Many people want to know how to start a grasscutter/cane rat farming business. However, before going into the details about starting a profitable grasscutter farm, it is important to discuss about grasscutters or cane rats.
Grasscutters (Thryonomys swinderianus), also called Cane Rats in English-speaking West African countries, Agouti in French-speaking West African countries and hedgehogs in Central Africa, are rodents that are widely found in wet or grasslands areas in Africa. Though these animals are widely hunted in Africa, they can be domesticated like other micro-livestock animals such as rabbits.
Some characteristics of grasscutters are:
1. Grascutters are placid and relatively prolific animal
2. They become sexually active and mature at 5-6 months.
3. At this age they can reproduce and give birth to as high as 12 young.
4. They can be easily reared or managed, and this made their domestication as an alternative to poaching them in the wild.
5. They can grow rapidly in intensive conditions
6. The meat of grasscutters is very rich in protein and economically valuable.
How to Breed or Raise Grasscutters
The best way to breed grasscutter is by raising them under intensive system, i.e. keeping them in cages or pens inside a very safe shed. It is very important to choose a very good location as this is high critical for successful grasscutter rearing.
Other conditions that must be met for a successful grasscutter rearing include:
- The area/location should be easily accessible and free from flood
- It must be well ventilated, secured, availability of a source of feed and water
- The number of grasscutters kept and the objectives of production determine the size of the building or pen. However, the standard is that a family of grasscutters, comprising one adult male and four females should be provided a space of 1.6-2 m2.
How to Construct Rearing Sheds for Grasscutters
There are various materials used in constructing the rearing shed of grasscutters, Breezeblocks, bricks, straws and bamboo can be used for this purpose. It is always advised to use local materials so as to reduce construction costs. It is mandatory that the building have adequate light and ventilation. The long sides of the pen must be low-walled (1.5 meters high) and the upper half can be covered with a chicken net. Corrugated iron or other waterproof materials can be used for roofing the rearing shed.
How to Construct Rearing Pen for Grasscutters
Grasscutters are commonly kept and raised inside rearing pens. It is the production objectives that determine the number of pens to construct. One breeding female per pen is recommended and the surface area per adult grasscutter is 0.2 m2.
Your pen setup could be:
- A pen for adults
- A pen for mating
- A pen for giving birth and feeding the young
- A pen for fattening young grasscutters
The pen’s construction materials determine the layout of the pens. Brick pens are fixed and unmovable while metal pens are movable.
Using wood, bamboo or straw to construct pens for grasscutters is not recommended because the grasscutters can eat them. Rearing pens can be opened or closed, and when constructing, it is important to have passages to move around between rearing pens.
These are enclosures that are not covered at the top and they have a surface area of 3m2 and height of 1.5m. The pens have openings in the side that facilitate access for the farmer to move in and out of the pens.
These are enclosures that are covered at the top with some appropriate roofing material. These pens may be partitioned into compartments. The surface area could be between 2-3 sqm and the height of 80cm.
If two compartments are created, they should have the same surface area. They should also be separated by partitions and have a 15cm opening for free movement of grasscutters to and fro the compartments.
Various materials can be used to make the covering and the floor of the building should be even and smooth, while the floor of the pens can be plastered.
How to Construct the Feeding and Drinking Troughs of Grasscutters
These can be constructed with clay or cement but should be heavy enough for the grasscutters. This is to prevent the animals from knocking the troughs over. The farmer can personally construct the troughs by moulding them out of wood or metal. One trough should be for three grasscutters.
The squeeze cage
A squeeze cage is used for easy handling of grasscutters. It should have dimensions that are the same with the animal to be handled. A squeeze page can be made by building a rectangular cage with fine meshed screening. When constructing this cage, the average weight of the animals and variety should be considered. It shouldn’t be built in a way that the animals can turn or move about inside the cage.