Steve Agbota [email protected] 08033302331
The demand for animal products presents many income opportunities. This is critical because livestock production will become the biggest contributor to agriculture in the coming decades, with consumption of animal-based foods becoming the fastest growing sub-food category in Africa.
The main challenge now is determining how to intensify livestock productivity in a sustainable manner. Today, guinea pig farming business is gaining popularity throughout the world. Farmers should try raising guinea pigs for health and wealth as the demand is becoming huge both at the local and the export market.
Guinea pig, small livestock with big potential, can be raised to improve the nutrition and livelihoods of farmers by providing food and additional income.
Guinea pigs need little space to grow. The little creature with big potential does not require much capital to rear. Farmers just need a modicum of about N20,000 to start after securing space for them.
Guinea pig farming business is a more profitable source of food and income than many traditional stock animals as they require much less room than traditional livestock and they reproduce extremely quickly.
Apart from economic benefits, the animal also has health benefits. Guinea pig meat is white, lean, tasty and healthy for consumption, in addition to being wholesome and delicious. It has a protein content of about 21 per cent, which is higher than the protein content of poultry, pork or beef. Its fat content is about 8 per cent, which is lower than that of each of the other meats mentioned above.
In the farming families, children benefit most from the increased availability of fresh and nutritious meat from home-produced guinea pigs.
Daily Sun learnt that guinea pig is a specie of rodents. They are not pigs nor do they come from Guinea or Guinea-Bissau. They originated in the Andes. Half of the mammals in the world are rodents.
The order is so huge that it had to be divided into suborders: Sciuromorpha-squirrel-like rodents, Myomorpha-mouse-like rodents and Caviomorpha-cavy-like rodents. Guinea pigs are cavy type rodents, they are warm blooded mammals.
Like most cavies, guinea pig has short legs, a short neck, a big head and no tail. The life expectancy is about four to eight years while their size in length is about 10 inches; height, five to six inches and weight is about two pounds.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Jovana Integrated Farms, Prince Arinze Onebunne, said the demand for quality guinea pig meat has been increasing yearly because of the growing awareness of their nutritional benefits, especially among health-conscious people.
He added that the production of guinea pigs gives small farmers a chance to increase their income and health, and offers an alternative means of livelihood to urban and rural farmers. He said that raising the animal is another way to earn extra income and also a ready meal for the family whenever they want to take a protein rich meal without any side effect.
He explained: “Guinea pig farming is an occupation that can enhance food security and employment creation. It is a productive enterprise since it can be reared in a small floor space. They are clean small animals and are odourless and keeping them is cost-effective. They can be kept in cages, corridors, passages, kitchens or any available space in the house.”
According to him, the guinea pig is able to breed year-round, with as many as five litters a year, the gestation period lasting nine weeks. He stated that unlike rabbit and dog, guinea pigs are born with fur and their eyes open.
Explaining further, he said, “they look like miniature versions of their parents when they are born. They nurse right away and will even start eating solid food two to three days after they are born. However, they will nurse for three to four weeks and usually have litters of four to five young at a go. Sexual maturity is reached at about 60-70 days. A young guinea pig can run when it is only three hours old.
“Other than the greens or kitchen wastes, which include potatoes, yam and cassava pellets, guinea pig can be fed with maize flour, supplement and water. At Jovana Farms, we breed and sell guinea pigs. The animals are paired two males to six females. And a set of two males and six females are sold for N20,000,” he explained.
He said guinea pigs are farmed for their healthy meat and are often used for medical research, noting, that is where people get the term “guinea pig” to describe somebody who volunteers to go first.
He encouraged farmers to look inwards and focus on the neglected but vital sources of animal protein for household diets, export and employment generation.
He said Jovana is embarking on a nationwide agro-seminar intended to provide useful information, create awareness and motivate Nigerians to get involved in animal farming ventures.
Said he: “I keep telling people that there are so many opportunities here in this country. But it’s sad that many of our youths are out there waiting for miracle to happen from nowhere. Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods, a man should himself lend a hand.”