Grasscutter Farming in Nigeria
Grasscutter farming is the rearing of grasscutters both for domestic and commercial use. It is one of the most profitable mini-livestock farming that you can engage. They are herbivores and thus can feed exclusively on grass and other plant products. There’s a huge demand for them. Originally, grasscutters were not reared on farmlands. They were usually hunted down, caught, and then sold to buyers. But the inherent discomfort in hunting these rodents gave rise to the practice of rearing grasscutters.
The practise of Grasscutter farming has grown steadily in West Africa over the past couple of years. These rodents also known as “The Cane Rat” or “bush meat”, generally live by the meadows, clearings, muddy territories, reed-beds, and river banks in sub-saharan Africa, and can grow to lengths of almost 2 ft (0.61 m) and weigh a little less than 19 lb (8.6 kg).
They grow quite fast and take only about six months from babies to reproduction time, even without full-time commitment, and with minimum financial investment. As a matter of fact, having a full-time job does not in any way preclude you from running a successful grasscutter farm.
Benefits Of Grasscutter Farming
- Huge employment potential.
- Great Source Of Protein.
- Relatively low capital outlay and running cost.
- Cheap feeds boost profit margin exponentially.
- Grasscutter farming can be done without using any specialised equipments.
- Excellent market prices and huge untapped market
- Relatively quick maturity and attainment of market weight
The Suitable Species For Grasscutter Farming
The Thryonomys Swinderianus, also called the Greater Cane Rat, are the most popular types of grasscutters reared in West Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana. They are usually large and weigh an average of 8.6kg per animal. These grasscutters are of two strains. The smaller strains are found in the forest zone, while the largerer strains are usually found in the savannah zones and are lighter in colour.
They live in small groups led by a male, make nests from grasses or burrow underground, are nocturnal, and can live for more than four years. They belong to a small family of the African hystricognath rodents.
The Thryonomys Gregorianus, also known as the Lesser Cane Rat, are a species of rodents in the family Thryonomyidae. These grasscutters are smaller than the Thryonomys Swinderianus, and usually weigh about 7.5 kg. They are mostly found and reared in Central and East African countries like Cameroon, Chad, Congo, and the likes.
These grasscutters usually have bristle-like coarse hair that lies flat against their body. They have small ears almost hidden in their furs, long feet with functioning toes, strong claws, and bare palms. Their backs and sides are usually yellowish or greyish-white, and their tails have few bristles, scales, is brown above, and white below.
Their males are mostly larger than their females.
How To Setup Your Grasscutter Farm
The grasscutter pen or house has to be built to be adequately spacious. In setting it up, you must separate the region they sleep from the region they carry out any other form of activity. This is especially important because grasscutters hate to sleep where they feed.
Second, you’ll need to set aside a growing space where you can control the temperature, heat, sunlight and rain. Grasscutters need varying amounts of all four at different stages in the growth cycle, and it’s vital that you can regulate them to protect your livestock and promote adequate growth and a good harvest.
Third, and most important, make sure you’re maintaining a high level of cleanliness. Using wood ashes to scrub the floor of your pen will help disinfect the growing area and drive down the potential for infection. And of course, wash your hands thoroughly before handling any items, such as supplement feed or drinkers. Grasscutters, like most animals being bred in captivity are allergic to unusual and excessive stress. Always avoid exposing them to stressors, such as excess heat, unaccustomed visitors, and excessive noise.
When placing grasscutters in their pens, you should ensure that each colony would be about 1 male to 4 to 6 females. Two fully grown males cannot live together, and would fight till one is dead. But by placing a colony of 1 male to about 4 females in a cage, you can be assured that they’d live peacefully and have a rich reproduction rate.
In constructing your grasscutter cages, dimension of 200cm in length, 50cm in width, and 50cm in height is recommended. Each cage shoud ideally contain separate grasscutter colonies, and be built in such a way that the temperature remains stable at all times. The cage should also keep the colonies secure from potential pests like snakes, soldier ants, and humans. Watch out for ants especially as they often constitute huge source of border and discomfort to your grasscutter colonies. An easy way to limit their access is by pouring engine oil around their pens, and surrounding areas; especially during the rainy season. Solignum is a chemical that is often used to destroy termites and termites. Use however with care as improper usage poses a risk to your livestock.
Choosing a grasscutter breed:
In choosing the grasscutter breed you want to rear, it’s important you select one that’s most demanded in your country, or that is accepted in the regions you intend to ship out to. The Thryonomys Swinderianus for instance are most popular in West Africa, while the Thryonomys Gregorianus are most popular in Central and East Africa.
Once you’ve determined what breed you intend to rear, you can purchase 4 healthy females and 1 large and healthy male for a start to make one colony. The healthy state of your grasscutters is crucial to aid rapid reproduction. Since fertility is the most important thing in rearing animals, make sure you can purchase the most healthy grasscutters you can find. If you’re working with a very large budget, you can purchase a lot of colonies to start-off with.
Feeding The Grasscutters:
Feeding your grasscutters is a lot cheaper than any other farm animal. Since they’re herbivorous animals, the bulk of their diet lies majorly on grass. The most common grasses they’re fed with are Napier grass or Elephant grass. They could also be fed Congo grass, Guinea grass, groundnut, maize, cassava, sweet potato, rice, legumes, plantain, paw paw, pineapple, roots of oil & coconut palms, and most importantly, sugar cane.
Ensure that you feed your grasscutters with healthy and nutritious meals regularly. This will enable them to gain weight quickly and reach market size within a short period of time (fattening). The implication of thsis is that you can start making money from the business as soon as possible!
Grasscutters generally have a queer taste for liquid palm wine. In fact, they are a great nuisance to oil palm plantation farmers. Thus, when bred in captivity, it makes sense to feed them with water that has little additives in it.
Grasscutter maturity and mating
The aim is to commence weaning of your grasscutters as from five to eight weeks. But when they’re in the wild or moving together as a family, they can all be with their mothers for up to four months. By the time they’re about seven to eight months old, they can be separated from their mothers and placed with the mature opposite sex, for mating to occur.
Male grasscutters reach their mating stage at the age of seven months, while the females reaching their mating stage when they’re about eight months old.
The mating period should last for 140 days, and should be restarted with different males if after 160 days, the female grasscutters show no signs of pregnancy. Each female can produce about 4 to 10 babies per reproduction cycle, which usually happens two times in a year.
Economic potential of Grasscutter Farming
Grasscutters that have attained market weight currently sell for about ₦4,000 to ₦7,000 in the open market. Of course, you can make more than that if you sell directly to consumers via your own point of sale. Fully grown grasscutter can weigh up to 5kg.
A 10m x 10m enclosure can easily accommodate about 200 adult grasscutters over the course of a year. In money terms, that translates to about ₦800,000. And that’s being conservative too. Grasscutters farming is definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme. No one should pretend it is, however it can provide an alternative income stream to which can grow in time to become a full fledged business.
It’s estimated that more than 80,000 tons of grasscutter meat is consumed annually in Nigeria. Of this proportion, only 0.2 % are domesticated grasscutters. The rest is from other sources, majorly bush variants.
Grasscutters form an integral component of meat diet for many households in sub-saharan Africa. The meat has been said to possess an exquisite flavour that naturally complements african dishes.
Challenges Of Grasscutter Farming
The major challenges of grasscutter farming include the technicalities and logistics problem involved in running a grasscutter farm, the nuisance of pests and diseases (especially the current aversion to “bush meat generally” ) and the risk posed by thieves and vandals.
Grasscutter farming is has a great potential to become a major provide of employment for the teeming unemployed youth of this nation. It has a high profit margin and hence should not be overlooked. In fact, the opportunities are vast, and anybody can tap into this to achieve self sustenance. But make sure you acquire the necessary information before venturing into the business, just as is applicable to any business you’d like to do.
Hope you’ve learnt a couple of things to kick start your foray into grasscutter breeding as a business. If you have and need more information, please feel free to indicate your request and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. For more information about other small businesses that you can do, please visit the link.
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