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Grasscutter or Greater Cane Rat (Thryonomys swinderianus) is one of two species of cane rats. Grasscutters occur in grassland or in wooded savanna throughout the humid and sub humid areas of Africa south of the Sahara. They often live in forest-savanna habitats where grass is present. Cane rats can grow to nearly 2 ft (0.61 m) in length and weigh a little less than 8.6 kg. It has rounded ears, a short nose, and coarse bristly hair. Its forefeet are smaller than its hind feet, each with three toes.
Cane rats live in small groups led by a single male. They are nocturnal and make nests from grasses or burrow underground. Individuals of the species may live in excess of four years
As humans expanded into the cane rat's native habitats, the cane rats likewise expanded from their native reeds into the plantations, particularly the sugar cane plantations from which they derive their name. Their tendency to adopt plantations as habitat, where they feed on agricultural crops such as maize, wheat, sugar-cane and cassava, often earns them the label of agricultural pest.
Grasscutter meat is delicious and is regarded as a delicacy in Nigeria and West Africa. The peoples of the region also utilize the cane rat as a potential food source (bush meat). The Nutritive value of grasscutter is relatively high. The crude protein of the meat is about 22.7% compared to 20.7% for rabbit meat, 19.25% for chicken and 18.25 for beef.
In all the countries in the West Africa sub-region, grasscutter meat is in high demand because of its unique taste. The meat is so given high attention in the market that it is more expensive than poultry, pork, beef and goat meat. So if you can get involved in grasscutter farming in Nigeria and rear grasscutter in commercial quantity, you are in big money! Relaxation spots, hotels, eateries, palm wine joints and meat traders in the open market will be your regular customers. This is because they will need a steady supply to treat their own customers. So take advantage of the large market for this product, the few people that are into grasscutter farming cannot meet the growing demand for the meat.
Preliminary survey by the Animal Research Institute found that some rural folks, using grass and household waste from cassava, were able to raise grasscutter stocks which they sold at a price of $23 (
N3647.90) per animal of about 4 kg-weight. They also sold 3-month old animals for breeding at $9 ( N1427.44) per animal, irrespective of sex . Compared to other traditional livestock production, grasscutter production offers a relatively lower variable cost of production. For instance, feeding constitutes 82% of total variable cost of production in poultry enterprises, but this is considerably low in grasscutter production.
In the Savanna area of West Africa, people have traditionally captured wild grasscutters and raised them at home. As an extension of this, organized grasscutter husbandry has been initiated in West Africa. The animals are provided with marshy, tightly fenced areas with plenty of plant cover. The young are harvested from these areas and raised separately.
Different types of material are used in the construction of the rearing shed, including bricks or breezeblocks, bamboo, straw and matting. The key is to use local materials in order to keep down construction costs. The building should be ventilated and offer enough light to facilitate rearing activities. The long sides of the structure are made of a low wall 1.5 m high, with the upper half covered with chicken wire. The roof can be made out of corrugated iron, straw or any other kind of waterproof material. Concrete floors and wall could also be used in the construction of the house.
A prototype of the concrete house
Grasscutters are kept in pens inside the rearing shed. The number of pens depends on the production objectives. It is recommended to have one breeding female per pen. The recommended surface area per adult animal in the pen is 0.2 m2 ().
Alternatively, for small scale production, housing of grasscutter cage could be done by done by putting under staircase or in the background
Grasscutters are vegetarian. They consume nuts, barks, and the soft parts of grasses and shrubs. They particularly do well with elephant grass and sweet potatoes. They commonly "raid" cassava and yam plantations, and are considered local pests. They also feed on fruits such as: pineapple, mango, pawpaw etc. They also enjoy food crops such as rice, legume, maize etc.
The animals should have continual access to food. Fodder should be given two hours before giving concentrates, once or twice a day, preferably in the morning and evening.
Water should always be available. Grassy fodder should be dried in the sun at least 24 hours before being given. Do not give damp fodder. Concentrate can be given by themselves or in combination with fodder. It can be made up from just one ingredient or several. If using single ingredient concentrates, make sure to alternate when you give them. In contrast, if the concentrate is a mix of two or three ingredients, then the same contrite can be given every time. Any changes in concentrates should be made over four to five days in order to allow the digestive system to adapt.
Profitability of Grasscutter
Rearing of grasscutter is very profitable, less stress (the stress of feeding them is less, when compared to other livestock rearing like fishery, piggery, poultry etc.), and highly productive. Grasscutter has a high reproductive rate, because they are polygamous in nature, if one rears a male alongside with four females for a year, it’s possible to get 50-56 grasscutters and each grasscutter price ranges from
#4000 – #6500 sometimes they can go for #10000. Grasscutters are herbivorous which makes them easy to feed, can be started on a small scale with a space of less than one room, it has good prospects for exporting. These are just some of the few reasons why Grasscutter Rearing is efficiently profitable.
You could start grasscutter farming on a small scale with only N50,000
 Adu, E. K., Aning, K. G., Wallace, P. A., and Ocloo, T. O. (2000): Reproduction and mortality in a colony of captive greater cane rat, Thryonomys swinderianus, Temminck. Tropical Animal Health and Production, 32, 11-17
 Farooq, M, Zahir-ud-Din, Durrani, F. R, Chand, N and Ahmed, J. (2001): Status of Broilers produced in Swat, Pakistan. Livestock Research for Rural Development (13) 3 2001.
 Courtsey: Rearing grass cutter by E.lionelle Ngo-samnick
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