Grasscutter farming is a highly lucrative agribusiness, especially in Africa where the meat is valued for its savoury taste and tenderness. The meat has a higher protein to the meat of guinea pig, chicken, and rabbit, and a lower fat content than pork, beef and mutton.
Grasscutter has a ready market both on a local and international level. There is a great demand not only in urban centres in Africa but also in major global markets for Africans living in the United States, Asia and Europe. Grasscutters are sold at premium prices far higher than beef or pork of the same quantity.
Starting a Grasscutter farm is quite easy if you have the comprehensive knowledge of the best breeds, housing systems, feed and feeding pattern, management practices, disease control and marketing strategies.
Grasscutter farming is a well-established business that is sustainable. However, to record a great amount of success, This farming demands good preparation, care and commitment.
- Grasscutter is second to the largest rodent in Africa
- Adult grasscutter measures around 85cm from the tip of the nose to the tail and weigh an average of 4kg
- They are herbivores in nature
- The gestation period of female grasscutter is 5months and can breed throughout the year.
- They can produce 3-8 litter size 2 times a year.
- Grasscutters are nocturnal animals.
- They grunt when they are frightened and emit a piercing whistling sound.
- Grasscutters are very agile and can even swim.
- This animal lives in small family groups with single mature male and mature females.
- They have a lifespan of 10years
- Grasscutter has sharp eyesight and a very good sense of smell
Why You Should Raise Grasscutter:
- The meat of the animal commands good prices with stable market demand.
- It is a good source of income that requires less capital compared to other livestock
- You can grow grasscutters close to your house with limited space
- They do not smell because they are naturally clean animals so you don’t have to worry about your neighbours.
- Feeding costs for grasscutters is low because the animal mostly eat forage that you can get from the wild
- The meat quality is lean and without cholesterol.
- Parts of the grasscutter can also serve as ingredients in African medicine for preparation of concoctions for fertility.
- Most herbalist us the pancreas that contains insulin to make local preparation for the treatment of diabetes.
There are two main species of grasscutter that is common in sub-Sahara Africa which are Thryonomys swinderianus and Thryonomys gregorianus. However, The is best for grasscutter farming.
- These species live by reed-beds and river banks.
- They have rounded ears.
- Their nose is short
- They have coarse bristly hair.
- Forefeet are smaller than their hind feet, each with three toes.
- The average adult weighs 4 to 9 kg while males (bucks) can reach up to 10 kg
Breeding of Grasscutter:
You can start mating Female (doe) grasscutters when they reach the age of 6months, this also applies to the male (buck) because they become sexually mature in 6 months. However, for best results, you should start using them when they are 8-9months old for male.
The average gestation period for female grasscutter is 5months with a litter size of about 2-10. They give birth to their newborns alive and fully formed with eyes wide open, thick fur and weigh around 75-140g. The young can begin eating forages within a short period after birth because they can start bitting an hour after delivery.
You can start a new mating in 4-6 weeks after delivery. To prompt mating, take a mature buck to a new cage and allow to rest till the following day. Introduce 3-6 does in the cage with the buck and make sure none of the does is heavier than the buck. Allow them to stay together for a few days.
Female grasscutter ovulation is an induced, ovulation, the doe will only release eggs after a successful mating. So it is important to leave the females with the male until you can observe clear signs of mating and pregnancy. Isolate all pregnant females to prevent the males from killing the young.
How To Select Breed For Grasscutter Farming:
- Choose only animals that display signs of good health.
- Pick grasscutters with smooth, shiny and thick fur.
- The animal must be smart and can jump around.
- Pick females with a big body
- Females must have at least two pairs of teats because the number of teats determines the number of pups the doe can nurture successfully.
- A good male grasscutter should have a big body
- Buck must have strong hind legs and can stand well
- The male should have two testicles of the same size
- Pick only males that have a good temper and can mate without harming the females.
- Buy animal in a colony of 3-4 females and 1 male
- Check breeders record to ascertain production and feed conversion level, this is very important to enable you make the right choices especially with fertility rate and litter mortality/survival rate.
Housing For Grasscutter Farming:
The successful breeding program for grasscutter is possible only when you understand how to manage exposure to weather, predators, shelter, adequate water provision and a background knowledge regarding the biology of grasscutters.
You will understand the role each of these items plays in the success of this farming as you read along in this guide. A good housing system for grasscutter farming should meet the following requirements
- Consider the cost of construction and maintenance before you even start your project. Construct a housing that you can conveniently maintain.
- Use construction materials within your local environment to reduce cost wherever possible, such as wood, bricks, cement blocks, mud blocks, zinc sheets, wire mesh.
- Use materials that are solid, durable and easy to clean.
- Choose a location with minimal noise and free from predators and thieves.
- If you use zinc roofing that may become hot during the dry season, make sure your cover with thatches to reduce the heat.
- Housing must have enough space and well ventilated to maintain normal temperatures.
- It should provide light during the day and darkness at night – the animals need both for metabolism and growth
- Good grasscutter housing should be dust-free to prevent respiratory diseases.
Types of Grasscutter Cage:
There are two main types of cages for grasscutter farming which are wood and wire mesh cages and wire mesh and bricks cages. Before we describe what these two cages look like, let’s understand what a good cage should be.
Features of Grasscutter Cage
- It must provide good ventilation
- It must be sufficiently spacious with a wall to provide warmth during cold weather
- Standard concrete grasscutter cage should be around 10 × 20 × 40 cm
- The materials must be durable and easy to clean.
- The cage must provide space for feeders and drinkers without overcrowding the grasscutters
To construct this cage, you need to make a frame of the cage with wooden materials. The frame size depends on the size and number of grasscutter you wish to raise.
Use the wire mesh to wrap the frame to form a wall, don’t forget to use flat or 1.5cm crimp mesh for the floor to protect the grasscutter’s legs. You also need to construct a close wall at one side of the cage with any material of your choice that can help to regulate temperature.
This type of cage is very easy to clean with good ventilation. Another advantage of this cage is that it is very mobile and you can move from one location to another.
The Brick and Wire Mesh Cage:
To construct this type of cage, use concrete to build the floor and roofs of the multi-layer brick cage. The floor, roof, left, back and right sides should be concrete with tiny holes at the back wall for ventilation.
Make sure you plaster the walls for easy cleaning and hygiene. The front side of the cage should have a door made with wire mesh or a hinged door made of steel.
Ventilation must be provided through the top lids (or slats covering) of single-layer floor cages, or by the vertically hinged steel rod doors of superimposed cages. This types of cages are more durable than others but they are normally more expensive than the other type.
- Transportation Boxes
- Dustpan + broom
- Waste bin
- Watering can
- Catchers or restrictors
- Weighing scale
Feed/Feeding For Grasscutter Farming:
Grasscutters are herbivores in nature, they feed mainly on forages in the wild but can eat a variety of feed in captivity. Their stomach contains enzymes that can break down cellulose.
You can feed them fresh and dry forages as well as concentrate feed formula for grasscutter. Their favourites are;
- Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum)
- grassGuinea grass (Panicum maximum)
- Maize (Zea mays)
- huskSugar cane (Saccharum officinarum)
- African giant star grass (Cynodon sp.)
- Gamba grass (Andropogon gayanus)
- Sheep grass (Brachiaria decumbens)
- Bamboo (Oxythenanthera abyssima)
- young shootsRottboellia (Rottboellia exaltata)
- Wild sorghum (Sorghum spp.)
They also eat fruits and tuber crops like;
- Leaves of Banana, plantain (Musa spp.)
- Stem Oil palm (Eleis guineensis)
- young shootsMango (Mangifera indica)
- Pawpaw (Carica papaya)
- Pineapple (Ananas spp.): leaves, peel
- Cassava (Manihot spp.): tubers,
- The stem of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)
- Yam (Diascorea sp).
You can replace grasses with concentrate to some extent during the dry season. However, do not feed only concentrates because the grasscutters’ digestive tract is familiar with breaking down grasses. Never feed too much concentrates.
You can feed your grasscutters three or even four daily feeding times, for example: 8-10.00, 16.00, 21.00 as well as at 4.00 in the morning; or 7-8.00 (grass + water), 13-14.00 (supplementary feed), 17-18.00 (grass + other forage, fruit).
Coprophagy: Coprophagy is a special form of grasscutter feeding. During its sleeping time, especially around 4.00 in the morning, the grasscutter recycles its drop-pings, moving them directly from its anus to its mouth. This peculiar practise recycles a part of its intestinal bacteria that is indispensable for cellulose breakdown and protein synthesis. It also provides the animal with vitamin B.
Diseases and Their Control:
Grasscutters are not as susceptible to diseases as other livestock. There some basic practices that can keep diseases away from your grasscutters. Some common diseases of grasscutter like respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, dental diseases and fracture can be prevented with good management practices. Here are the things you should do to prevent diseases to its minimal.
- Provide adequate and nutrient-rich feed for your grasscutters.
- The feed should always be clean and free from mould
- Check for insects and nematodes in fresh forages before feeding them to your grasscutters
- Observe your animals carefully for any symptoms
- Check their excrement for any discrepancies
- Separate a sick or wounded animal immediately from the healthy animals and put it in the quarantine cage for treatment.
- Provide a healthy environment by cleaning cages daily, and by disinfect-ing eating and drinking troughs once weekly and the cages once monthly with products like alkali or soda.
- Prevent fights by not overcrowding your animals in the cages, and by separating young bucks into individual cages from the age of 4 months.•
- Disinfect your cages regularly.
- Install an antiseptic footbath at the entrance of the housing