Saturday, 16 February 2013

Cane Rat Farming

Cane rat, also known as grass cutter is a giant rodent living in the bush where it is being hunted for bush meat at competitive prices. Cane rats (Thryonomys swinderianus) are found throughout African South of Sahara where they feed naturally on vegetation. The animal prefers to feed on succulent and nourishing internodes of Savannah grass after it has removed the outside covering of it. It digests its food with the aid of microbial activities in the caecum. 

The body can grow up to 55cm long and attain the weight of 10kg in the wild, but when they are being domesticated their weights are between 6 – 7kg. The female can give birth twice a year with a litter size of up to four or more. The meat is rich in protein but lower in fat compared to domesticated animals. The meat is appreciated for its tenderness and taste. Compared to poultry, Grass cutters are stress-free animals, meaning farmers are not pressurized by much medication and as such, its enterprise can be more assuring and create wealth within short time. 

Benefits of Cane Rat Production
1      It is cheap to raise.
2      Command very good selling price.
3      It requires small capital to set up.
4      It is a source of fast employment as it involves many components to make             money. These are: production, processing, transportation, storing and                   marketing.
5      Very good source of protein and of high carcass quality.
6      It does not compete with man for food, compared to other livestock.

Production Planning: consideration should be on the followings:
Site selection:  
Select a site that is well drained, protected and close to the source of vegetation
Feed and Feeding Management
System of production to adopt
Mating Management
Pregnancy detection
Selection of breeding stock
Differentiating between male and female grass cutter.

Management Operations
Routing management
Ailment and Treatment
Record keeping
Cost benefits analysis
Processing and marketing.

The management system adopted determines the kind of housing to put in place. There are two management systems: intensive management system and semi intensive management system.
Cane rats are neat animals; they prefer to live in a room and parlour, and they do not sleep where they eat. Therefore the house should be clean. They are reared in cages or hutches under intensive management system.  Under semi intensive system they are reared in an enclosure made of walls.
The structure to be used for housing them must be protected from extreme temperature and humidity. The structure must be protected from predators.  The cage can be braced with iron to prevent them from damaging the wooden components and escaping into the bush.
The house must be well designed to facilitate adequate feed consumption, monitoring and breeding. The dimension of the cage can be 180cm long, 60cm wide and 45cm high. Standard housing should measure 8m by 8m long and o.6m height. The house should be constructed in such a way to prevent soldier ants and snakes. These can be prevented by constructing ditches round the house and filling them with water and engine oil.

Cane rat feed is mainly sourced from the forest. They prefer to feed on gramineous plants such as Elephant grass (Pennisetum  purpureum). Also, they prefer to eat thick succulent stalks of plants such as sugar cane (Saccharium spp), Guinea grass (Panicum maximum), Gambia grass ( Andropogon gayanus),Congo grass (Bracharia  ruziziensis). They also like herbaceous legumes such as Stylo (Stylosanthes gracilis), Pueraria phaseoloides.  The root and pitch of oil and coconut palms, barks of Anacardium and fruits such as half ripen pawpaw, plantain, pineapple, mango as their delight.

They also eat food crops such as groundnut, rice, maize legumes, tubers likes cassava sweet potato are parts of their feed. They need to be given adequate water. They neither dig hole nor climb tree 

They can be fed with granulated concentrates likes pellets processed by products of wheat bran, corn bran, groundnut, soya, oil seed, cotton seed, cakes, brewer’s yeast such as feed supplements, grains, legumes pods, maize shucks and cobs etc.

Choosing breeding stocks
Make sure the male is healthy, strong, agile and the ratio should be 1:4 male to female. They are ready to be mated between 7 to 8 months from birth.

Gestation Period
After successful mating it is 150 days and they deliver twice a year with the average of 5-7 kids and maximum of 10 kids has been observed.

Weaning Time
They can be weaned between four to eight weeks, but as a family, they can be with mother for four to seven months before they separated and placed with a male for mating.

Source of income
Cane rat farming is good source of income. They are sold as a family (one male and four females) for #45,000 or more depending on location, market and availability,   male can be sold between #5,000- #6,000.

Other information
Feeding and water trough are provided under intensive management system. As at present there are no specific medications for grass cutters.

Grass cutters are very good swimmers, they do not dig holes neither can they climb. They eat less and waste a lot.

Medicinal Importance
Organs such as brains, blood and others can be used to produce some medicines. The pancreas is used to produce drugs for curing diabetics.

Other parts such as fur and faeces are used in traditional medicine. There is growing demands for cane rat meat at big eateries.

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