Tuesday, June 29, 2010


With Few Grasscutters In The Backyard, Part-Time Micro-Livestock Turns Prosperity

When you think about becoming wealthy, you probably think of a high-paying job, a high yielding investment portfolio or a partnership to launch a new product or services that will roll in millions. But what assurance do you have on getting adequate funds and market for these services or products?

Have you ever wondered why the government and the private sector are placing more emphasis on small business opportunities and financing in the country today? Have you ever come across a grasscutter farm? Can you imagine the financial gains accruing to those men and women who deal in grasscutter business at one stage or the other? What about the nutrition benefits the people who patronize pepper soup joints, beer parlors, fast food and eateries are deriving from such timeout? A visit to a grasscutter farm where many cages and hutches are devoted for rearing grasscutter in captivity should serve you a good menu of the profitability of the grasscutter business in the country today.

Personally, I found out that, our academic curricular is not structured to make us business conscious that is why people don’t understand the concept of private enterprise. After school, to pick up business ideas becomes very difficult, this is the reason many people are unemployed. While in school, they believe that the job is waiting for them.

It is no more like that today, you have to create job for yourself and others.
The grasscutter belongs to the mammalian order and the family of Rodentia and tyronomyidae respectively and is genetically more closely related to the porcupine than the rat. In Africa, grassscutter have very wide ranges but are absent or rare over much of South-West Africa, from the Sahara and from the arid Horn of Africa. They are distributed widely throughout Africa’s semi-humid regions and are found in many forests and savannas. Grasscutters occur in grassland or in wooden savanna throughout the humid and sub humid areas of Africa south of the Sahara. They do not inhabit rainforest, dry scrub, or desert, but colonize the road borders in forest regions.

They are robust animals measuring up to 60 cm (head and body), weighing 4-10kg, heavily built, with short stocky legs, a short rat-like tail, clothed with coarse, briskly and even spiny hairs, which look like short soft quills. General coat coloration is speckled brown or buffy above, paler on flanks and greyish or whitish below. They also may have yellow-brown bodies with whitish bellies. The fur is extremely coarse, firm, and briskly-reflecting the animal’s kinship to the porcupine. They have thick, heavy claws and enormous orange incisor that can chew through even the toughest vegetation. Nevertheless, they do not bite if handled professionally.

Grasscutter is the second biggest wild rodent after porcupine in Africa. About 80,000 tons grasscutter meat per year is consumed in West Africa of which only 0.2% is provided by domesticated grasscutters. Its meat, said to resemble that of poultry is greatly appreciated and highly favoured in West and Central Africa. Its meat is preferred to the meat of any other kind of domestic animal or commercially available game. The prices of live-weight grasscutter and meat per kilograms are three times higher than that of beef. The economic potential of grasscutter meat is higher within the region and has an extensive market due to its high demand. However, it is this high demand for grasscutter’s meat that currently poses the greatest threat to its very genetic survival.

The populations of wild grasscutters in West and Central Africa countries are declining due to over-hunting and destruction of their habitat. In order to ensure their sustainable existence and use, their domestication at this juncture is therefore most opportune, given the fact that some success in domestication has been achieved in Nigeria and some West African Countries.

Grasscutters are more active during the night and at dawn, as compared to daytime. The grasscutter does not dig holes or burrows, nor does it live in tunnels. Depending on the ambient temperature, they rest either on top of or under a heap of dry grass. When in danger, however, they hide wherever they can find shelter. The grasscutter is an excellent swimmer, has good eyesight, a delicate ear and a sharp scent. It also has a good sense of orientation. Usually, they live in small groups of family colonies, comprising a buck (male), one or more does (females) and their offspring. Only males live solitarily.

Grasscutters feed on vegetation, and are able to convert the highly cellulotic material into valuable animal protein. This is of particular importance with regard to supply of protein of animal origin to the populace. The animal meets its mineral requirements by eating soil.

Grasscutters can be subdivided into two categories, the docile and indocile grasscutters. The docile grasscutter adapts well to life in confinement and becomes accustomed to man quickly, whereas the indocile grasscutter panics when people approach and tries to escape from its cage or pen. Grasscutters easily recognize their cage or pen and the individual who takes care of them. The animals communicate with each other and produce different sounds that indicate well-being, warnings as well as submission. Irrespective of the kind of forage, grasscutters first eat stalks, the bark of twigs and finally some leaves. The grasscutter does practice coprophagy. When it is hot, water intake is reduced, and when the outdoor temperature is low, the animal drinks much more. The reason for this rather unexpected behaviour is however not yet fully understood, and should be subjected for further research.

Phases of activity and rest in the animals alternate. Generally, they tend to rest during the hot hours of the day. If environmental temperatures fall below 18C, grasscutter’s activity is also severely decreased. And this offers small-scale farmers, investors, businessmen and all those with wealth-mind set, an economic incentive for raising grasscutters in captivity.

More recently, research carried out over the last two decades has allowed for the selection and improvement of stock for captivity with much knowledge and techniques for grasscutter rearing. Practical information is readily available for anyone interested in grasscutter farming. Grasscutters are not the most prolific of rodent species but the high demand, attractive market price and small amount of investment required makes grasscutters a suitable mini-livestock activity for income generation in many part of Nigeria. Grasscutter farming if approached with the benefit of the right information and knowledge now available is a viable commercial activity. Grasscutter are mainly herbivorous; require neither imported component of food nor expensive medical expenses if strict hygiene is maintained.

They are easy and very cheap to raise, with less than N50, 000 one can set up a small scale grasscutter farm of one colony that comprises 1-male and 4-females including their cage. Gestation period of the grasscutter is about 154 days or five months, so the females can litter two times per year. Grasscutter meat is a delicacy in Nigeria today and is served in big hotels and restaurants as well as some joints patronized by middle to high level people.

Depending on your experience, grasscutter can be packaged to outfits as pepper soup meat, suya, frozen or dried meat. Most Chinese are looking for the meat as regular meal and also to entertain most of their guests from abroad. To further assure potential.

Farmers that rearing of grasscutter is a profitable business in Nigeria. Grasscutter is in high demand due to its good taste, high protein content and medicinal characteristics. It is available for sale in the open markets, hotels, beer parlours and various relaxation joints; more interestingly, parties’ (only special guests enjoyed this) because of the high price, thus the market potential is great.

If you rear grasscutter in commercial quantity under good hygienic condition, fast food restaurants such as Mr. Biggs, Tantalizers, and Sweet Sensation etc will be your regular customers. They will only need your assurance of regular supply per week. There is also good market for grasscutter meat in the international market if only you can do a good packaging.

Infact, grasscutter farming is one of the new attractive areas for job creation in Nigeria today. It is a great money-spinning business that can provide job opportunities that can be done by the young and old; by retirees or actively serving people; by the rich or moderately rich; by the educated or uneducated members of the society. If you want to be your own boss and you are ready to work hard and get rich, grasscutter farming is for you. Surely, if all hands are on deck over a million jobs can be created in grasscutter industry alone. Sadly, Nigerians preference and rush for oil money has led to the utter neglect of this lucrative agricultural enterprise. Raise grasscutter for your own consumption or for a commercial business. The time is right to utilize a natural food resource that is literally at your backyard.

Modern grasscutter farming is not a hobby; it is a serious business that yields good financial rewards.

The advantages of grasscutter farming are as follows:
They can easily be reared at family backyard. It is very cheap to start grasscutter farming as a breeding family that is made up of five grasscutters i.e. 1-male and 4-females are sold for N40, 000 only. A serious and dedicated farmer can have close to 100 families at a time.

Grasscutters are polygamous in nature, hence it makes it easy to colony raise them in captivity and in large numbers. It is a business venture that can be started on small scale with a space of less than one room.

Source of income and employment:
The business of producing, processing, transporting, storing, financing and servicing grasscutter products should give employment to many people. Rearing of grasscutter for local consumption will decrease importation of frozen meat, chicken and turkey into the country and producing grasscutter for export will greatly enhance the economic potential. It will firm up the Naira, improve the GDP, reduce both inflation and create more jobs for Nigerians.

Grasscutter farming is new initiatives in livestock husbandry as a result earlier investors without doubt have bright prospects in exploring this venture. In addition to these facts, it is free from cultural and religious taboos. This makes it to be a universal favourite, breaking all barriers – religion, creed, culture, ethnicity, age grouping, colour, etc. Add this to the fact that the FAO in a recent study observed that over 950 million people are starving everyday. The situation affords the prospective investor the opportunity of raising fresh grasscutter meat for local and international markets

Prince Arinze Onebunne
Managing Consultant/CEO
Schanak Agro Consulting

For free consultancy, contact me on: 234-803 3262 808 or http://www.schanakagroconsulting.com

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