Greater Cane Rat (Thryonomys swinderianus) also known in Nigeria as Grasscutter is found in West Africa, Southern Sudan, Gambia, Northern parts of Namibia. It has a robust coarse body, sharp teeth, short ears, round nose.
The body is yellowish-brown with pale gray underside. Fully mature male cane rats average 4kg while the females average 3kg. Distinctive features include flattened bristle hairs, short forefeet, large hind feet.
|Male||4.5kg||600mm||2 – 4 years|
|Female||3.5kg||500mm||2 – 4 years|
Top producers are found in West Africa region. Grass cutter is a popular delicacy in Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria. Others are Cote d voire, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gambia.
- Cote d voire
- Sierra Leone
They are affected by gastrointestinal disease, traumatic injury. Others are respiratory disorder, postnatal fatality.
The nocturnal animals build nests or live in barrows.
Conservation and Economic Importance
Some local colonies may diminish however population is on the increase. They are regarded as a pest because they feed on cultivated crops of farmers. Positive aspects are premium price, good source of protein.
What they eat
The cost implication with regards feeding is relatively cheap. Thryonomys swinderianus are herbivores, although wasteful feeders diet includes eat nuts, fruits, stems, roots, seeds, wood grains.
They love sugar cane, millet, elephant grass, sweet potatoes, maize, and millet. Feed them grass, sorghum, kitchen –left overs however certain cassava is poisonous to them. Commercial farmers increase growth rate, weight through pelleted feed.
- Sugar cane
- Oil palm
- Elephant grass
- Sweet potatoes
Positive effect of water is good feed utilization, better digestion, increased growth rate. Lack of adequate water is linked to digestive disorders, high still birth weight.
Positive effect of water on grasscutter
- good feed utilization
- better digestion
- increased growth rate
- low digestive disorders
- low still birth weight
Grasscutter Pen Construction
Proper construction of the pen is essential to the success of the enterprise. Space requirements, number or size depends on the Business plan. The farmer needs to provide a mating, fattening, adult and breeding pen.
Considerations include appropriate space, ventilation, durability, prevention from escape. Don’t keep male with female together because it may affect the ovulatory cycle of female. Keep young ones together, males, female separate a breeding female per pen.
Pen construction requires basic material easily sourced in the open market. The pen is usually located within a shed, outhouse, garage or garden house.
Common material used in construction are blocks, concrete, mixture of mesh and wood or metal pen. Block or concrete pens are stationery while wood/mesh and metal pens are easy moved.
Types of Pen
- Blocks pen
- Concrete pen
- Mixture of mesh and wood pen
- Metal pen
How to Build a Pen
Make sure you have a shed before constructing the pen. Use block, concrete, mesh/wood combination, cage avoid bamboo or straw bedding.
There are many designs however basic provisions are ventilation, security and easy access. Make sure to add a roof section, inners section and elevation plan.
A 20 x10 feet room size can accommodate 70 mature Grasscutter. Get a bricklayer to build a rectangular four walled pond shaped enclosure 20 L feet x 10 B feet x 4.5 feet height. The roof section is made from several 4 x 4 feet pallet type wood covering. Make sure the wooden cover is secured has lots of ventilation.
Same dimensions apply for concrete pen. However construction requires pegging the site, making a frame. Within the frame the bricklayer should add iron rods, broken blocks before pouring in the concrete mixture. The roof is made from wood with adequate ventilation for the rodents.
Wooden shelves or boxes are built with a front door frame. Mesh is introduced in the design to completely cover the wooden frame. Cane rats have strong incisors will chew on wood and escape. The mesh will prevent loss of stock and properly secure the animal. Ideal mesh size to introduce in the construction is 1/2×1/2 inches.
Cage pens are lightweight easy to move handy. The metal cage should be sturdy, secure with adequate space for the rodent. Cage dimensions for a family are length 200cm, height 40cm, width 60cm. introduce four 40cm partitions of 15x15cm
Small home-based farmers can stock 1 male to 4 females. However commercial ventures should consider starting with 50 colonies. 50 colonies equate to 200 female, 50 males. Stock the male and females in separate pens.
Some farmers sell Grasscutter colony from N30, 000 to N60, 000. Others prefer to market pregnant females or males. Marketing includes sales to meat stalls, roadside or a stall. They are sold live or processed depending on the customer preference.