Steps to Grasscutter farming; a complete guide

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Grasscutter farming is one of the most lucrative business ideas in the agribusiness sector at the moment. It is, in fact, one of the leading livestock farming suitable for commercial purposes.

The creature is amazing. They are loved, treasured, and valued by farmers in both West and Central Africa, Asia, and part of Europe.

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Grasscutter meat is sweet, high in protein, and has one of the lowest fat contents or cholesterol in most of the meats we consume.

As result, its demand in the market keeps increasing daily. Hence, there is a need for more passionate grasscutter farmers to come on board and explore this untapped business opportunity.

Being a lucrative and profitable business opportunity, Grasscutter farming entails little start-up capital and brings enough money to the farmer’s pocket in the long run.

So if you are planning to venture into grasscutter farming, it is a nice idea and a good choice of business investment in the agricultural industry.

Brief History of Grasscutter

The botanical name of Grasscutter is Thryonomys swinderianus and it is also known as the Cane Rats or Grass Cutter in most English-speaking African countries, Agouti in French-speaking Nations, and hedgehogs in Central Africa.

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Gasscutters belong to the rodent species or Family and they are a treasured delicacy in most parts of the world. Health-wise, they are proteinous and business wise, very profitable.

Although the majority of this rodent species can still be found in the wild — wet or grasslands in Africa. They can be hunted, domesticate, and rear like other livestock such as rabbits.

Most importantly, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the rearing of grasscutters has been in existence for a very long time.

And these days, many passionate farmers still have a small scale grasscutter farm around them because of its demand in the market.

In fact, a lot of business owners and investors are ready to invest, heavily, in this market. So if you really want to venture into this business, you may have to start now.

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But before then, it’s of high importance we look at the economic characteristics of Grasscutters.

Economic benefits of Grasscutter Farming or Features of Grasscutters

  1. Grascutters are calm and prolific animals;
  2. They enter into the age of maturity between 5 to 6 months and at this stage, they can reproduce;
  3. Grass cutters can give birth to as much as 12 offspring;
  4. They can be reared or managed easily and this brought about the luxury of domesticating them instead of poaching in the wild;
  5. They can rapidly grow in an intensive condition;
  6. The grasscutter meat is very low in cholesterol and rich in protein;
  7. They have great economic value; etc.

Conditions to satisfy before starting a Grasscutter business

To establish a long-term business enterprise in grass cutter farming, certain conditions must be satisfied.

Some of these conditions are as follows:

Intensive housing

One of the best and most reliable ways to breed or rear grasscutters is by breeding them under an intensive housing system. That is, keeping them in pens or cages inside a safe and very conducive shed.

Housing is very vital in grasscutter production, and the type of housing system used in grasscutter farming is quite different from that of other livestock farming.

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Location

The area or later where your grass cutter farm will be situated should be an area that is easily accessible to people and totally free from flood.

Ventilation

Another condition to be satisfied before venturing into the Grasscutter business is to get a well-ventilated and secured environment with enough feeds and water.

Having highlighted the three most important things to do before going into the Grasscutter business proprer, it’s very ideal to briefly explain how they can be done from the scratch.

We will be taking housing as a condition precedent to starting a Grass cutter farm and this shall be discussed under two subheadings: rearing sheds and rearing pen.

In case you will be starting from scratch with little investment capital, then it’s incumbent you take note of the following.

How to Build Breeding Sheds for Grasscutters

Rearing a house should be the first thing to focus your mind and attention on when it comes to Grasscutter business farming. It’s very key to grasscutter production.

To construct the rearing shed, there are different types of materials suitable for that purpose. There are Breezeblocks, straws, bricks, and there is bamboo.

However, you should use local materials that are at your disposal to reduce construction costs.

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In doing this, the number of grasscutters to be kept in the shed and the production objectives should determine the size of the rearing shed.

But nonetheless, the standard and highly recommended one is that will contain them as a family. That is to say, the one that will harbor a male adult and four females.

The space too should measure 1.6-2 M².

Also, while building the sheds, it is very incumbent you make sure the building has enough space to give room for light and adequate ventilation.

The long sides or height of the pen should be low-walled measuring 1.5 meters high. The upper half of the pen can be covered using a chicken net.

More so, corrugated iron or any other waterproof items can be used for the grasscutter rearing shed roofing.

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How to Construct a Standard Rearing Pen for the Grasscutters

How to Construct a Standard Rearing Pen for the Grasscutters

Usually, grasscutters are often raised and kept inside breeding pens and the pen’s building materials do determine the view and layout of the pens.

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Grasscutter pens are normally very firm and strong, the floor is usually made using reinforced concrete. There are brick pens and there are metal grasscutter pens.

The only difference between the two is that the brick pens are usually fixed and unmovable while the metal pens are not fixed and movable.

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Using straw, wood, or bamboo to construct pens for your grasscutters is not advisable because these species of rodents can eat them.

Breeding pens can be made opened or closed. The surface area of the pens should also measure 0.2 m2 per adult female grasscutter.

While constructing, endeavor to leave spaces in between to serve as a passage to enhance easy movement around and between the rearing pens.

What’s more, the number of grasscutter pens to build will be determined by your production objectives. One breeding female grass cutter per pen is recommended.

For better understanding, your grasscutter farming pen set-up could be made in the following order:

  • An intensive pen for adults;
  • A pen for copulating or mating;
  • A pen for delivery, feeding, and raising of the young;
  • An elusive pen for fattening the young grasscutters; etc.

Types of Pens for Rearing Grasscutters

There are two popular and distinct types of Pens for rearing grasscutters, and they are:

  1. Open Pens; and
  2. Close Pens.
  1. Open Pens

These types of pens for breeding grasscutters are kinds of intensive housing enclosures that are built without cover at the top most of the house. 

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The surface area of the pen usually measures 3m2 and the height, 1.5m.

But nonetheless, there is always an opening in the side of the cage to enable the farmer to have access to move grasscutters in and out of their respective pens.

2. Close Pens

Unlike the open Pens, the close pens are a kind of intensive housing enclosures with a cover at the top most head of the building.

Often, appropriate roofing materials are used in this instance. The surface area too could be measured between the range of 2-3 sqm while the height could be 80cm long.

In addition, the close pens may be, subject to the grasscutter farmer’s discretion, partitioned into several compartments.

If two or more compartments are created out of the close pens, there is no problem with them having or sharing the same land surface.

They should, however, be separated either by metal barricade or brick partitions and have 16cm opening to enhance easy movement of the animals in and out of the Pen’s compartments.

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Similarly, various constructing materials can be used as the pen’s cover and the housing, cage, or building floors should smooth and even.

In fact, the floor of the grasscutter’s pens can be tiled or plastered.

How to Construct Grasscutter Feeding and Drinking Troughs

How to Construct Grasscutter Feeding and Drinking Troughs

Health is wealth and as such, you shouldn’t be feeding your grasscutters on the bare floor. There is a need for grasscutter feeding and drinking troughs.

And of course, feeders and drinkers — without a doubt — are one of the major components of any livestock pen.

If you have the money, you can buy them but if you so desire, you can construct them on your own.

The drinking and feeding troughs can be built with cement or clay and should be heavy to prevent the grasscutters from knocking the feeding or drinking troughs over.

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As a passionate grasscutter farmer, you can construct the feeding troughs yourself by using wood or metal to mold them.

To reduce cost and stress, one feeding and drinking trough should be enough for three grasscutters to feed in.

The grasscutter squeeze cage

Along the line, there is also a need for you to get or construct a squeeze cage to make grasscutter handling easier.

Since the main purpose of the squeeze cage is to facilitate easy handling of the grass cutters, it should therefore have dimensions that are akin to the grasscutter to be handled.

 A squeeze cage can be facilitated by constructing a rectangular cage furnished with fine-meshed screening.

When building this cage, you have to put in mind the average weight and variety of the farm animals.

It should be built in such a way that will prevent the animals from turning or moving around in the cage.

Getting Started In Cane-rat/Grasscutter Production

Before going deep into the grasscutter production, you must note that grasscutter derives extreme pleasure in living in the colony, and two male adults will never live together.

Therefore, you should have in mind that you will be starting with a mature male and 4 – 5 females living together.

Then, you have to establish a colony. A colony of grasscutter usually consists of a male (adult) and 4-5 females.

Grasscutter Reproduction, Growth, and Management

Apparently, growth and maturity are one of the essential features of this Grass cutter venture because they enhance the reproduction process.

Which without a doubt, the fast growth and development rate of grasscutter farming makes it even more profitable.

Below are however some basic and well known facts about the grasscutter reproduction process:

  • Sexual maturity: You must note that male grasscutters enter the age of maturity within 8 months (32 weeks) and their body weight on the minimum is usually 2.5kg.

 The female grasscutters on the other hand mature between the range of 5 to 6 months (26 weeks) recording a bodyweight of about 1.8 kg on the minimum.

  • Sex ratio: In grasscutter breeding, one male grasscutter can comfortably service four to ten females.
  • Ovulation: Female grasscutter ovulate with a mere sighting of a male counterpart;  just like doe does (a female rabbit).
  • Gestation period: The gestation period of a cane-rat is 22 weeks ( that is 152 days) and this means a female grasscutter can only reproduce twice in a calendar year.
  • The number of offspring per litter: A cane rate reproduces 4 – 11 young per reproduction.
  • Suckling period: Most often than not, grasscutter young do suckle for 40 – 45 days before weaning.

Grasscutter Breeding Selection

Be informed that it is very important to choose good grass cutter varieties for breeding; it is not something that should be done at random.

Procure the best grasscutter cultivars or breeds from another grasscutter farmer or any nearest breeding center in your area.

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Plus, when making your breeding selection, bodyweight should be one of the determining factors to choose a male grasscutter. They should be heavier in weight than the female on a scale of 0.5kg – 1kg.

Also, avoid breeding or buying grasscutter mating pairs that are closely related. In a broader sense, don’t breed a male grasscutter that is related in any way to the female.

In the same vein, a closely related female grasscutter or grasscutter of the same mother can be bred together with a male of a different parent.

Mating in Grasscutters

Male grasscutters have the strength and ability of mating with several female counterparts in a single period. A male grasscutter can be identified through its brown and wrinkled genitals

Hence, once you’ve identified and picked the male grasscutter, place it in the constructed mating pen and leave it there for a while to establish his territory to reduce the risk of fighting the female.

The female grasscutter which can be identified via the closeness of her anus down to the genital area should then be moved from her pen to the mating pen where the male has already marked as his territory.

Having done this, leave the two species alone in the mating pen for, at least, 24 hours. Lastly, avoid putting a male grasscutter that is lighter in weight than the female ones in the mating pen.

At this juncture, you must note that there are basically two types of mating options available in grasscutter farming and they are:

  • Permanent mating: This type of mating option allowed both the male and females cane rats to stay and mate together in the same pen. After which the young will be moved after weaning.
  • Temporary mating: The temporary mating on the other hand allow the female grasscutter to be placed in a mating pen together with the male species until she is pregnant. After which she will be moved to the reproduction pen.

While each of the mating options looks great and interesting, you must know that they both come with their pros and cons. Although it all depends largely on the production objectives

Thus, below are the advantages and disadvantages of the permanent mating and temporary mating options.

Pros of grass cutter permanent mating

  • It increases the breeding cycle of the female grasscutter;

Cons of permanent mating

  • Less reproduction control as there will always be regular and constant mating among the animals;
  • It will be very difficult to know the actual mother of the offspring;
  • Risk of incessant fighting and cannibalism;
  • Risk of exhausting and torturing the reproductive females;
  • Under and over-exploitation of the male grasscutter; etc.

Pros of temporary mating

  • Full and absolute control of the animals (grasscutters) affairs;
  • Clear identification of the offspring and their respective mother;
  • Excellent breeding process, planning, and management;
  • Reduced risk of torturing, cannibalism, and killing of the offsprings; etc.

Pros of temporary mating

  • Several pens are needed and as such, increase investment;
  • There’s a need for more or larger space to keep more females;
  • It helps reduces the number of young per female species; etc.

Grasscutter Pregnancy test, Birth, Young Management and Control

Under this heading, you will be introduced to how to check if a female grasscutter is pregnant, birth planning and process, young (offsprings) management, and control.

Let’s take them one after the other…

How to manage a pregnant grasscutter

After you must have housed a male grasscutter together with a female one in the mating pen, it’s expected of you to check if the female grasscutter is pregnant. And importantly, the grasscutter gestation period is 152 days (5 months), at the minimum.

How to check if a grasscutter is pregnant

After leaving both the male and the female grasscutters alone for days in the mating pen, it’s expected of the female grasscutter to be pregnant.

How then will you know if she has actually conceived? Well, it is very simple using the trick I’ll be teaching you now.

To do this, after 5 – 6 weeks when the grasscutters must have been mating, look for a cotton bud and carefully insert it into the female grasscutter’s genital.

If the cotton bud color changes to red, then it means that the grasscutter is pregnant.

But if the color did not change or in the absence of any discoloration, it means the pregnancy test result is negative. Such female grasscutter can be kept together with a male in the mating pen again.

Birth control and young management in grasscutter farming

Although the months vary, after 5 months (on the maximum) of carrying pregnancy the female grasscutter delivers its offspring.

Newborn grasscutters usually resemble adult ones and within few hours after their birth, they can blindly move around.

After this parturition, the mother grasscutter needs special attention and care. You are under obligation to serve her high-quality feeds and clean water to enhance adequate milk production.

How to wean baby grasscutters

After the female grasscutter 40 days parturition, weaning of her baby usually takes place. Weaning simply means the act of separating the baby grasscutters away from their mother.

This is very necessary because any prolonged extension of time they spend with their mother will make it grow weak as a result of incessant breastfeeding.

In the cause of the weaning, endeavor to separate the male ones away from the females. Put the male in a pen of other males of the similar or same weight and vice versa.

The male ones can be identified by the gap or distance between their genitals and anus. Or better still, their genitals are large and as twice as that of the young females.

In grasscutter offsprings or young management and control, the feeds and foods that will be given to the grasscutters should be nutritious. 

And lastly, since all the grasscutters are going to be held in captivity on your farm, make sure that their diet consists of green forage. Although dried or fresh food can also be fed to them.

Equally, you can be feeding them with concentrates that are rich in minerals, energy, and proteins.

Grasscutters Feeds and Feeding management

Feeds and feeding management is key and very important in grasscutter production as it accounts for over 70% total cost of the entire productions.

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Grasscutters of all class needs a balanced diet daily. One of the majority of the mistakes the grasscutter farmers do make is feeding their animals with only green forage.

Such is one of the major reasons while many farmers complain of slow growth and inadequate milk production in their nursing female grasscutters.

But yet, that doesn’t mean you should not feed them with green forage like grasses, vegetables, or legumes, they might even end up suffering from digestive problems.

With a nutritious and balanced diet feeding on grasscutters, it would facilitate animal production and enhance their weight by 3.5kg and 2.8kg (on average) in both male and female grasscutter respectively.

On this note, below is the list of concentrates and forage that you can be feeding your grasscutters:

  • Legumes and edible grasses: examples of this include groundnut, beans, elephant grass, in that order;
  • Agricultural by-products: this includes leaves, garden wastes, fruits (ripe or unripe), leftover vegetables, coconut, pawpaw, bamboo shoots, etc;
  • Agricultural processing by-product: some of these include brewers dried grain, corn bran, groundnut cake, wheat bran, and the likes;
  • Root and Tuber crops: you can also feed your grasscutters any of these crops; yam, potato, yam peels, cassava, cocoyam, cassava peelings, potato peels, cocoyam peels, and many more;
  • Cereals grain: Grasscutters will also feed on these classes of forage; rice, millet, corn, sorghum, and many more;
  • Shells:  eggshells, bone meal, oyster shell, etc.

In addition, for proper grasscutter’s feed utilization, the animals should be given fodder, at least, 2 hours before serving them concentrate. Make it a habit to be serving them food always.

Also, the grasscutters should be fed with fodder 2 hours before feeding them concentrate two times a day. Either in the morning or later in the day. And you could devise a better option.

In line with the above, you must always provide them with water and grassy fodder should always be dried before serving them to the animals.

If it pleases you, the concentrate can be mixed with fodder and it can be made out of one or several ingredients.

But advisably, you may have to alternate the concentrate in case you use single ingredient concentrate but where it is a mix of one or several ingredients, then you can be feeding the grasscutters with it continuously.

Why you should conserve and store feeds for your cane-rate farming

In your sojourn to become a grasscutter farmer, another aspect of the grasscutter or cane-rat farming that you should know is feeding conservation and stocking.

Grasses and other legumes that are nutritious for the Grasscutters wouldn’t be available during the dry season and as such, there’s a need to conserve and stock them for the future.

Plus, it’s advisable that the animal’s fodder be sun-dried or air-dried and kept in a cool dry place.

Planting, cultivating, harvesting, conservating, and stocking fodder could also be done in preparation for the scarcity period.

All concentrates should be kept in a cool dry place. Avoid overboard storing of the concentrate feed because it is sensitive to changes in temperature, oxidation, and humidity.

Even, the concentrate could be attacked by rodents, insects, mites, mould, bacteria, fungi, etc.

Health and Disease Management in Grasscutter Production Business

You will agree with me that health management and disease control is very vital in all class of livestock farming or production.

Grasscutter like other animals also faces health threats that can affect their production performance. So as a cane rat or grasscutter farmer, it’s very incumbent on you to be up and doing.

Don’t get tired or grow bored of their inspection and routine check-up. Always remember that if they contact any diseases, you would spend big to combat the disease.

Make it a habit by inspecting all the pen facilities for any exposure to diseases or deviation in any of the animals’ health.

Biosecurity measures and proper hygiene should be maintained around the farm to ward off or prevent harmful micro-organism and pest invasion.

  • To further protect your grasscutter farm from disease or diseases, then the following measures should be taken into consideration:
  • Never rough handle the animals and avoid unnecessary noise within their facility;
  • Daily inspection of the grasscutters to find any sick one in time;
  • Wash both the feeding and watering troughs, at least, twice a week;
  • Giving your grasscutters the necessary feed and take basic hygiene measures to help reduce potential losses to infection;
  • Regularly disinfect the sheds, pens, cages, feeding troughs, feeding troughs, and the farm environment;
  • Quarantine new breeds for 2 weeks before housing them with the existing ones;
  • Give lemon juice (sweetened) at least once a week to strengthen their immune system;
  • Keep feed and concentrates away from rodents, insects, bacterias, mould, and the likes;
  • Give vitamin, minerals, and energetic supplements bi-weekly; etc.

All in all, grasscutter’s biggest enemies remain Snakes and Soldier Ants. Construct their pens in a safe and conducive environment and be wary of thieves too.

Sign of sickness in grasscutter

You must identify and separate a sick grasscutter away from the healthy one. This is because its health could be detrimental to others.

How then can you identify or differentiate a sick grasscutter from the healthy one? The signs to watch out for in other to identify sick grasscutters or invasion of diseases include:

  • Paralysis
  • Incessant cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormally long incisors
  • Death of suckling young or babies
  • Loss of weight
  • Isolation from others
  • Inability to run or escape capture
  • Soft, liquid, and colored feces
  • Dull-looking, rough or matted fur
  • Inflammation in some parts of the body
  • Unmoving animal prostrate
  • Lump under the grasscutter skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Nasal discharge, etc.

Grasscutter still remains one of the leading animal production or livestock farming suitable for commercial purpose, therefore treat the business as same.

Conclusion

At this juncture, I must mention that it’s very vital you keep a proper record and documentation of your grasscutter business. It helps in determining productivity and reduces excess production costs.

Add up adequate management practice to your doings too. You need it in establishing and maintaining a profitable agribusiness venture.

And lastly, grasscutter farming is lucrative and profitable, it remains one of the less exploit business ideas and opportunities in the agricultural sector.

If you have any questions or clarification, don’t hesitate to use the comment box.

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