A submission to the Select Standing Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries, Legislature of British Columbia

HTML version of e-mail submission

Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 19:19:25 -0800 (PST)
From: Bob McCroskey <bob at mccroskey dot ca>
To: ClerkComm@leg.bc.ca
Subject: Submission to S.S.C. on Agriculture and Fisheries
22 November, 1999
Surrey. BC

Office of the Clerk of Committees <ClerkComm@leg.bc.ca>
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC

         re: A submission for the Select Standing Committee on
               Agriculture and Fisheries

Dear Clerk and Honourable Members:

I am writing to inform you as to the benefits of rabbit production as an alternative livestock, rabbit production as a means of utilizing small rural holdings in a profitable manner, rabbit production as more efficient means of converting feed ingredients into a healthy meat for human consumption compared to the traditional farm animals, rabbit production as an excellent learning and enjoyment experience in institutional settings (prisons, long term care facilities, etc.) and rabbit production as a family hobby for semi-rural and urban families while supplementing their meat supply in a nutritious way. These items are covered in more detail on my web site.

Every one of these aspects of rabbit production increases food security since each of them contribute to an increase in the availability of a healthy digestible meat supply at a lower environmental cost; the environmental cost being reduced by the higher feed conversion and the ability to use low grade forage supplies as well as by the different nature of the rabbit droppings compared to normal animal manure. All of these aspects of rabbit production contribute to sustainability and resource management.

Rabbit production can be profitable, but rabbit production is much more complicated than it first appears, so training of the growers is very important, that is why I produce my "Pan-American Rabbit Science Newsletter" (since 1996) and have the web site online so that people can get the information they need to operate in a profitable manner. My article on profitability, in the Vol.2-2 December 1997 issue of this newsletter, titled "A GTE System (Technical Economic Management) with Profit Function" remains the most extensive article on this topic yet published (in the world) and has been cited as one of three references for the article "Evaluation of the Economic Efficiency of Rabbit Production Units or Farms (in Arabic)" by Prof. Dr. I. Fayez M. Marai, published in Egyptian Journal of Rabbit Science (1998) Vol. 8(2), 183-193.

Since Egypt has a solid agriculture policy as to food security for the country, even to the point of accommodating future rises in sea level due to global warming, they have well developed their rabbit production program, not as some trivial item taking a back seat to all other agriculture endeavours, but as a core project in their agricultural development, in terms of regional diversity, involvement of large and small operators and sustainability and best use of available feed stuffs. We can do it here to, we can consider rabbit production seriously as well, and make it central to developing agriculture and food supply in BC, and we can do a better job of it, since we don't have to fight the high summer temperatures that they have in their sub-tropical climate. (See my paper, one of four from North America at the 6th Congress of the World Rabbit Science Association, Toulouse, France, 1996, titled Raising Rabbits in Coastal British Columbia.

On the role of government, the most important factor is setting out an agriculture policy that gives pre-eminence to food security, and gives priority to local uses of feed commodities before considering the export market. The other serious problem in land-based agriculture (farming) is that farming remains the only major sector in the economy where the producer is actively prevented from passing on his legitimate costs. Wages are paid up to the output of the feed mill. Then wages cease during the raising of the animals, then wages commence again, when the animal is killed. Perhaps some way around this problems needs to be found, so that outright farm subsidies can end; as it stands, some form of subsidy is necessary in most agricultural endeavours simply to put some economic value back into this sector that has been prevented from passing its costs along. Maybe one solution would be to guarantee meat producers 1/7 of the retail price of the commodity (or some such fixed number).

Canada gave away one big item in the last GATT round of negotiations; Canada could have maintained the status quo of the marketing board system by arguing on an animal welfare basis: it is not possible to raise animals humanely on speculation.

As for my rabbit projects - the Newsletter, promotion of rabbit production via the web site, and work on the world's only Rabbit Research Database - these things (especially newsletter and database) take at least 1/2 my time, so we have to get by on very little income, ie. about $12,000 pre tax for this year; so, I keep asking various government departments for about $10,000 per year for this work, but with no results.

So, we could really go somewhere with rabbit production in BC. We have just finally figured out how to make a decent feed that actually works, what with the developments in feed research in the past few years. So, production development is at a point it could go somewhere, if it came into focus as an agricultural priority. I realize that the provincial government put a lot of money into rabbit development in the early '80's, but things are different now. Before, there was too much hoopla, too much pie-in-the-sky and get-rich-quick attitude, while in reality rabbit production is done on a much quieter, much lower overhead approach, as a serious means of meat production. Before, as the government study indicated, rabbit producers (untrained) had feed conversions in the range of 6 to 16 : 1, which means that none of them were covering their feed costs, so they were all fooling themselves as to profitability of the farm. But now, I think we have that old buggaboo, enteritis, the bane of rabbit production, just about beat, so that rabbit production can be a legitimate form of agriculture as it is in many other countries.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert A. McCroskey (Bob)
 Editor,  Pan-American Rabbit Science Newsletter
Canadian Centre for Rabbit Production Development
         Surrey B.C. Canada    V4N 3T7
      Home of the Rabbit Research Database

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