to 47.0%) or may not (according to 43%) be a limiting factor to rabbit production in the area, while 10.0% were undecided.  According to the respondents with affirmative response, the most common diseases experienced being scabies and coccidiosis.


Table 2.  Problems and difficulties confronting rabbit farmers

Item

Frequency

Per cent

Huge finances for rearing rabbit

 

 

Yes

47

23.5

No

136

68.0

Undecided

17

8.5

Constructed rabbit hutches expensive

 

 

Yes

44

22.0

No

142

71.0

Undecided

14

7.0

Availability of rabbit feeds and forages

 

 

Yes

125

62.5

No

58

29.0

Undecided

17

8.5

Diseases and pests affect rabbits

 

 

Yes

94

47.0

No

86

43.0

Undecided

20

10.0

Rabbit docile and easy to handle

 

 

Yes

154

77.0

No

44

22.0

Undecided

2

1.0

Special skills required for keeping rabbit

 

 

Yes

112

56.0

No

65

32.5

Undecided

13

6.5

Weather favours rabbit production

 

 

Yes

146

73.0

No

34

17.0

Undecided

20

10.0

Land availability for raising rabbit

 

 

Yes

140

70.0

No

54

27.0

Undecided

6

3.0

Religion and culture affect rabbit production/ consumtion

 

 

Yes

0

0

No

186

93.0

Undecided

14

7.0


On the average, 69.0% of the respondents agreed that land for rearing rabbits, weather conditions of the area, husbandry skills for rabbit management, and the docility of the animal all favoured rabbit production in Ekpeye Kingdom.  Furthermore, the research survey revealed that rabbit production and/or consumption of its meat has neither religious nor cultural barriers amongst the people.  This latter factor was majorly responsible for the general acceptability of rabbit by the people of the study area. There is, evidently, a lot room for the expansion of rabbit production in terms of its meat and other rabbit products such as the furs and skin.


Conclusion

 

References 

Abdulmalik M E 1994 Rabbit production. In Okaiyeto P O, Ndubuisi A H and Okoh A E (editors). Advanced Animal Husbandry Practices for Subject Matter Specialists in the ADPs. Training Manual for FACU/NAPRI, Workshop, Zaria, 13-17 December 1994

 

Clarke D and Herbert C 1986 Food Facts, London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd

 

Hassan W A and Owolabi R O 1996 Production performance of domestic rabbits in semi-arid zone of Nigeria. Proceedings of the 6th World Rabbit Congress, Toulouse, France 3: 359-363

 

Ironkwe M O and Amaefule K U 2007 Economics of rabbit production in Rivers State, Nigeria. In Agiang E A, Agwunobi L N and Olawoyin O O (editors). Susutainability of the Livestock Industry in an Oil Economy, Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Nigerian Society for Animal Production (NSAP), University of Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria, 18-21 March 2007

 

Lukefahr S D and Cheeke P R 1990 Rabbit project planning strategies for developing countries (1) Practical considerations. Livestock Research for Rural Development Volume 2, Retrieved 15 August 2006 http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd2/3/cheeke1.htm

 

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Omole A J, Omueti O and Ogunleke O J 2005 Performance characteristics of weaned rabbits fed graded levels of dry cassava peel fortified with soycorn residue basal diet. Journal of Food, Agriculture and Environment 3: 36-38

 

SAS 1999 Statistical Analysis Systems, SAS for Windows, Version 8, Cary, NC, USA

 

Schlolaut W 1985 The rabbit as a productive animal. In: A Compendum of Rabbit Production Appropriate for Conditions in Developing Countries. Eschborn Publishers, Germany

 

Sikoki F D and Zabbey N 2006 Aspects of fisheries of the middle reaches of Imo River Niger Delta, Nigeria. Environment and Ecology 24: 309-312



Received 8 October 2007; Accepted 18 October 2007; Published 1 January 2008

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