Get advice on rabbits, tomatoes and eggs

Monday May 2 2016

Mr Moses Gathua prepares to slaughter a rabbit

Mr Moses Gathua prepares to slaughter a rabbit at the Nakuru Rabbit Meat Center at Pipeline Estate on December 7, 2015. He resigned from a managerial position in a micro finance institution to venture into rabbit farming. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH  

MY RABBITS HAVE FAILED TO REPRODUCE

What makes rabbits fail to reproduce? Mine are sexually active but they can’t conceive.

Sammy Chemengich

Rabbit breeds of medium to large size are sexually mature at 4 to 4.5 months, giant breeds at 6 to 9 months, and small breeds (such as the Polish Dwarf and Dutch) at 3.5 to 4 months of age.

The release of eggs in female rabbits is triggered by sexual intercourse, not by a cycle of hormones as in humans. Contrary to popular belief, the rabbit has a cycle of mating receptivity.

Rabbits are receptive to mating about 14 of every 16 days. A doe is most receptive when the vagina is red and moist. Does (adult female rabbits) that are not receptive have a whitish pink vaginal colour with little or no moisture.

Does can become quite territorial and this has to be taken into account when planning any mating. It is advisable to take the doe to the buck rather than the other way round.

Note that rabbits do not conceive if kept in dark cages, since their reproduction resembles that of chicken that lay eggs only when there is enough light.

Also check on the cage temperatures because with too much heat, the buck produces less viable sperm and the conception rate goes down.

Kimitei Ronald,
Department of Animal Sciences,

Egerton University.

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I NEED A FARM MANAGER
I have an acre farm in Kamulu, Nairobi. I have tried farming using shamba boys from the area and my home but I am just harvesting losses. I think the farm needs a manager who has experience in agribusiness, who can be hired as a CEO. Do you have an idea where I can get such a person?
Michael Wanjiba

Egerton University has qualified agripreneurs and agribusiness managers who have hands-on experience on various issues in farm management.

As a result of both academic and mentorship programmes, a number of consultancy businesses have been set up with adequate experience to handle such activities.

Please write to [email protected] for more information regarding your concerns.

Dickson Otieno,
Department of Agribusiness Management and Agricultural Economics,

Egerton University

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VIRAL DISEASE HAS ATTACKED MY TOMATOES
I have planted tomatoes in Isiolo, unfortunately, my plantation was hit by a viral disease and I understand there is no remedy for it.

My question is, are there viral resistant seeds in the market to curb this? And kindly share any information that may help me at this point where my plant is fully grown.

Aswani

A viral disease in tomato cannot exist on its own without a vector that injects it into the plant. There is a chance that your tomatoes are infested by an insect pest (vectors) that carries the viruses.

Now you need to deal with these vectors and your tomatoes will be free from viruses.

Very important, what are these vectors that inject viruses in tomatoes? These are white flies, (they are small flies which are white in nature and any time you shake a tomato plant, you see them fly away in large numbers).

They are vectors of tomato viruses and as they sack the sap from tomato, which they like so much, they also inject virus from their salivary gland.

Treating tomatoes is not possible, but prevent the white flies from infesting your tomatoes. If your production is in greenhouse, then it is easier to control them by spraying with recommended pesticide.

Peter Caleb,

Horticulture Scientist,

Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils,

Egerton University.

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WHAT TO REMEMBER ON REARING CHICKENS
I wish to start keeping Kienyeji chicken this year. Kindly advice on the structures required, feeds, disease management, best breed, and the general challenges expected.

Yusuf Kaminjo

For housing, consider floor spacing of 25 chicks/m2, 10 growers/m2 and four adult birds/m2 to guide you on the size for easy movement, exercise, food and water access.

Consider adequate lighting conditions by placing runs in a way that allows the birds to go out, but within a fenced confinement or translucent roofing for every 100 birds in the case of total confinement of birds.

For ample ventilation, the house should be rectangular (easy circulation of air) and by having one side of the house half-way open and covered by shade net or wire-mesh of small gauge (chick size).

Use building materials that are easy to clean and disinfect. Depending on resource availability, the housing may be concrete or wooden.

As for the breed, for production purposes, consider improved indigenous birds (ranging from KARI improved, Kuroiler or Rainbow Rooster) since these are dual-purpose birds (males for meat and females for both eggs and meat) with performance that is on average higher than the unimproved indigenous chicken.

However, keeping the improved Kienyeji requires proper management conditions to complement the good genetics in the birds.
Depending on your production objective, the feeding regime and requirement will vary.

If birds are being produced for meat at 4-6 months, provide chick mash for the first two months of life then change their diet to growers mash from the 3 to 4 or 6 month of age, depending on the market weight.

If birds are for egg production, feeding will involve chick mash (0-2 months), growers mash (2-5 months) and layers mash (5 months onwards).

It is important to note that when dealing with the improved indigenous birds, most of them tend to put on a lot of weight and this may negatively affect persistency in egg production and as such, avoid over-feeding during the growers period or consider a semi-intensive system.

Disease management involves high standard hygiene and vaccination against economically important diseases such as NCD (1st and 3rd week), IBD (2nd and 4th week), fowl typhoid (9th week) and fowl pox (18th week) to ensure disease prevention.

If birds are under scavenging conditions, deworm after every three months while sick birds have to be isolated from the healthy ones to control spread of diseases.

Since you are a beginner, consider starting small and learn from the experience.

Sophie Miyumo,
Department of Animal Sciences,

Egerton University.

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MORE ON GETTING YELLOW-YOLK EGG
I have been feeding my kienyeji chicken with greens to increase the yellowness of the egg york, but without success. What could be the issue?
Gabriel

Though not an indicator of a better nutritive value of an egg, yellow colour in yolks is highly coveted since most consumers prefer bright yellow eggs to pale ones.

Carotenoids (xanthophylls) are the main components of the diet that contribute greatly to the making of an orange yolk. Other ingredients include omega - 3 fatty acids and meat products.

If you feed your flock only on commercial feed, the colour of their egg yolks will be fairly consistent throughout the year.

Eggs from birds that free-range will show a greater range in egg yolk colour based on the plants and insects they consume during any given season. Either way, it’s possible to change yolk colour by supplementing your flock’s normal diet with natural foods that are high in various carotenoids.

If you like deep yellow yolks, then provide your flock with lots of leafy greens such as sukuma wiki, amaranthus and lucerne as well as maize products.

If you prefer darker eggs that are orange-coloured, give your poultry carrot peels, downgraded tomatoes and chilli peppers.

However, the carotenoid content in the ingredients of poultry feed is not constant since the pigmentation properties of the carotenoids can be weakened or lost in a variety of ways.

Therefore, nature-identical yellow and red carotenoids such as Apo-ester and canthaxanthin are commonly added to feeds to achieve the desired egg yolk colour.

Kimitei Ronald,

Department of Animal Sciences,

Egerton University.

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Response 2
The colour of the yolk is due to substances called carotenoids that can be sourced from either maize, lucerne or grass meals.

However, the pigment concentration/carotenoid content is not constant. Because of such fluctuations, most commercial farms provide supplemental carotenoids known as nature-identical yellow and red carotenoids, such as Apo-ester and canthaxanthin to achieve the desired egg yolk colour.

Sophie Miyumo,

Department of Animal Sciences,

Egerton University.