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SME Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Successful Grass Cutter Farming in Nigeria

Introduction to Grass Cutter Farming

Grass cutter farming, also called cane rat farming, refers to the practice of commercially breeding grass cutters for meat. Grass cutters, scientifically called Thryonomys swinderianus, are rodents native to Africa and are highly valued for their tasty and nutritious meat.

As the demand for high-quality protein grows in Nigeria, grass cutters’ meat has emerged as one of the most profitable livestock farming ventures that can offer consistent and sizeable returns on investment for entrepreneurs.

This article serves as the ultimate guide for all aspects of commercial grass cutter rearing by covering breeding, housing, feeding, healthcare, and everything else you need to set up and run a successful operation in Nigeria.

Overview of the Lucrative Grass Cutter Market Opportunity

Grass Cutter Meat Demand

Being a rich source of protein, minerals and low-fat meat, grass cutter’s meat is the preferred wild game in stews, pepper soups and other delicacies across Nigeria and West Africa. The spicy meat is considered a delicacy reserved for special occasions and guests of honour.

The supply from wild grass cutters is very limited and unable to match the continual growth in demand. As such, domestic breeding has gained prominence over the last decade with farm output making up 85% of the total market supply. Yet market surveys peg current demand to be higher than supply by over 45%.

This presents a tremendous opportunity for new and existing breeders to reap consistent profits owing to supply deficits which will persist in the long term.

Pricing and Profitability

Current farmgate prices for live grass cutters range from ₦7,000 to ₦10,000 depending on weight and market location. Profits per animal can be as high as ₦6,500. Compared to the long breeding cycles of cattle, each grass cutter doe can produce up to 4 litters per year with 6-8 offspring per litter.

The short 4 months gestation and high fecundity numbers make grass cutter farming highly productive in terms of offtake potential and returns on capital invested in breeding stock.

Competitive Advantages Over Other Livestock

Beyond healthy demand and profit margins, grass cutter rearing has additional advantages over other livestock farming options:

  • Less capital intensive to start owing to smaller housing needs and breeding stock costs
  • Produce more offspring numbers compared to domestic animals
  • Grow faster and achieve the ideal weight for marketing in just 5-6 months
  • Have flexible dietary habits allowing cost optimization of feeding
  • Higher resistance to prevalent livestock diseases in the region

Considering these points, grass cutter farming offers higher potential returns combined with lower risks.

Suitable Locations for Grass Cutter Rearing

Grass cutters originated in wetland and savannah habitats which are widespread across sub-Saharan Africa. As such, grass cutter farming can flourish across most agro-ecological regions in Nigeria.

Areas like the wet South East and South South Nigeria provide abundant natural foliage, higher rainfall and humidity levels which lower input costs and mortality rates. That said, climatic control mechanisms allow profitable rearing even in arid Northern regions.

Both rural and semi-urban locations work equally well as long as basic housing and veterinary support is available. Proximity to end consumer markets further improves pricing power and sales logistics.

Breeds of Grass Cutters

There are no specialized breeds of domesticated grass cutters like other livestock. Pure breeds of wild grass cutters trapped from forests are bred under controlled conditions. With each generation, docility and fertility improves.

Early generation wild breeds are still preferred by some farmers owing to their natural disease resistance despite higher aggression and risk during handling.

Most successful commercial farms use 3rd or 4th generation grass cutters bred in-house for optimum productivity traits – this is highly recommended.

Housing and Equipment

Designing Suitable Housing

Housing design plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy stocks while minimizing losses and accidents during handling. Key considerations include:

Shed Design

Farmers can choose between open sheds with fenced outdoor runs or fully enclosed housing. The climate determines ideal layouts – enclosed shelters with temperature control are preferred in extreme weather. Separate sheds should be planned for four groups:

  • Breeding stock
  • Weaned young grass cutters
  • Growers close to maturity
  • Mature stock for processing

Space Requirements

Typical space allocations:

  • Breeding pairs or trios: 15 sq.ft indoor pens + 20 sq.ft outdoor runs
  • Weaned young ones: 10 grass cutters per 20 sq.ft room
  • Growers: 8 per 30 sq.ft room
  • Adults for slaughter: 6 per 40 sq.ft room

This density allows comfortable movement and grouping by size/age to minimize injuries due to aggression.

Design Features

Key features include:

  • Concrete flooring eased into the ground to prevent burrowing
  • Metal cages/Partitions to house individual breeding pairs
  • Tunnels and hiding spaces for grass cutters along walls
  • Feed troughs and water points for easy access
  • Proper ventilation but no direct air drafts
  • Tree branches suspended from roofs for climbing enrichment
  • Ramps and run outs allow outdoor access from raised shelters

Hygiene Practices

With housed grass cutters prone to microbial infections, the following practices safeguard stock health:

  • Daily cleaning and disinfection of floors and feed/water equipment
  • Safe composting/disposal of grass cutter waste using PPE
  • Regular pest control routines every month
  • Allow sunlight penetration indoors during the daytime
  • Monitoring humidity levels and preventing excess dampness

Handling and Restraint Equipment

Being high strung animals, grass cutters must be handled calmly yet firmly. Essential equipment includes:

  • Capture nets for rounding up escaped animals
  • Transport cages for movement between farm sections
  • Mesh gloves for physical restraint during examinations
  • Canvas fabric wraps to cover eyes and restrict movement

Investing in Male Stock

An overlooked aspect by beginners is the ideal male-to-female stocking ratio of 1:4. Since a single male can impregnate multiple females, investing in healthy virile breeds of male grass cutters ensures better conception rates and larger litters.

Rotating males every year is also recommended for optimal productivity. Lack of sufficient male stock can severely impact reproduction cycles.

Feeding and Nutrition

Key Nutritional Requirements

Grass cutters require balanced feeding which provides:

  • 16-18% Protein content through the growth phase
  • High fibre from roughages to aid digestion
  • Adequate mineral salts (calcium, phosphorus and sodium)
  • Vitamins A and D for bone development and fertility
  • Clean drinking water at all times

Recommended Feed Mix

A home-made feed mix containing locally available ingredients delivers optimum nutrition at lower costs. Below is a formulation tried and tested by Indian grass cutter experts:

  • Maize bran: 47%
  • Wheat bran: 21%
  • Groundnut cake: 10%
  • Soybean meal: 9%
  • Brewer’s grain: 8%
  • Bone meal: 3%
  • Oyster shell: 1.5%
  • Premix pellet with amino acids & vitamins: 0.5%

Mixing ingredients in these set ratios ensures a balanced feed. Feeding this twice daily by keeping enough feed in pen troughs works very well. The mixed feed can be compacted into feed balls for easy consumption.

Forages and Grazing

Fresh leafy branches of shrubs and trees make ideal supplemental forage. Native varieties like pawpaw, mango, banana stems, cassava leaves, cocoa tree parts and oil palm fronds grow well on homestead farms.

Allowing breeding stock periodic supervised grazing sessions maintains fitness and stimulates natural behaviour. Portable fencing and tracking collars help avoid straying.

Water Requirements

Clean potable water must be available 24×7 for optimal growth. Lactating and pregnant does need to drink more. Each adult consumes over 200 ml of water daily. Placing mineral licks near water troughs improves bone health.

Automatic float valve systems are preferable for uninterrupted supply. Cleaning buckets and water containers regularly is vital.

Feeding Schedules

  • Nursing does: Feed freely through the day
  • Young weaned ones: Feed restricted portions 2-3 times per day
  • Breeding stock: Twice daily feeding plus grazing/foraging
  • Growers and fatteners: Twice daily bulk feeding

Following such schedules fulfils nutritional needs aligned to age and physiology.

Maintaining Feeding Records

Given that feed costs make up over 65% of recurring expenses, maintaining proper feed consumption data per housing unit is vital. Recording daily/weekly consumption patterns helps optimize feed mixes and lower overall feed costs.

Digital apps for tracking feed usage, connectivity with suppliers etc. can provide further cost benefits for larger grass cutter farms.

Key parameters to capture in digital records are:

  • Date and batch number for feed mix preparation
  • Quantities of ingredients used in feed formula
  • Feed amount allotted per housing enclosure
  • Daily/weekly feed consumption per enclosure
  • The feed conversion ratio for housing units
  • Cost per Kg of feed mix formulation
  • Software-generated insights on consumption patterns

Such data helps compare performance across breeding batches, finisher stocks and growers for making informed decisions.

Feeding efficiency comparisons over time indicate potential areas for cost optimization like feed nutrient adjustments. It also aids estimations for the procurement of ingredients and mixing schedules.

Automated monitoring apps thus help enhance productivity, target areas of wastage and rationalize feed expenses contributing to overall profitability.

Breeding Management

Effective breeding management practices are crucial for achieving optimal reproduction performance in terms of mating frequency, litter size and mortality rates.

Identifying Suitable Breeders

The best pairing candidates exhibit these visible attributes:

  • Male breeders over 9 months of age weighing over 3.5 kg
  • Female breeds over 6 months of age weighing above 3 kg
  • No physical defects and injuries which impact mating
  • Docile temperament and comfort with human handling
  • History of coming from large litter

Stocking Density

Male to female stocking ratio of 1:4 is considered optimal. Rotation of breeding males every 10-12 months prevents inbreeding and improves conception.

Placing 2-3 females per enclosure allows group housing. However, separate cages per doe must be provisioned within large enclosures for personalized care.

Mating Practices

Introducing the male into the female enclosure stimulates courtship. Mating instances typically last for 5-20 minutes post which the male can be returned to its enclosure. Multiple matings spread over 1-2 days improve chances and litter size.

Familiarizing young does with males early on using adjacent enclosures reduces aggressive behavior during breeding. Male rotation also lowers habituation.

Pregnancy Care

Confirming pregnancy is difficult but noticeable weight gain after 15 days confirms breeding. Special care for expecting does include:

  • Increasing feed quantity by 30%
  • Daily mineral supplements like calcium
  • Lower animal density and stress
  • Safe, spacious nesting zones for parturition

Parturition Process

Does exhibit nesting behavior 5-24 hours before giving birth. They gather bedding material to create suitable spaces. Heat lamps can provide warmth.

Minimal intervention is recommended during the birthing process. Most does take 20-40 minutes to deliver a litter naturally. Birth intervals range from 5-15 minutes between young ones.

Ensuring nursing commences immediately helps stronger bonding between doe and the litter. Removing dead or defective offspring right away prevents trauma.

Litter Size and Rebreeding

The average litter size is 4-7. Records above 9 are uncommon. Larger litters often have smaller and weaker offspring with lower survival rates.

Does can be rebred 6 hours post-parturition if the objective is to maximize production cycles. However, health risks are higher. A period of 3 weeks is recommended for recovery.

The breeding ability lasts over 5 years during which 25-30 litters can be attained with excellent husbandry.

Weaning Management

Weaning separates the litter from doe dependence allowing reallocation of resources. 3-4 weeks post-parturition is the ideal age for weaning.

Gradual separation over 5-7 days reduces separation anxiety by allowing limited night time nursing. Once fully weaned, concentrated feed and greens help transition digestion.

Weaned litters then move to special grower housing with higher protein feed for rapid maturity. Meanwhile does can restart breeding activity post-weaning.

Record Keeping

Maintaining detailed records related to mating, pregnancies, litter size and weaning data is invaluable for making herd management decisions. Recording progeny details also aids selection of best breeds as replacements.

Digital farm management software allows systematic recording for analysis and visualizing bloodlines.

Healthcare and Hygiene

Common Health Issues

Grass cutters have substantial inborn resistance to pests and diseases. However, infections can spread rapidly in unhygienic housing conditions. Preventative care is vital.

  • Microbial diarrhoea: Due to bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella especially in weaned pups. Dehydration is a key risk.
  • Mange and Scabies: Highly contagious skin conditions caused by mites leading to infections, hair loss etc.
  • Pneumonia: Bacterial or viral respiratory infections from drafts and dampness. Fatal if untreated.
  • Worm infestations: Gastrointestinal parasites like nematodes and cestodes affect nutrient absorption.

Mitigating Disease Risks

Adherence to systematic protocols is necessary:

  • Quarantining new procured stock for 28 days
  • Testing and treating affected animals in isolation
  • Disinfecting housing between batches with bleaching powder
  • Avoiding stress factors like overcrowding and poor ventilation
  • Proper composting of waste using PPE and fly traps
  • Scheduling annual pest control routines across sections


Essential vaccines as part of preventative care include:

  • CDT Complex vaccination protects against entero, pasteurellosis etc.
  • Deworming doses every 6 months eliminates parasitic worms internally
  • External parasite control via Ivomec dosing
  • Quarterly multivitamin injections improve overall immunity

Biosecurity and Hygiene Best Practices

Strict biosecure routines like foot baths, hand sanitization, protective gear etc. must be enforced for all handlers and visitors to minimize external contaminant entry.

Designating separate staff per housing section limits the transfer of pathogens within the farm. Maintaining high standards of environmental and feed hygiene also prevents infections.

Farms must tie up with qualified veterinarians for periodic health check-ups and disease monitoring advisories.

Processing and Marketing

Slaughter Age and Weight

Male grass cutters achieve optimum weight of 3.5 – 4 kg while females achieve 2.5 – 3.5 kg in 5-6 months. This marks slaughter maturity. Delaying beyond 12 months leads to tough meat.

Assessing physical parameters also indicates readiness. Protruding well-developed crest bone, muscular built and firm pectorals confirm growth completion.

Slaughtering and Processing

Controlled slaughtering procedures minimize pain, suffering and quality deterioration:

  • 12-hour feed withdrawal to empty digestive tract
  • Water Withdrawal 2 hours before slaughter
  • Stunning using approved procedures for instant loss of consciousness
  • Expert knife skills for precise severing of arteries and veins
  • Complete bleeding out period of 5-10 minutes
  • Industry-grade dehairing equipment for skin removal
  • Quick evisceration and splitting maintaining carcass integrity
  • Chilled storage overnight enhances flavour

Product Types

Beyond traditional dressed whole carcasses supplied to restaurants, marketable products include:

  • Packaged choice cuts like legs, loin chops etc.
  • Ready-to-cook meat packs marinated in spices
  • Premium smoked sausage and salami
  • Canned grass cutter meat products
  • Value-added items like pies, patties and nuggets

Sales and Marketing

As demand outweighs supply, producers easily find buyers within the locality through Hotels, Restaurants and Cafés (HoReCa) operators, retailers and direct home delivery.

Farmgate pricing varies from ₦5,000-7,000 per live weight Kg based on surrounding market rates. Processed meat packs retail higher between ₦6,500-10,000 per Kg.

Digital marketplaces and eCommerce apps also enable wider reach to consumers in metro cities. Listing on such platforms expands sales avenues beyond local buyers.

Some marketing strategies to adopt include:

  • Tie-ups with premium restaurants and starred hotels
  • Meat subscription models for regular households
  • Promotions via food influencers on social media
  • SEO optimization to rank higher in relevant online searches
  • B2B partnerships with meat export companies
  • Participation in agri-business exhibitions to showcase products

Financial Planning

Like any livestock venture, grass cutter farming also requires sizeable capital expenditure to establish housing, procure breeding stock, setup supplies and sustain operations till sales commence.

Let us look at key investment outlays involved:


  • Land purchase or rental
  • Construction of housing shelters and partitions
  • Equipment like feeders, lighting, water plumbing etc
  • Handling gear, pest control items etc.
  • Contingency funds for repairs and upgrades

Operating Expenses

  • Purchase of breeding grass cutters
  • Salaries for farm labor and contract veterinarians
  • Sourcing feed raw materials and mixing equipment
  • Medicines, vaccines, disinfectants etc.
  • Electricity and water expenditures
  • Transportation and miscellaneous overheads

Working Capital

  • Funds to cover feed, staff and input costs each month before any harvests or sales happen. Typically 3-6 months of operating expenses.

For a starter unit of 100 grass cutters including breeding stock across 5 housing units, the approximate capital outlay is ₦5 million – ₦7 million. Larger commercial units require extensively higher investments.

Financing Options

Commencing grass cutter farming requires substantial money investments across various segments as listed above. Key financing options include:

  • Microfinance loans from rural economic schemes
  • Private equity investors looking for high ROI ventures
  • Crowdfunding campaigns explaining business viability
  • Personal loans from banks using assets as collateral
  • Cooperative society funding pools
  • Government small business grants and subsidies

Robust financial planning factoring capital expenditure, operational budgets and financing costs is vital before embarking on actual implementation.

Revenue Streams

Meat Sales

Being the primary offering, consistent production planning ensures healthy meat output on monthly basis once breeding cycles stabilize after 9-12 months.

As market prices continue strong due to unmet demand, targeted yet sustainable harvesting for consumption markets aids profitable meat sales.

Breed Sale

Since grass cutters multiply rapidly, the sale of excess breeders to other farms rather than culling them generates additional revenues.

Pregnant does or young fertile bucks in the age band of 5-18 months fetch good pricing at animal trade fairs.

Organic Waste Conversion

Grass cutter waste droppings are excellent organic fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphates and potassium. Once composted, these enrich soils or serve as raw materials for biofuels.

Waste disposal cost is also minimized while adding revenue upside.

Ancillary Products

Some large grass cutter farms have onsite slaughter, processing and packaging capabilities from where they launch own-brand product ranges like sausages, canned meat etc.

Value-added grass cutter meat products have immense market potential in Nigeria’s cities given their positioning as a premium health food.

Best Practices for Success

Choosing the Right Location

  • Favourable climatic conditions with temperatures between 25-35°C
  • Areas with higher rainfall and moderate humidity
  • Good vegetation cover allows cost-effective grazing
  • Closed shelters protect from extreme heat and cold
  • Adequate space for expansion of housing infrastructure
  • Accessible site with connectivity for ingredient procurement
  • Nearness to target consumer markets and agro-processing hubs

Investing in Quality Foundation Stock

  • Procure breeders certified by agriculture institutes
  • Ensure no defects and complete physical maturity
  • Review productivity history in terms of litter sizes
  • Quarantine new arrivals before introduction
  • Periodic infusion of new breeding stock
  • Maintain 1:4 male-to-female stocking ratio

Careful Financial Planning

  • Create a capital investment plan covering all infrastructural elements
  • Track operational costs and maintain optimal inventory levels
  • Model break-even scenarios and expected profitability
  • Plan working capital needs for sustainability till sales commence
  • Institute robust accounting, audit and risk-monitoring processes


Following Expert Advisories

  • Get trained under an experienced grass cutter farm owner before starting operations
  • Work as an intern at existing farms to gain first-hand experience
  • Attend seminars by agriculture universities to stay updated on the latest practices
  • Consult exotic animal veterinarians to ensure world-class healthcare
  • Network with farmer associations to exchange ideas and troubleshoot challenges

Reinvesting Profits into Expansion

  • Plough back profits from initial breeding stock into augmenting capacities
  • Expand housing infrastructure in a modular fashion aligning to reproduction cycles
  • Target benchmark of 500 breeding stock across multiple sheds
  • Diversify into the production of value-added products gradually
  • Vertical integration gives stability against market fluctuations

Maintaining Pedigree Breeding Records

  • Keep stud register with breeding pair ancestry data across generations
  • Track individual litter size and weaning patterns of does
  • Evaluate the growth rate and maturity of young ones
  • Select replacements from lineages showing the best productivity traits
  • Cull poor-performing or defective breeding stock periodically

Following Stringent Biosecurity Routines

  • Quarantine incoming stock, disinfect housing between cycles
  • Designate staff and equipment per housing section
  • Restrict entry of unchecked visitors
  • Insist on vaccination and deworming schedules
  • Probe health issues through diagnostic tests

Focusing on Premium Niche Markets

  • Target high-end consumption segments as frozen meat retailed via online stores
  • Offer niche gourmet products like smoked sausages using social media outreach
  • Explore export prospects exporting choice cuts to meet diaspora demand
  • Promote grasscutter meat as nutritive health food among the urban elite

We wish you the very best in your grasscutter farming ambitions! Let the pointers and frameworks discussed in this guide set you up for an enterprise that delivers prosperity. Do share your knowledge upgrades so we can learn together for the advancement of Nigeria’s livestock farming sector.


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