How To Start A Lucrative Grasscutter Farming Business: The Comprehensive Guide
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).
With a large market demand for these rodents in countries domiciled in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, the market potential drives farmers with the technical know-how, to set up and run large grasscutter farms in their localities or on sites acquired at specific locations. Growing these grasscutter farms helps the farmers build a sustainable agribusiness in a very unsaturated agricultural category.
What Is Grasscutter Farming About?
Grasscutter farming is the rearing of grasscutters both for domestic and commercial use. Originally, grasscutters were not grown 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.
Business Opportunities In Grasscutter Farming Around The World
With about 80,000 tons of grasscutter meat consumed annually in Nigeria, only 0.2 % of these lot are domesticated grasscutters. Here are two core opportunities in grasscutter farming:
1). Source Of Meat:
Grasscutters are a great source of meat for many households in sub-saharan Africa. The nutritious and scarce nature of their meats doesn’t just serve as a source of protein to compliment Africa’s popular starch dinners, but also makes people place high values on them, thus raising their costs in the market.
Since grasscutter meats are not regular market commodities that can be spotted easily, their scarcity drives their prices high; especially in Latin America and Asia, where grasscutter meat if available, are highly favoured over most types of meats, due to its high protein, low fat, and low cholesterol content.
This makes the market demand for the grasscutter meats utimately far exceed its supply.
2). Medical Purposes:
Grasscutters have medicinal advantages, because of their pancreas which has a high concentration of insulin used in the treatment of diabetes. This major advantage makes them a key piece of the manufacturing process some pharmaceutical companies use in making diabetes drugs.
The consumption of grasscutter meat also has great health benefits for hypertensive patients.
Benefits Of Grasscutter Farming
1). Source Of Income And Employment.
2). Great Source Of Protein.
3). Cheaper to run than poultry, fish, or pig farming.
4). Medicinal Uses.
5). Feeding Them Is Extremely Cheap (can be grass only).
6). Can be reared at home.
7). They sell for great prices.
8). More Demand Than Available Supply.
9). They Can Be Pets.
The Suitable Species For Grasscutter Farming
1). Thryonomys Swinderianus (T.S):
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.
2). Thryonomys Gregorianus (T.G.):
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
1). Grasscutter Cage Or Pen:
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.
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, ensure it adheres to a close dimension of 180cm in length, 60cm in width, and 45cm in height. They should all 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. You can ensure ants have no access by pouring engine oils around their pens, and surrounding areas; especially during the rainy season.
2). Choosing A 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.
3). 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.
By constantly feeding your grasscutters with rich (healthy) meals at all intervals, they can gain weight quickly and reach market size within a short time.
The cane rats usually prefer to drink liquid with artificial tastes, e.g palm wine (which is largely why they destroy oil palm plantations). In a privately grown setting, they can be fed water that has little additives in it.
For grasscutters in the weaning stage, they can stay with their mothers between four 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.
The 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.
Grasscutters are generally great for rearing because of their fast reproduction rate which begins about seven months after birth, and can be about 4 to 10 babies per reproduction cycle, which usually happens two times in a year. With their market price going for as high as 7,000 Naira for each, 10 females could give birth to 200 grasscutters in a year, which would amount to about ₦1,400,000.
A Short Feasibility Study On Grasscutter Farming
Initial Start-up Capital (Naira Value)
1 Colony = 5 grasscutters (1 male & 4 females) = ₦55,000
5 Colonies = 25 grasscutters = ₦275,000
Cage/Housing = ₦80,000 for 5 colonies
Feeding Cost = ₦40,000 per year
TOTAL = ₦395,000
Expected Income (Naira Value)
1 female gives birth to an average of 4 to 10 grasscutters within 6 months.
5 females will give you an average of 20 to 50 grasscutters within 6 months.
20 grasscutters x 5 colonies = 100 grasscutters within 6 months.
In 1 year, you will be expecting at least 200 grasscutters.
The grasscutters weigh between 6 to 10kg at maturity.
Assuming you sell each for ₦7,000;
₦7,000 x 200 = ₦1,400, 000.
Challenges Of Grasscutter Farming
The major challenges of grasscutter are the technicalities involved in running a grasscutter farm and also the danger of pests and diseases.
Grasscutter farming is one of the often overlooked agribusinesses that turn in high revenues. With only about o.2% grown domestically out of about 80,000 tonnes of grasscutters consumed yearly in Nigeria, the opportunities for scale exceeds most farmers’ expectations.
If you’re unsure of an agribusiness to venture into, and you want something odourless, less expensive to run, and still highly profitable, grasscutter farming is a great bet for you.
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