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Kashmir’s only rabbit farm seeks to popularise cuniculture among valleyities

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Kashmir’s only rabbit farm

Malik Nisar

Syed Jesarat

Wussan, Baramulla: To popularise rabbit farming for augmenting meat and fur production and providing a healthy alternative to mutton for voracious meat-eaters of Kashmir, the J&K Government established Angora Rabbit Farm in 1979 at the Wussan village of Baramulla district.

Though, the rabbit meat has failed to satiate the taste buds of Kashmiri people as the project did not witness much commercial success. However, due to the recent rising trend of pet keeping in Kashmir, the farm has become a centre of attraction. Rabbit rearing has become the most popular hobby among pet lovers, particularly children, and teenagers.

Run by the Sheep Husbandry Department, the only rabbit breeding farm of Kashmir and probably the biggest in North India sprawls on six hectares of land. About 30 km from Srinagar, the Angora Rabbit Farm is home to several rabbit varieties and breeds imported from different countries. Even new species are regularly brought in either from foreign or from various states of the country.

Presently, seven rabbit species breed in the Angora Rabbit Farm: Californian White, New Zealand White, Angora German, Angora French, Grey Giant, Black Brown and Soviet Chinchilla. Different breeds have different qualities. While the Angora is considered a well-known breed for fur and wool, Grey Giant and others are best known for providing quality meat. Similarly, people prefer to buy the Russian Chinchilla and German Angora for keeping them as pets.

Around 1800-2000 rabbits rear in five sheds of the farm at Wussan. Presently there are 1200 rabbits, both kits and adults, on the farm. These rabbits are available on sale around the year. However, during the winter, the number goes down to 500-600. As the breeding stops during the winter season due to extreme cold.

“During the winters, a rabbit needs extra care, which is also the reason that less number keeps for December, January and February, the harshest three months. The breeding commences again in March when the weather improves,” says Dr Sheikh Ishrat Mahmood, who works as an Assistant Director with the Sheep Husbandry Department and is the present caretaker of the farm.

According to the official website of the Sheep Husbandry Department, the farm was started with the 60 New Zealand White rabbits purchased from Gharsa, Himachal Pradesh. The aim was to popularise the consumption of rabbit meat as a substitute for sheep and goat meat among the general masses and create a new avenue of employment for the youth. While the rabbit meat evinced week response among the public, high demand for rabbit wool and fur could not generate much enthusiasm among the entrepreneurs for establishing their private units. This limited the scope of the farm.

At present, rabbits in Kashmir have only three uses. Youngsters rear them as pets, researchers use them as guinea pigs, and some people with cardiac problems eat them as rabbit meat is considered lean and white with high nutritious value.

However, in recent years rearing them as pets have become very popular across Kashmir. While the cute and fluffy rabbits are liked by one and all, in the traditional homes, they have much more acceptability as compared to dogs and cats, who are mostly considered unclean animals.

“Besides slaughter purpose, we sell rabbits to pet shop owners, as well as, researchers from GMC and SKUAST-K, who try vaccines and drugs on them,” says Dr Ishrat.

Last year the farm revenue from the rabbit sales was Rs 6 lakh. According to the farm officials, the sale figure has grown considerably. “Though from last few years, rabbit rearing as pets is gaining popularity across Kashmir, but we want more and more people to know about the farm,” says Dr Ishrat.

“Rabbit farming is very profitable, and one enjoys doing it. It is a great business idea with huge employment generation potential. Only thing is that we need to create more and more awareness,” he says.

A research scholar of livestock production and management from NDRA, Dr Ishfaq Jamal, writes that there is tremendous scope for poverty alleviation and improving the living standards of small and marginal farmers through the profitable enterprise of cuniculture.

Cuniculture is the agricultural practise of breeding and raising domestic rabbits as livestock for their meat, fur, wool or pelt. “Rabbit fanciers and hobbyists also employ cuniculture for the development and betterment of rabbit breeds and the exhibition of their efforts. Scientists practice cuniculture in the use and management of rabbits as model organisms in research. Cuniculture has been practised all over the world since at least the 5th century.”

According to Dr Ishfaq, there is immense scope for rabbit farming in Kashmir, as the climatic conditions of J&K and Himachal Pradesh are almost similar. The government of HP has promoted rabbit farming along with sheep farming and obtained good results in hilly areas, he writes.

“If properly planned and promoted, rabbit farming can turn into a multi-crore industry soon. There is a need of a proper policy framework, planning as well as collaboration between the Departments of Animal and Sheep Husbandry, agricultural universities and related institutions for framing a composite policy to promote rabbit farming,” says Dr Ishfaq in a newspaper column.

Feeding and rearing of rabbits at Wussan Farm

When it comes to the feeding of rabbits at the Wussan Farm, proper care is taken. The rabbits are fed with nutritious food such as greens, turnips, carrots, cabbage leaves. Rabbits drink clean drinking water twice a day. The feeding items are different for the winter and summer seasons. In the summer season, only greens are given to rabbits, while in the winter season, chopped vegetables are provided as well. Most of the food items are grown within the farm area itself such as radish and carrots. Rabbits are also fed with pellets in addition to greens and vegetables. Kits are fed half of what adults are given.

“We have an agriculture farm here as well where we grow fodder for rabbits,” says Dr Irfan Magray, the farm manager and veterinary doctor.

Random eating is avoided for the proper growth and good health of the rabbit.

Rabbits are reared mainly for three purposes – domestication as pets, research models (guinea pigs) and consumption.

“Rabbits can produce many kits at a time unlike other animals, which is what makes it very good economically,” says Dr Irfan Magray.

Rabbit is known for its fast multiplication, short gestation period of about 32 days and a litter size of about 6-8. So out of a small unit one can have 4-5 crops annually, so from a small unit, one can get hundreds of kindlings per year. Also, its constant state of reproduction, rapid growth and early maturity adds to its high biological potential.

“We usually keep the parental stock with us and give the kits,” he adds.

Young single rabbits are sold within the price range from ₹200 – ₹800, depends upon the breed, where Grey Giant, Black Brown, Soviet Chinchilla costs ₹200 per rabbit and New Zealand White, California White sells for ₹300 per rabbit whereas Angora breed is sold at ₹500 per piece. The pair is sold from 1000 or above.

Rabbits are sold to customers which in turn start their venture at a smaller level for rearing purposes. “I visit the farm often and take rabbits for my venture,” says Gulam Nabi Sofi from Khaag, Budgam. “For a pet lover, this is the best place to visit,” he adds.

“The farm has different breeds and I had taken many rabbits from them, I keep rabbits as pets,” says another customer from Srinagar. “The farm has maintained all sort of hygiene practices and every staff member is cooperative,” he further says.

“The best sellers among the rabbits have always been Angora rabbits, as they are famous for their wool, which is considered second best after pashmina,” says Dr Ishrat.

The life expectancy of a rabbit is 5-6 years. “The mortality rate of the rabbits has come down from 10-12% to 4.5% since last three years,” he adds.

 Around 18 employees are working on the farm: 10 technical staff and eight helpers. Each one of them is strictly looking at the management of the farm and rabbit farming.

“This farm is only of its kind in the whole J&K,” says Dr Ishrat.

Talking about the plan ahead, Dr Ishrat says now they want to open units of the farm at various parts to avoid third-party interface. “We have sent a request to the higher authority to open up the farm units at different places where we have high acceptability of the rabbits,” says Dr Ishrat.

In addition to this, the rabbit farm intends to do training programmes and attract more youth towards rabbit farming. The farm display, its stall at Kisan Melas as well. “We can also help the\youth by giving them employment and also technical know-how free of cost,” says Dr Ishrat.

“The rabbit farming has a great scope in the Valley but awareness is needed, we do as much publicity as we can.”

“The funds the farm gets are not sufficient for infrastructure,” Dr Ishrat. “We want to attract more customers, but we lack funds,” he adds.

The medical supervision of the rabbits is planned in accordance with the help they need. “Usually, we do flock treatment but if someone needs individual treatment, we give full attention to it, we give them anti cognizant drugs with water if needed,” says Dr Irfan.

Rabbit farming is a lucrative business, which demands attention from the government as well as the individual level.

 

 

 

 

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AgriBiz

SKUAST-K holds webinar on startup ideation

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SKUAST-K webinar on startup ideation

BK News

Srinagar, Jan 19: On National Startup Day, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir held a webinar titled, ‘Startup Kashmir: Idea to Business’ for agriculture students.

The programme was organised to acquaint the students with various concepts of innovation, startups and entrepreneurship.

SKUAST-K webinar on startup ideation The webinar was conducted by the university’s Faculty of Agriculture under the World Bank-ICAR funded National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP) for the institutional development of SKUAST-K.

Startup coach and Managing Partner of REIN Labs – Mumbai-based innovation, incubation and research organisation – Saurabh Sinha was the main expert of the webinar, who dwelled in detail about the transformation of an idea into a startup or business in particular reference with agriculture.

Sinha in his talk said that there is a need to invest in fundamental research and focus on innovation as growth levers. “We need to create products, services or solutions out of our innovations that solve global as well as our local problems,” he said.

He said students need to be oriented in a way that use their time during graduation doing projects, prototypes and products addressing real life social problems.

Dean Faculty of Agriculture, Prof Raihana Habib Kanth, also addressed the students.

Besides the Faculty of Agriculture staff and team IDP-NAHEP, more than 90 students participated in the webinar.

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AgriBiz

FCIK aghast over govt plan to establish packhouse in Sopore

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Govt-owned packhouse in Sopore

Seeks use of cardboard manufacturing infrastructure created by private players

BK News 

Srinagar, Jan 17: Federation of Chamber Industries Kashmir (FCIK) has demanded that government should support the existing unit holders to fulfil the demand of the packaging and has taken a strong note of the government’s plan to establish 40 MT integrated packhouse at Doabagh Sopore, as it seems that government is giving birth to one more loss-making PSU. On the one hand, the government is planning to disinvest the PSU’s and establishing of the new one seems to be a disaster and repetition of the government mistakes which is unwarranted.

In a statement, FCIK President Shahid Kamili said the establishment of a packhouse by the government at Sopore will deal a severe blow to the existing pack houses established by local entrepreneurs. Kamili said there is no need to establish additional facilities when private entrepreneurs have already established around 150 state-of-art corrugated cardboard manufacturing facilities worth Rs 750 crores at various places catering to the Valley’s horticulture produce successfully.

It said the existing installed capacity of packaging products is more than the demand of the horticulture crop from the Valley and the additional facility by the government would also be a loss-making unit.“It seems that the government has not learned from its various loss-making PSUs. This facility would not only prove white elephant for the state exchequer but will also destabilise facilities put up by the local entrepreneurs. The non-functioning of the Government PSUs have proved that the PPP models have failed. Government should instead help the existing units to give a fillip to the private sector,” said FCIK.

Stating that the packing industry is already saturated and ruthless competition has pushed the existing units to the wall, the FCIK demanded that such line of activity should not be encouraged and instead existing units should be further augmented with Government hand-holding and capital infusion. FCIK said the existing units provide employment to around 2500 youth directly and 10000 indirectly who will also stare at expulsion if a government facility comes up.

FCIK further said Government should address other important issues including the tax evasion of the horticulture packaging products coming from outside J&K which have affected the local horticulture industry badly.

In this regard, the FCIK has urged the government to impress upon the Jammu and Kashmir Horticulture Planning and Marketing Corporation to cancel the tender inviting bids for the construction of 40 MT integrated packhouse at Doabagh Sopore and also sign MoUs with existing units so that government provides them with the marketing support to their business venture. Government should take local industry leaders on board before making such decisions as the local unitholders are aware of the current industry status and how it can be promoted. As the current supply from the existing units is enough and as per the required standards which is needed to be augmented by the government hand-holding and demands marketing support.

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AgriBiz

10-day skill development training inaugurated at SKUAST-K

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10-day training at SKUAST-K

Srinagar, Dec 14: A 10-day skill development training programme “Spectroscopic and Chromatographic Techniques for PhytoChemical Evaluation’ was inaugurated at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir.

The training was organised by the university’s Research Centre for Residue and Quality Analysis (RCRQA under the World Bank-ICAR funded National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP) for the institutional development of SKUAST-K.

The training programme encompasses high-performance liquid chromatography, Gas chromatography techniques for estimating phytochemicals, pesticides in agricultural products. The training programme will also focus on heavy metal estimation in different food matrices.

The inaugural session of the training was attended by HODs, scientists and faculty members of various divisions of the university.

Director Planning and Monitoring and PI NAHEP, Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai,  while addressing the trainees emphasized the need for skill development of the young generation for improving their employability and establishing their own startups for job and wealth creation. He highlighted the relevance of residues analysis in agricultural produce for securing the health of the consumers and facilitating the trade of agri-produce after proper certification.

Incharge of RCRQA Lab Prof Ashraf Alam Wani while welcoming the guests and participants gave the details of the 10-day training. Director Education, Prof MN Khan highlighted the new education policy 2020, and its relevance with the training. Twenty trainees from different institutes of the Kashmir division are participating in the programme.

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