Home NewsAustralia ‘Way better than beef and sheep’: Rat farmer cashes in on pet reptile boom

‘Way better than beef and sheep’: Rat farmer cashes in on pet reptile boom

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‘Way better than beef and sheep’: Rat farmer cashes in on pet reptile boom

It is not everybody’s cup of tea, however farming rats has paid off for former dairy farmer and fruit grower Cheryl Martin.

Readers are suggested this text incorporates pictures some readers may discover distressing.

“It is essentially the most cash I’ve made farming,” she mentioned.

“I assume if I spend a greenback, I get 4 again, however I do not rely my hours in that.”

The 57-year-old, from Woodlane, east of Adelaide, obtained into the rat enterprise eight years in the past after a stint working in a ironmongery shop.

“I used to be in search of one thing a bit extra that I might do from house as a result of I prefer to work for myself,” she mentioned.

“I used to be in search of one thing a bit quirky.”

Elevating rats for reptiles

She mentioned breeding rats to feed pet snakes and lizards took a little bit of getting used to at the beginning.

Photo of a woman smiling.
Cheryl Martin says it took a bit for her to heat to rat farming.(ABC: Brant Cumming)

“I truly mentioned to [my wife] Fiona, I believe I’ve made a mistake as a result of it was fairly smelly, and it put me off my meals, however as soon as every thing was clear, it was wonderful,” Ms Martin mentioned.

She additionally needed to overcome a typical worry.

“I believed they have been going to chunk me,” she mentioned.

“Steadily, I learnt that they weren’t going to leap out, they usually have been fairly tame.

“There have been only some rogue ones that truly bit me to begin with, however they have been moved on fairly rapidly.”

Photo of a woman packing rats into a bag.
Cheryl Martin purchased the rat farm eight years in the past and has since scaled up.(ABC: Brant Cumming)

Ms Martin mentioned she bought 10 completely different sizes of rats, from one-day-old “pinkies” to “additional massive jumbos”, which weighed greater than 500 grams.

With a gestation of 23 to 26 days, as much as 18 pups in a litter and the flexibility to do all of it once more right away, she mentioned it was fast-paced farming.

“Over time, I’ve learnt that I can ramp it up and ramp it down fairly rapidly, which is manner higher than beef and sheep, which take a very long time,” she mentioned.

Ms Martin mentioned she loved the versatile hours however was not so fond of regularly cleansing out rat poo.

She additionally mentioned the processing, the place rats have been gassed with food-grade carbon dioxide, was significantly tough.

Photo of dead rats piled together for sale.
The rats are gassed with food-grade carbon dioxide.(ABC: Brant Cumming)

“That is the toughest a part of the job,” Ms Martin mentioned.

“I do not suppose killing something is humane or, you understand, a great factor. So I attempt to do this as finest I can.”

She mentioned that included laying the rats out with their tails and ft tucked in earlier than freezing and packing them.

“Presentation within the store appears to be a giant a part of folks shopping for a rat,” she mentioned.

“I do not need them to look careworn. I need to respect them.”

Photo of a snake eating a rat.
Snakes want the correct-sized meals to maintain them nourished.(ABC: Brant Cumming)

Rats in demand

Snake handler and educator, Julian Craig, has purchased greater than his fair proportion of rodents.

He runs a enterprise in Murray Bridge, the place he homes about 80 of the world’s most venomous snakes.

He mentioned he had a few rat suppliers, together with Ms Martin, however sourcing the rodents may very well be tough.

Photo of a man holding a snake.
Mr Craig owns about 80 of essentially the most venomous snakes on the planet.(ABC: Brant Cumming)

“There are folks residing in nation environments who actually wrestle to get a great provide, they usually pay an actual premium for it,” Mr Craig mentioned.

Ms Martin mentioned demand for rats peaked throughout COVID lockdowns when a rising variety of folks purchased reptiles as pets.

“I used to be fairly careworn … careworn in a great way as a result of I made some huge cash, I assume that yr, however it was full on,” she mentioned.

She mentioned she loved the antics and personalities of her miniature livestock, with one even graduating to pet standing.

“That was Dave,” she mentioned.

“He was actually cute when he was little, and I believed, OK I will hold one for COVID.”

Ms Martin mentioned she was used to a number of curious questions when folks came upon how she made her residing.

“An enormous one is, ‘Have you ever ever eaten rats’… which I’ve now,” she mentioned.

“It is obtained extra flavour than rooster that we eat usually, however it’s quite a lot of work for not a lot … a bit like consuming quail.”

Regardless of passing the style check, she mentioned she wasn’t tempted to begin farming rodents for human consumption.

She mentioned she was branching out into mice to fill a niche that had opened up within the pet meals market.

However she mentioned she was not bought but.

Photo of several rat pups
Ms Martin says the low profile agricultural enterprise has set her up for retirement.(ABC: Brant Cumming)

“They are a bit jumpy, they usually’re smellier,” she mentioned.

“The boys are fairly smelly.

“I do not actually prefer it, however I am going with it in the mean time.”

Ms Martin mentioned her resolution to show rats right into a job had set her up for retirement … every time that could be.

“Shifting a rat is significantly better than shifting cows and sheep,” she mentioned.

“It is one thing I can do effectively into my seventies if I wanted to.”

Watch ABC TV’s Landline at 12:30pm on Sunday or on ABC iview.

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