With a small plot of land or enough space in one’s backyard, potential investors with interest in grasscutter farming can launch into the business with less than N100, 000, according to experienced farmers.
In Nigeria and most other African countries, grasscutters are regarded as a good source of protein in food. The protein content is high, with very low fat. But these grasscutters are often hunted in the forests and sold, and as a result are becoming extinct. But rearing it is fast becoming the solution to the issue of demand, which outweighs supply, and therefore an income spinner for investors.
Grasscutter cages are sold for about N5, 000 by roadside carpenters who make them. According to Bisi Elegunde, a grasscutter farmer, who started production in 2007, for optimum performance, grasscutters’ cages should be built with solid concrete by a wall and the cage door must be of iron bars or any solid metal.
She says that “the doors should be padlocked. This is because they are wild rodents and their teeth are very sharp. They can force the door open, and once it opens, they are out on the road. Hardly can anyone catch them while they are actively alive. The best thing then would be to kill them with an arrow or gun, so as not to lose them.”
She remarks that normally, the return on investment is very high as one grasscutter can give birth to from five to 10 young ones at a time. On the issue of demand, she states that “grasscutter, which is known as bush meat or ‘eran igbe’ is a delicacy that people savour. They just love it.” Various people have also said that they would not mind buying readily dressed and cooked grasscutters at fast food restaurants or hotels.
Currently, most of it being eaten by city dwellers is sold at the roadsides, especially along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Therefore, the chance of getting them to buy when they are freshly killed is low. But fast food restaurants and hotels that introduce it in their menus would be assured that the farmer can supply enough quantity on a regular basis.
Elegunde says that from eight months after birth, a grasscutter is ready to be sold as table meat, but the farmer may choose to retain some and raise them as brood stock. If not killed, they can live for about eight to nine years giving birth every year. She explains that a male would be ready for mating by one year, a female at less than a year, “but if one wants to sell for meat, you can sell at eight months. They are ruddy, they do not need injections.”
She notes that they are very rugged and do not fall sick like other livestock, but the only thing that can possibly lead to their death is nasal problem. “They survive easily but cannot withstand dust, excessive cold or catarrh. The forest is their natural habitat and living there, they have devised ways to survive these. What we do is to improvise; we open the windows of the building that houses their cages very slightly during cold seasons. If they are exposed to cold, one would see blood coming out from their nostrils and the next thing is that they would die.
“If it is matured enough, the carcass can be sold or eaten on the farm immediately it dies or it can be killed as soon as one sees blood coming out from the nostrils. Those sold on the roadsides also have blood in their nostrils.”
The farmer adds that “their feeding cost is very low. They eat dry grasses that cattle also eat. If the grass contains water, it could result in nasal problem. They also eat cassava tubers and wheat offals, which are wastes of industries. They also love sugarcane, but we try not to give them anything watery because of their tendency of nasal problems and the fact that eating sugarcane may get their teeth broken. They can also eat uncooked maize still on the cob.”
She remarks that the investment can however be capital intensive due to the costs of building a proper house for them and sourcing for the right brood stock, revealing that she got a male and four females to start with four years ago with about N33,000.
“Every male grasscutter is a polygamist, so at least three females can be with one male at a time. Because the male would overpower and can injure one or two females kept with it.”
The lady farmer identifies under-pricing by some consumers as a challenge because the market has not been regularised to determine how much a grasscutter reared on a farm should be sold, but advises those interested in the business to get training before starting.