Research needed to meet local food demand

There is a growing demand for Ontario rabbit meat, which means opportunity for Ontario farmers to fill a local food niche.

But there is very little research to help farmers improve and increase their production, according to a literature review commissioned by Ontario Rabbit. In fact, there are North America-wide gaps in meat rabbit research and resources.

“Our farmers are asking for research but we need to determine what’s already been done so we don’t duplicate efforts,” says rabbit grower Dave Kabbes, President of Ontario Rabbit. “This will help us be more strategic and focused in how we allocate our research dollars to address the gaps we’ve identified.”

The literature review of published research showed that although a lot of work has been done in Egypt and South Africa, those efforts don’t translate well to Canada. Climate considerations – those countries don’t have the same crazy winters we do here – are one of the biggest factors in applying existing research to rabbit production in Canada.

Ontario Rabbit also conducted a benchmarking survey of growers to identify on-farm production issues and to match those up with the research gaps. According to the survey, lighting, air temperature and air quality were all considered to affect rabbits’ conception rates but farmers do not yet feel they have the research resources available to address these shortcomings.

“We found nothing in the literature, for example, to show how rabbits cope with summer heat stress,” says Kabbes. “If we are going to grow our marketplace, we need to address some of these issues so we can make more rabbits available to the market and make the industry profitable for farmers.”

The lit review was funded in part through the Ontario Research and Development (ORD) program, an initiative of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to help promote long term viability and competitiveness of Ontario’s farming sector.

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