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As Cuniculture gains popularity, Kashmir’s only rabbit farm witnesses surge in sales

Post by on Sunday, August 1, 2021

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As pet culture is gaining popularity among locals, Jammu and Kashmir’s only government run Angora Rabbit Farm in Wussan village in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district is witnessing a surge in annual sales from the past few years. It has become an attraction point for the local visitors, while officials are expecting bumper sales this year.
 The farm was established in 1979, with an aim to provide alternate farming and production, at Ussan Khoie village (Palhallan) and is situated around 35 kilometres to the west of Srinagar. 
Assistant Director, Sheep Husbandry Department, Dr Sheikh Ishrat Mahmood who is the in-charge of the Angora Rabbit farm Wussan told Rising Kashmir that they are witnessing increase in annual turnover each passing year. 
“In entire Jammu and Kashmir, there is only one rabbit farm here in Baramulla. We have seven varieties of rabbits in this farm including Angora French, Grey Giant, Black Brown, Californian White, New Zealand White, Soviet Chinchilla and Angora German,” he said.
 Dr. Israt said presently there are around 1200-1300 rabbits in the farm which are of different breeds. It is spread over 115 kanals and there are around five sheds where up to 2000 rabbits can be reared at a specific time. During winters, though, the numbers tumble down to just 500-600,” he said. 
Assistant Director said the department had also envisioned giving fillip to the rabbit sales while tapping to the entrepreneurial zeal of unemployed rural youth at the same time. We are planning to set-up more rabbit units in the area on the pattern of sheep units, so that people will know about cuniculture. There is good demand on the ground and these units will cater definitely for the same but there is less work for this proposal, he said. 
“We have taken the matter with our higher ups and if the same will be approved, it will influence more investors and entrepreneurs in this field. We are trying to promote it so that small investors and entrepreneurs follow the footsteps and push it further to the next level, Dr. Ishrat said. 
“Presently our customers across Kashmir act as our ambassadors; that is why our sales from the past several years have increased. In 2020, the rabbit sales witnessed Rs 6 lakh per annum. This year we expect more boost in annual turnover, he said. 
Dr. Ishrat said the farm has gained popularity over the recent years and people from south, central visit our farm to purchase rabbits for both pet keeping and meat purposes.
Earlier as per officials, in the year 2011-2012, rabbits' worth rupees one lakh were sold and similarly in 2013-2014, sales grew marginally to 1.33 lakh and in 2015 sales touched the record at 2.65 lakh. Presently there are 15-16 employees working in the farm while dozens of families are indirectly involved with the business. 
Mudasir Maqbool, who works as a stock assistant in the rabbit farm, told Rising Kashmir that the number of rabbits fluctuates in each season. Sometimes there are 1500, 1700 rabbits and it touches more than 2000 following new births, he said.
“People prefer rabbits as pets rather than for meat consumption. Mostly local villages around the farm purchase rabbits for meat consumption. While people prefer to buy the Russian Chinchilla and German Angora for keeping them as pets,” he said. 
Mudasir said they have four white breeds and sell them at affordable prices. It ranges from 300-500 rupees per animal. The highest rabbit pair is sold at 1000 per pair at the government rate. This farm is also attracting people who want to keep rabbits as their pets,” he said. 
"We sold rabbits throughout the year except between October to November months due to matting. The stock starts again in March onward till ending September,” he said. 
Each year, the farm sells 2000 rabbits to its customers and the trend is increasing each passing year. He said there is vast land available where vegetables, green grass are cultivated for them but during the winter months vegetables are being purchased from the market.
 As per official website of the Sheep Husbandry Department, the importing of rabbit furs for meeting the raw material requirements of the fur industry also includes sheep and goats to cater to the demand for meat especially in Kashmir where the meat consumption is on much higher side.  
“To augment the production of both fur and meat, the farm’s foundation stock of 60 New Zealand White rabbits was purchased from Gharsa, Himachal Pradesh. This stock was strengthened by the import of rabbits from time to time. The idea was to popularise the consumption of rabbit meat, as a substitute for sheep and goat meat, among the general masses,” it said. 
While little progress was achieved in establishment of the unit, meat evinced poor response among the public. However, it is expected that rabbit rearing will be in the Kashmir division in the coming years and thereby achieve the desired objectives, reads the official website of the department.
A senior doctor from the Animal Husbandry department said Angora rabbits are mainly raised for their wool, which is known for its quality. Angora rabbits are of many types. The differences are mainly in the amount of wool produced and the percentage of guard hair in the wool.  
He said rabbits differ from hares in size, life history, and preferred habitat. In general, rabbits are smaller and have shorter ears than hares. They are born without fur and with closed eyes after a gestation period of 30–31 days. 
“Among the various types, German Angora is the best and annually yields 1000 to 1200gm of wool under ideal management practices. Rabbits can be adopted to any set of circumstances right from a kitchen garden to a large intensive commercial enterprise. The wool produced by rabbits is preferred for manufacturing of high value woollens which have got very good export potential,” the doctor said. 
About its scope in Kashmir, the another official  said cuniculture is another livestock activity with great scope as it is relatively easy, rewarding and takes little space compared to other livestock activities. Rabbit farming can also provide a very valuable additional source of income in the rural areas.  
“The wool from Angora Rabbits is of very high quality and it's blending with carpet wool of sheep and silk improves the quality of woollens to a great extent. It is a profitable business as female rabbits produce 25 to 50 kittens a year. The initial investment cost for rabbit farming is low along with quick returns, about six months after the establishment of the farm. There is good demand for the meat in the market and they also provide income from the sale of kits and manure, the official said. 
The official said the rabbit rearing industry can emerge as a multi-crore industry for its wool and meat value. There is a need to tap the potential of the rabbit market fully so that employment avenues are created for the younger generation, he added.

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