Steve Agbota ( [email protected] 08033302331 )
Antelope breeding can be lucrative and support numerous income streams, which complement each other and include both consumptive and non-consumptive uses.
The game breeding industry in Nigeria is growing steadily. Medium and long term projections in this industry are remarkable if one should compare it to other business models and opportunities.
A great number of farmers and entrepreneurs have, or are looking into this business model for the benefits it provides. Carefully selected breeding herds would double their number in a year, further growing at an exponential rate.
It is a dynamic industry and there is far too little game to provide in the bigger growing demand for tourist and leisure animals.
Therefore, prospective farmers can consider this part of obtaining food for man and raw materials for manufacturing industries, as a way of making additional incomes and provide food on their tables.
In many ways antelope farming is the perfect moonlighting business because it is still a new initiative. But it has a large sustainable market for its products and uses.
Before venturing into the business, it is advisable to consult experts and trainers in the antelope farming business, which is the best way for any beginner or potential farmers to go by around the country.
Daily Sun learnt that though antelope farming business needs getting the right information and materials on ground and it is not as tedious as some people view it.
The most interesting thing about this business is that antelope farming is a trendy kind of small scale business; farmers can start out small while still holding down a full-time job.
Speaking on the benefits of antelope farming, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Jovana Integrated Farms, Prinze Arinze Onebunne, said his farm is promoting antelope farming because they produce high quality meat and leather.
He said: “While cattle select a limited number of grass species, antelopes choose a wider range. They generally require a cheaper diet than cattle. A more important thing is that antelopes are resistant to many diseases. Most, if not all, are resistant to trypanosomiasis, the disease carried by the tsetse fly.”
Starting antelope farming: Antelope farming does not require much to start. With about N350,000, one can kick-start with one family of antelope called a pair. This comprises one male and one female. They are reared in a pen or free-range system.
According to Onebunne: “I advise new entrants to buy them at the breeding stock stage of seven to eight months old. If you buy at this stage and rear them for six months, they will start making babies at 12 months and you can start making profit.
“Antelopes belong to the family of Bovidae and appear mainly in Africa. They occupy a wide variety of habitats, including dry scrubland, savannah and grassland. The grassland antelope typically weighs between eight and 10kg. They have a reddish-brown head, large eyes and ears, and a soft, brown coat that is grizzled with grey, black and white hair.”
The eyes are ringed with white hair. Only the males have horns, but these might be hidden by a spiky forelock. Both males and females have an elongated, prehensile nose. Grassland antelopes tend to form monogamous mating pairs. The female bears one offspring after a gestation period of about five to six months.
Feeding: In the wild arena, they feed mainly on leaves, buds, shoots, roots, tubers, grasses, fruits, among others. But in domestication, they are fed with forage, wide range of fresh green vegetables and pasture, grass, cabbage, carrots, kitchen craps, corn mill waste and locally formulated antelope pellets/feed.
Market: Antelope is an animal of unique feature and this makes the rare animal tradable for tourist uses, recreation centres, zoos, research institutes, game reserves, holiday resorts, children amusement parks, royal families, etc.
“Many households and restaurants serve antelope meals. This is an advantage for me and my colleagues as Nigerians are looking for the delicious and tasty bush meat,” Onebunne said.
The demand for antelope meat and especially the hide is higher than the demand for hides of goats, sheep, alligators and pythons, with its accompanying price hike, making the prospect of antelope rearing very bright and encouraging either as a full-time or part-time job.
Export potential: Antelopes are not only kept for their meat and tourist attraction, their skin, once tanned, can be exported to India, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Spain, Germany and now China, to be made into high-quality leather products such as handbags, shoes, wallets, belts, drums, upholstery materials and wristwatch straps. Their hides are simply going to become fashion accessories for the wealthy.
In order to reduce poverty, hunger, unemployment and encourage Nigerians to embrace farming, Onebunne said his farm is providing training services through its nationwide seminars.
He stated: “We are ready to work with interested farmers and provide them with more information on how to breed antelope profitably. If the idea of antelope farming appeals to you, there is no better time to get started than now. A bit of work, a little farmer’s ingenuity and you will be ready to start making money.”