Pastured Rabbit for Profit
The ultimate goal of this project is to fine-tune Letterbox’s own 2 year-old pastured rabbit operation so it can be used as a glass-walls model for other farms. Emphasis is on executing high animal welfare standards while demonstrating real economic viability. We are likewise developing an easily digestible, practical resource for farmers that intends to guide them through the start-up phase of their own pastured-rabbit operation. This resource includes a full enterprise budget along with other replicable materials including housing design, a pasture rotation plan, a sample breeding schedule and feed guidelines.
To date, we have met with other commercial rabbit produces, including Carrie Edsall, Danial Salatin and Ellen Fagon. Unfortunately we were unable to arrange a visit with John Fazio, as he decided not to participate in the project. Steve Hadcock, our project advisor, worked with us to coordinate these visit.
In Spring, 2015, Letterbox farmers Nichki Carangelo, Laszlo Lazar & Faith Gilbert began keeping records on their experimental rabbitry consisting of 7 breeding does and 2 bucks. Over the course of the season, these farmers have closely tracked production, labor, sales, expenses and profits of their pasture rabbit enterprise – data which they are currently reviewing as they work to put together a complete guide to raising rabbits on pasture for profit.
In an effort to diversify their data pool, Nichki visited three other rabbit producers to gather information on each producer’s:
- Ability to successfully raise rabbits
- Daily labor requirements for their rabbitry
- Expenses, sales and profit margins
- Plans for growth and expansion
As of the fall, 2015, Nichki has begun executing an extensive review of the existing literature on the subject of rabbit production, with a focus on pasture-based systems and economic viability. In the fall of 2015, the farmers at Letterbox expanded their operation to include 30 breeding does and 2 bucks. They produced over 300 rabbits for market in the 2016 calendar year.
Nichki presented her research at both the NOFA NY Winter Conference and the Stone Barns Young Farmer Conference this year. Both presentations were very well received.
With two full seasons of research under our belt, we’ve begun focusing our energy on the guide. The text is approximately 50% complete and plans for the graphic design and final layout are underway.
Our biggest accomplishment this year was putting together our research into a presentation format that is also serving a rough outline for the guide. The presentation was created with an emphasis on relevancy, digestibility and comprehensiveness. We feel it is appropriately geared toward beginning farmers with an interest in economic viability. A PDF of the presentation has been attached for your review:
We also continued to keep very tight records of production costs, labor and sales for the 2016 season. With two full seasons of research to reference, we are now able to weed out the influence of flukes in both production and sales. This has lead us to rework our guide in order to be sure it is an honest and true representation of the small scale rabbitry.
We are pleased to report that given the following:
- Other, larger enterprises exist to help carry overhead costs
- The farm is already operating year round
- You can find good feed at an affordable price
- You have consistent access to a legal processor
- Markets in your area support appropriate pricing and purchase in high enough volume
a small-scale, pasture based rabbitry can be both economically viable and sustainable.
Cornell Cooperative Extension
479 Rt 66
Hudson, NY 12534
Office Phone: 5188283346