Big producer takes a rosy
view of the meats future
PETER Hussey is one of the biggest UK rabbit producers and certainly, he reckons, one of the more profitable ones. Called Eaudyke Rabbits, it is based near Spalding, Lincs and was started in 1971.
He currently has 326 breeding does, but plans to increase numbers to 750 in the near future. The expansion will involve a £60,000 investment for a new purpose-built building, itself a measure of Mr Husseys confidence in the rabbit-rearing business. He supplies Woldsway, the main UK rabbit processor, and the meat ends up on the shelves of Sainsbury, Somerfield and the Co-op.
"You can make a reasonable living if you do the job properly, but you need to remember that its a seven days-a-week job," he says. "You need to water them, feed them and look at them every day."
Three things, in particular, need to be got right, he says. One is the mating, which needs to be done on the day its due, not left until after the weekend or when you can be bothered. He re-mates the does 12 days after theyve given birth and sticks to that interval religiously.
Another important point for novices to the rabbit business is to make sure that the buildings are suitable – ie well ventilated but with as little temperature variation through the year as possible. He uses 230mm (9in) insulated block walls and 50mm (2in) of spray insulation on the roof to keep the stock as comfortable as possible.
A third point, says Mr Hussey, is to make sure all breeding stock is vaccinated for VHD and myxomatosis when it arrives.
Profitability-wise, he reckons to make £70-£75/doe/year net profit, but stresses that you need to be doing the job well to get that sort of return. As well as economies of scale in buying feed, bigger producers also gain a price premium on sales. He says processors will pay £1.10p/kg (50p/lb) for small numbers and £1.30/kg (59p/lb) for big numbers, a difference of 50p an animal.
And hes adamant that more producers need to come into the market to give that consistent supply needed by supermarkets.
"We need more rabbits produced in the UK; theres currently a deficit and UK processors could handle another 10,000 rabbits a week without any problems. The UK produces 1500t of rabbit meat each year; in Europe its more like 250,000t"
Mr Hussey can give free verbal advice and supply an information booklet for £4.75 to potential producers. He can be contacted on (01775-840691).