馬年行兔運

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1990 / 3月

文‧唐鎔 圖‧鄭元慶


兔,給人的印象是個性溫馴、靈巧、人見人愛的小動物,更是小朋友的寵物玩伴。但因其體型小,無法像牛、羊、馬般成為畜牧業的主力,所以在國內一直未見大規模的飼養。

 

近年來,經農政單位引進國外兔種並大力推廣後,在台灣中、南部已有不少農民投身養兔事業。


最近,你是否發現街頭常有人在賣可愛的「迷你兔」;夜幕低垂後餐廳和啤酒屋堛滿u三杯兔」也常被客人垂青;至於購買一件標價新台幣三、四萬元的兔毛皮草者,更是大有人在。這些景象使人隱然覺得,兔子的飼養規模和銷售量正被有計畫地擴展。

沒錯,你可以從今年一月中旬在台中舉辦的「八萬農建大軍貢獻精緻農業成果」中,展出的各色雷克斯兔,及因飼養安哥拉兔而甫獲「神農獎」的陳進興等訊息得到證實:養兔事業行情日漸看俏。

養兔事業開始走運

據引進並推廣最力的台南新化畜產試驗所助理研究員黃瓊姿表示,以往台灣的兔業,一直停留在零星副業飼養階段,而且多數兔隻是供應藥廠做疫苗之用,一旦藥廠不收購,價格就一落千丈,因此有意飼養者不多。

「近幾年來由於化學纖維的缺點,動物的皮、毛又受到人類重視,養兔事業才有了轉機」,黃瓊姿說,本省在七十五年度農建計畫中加入養兔這項目,以生產高貴的毛皮、兔毛為主目標,兔肉則為其副產品。雷克斯兔及安哥拉兔,正是今日的「新寵」。

雷克斯兔是由十九世紀初法國農莊中普通灰兔子變種培育而成。這種兔毛的特殊之處,在於披毛與底毛一樣長,彈性佳、密致、有光澤、不掉毛,撫摸起來觸感有如天鵝絨,可說是次於貂、狐的高級毛皮。「當初引進也曾擔心它不適合氣候濕熱的台灣,沒想到在這兒飼養之後發覺它的毛皮較薄、密度適中,比在寒帶飼養的皮厚毛密,更適於縫製成毛皮大衣。」黃瓊姿說。

至於從溫帶到亞熱帶都適合生存的安哥拉兔,一直是高級毛料的供應者。它的質地比羊毛細,所以重量最輕。加上毛軸中細胞空隙大,形成空氣室,保溫力特強、吸濕性高,而被醫學界用來做衣物療法中護膝、護腕等,以治療風濕病、關節炎等症狀。

改良管理、飼養技術

它們的條件這麼好,真是令人心動!但飼養兔隻原有的勞力密集、風險大等問題怎麼解決呢?

「這得從飼料、設備、管理等的改良做起」,養兔專家黃瓊姿解釋,以飼料而言,現在改用粒狀飼料,節省了割草的人工費用,且有避免受季節性缺乏草料的影響。最重要的是,經過試驗,兔子們十分「滿意」這種適合咀嚼,有草香的「速食」。

為了給兔只有快樂的窩,將以往潮濕且易滋生疾病的疊架式鐵籠,改變擺設成吊掛式,糞便由鐵籠直接掉下溝狀地面,用水一沖,就清潔溜溜。兔子想喝水,就用舌頭舔舔乳頭式飲水器,水即源源不絕,不像以往用碗盛水,須隨時留意加水及清潔。

「這些改良節省了許多人力,二千隻兔子只要一個人照顧就夠了」,雲林縣養兔合作社的理事主席董清松說,他們也比以往重視疾病防治,夏天大約一個禮拜,冬天大約半個月做一次噴霧消毒。「兔毛有油質,不會吸附藥物」,黃瓊姿補充說明:「不過得在中午,得降低它們的體溫。」

就像人待在陰涼的地方,感覺很舒服一樣,兔子實際上也喜歡較涼爽的環境。董清松在兔舍邊種了百香果,讓枝葉蔓延在屋頂。而今年甫獲神農獎的兔農陳進興,是怎麼寶貝他的兔子呢?「我在兔舍四周種滿樟樹,這樣夏天蚊子就不會來叮咬兔子。我還在屋頂噴水,來降低溫度。」陳進興說出他「伺候」兔子的方式。

一種飼草養百樣兔

在這樣細心呵護下,兔舍顯得十分寧靜、清涼、乾躁,「兔子的嗅覺靈敏、易受驚嚇,所以外國的養兔場都不歡迎人參觀」,陳進興說。「過年小孩放鞭炮,把兔子嚇壞了,全部一起蹬後腳」,董清松心有餘悸地說。「現在試驗所打算放音樂給它們聽,讓它們習慣聲音」,黃瓊姿的作法更上層樓。

「靜如處子,動如脫兔」是中國古人對兔子的描述,可見它是多麼活潑靈動的小動物。但當它們棲身在蝸居內時,倒也「樂天知命」地靜靜地蹲著。

「其實每隻兔子都有個性」,黃瓊姿舉例道,有些母兔一懷孕就會焦躁不安,產後甚至灑尿在初生小兔身上,以致凍死小兔。有些就很會做媽媽,生產前咬下腹部的毛做窩,生下後會按時哺乳;腳步很輕、不會踏到小兔;而且小兔會被集中於窩的某一角落,不會散置各處,這種母兔可稱為「模範兔媽媽」呢。

「母兔分娩後我們比較辛苦,要把不盡職的兔媽媽捉到箱媗它餵奶,還要將兔仔平均一下,不要讓一隻母兔照顧太多小兔子」,董清松表示,一胎大約八隻,但也有多至十六隻的。市面上常見的迷你兔,就是因多產而被淘汰的幼兔,大多數都還沒斷奶呢!

在會打架咬毛前(二個月大),小兔們很幸福地依偎著媽媽。但產後廿八天的母兔又要開始孕育下一代。「交配時要將母兔捉進公兔籠堙A因為母兔比較凶悍,在別人的地盤會比較溫馴」,董清松接著煩惱地說,七到九月太熱受孕率很低。不是有人工受孕嗎?「黃博士有傳授技術,但還是做不好」,董清松訥訥地表示。

「兔」盡其用,鞠躬盡瘁

一般而言,雷克斯兔四個月大時毛質最佳,要取皮毛此時最佳。另選體健質佳者做為種兔,以傳宗接代。

而安哥拉兔,每七十天剪毛一次。「這種兔子有吃毛的習慣,所以得加餵牧草,讓它沒空吃毛」,陳進興說,若已吃進且結成毛球,就餵鳳梨汁,可幫助排出毛球。

國內養兔主要分佈在雲林、台南、彰化、台中等縣,養兔合作社成立於雲林,可說是養兔事業的重鎮。「現在社員有卅人,工作的重點在於毛皮加工、兔毛品質控制,以及兔量控制」,理事主席黃清松說,以兔量而言,現在雲林莿桐農會的電動宰兔場一個月大約宰二至三千隻。

兔農將成兔賣給農會,統一送至莿桐宰殺後,毛皮統一加工鞣製,兔肉則賣給肉商,批發價一公斤大約一二○元,甚至兔糞也可賣給茶農做肥料,可說是物盡其用。

有潛力的畜牧事業

一條雷克斯兔毛的圍巾,要一隻半的兔子;一件大衣則要廿五至卅隻,市價將近四萬,外銷的成果不錯,已經供不應求,「不過我們還不希望太多人投入,因為一窩蜂的結果,可能價格太低」,黃瓊姿笑說:「我可不希望到時大家拿兔子來丟我!不過,這確實是有潛力又輕鬆的畜牧事業,因為它可以利用大量的粗料及農作副產物、兔子的繁殖期短、兔肉又是高蛋白質、低膽固醇、低鈉……。」

現在合作社計畫買地建大樓,使加工、鞣皮、製衣及辦公都能集中,以免四處奔波。

由於國際經濟的轉型,發展成新興加工事業,農委會農林廳適時引入成為精緻農業,而且成果受到肯定,不但嘉惠農民,也留住了青壯人才。

如果真能依合作社計畫,每年達到六萬兔隻的銷售量,那麼今年雖是馬年,但兔子的行情可是十分「利多」哩。

〔圖片說明〕

P.82

安哥拉兔的毛色多樣,密緻、不掉毛,是上好的皮草原料。

P.83

「養兔需要細心、愛心與耐心。」合作社理事主席董清松說。

P.84

兔毛皮草保暖而高貴,市場需求量甚大,連帶的提升了兔農的利潤。

P.84

一條兔毛圍巾,大約需要一隻半的兔皮。

P.85

兔子也有個性。若是良母型的母兔,就會把小兔照顧得很好。

P.86

陳進興因養安哥拉兔成績卓著,而獲得本年度神農獎。

P.87

安哥拉兔每七十天剪一次毛,一天約可剪卅隻兔子。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Taiwan's Rabbit Industry Flourishes in the Year of the Horse

Tang Jung /photos courtesy of Arthur Cheng /tr. by Andrew Morton


Taiwan's sidewalk traders are doing a roaring trade selling miniature rabbits, and braised rabbit meat is popular with customers in restaurants and beer parlors too. Many people are even buying rabbit-fur coats costing NT$30,000 or NT$40,000. All these signs suggest that rabbit breeding and marketing is being deliberately expanded.

Actually that's quite right. The local rabbit breeding industry is on the up and up, as confirmed by the variety of rex rabbits on display at the Fine Agricultural Products Exhibition held in Taichung in January.

According to Huang Ch'iung-tzu, an assistant researcher at Taiwan Livestock Research Institute, one of its most energetic promoters, the Taiwan rabbit industry used to be just a quiet sideline. Most rabbits were sold to pharmaceutical manufacturers for use in making vaccines, and if ever these manufacturers suspended their purchases the price would plummet dramatically. As a result, few people took a chance with rabbit breeding.

"Animal pelts and fur have regained popularity recently due to the shortcomings of man-made fibers, and this has brought a turn-around in the rabbit industry," says Huang Ch'iung-tzu. In FY 1986 rabbit breeding was incorporated in the agricultural development plan for Taiwan province. The main objective was to produce high-grade pelts and fur, with rabbit meat as a by-product.

Rex and angora rabbits are today's favorites.

The rex rabbit was bred in France in the early nineteenth century from the common gray rabbit. Its fur is the same length all over, is flexible, fine, glossy, does not fall out, and feels like goose down to the touch. It would be fair to call it the next finest fur after mink and fox.

The angora rabbit is well suited to both the temperate and sub-tropical climate and is a reliable source of high-grade fur. Finer than wool, this is a super lightweight fur. Large cellular cavities within each strand form a kind of atmosphere chamber, thus making angora fur resistant to heat loss and highly moisture absorbent. It can be used in the medical world to make knee and wrist protectors or the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis.

It's amazing how comfortably these animals live! But how to make improvements in this inherently labor-intensive, high-risk industry? "The first steps must be to improve feed, equipment and management," explains rabbit-breeding expert Huang Ch'iung-tzu. Nowadays granular feed is used, thus saving on labor costs for cutting grass and avoiding seasonal shortages. Most importantly, tests have shown that rabbits are perfectly happy with this easy to nibble, grassy-tasting "fast food."

To give the rabbits a happy home the old stacked steel cages, which were damp and encouraged disease, have been replaced by suspended equipment. Rabbit droppings fall directly on to the floor below and are easily rinsed away. To get a drink of water the rabbits just lick a teat-like dispenser which never runs dry, unlike the old bowls which needed regularly topping up and cleaning out.

Careful attention ensures that the rabbits live in quiet, clean and dry surroundings.

The Chinese conventionally describe the nimble little rabbit in the phrase: "Still as a tiger, quick as a fleeing rabbit." Rabbits are undoubtedly fleet of foot, but they also seem to enjoy crouching still and quiet in the comfort of their hutches.

"Each rabbit has a character of its own," Huang Ch'iung-tzu explains. For example, some mother rabbits grow restless when they are pregnant and may even urinate over their babies so that they die of cold. Others are very good mothers and will nibble off their stomach fur to make a warm nest, as well as feeding their babies regularly; they tread lightly and never trample them.

The fur of rex rabbits is best at four months old, so that is when they are slaughtered for their pelt.

Angora rabbits are clipped every 70 days. "This kind of rabbit eats its fur so you must give it extra feed to keep it busy," says Ch'en Chin-hsing, this year's winner of the Shen-nung Award for breeding angora rabbits. If fur is swallowed you must feed it some pineapple juice to help expel the fur ball.

Rabbit breeding in Taiwan is concentrated in Yunlin, Tainan, Changhua and Taichung counties, and the Rabbit Breeders' Cooperative is in Yunlin. "The Cooperative has 31 members working on fur and pelt processing, quality control of rabbit fur goods, and managing the rabbit population," says its director Huang Ch'ing-sung. Currently between two and three thousand rabbits a month are slaughtered at the automated slaughterhouse at La-t'ung Agricultural Association, Yunlin.

Farmers sell adult rabbits to the Agricultural Association who send them in batches to be slaughtered, after which the pelts are tanned and the meat is sold to meat dealers at about NT$120 a kilo wholesale. Even the rabbit droppings are sold to tea farmers as fertilizer, so absolutely nothing is wasted.

It takes one and a half rabbits to make a rex scarf, and between 25 and 30 rabbits to make a fur coat which sells for about NT$40,000. Demand is good and export business is booming, "but we don't want too many people to jump on the bandwagon otherwise prices will tumble," laughs Huang Ch'iung-tzu. "I don't want everyone to dump their rabbits on me! But breeding rabbits is easy work and has great potential. It only requires rough feed and agricultural by-products, while rabbits have a short gestation period and rabbit meat is high in protein and low in cholesterol and sodium. . . ."

There are plans to expand the Cooperative to bring processing, tanning, manufacture and administration work together under one roof.

The worldwide economic upturn has brought in new processing industries, and the Department of Agriculture Forestry is now promoting rabbit fur as a sophisticated agricultural product. This successful initiative has benefitted the farming population and kept skilled young people on the land.

If the Cooperative's planned annual sales of 60,000 rabbits are achieved, then despite this being the Year of the Horse the rabbit industry surely has a bright future ahead.

[Picture Caption]

Angora rabbit fur is diversely colored, fine, does not fall out, and is an excellent material for fur clothing.

"To breed rabbits takes attention to detail, love and patience," says Tung Ch'ing-sung, chairman of the Rabbit Breeders Cooperative.

Rabbit furs are warm and elegant, and sustained strong demand has consistently raised profits for rabbit farmers.

One rabbit's fur shawl requires the fur of one and a half rabbits.

Rabbits have a character of their own. Good mother rabbits will look after their babies very well.

Ch'en Chin-hsing was awarded this year's Shen-nung Award for his outstanding achievement in breeding angora rabbits.

Angora rabbits are clipped every 70 days, and about 30 rabbits can be shorn in one day.

 

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