Nantale finds joy in rabbits and quails

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Nantale (L) feeds rabbits and collects quail eggs. PHOTOs BY EDGAR R. BATTE 

By Edgar R. Batte

Posted  Wednesday, August 20   2014 at  01:00

My name is Jessica Nantale. Before I started rearing rabbits and quails, I worked with several companies but I felt my talent and resources were under-utilised. In 2012, I watched a video about rabbit farming, I was impressed and found out more about it.

Rabbits are reared on a large scale in countries like Kenya, India, US among other countries.
I shared the idea with my business partner, Simon Tebyasa, who was in the US at the time. He visited several rabbit farms to see how it is done. He learned the basics and shared the knowledge with me
We had a 200 feet by 100 feet piece of land at Buloba along Mityana road, where I had been growing mushrooms and rearing poultry. It was on this land that we started rabbit farming as a pilot project.

Important things
We started with 25 exotic rabbits: 22 females (does) and three males (bucks). We bought some from Kenya at KShs4,000 (Shs 118,272) each and 10 New Zealand Whites from a rabbit breeder who is based in Buloba. These ones cost Shs40,000 each.
After three months, 12 of them produced an average of seven kittens or kits each. Since then, the number had been gradually increasing to our current stock of 200 rabbits.

This figure excludes those we have sold to other farmers. All this within a period of two years.
The price of a rabbit depends on the breed and weight. They range between Shs40,000 and Shs80,000 although some indigenous breeds are sold between Shs10,000 and Shs20,000 depending on where and who is selling.

In a few supermarkets, where the meat is sold, a kilo goes for Shs9,000 to Shs15,000. We mostly sell to other farmers who like the exotic breeds but we also get inquiries about the meat, which we hope to begin supplying in a couple of months.
Caring for rabbits does not require a lot of labour. The most important things to take note of are: maintaining a clean place, good record keeping, making sure there is enough clean drinking water, and ensuring that any sick rabbit is isolated from the rest.

Significant gains
Does are ready to breed at four to six months while bucks are ready at five to six months. A single rabbit can have up to 14 kittens per litter with a gestation period of 28-31 days.
For instance, if a farmer starts out with three female rabbits and keeps them for three years, the population will have grown significantly thus attracting a lot of money.

The housing is the biggest expense. Otherwise, the cages can be made using timber and wire mesh, which are available at hardware shops.
Starting the rabbit farm required some capital investment so we borrowed money from the bank. The loan has been paid off and the farm is expanding, so if we are to calculate the earnings, some money has been made. We have two employees but we intend to hire two more by end of the year.

First batch
When we decided to rear quails, it was difficult to get parent stock since quail farming is still a new thing and few people are involved in it.
We imported a batch of 1,500 fertilised eggs from US and Kenya. With all the logistics and paper work involved, we spent a total of $2,000 (about Shs5.2m).

It was not easy to import eggs because they are fragile. We lost money with this first batch of eggs since many did not hatch due to the time they spent in transit.

We had to get a licence from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) since quails are considered a wild bird in Uganda. The process of getting the licence from UWA took a lot of time. It required patience on our part and we had to move around a lot. They even had to visit and inspect the site where we were going to set up the farm.

However, it was a disappointing hatch and we almost gave up. We then invested in putting up brooders and cages for the quails. If not put in cages with the right dimensions, they fly into the walls, hurt themselves and die.

The cost of labour to make the cages was minimal since we used timber and wire mesh, which are locally available materials.
Although in many countries around the world quail farming has been a practice for so many years, in Uganda it a new thing hence awareness is still poor so that comes with challenges.

There are more than 18 quail breeds around the world but we specialise in American Jumbo Brown and Texas A&M breeds because they perform well in our climate. We plan to introduce other breeds with guidance from UWA.

Rearing quail birds is rewarding because in just four months, we were able to recoup the money we initially invested. We have been able to increase parent stock from 300 to 2,000 birds.
Every week, we hatch between 500 and 1,000 quails. Most of our clients want to buy day-old chicks.
Pricing for quail eggs has been based on demand. We sell eggs at Shs800 each for fresh ones and Shs1,400 each for the fertilised ones, which are ready to be incubated. This is for those who want to hatch their own quail chicks.

We sell eggs in raw form but we plan on importing a machine to make powdered eggs to increase the shelf life.

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