There are many ways you can alter your rabbitry to support sustainable animal agriculture. In this article, we will discuss ten different things you can apply to your operation to become more sustainable. These include how you handle your rabbit waste (manure, urine, and bedding), how you source your feed, limiting power and water use, and more!
Managing waste and promoting healthy soil can both be accomplished by composting rabbit manure. Rabbit manure does not have to be composted, as it is a cold manure, meaning it will not burn plants if directly applied. But, some breeders find composted manure easier to handle and spread.
Sustainable animal agriculture, such as composting rabbit manure or using “raw” rabbit manure, are crucial for promoting a more responsible and ethical approach to rabbit farming. By implementing these practices, farmers can not only improve their own operations but also contribute to a healthier planet for everyone.
How To Compost Rabbit Manure
As stated before, you do not have to compost rabbit manure, but it is a good idea to do so if you have bedding mixed in your manure. To compost rabbit manure, create a bin or pile. Add rabbit manure and other organic materials like leaves, food scraps, and grass clippings. You should keep the compost moist and turn it regularly for proper decomposition. It takes 6-12 months for compost to be ready.
Reducing Water Use By Composting Rabbit Manure
Using composted or “raw” manure reduces water use by improving soil health and increasing its ability to retain moisture. When manure is added to the soil, it helps create a healthy, nutrient-rich environment for plants to grow. Since the soil can retain moisture more efficiently, it lessens the need to irrigate, therefore conserving water.
Additionally, manure improves soil structure, making it porous and better able to absorb water when it is available. This reduces runoff and ensures that water is used more efficiently, benefiting both the environment and the farmers who rely on it.
Manure Can Feed Poultry With Sustainable Animal Agriculture
If your farm includes poultry, more specifically chickens, they can be very beneficial when it comes to composting manure. Poultry eat bugs found in rabbit manure, helping to break it down in the process. As chickens and other birds scratch and peck at manure, they naturally aerate it, allowing for faster decomposition and nutrient release. This symbolic relationship is beneficial for both the birds and the soil.
How To Use Composted (or Non-composted) Rabbit Manure
To use rabbit manure (composted or non-composted), spread it over the soil around plants, or work it into the soil prior to planting. The nutrients in the manure will nourish the plants and improve soil health, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. Using rabbit manure is a sustainable animal agriculture practice that supports a healthier and more responsible approach to farming.
Bedding can be composted in the same way as manure and will help the decomposition of the manure if composted together. Composting your manure is a better option than applying it in its original state if there is bedding mixed in. The added bedding will also bring nutrients that can benefit your soil composition.
Rabbit urine is very high in nitrogen and can be used in many ways. If you collect urine with manure it can be composted or used together. But if you collect it separately, there are a couple of different uses.
Since rabbit urine is so high in nitrogen, it can burn plants if applied directly. You can dilute the urine with water at a 1:10 ratio and use it on plants that seem to be struggling. It is rich in other nutrients, as well as nitrogen, that plants need for growth.
Rabbit urine can also be used as a pest repellent to deter animals like deer, rabbits, and rodents away from your garden. The urine can be diluted with water at a 1:5 or 1:10 ratio. Then, you can apply it to areas you want to protect from pests. Reapply every few days, particularly after rain or watering.
Foraging or Growing Feed
Sustainable animal agriculture can be supported by foraging or growing rabbit feed. This reduces reliance on imported and processed feeds. It also reduces environmental impact and supports the local ecosystem by promoting biodiversity.
Cuts back on feed Costs
Many plants grow across much of the world that can be used as supplemental rabbit feed. By harvesting these plants or letting your rabbits forage, you can cut back on your feed costs during the growing seasons. Additionally, you can grow plants specifically for your rabbits.
Buying Locally Milled Feed in Bulk
By buying feed produced locally in bulk, you can reduce the environmental impacts due to shipping. You will need to make fewer trips to the feed store this way, which supports a more sustainable approach to animal agriculture.
Knowing when to cull rabbits, whether soft or hard culling, will help your rabbitry work towards more sustainable animal agriculture. Culling rabbits should be a part of every rabbitry, because not every rabbit will meet the standards you are working towards, no matter what you are breeding for.
Using Every Part of the Rabbit
If you choose to hard cull, knowing how to use every single piece of each rabbit will help you be more sustainable. This factor will be especially beneficial if you are raising rabbits for profit. There are many uses for any part of a rabbit, so you can choose the one that best fits your operation. Composting, making dog or cat food, and taxidermy/ oddities are a few examples of how to use the less desired parts.
Meat Does Not Have to Travel to You
By butchering your own rabbits, meat does not have to travel to you. Meaning, travel impacts on the environment are reduced. This also makes your family and/ or farm more sustainable as a whole.
Limiting power usage on your rabbitry is a key factor in promoting sustainable animal agriculture. One way to do this is by using solar power to generate energy. This renewable energy resource reduces reliance on non-renewable resources. You can find solar-powered lights online or in stores rather than using normal lighting options. Additionally, you can reduce power usage by using energy-efficient lighting, utilizing natural light whenever possible, and installing insulation to reduce heating and cooling needs.
Limiting Water Use
You can advance sustainable animal agriculture practices in your rabbitry by limiting water use.
One way to limit water use is to use a watering system. The system should be designed to prevent water waste and evaporation, such as nipple waterers or a gravity-fed system. Installing a watering system will also reduce the time it takes to do chores, and continuously provide fresh water to your rabbits.
Another way to lessen water use is collecting rain water. If filtered, this water can be used as a drinking source for your rabbits. But it can also be used as-is for cleaning cages, feeding/ watering equipment, etc. You can also use collected rain water to water plants, whether they are for the rabbits or your family.
Natural Cleaning Methods
Using more natural cleaning methods in your rabbitry can significantly increase sustainability. Rather than using harsh chemicals, which may leech into the soil, you can using alternatives such as vinegar and hot water.
You can use a torch to clear cages of hair and reduce the need for water and chemicals. Using this method to remove stuck har can minimize your environmental impact while still maintaining a clean and healthy living space for your rabbits. It is also more cost-effective.
White vinegar is particularly effective for removing urine residue and cleaning cages, pans, watering equipment, etc. It is natural and non-toxic, making it an effective alternative compared to harsh chemicals. Not to mention, it is readily available and inexpensive.
Disturbing the Soil as Little as Possible
You can promote sustainable animal agriculture and help maintain healthy soil by disturbing the soil as little as possible. If your rabbits are raised in cages, stacking cages help to prevent soil destruction and disturbance. But if your rabbits live on the ground, even for a portion of the year, there are a few things you can do to keep the soil healthy. Maintaining soil health will only benefit your rabbits and rabbitry.
Moving Rabbits Frequently if Living on the Ground
Rotating your rabbits frequently that live on the ground will increase soil health, plant biodiversity, and feeding amount. If rabbits are left in one place too long they will clear the area to bare dirt. If this must be done, it should be minimized. Clearing the area to bare ground greatly affects plant health and their ability to regrow.
Using Cover Crops
Cover crops can be used in areas the rabbits are not currently living in. Using cover crops helps retain moisture and add nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for additional water and fertilizer. Additionally, these cover crops can later be used as forage or feed.
Using Compost or Manure
Compost or manure also helps to retain moisture and increase nutrients. Both of these factors significantly improve soil health. Rotating your rabbits on the ground, or moving your raised rabbit cages, can help to disperse manure more effectively than by hand.
Now that we have discussed ten ways to be more sustainable while farming rabbits, you should have many ideas on how to support sustainable animal agriculture within your rabbitry. By becoming more sustainable in our practices, we can make a large difference in our local ecosystems, and even across the world!