Paballo Mokatsane and her mother Daisy Moleko’s passion for farming rabbits is putting rabbit meat on the map in Johannesburg. Their story is a tale of how a mother’s battle with kidney disease led to a growing rabbit farming venture.
MPBizRabbits farming is run by Mokatsane and her mother. Their farming business includes a butchery, a pop-up store, and a restaurant.
Mokatsane says she always knew that her mother suffered from a kidney disease that eventually cost Daisy one of her kidneys.
“Doctors always told her to eat white meat which she tried, then she ate rabbits. We did research until she found the best breed to eat – the New Zealand white rabbit,” Mokatsane explains.
“Rabbit meat was a better option for me, healthwise, because that meat never gets injected (with additives) and is pure. It therefore gives you all the nutrients needed,” she said.
Rabbit meat is a relatively lean and nutritious source of protein, offering several health benefits. It wasn’t long before Pabi and her mom realised that they were on the verge of something big and opened a rabbit farming business in 2000.
Housing and feeding
They breed with New Zealand white rabbits, a maternal breed with a high fertility rate. They give birth to between six and twelve babies at a time.
Successful rabbit farmers require a structure big enough to accommodate the growth of the rabbits, and rabbits need to be on a proper diet, explains Moleko.
“We have steel structures and cages. The rabbits are kept individually in cages,” she says. “Feed is not expensive. They eat twice a day, in the mornings and evenings. Rabbit pellets and lucerne with a bit of molasses make up their diet.”
Meanwhile, her daughter shares that keeping the cages as clean as possible is key to their success. “These types of rabbits have advantages when farming and the only thing is to keep up with biosecurity,” Mokatsane explains.
Spreading the word
The mother-and-daughter farming duo have established partnerships with local rabbit breeders where they source their rabbits from. “We then take them to the abattoirs to be slaughtered and then we sell them. We [also] have distributors who are people we register under our company. They buy the meat at a stock price.”
MPBizRabbits is on a mission to introduce South Africa to the delicious and nutritious benefits of rabbit meat.
“We do activations where we go to malls, do braais, and speak to owners and managers of places where we’d like to activate the rabbit meat. We cook it for tasting, get feedback and we point out the source.”
Going against all odds
The journey to this point has been far from smooth. Few people believed in the success of their farming venture. They also struggled with access to land and funding opportunities.
“A lot of people shut their doors in [my mother’s] face, telling my mother that she’s crazy, that she won’t be able to make it; that there is no merit, depth, or value in the commodity,” Mokatsane says.
“She found a friend who travelled from Cameroon who showed her how to farm rabbits and the difference between the male and the female.”
“I once asked her if it was worth it. Why don’t you go back to what you were doing? And she said no, she’s not going back. She started this alone and will finish it alone if she must.”
Moved by her mother’s unwavering dedication in the face of business challenges, Mokatsane could not bear to see her mother struggle any longer and extended a helping hand.
Both women are naturally strong-headed and stubborn, but Mokatsane believes this has made her and her mother’s relationship grow stronger.
“We are very level-headed, we clash at times, but we come to a very quick solution. We’re like best friends because she has done so much for me and this is my way of saying thank you,” she says.
Mokatsane says that securing funds remains a challenge for farming enterprises due to the prevailing misconception that it lacks profitability. Also, convincing people that rabbit meat can be consumed has been another challenge for the duo.
Despite these challenges, Mokatsane and her mother look towards the future and have big plans in place.
“We want to close the value chain and we want to be the [biggest] people who farm rabbits,” she says.
“It is almost unbelievable sometimes that whenever we google rabbit farming, our name pops up and our logo and name are recognised because that is how far we have come. It’s liberating.”
In the meantime, with unwavering determination, the duo set their sights on a bright future as they build their growing rabbit empire. They’re on a mission to #Feed1Million with the message that rabbit meat offers a healthier alternative to traditional meats.
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