Snail farming is the rearing of snails in captivity. The snails are confined in an enclosure and most of their requirements like feed; water and lime are supplied on a regular basis by the farmer.
On maturity, the snails are harvested, processed and consumed by the farmer or sold. Since the seasonality of supply of snails from the wild limits their use for meat on a continuous basis, the need for organized small or large scale snail farming has become imperative
Snail farming in Nigeria is one of the most neglected and yet one of the post profitable animal rearing business anywhere in the country. It provides one of the finest opportunity to make good money at a very short time. But why are Nigerians not yet fully engaged in this money making animal rearing? The reason is ignorance.
Most people in Nigeria still have the believe that snail can only be picked in the bush. The culture of going to the bush to pick snails in the villages during raining time has been there for generations. So, it has been difficult for people to come to term that snail can actually be kept and grown at home.
Just like in many other aspects of farming in the country, Nigerians are yet to discover the great money making potential in snail rearing business and that is why we suffer in hunger and poverty. We neglect where the money is and keep pursuing it where it is not, going from one city to the other looking for one petty trading after another to trade on.
SNAILS FARMING SYSTEMS:
There are two main systems of snail farming. These are: Indoor and Outdoor systems
Indoor System: This system involves raising snails indoors in pens located in a building. The snails are fed a mixture of fresh vegetables, concentrates, and other food materials. The system utilizes little space as the snails could be raised even in trays placed on shelves on the walls. In advanced management, the system allows for temperature regulation, controlled lighting, regular cleaning, and health care.
Out-door System:In this system, snails are raised out-doors on pastures. The snails may or may not be fed. The farmer has little control over the performance of the snails. The snails move about feeding on natural food materials.
A modification of the out-door system is one in which the snails are confined outdoors in enclosures and fed both synthetic and natural diets.
It is easier to control and manipulate snails in this setting. This system fits in very
well into the Nigerian farming system.
REQUIREMENTS BEFORE STARTING:
The farmer will need the following to start a snail farm – (The modified out-door system).
Enough edible live snails.
A good site near his house with the right kind of soil and the right amount of water for the snails to live and grow.
*Enough food and shelter plants.
*The materials to build a pen for the snail.
SELECTION OF SITE:
A prospective snail farmer must choose a suitable for his farm. Important factors to consider are: Location, soil type, moisture content, wind direction, lime content of the soil and environmental temperature.
Location of Farm: The snail farm should preferably be located close to the farmer’s house. In this way he will be able to watch his snail regularly, detect any problem earl, protect them from their enemies and take care of them easily. There should be adequate space for future expansion.
Soil Type: The snail farm must be sited at a place where the soil is rich in humus and other decaying plant and animal materials. The soil should contain sufficient lime or calcium for eggs and shell and snails shell formation. Snails do not live in hard soils nor do they live in loose sandy soils. Snails cannot dig into hard clayey soils to rest and lay eggs while soils with a lot of sand do not hold enough water. The ideal snail soil should be medium (light) to allow air and water to penetrate easily.
Moisture content of Soil: Snails prefer damp soils. The farmer should avoid very wet lands and lands prone to flooding in the rainy season. Dew and rain keep the ground moist so that the snail can move easily and dig into it to rest and lay their eggs For a round the year production of snails, a ready source of water supply for irrigation or spraying should be provided. Snails usually seal off their aperture and go into hibernation during the dry season unless a continuous supply of moisture is guaranteed. The soil could be kept continuously wet by the provision of shelter plants like banana/plantain or the farm could be watered to provide the necessary conditions for the survival and multiplication of snails.
Wind Direction: Snail farms should be situated in sites well protected from the wind. Strong winds during the snail growing season are bad for snails because they lead to
dehydration and subsequent drying up of snails.
Temperature and Humidity: Snails are cold blooded animals and therefore sensitive to change in atmospheric humidity and temperatures. In West Africa, temperatures in the areas where most edible species of snails are found do not fluctuate greatly .However, significant fluctuation is in humidity below 75% induces the snails to aestivate(i.e. to loose valuable growing time). Snails therefore prefer a habitat that is neither too hot nor cold. When the temperature is too hot or too cold, the snails withdraw into its shell. This is called hibernation. Snails thrive best on temperatures of about 10 – 23°C.
CONSTRUCTION OF PEN (SNAILERY):
The type of snail pen depends on a number of factors which include:
*The scale of the snail farming enterprise;
*The type of snails farming i.e. In-door or Out-door;
*The stage of development and habits of the snails. This bulletin will discuss
the construction of out-door snail pen.
Size of Snail Pen: A snail pen can be large or small depending on how many snails the farmer wants to raise. For a new farmer, it is advisable to start with a small pen
He would need fewer materials and fewer snails for this. As he becomes more experienced in snail farming, he can build a bigger pen and get more snails to raise. A5m x 5m out-door pen is a suitable size to start with.
1 Hutch Box Method: The hutch boxes which could be single. The floors of the boxes are filled with sieved organic soil to a depth of 5 – 8 cm, which must be slightly limed (Caco). The bottom of the hutch 3boxes have holes to allow excess water to drain out. The hutch boxes are put under trees like rubber, cocoa, citrus and even plantain for shade. When hutch boxes are used, the soil is changed once every two to three months.
2.Trench Pens : in the trench type, pens, square or rectangular holes (depending on the desired shape of pen) are dug in the ground about 50cm deep. The dug up area is divided into pens and the sides are built up to 2 – 3 blocks high from the ground level while the bottom is covered with loose soil. The pens are covered with nylonmesh nailed to wooden frames for lids. The trench pens which more or less look like the hutch pens could be used for hatching snail eggs, rearing and for finishing.
3.Make-shift Snailaries: Snail keeping as a hobby or on a very small scale could be done using the following make-shift outfits:-
I Stack of old motor types
FEEDS AND FEEDING OF SNAILS:
Snails are voracious feeders and may consume about 10 time their body weight of leafy vegetable or plant material every day. To be successful in snail farming, the farmer must ensure a steady uninterrupted supply of foodstuffs to his snails throughout the snail growing season.
Food Plants: Snails feed on a wide variety of cultivated and wild plants. Young tender green leaves as well as dead and decaying leaves are eaten. Green leaves of Amaranthus, cocoyam, cassava, lettuce, cabbage, fluted pumpkin, hibiscus, are all eaten by snails. Before beginning, the farmer should find out what plants his snails like to eat. He can thus get information from an experienced snail farmer in his locality. He can also with his lantern watch snails at night and see what they are eating. Different plant materials could be dropped in the pen and by trial and error, he could find out which ones the snail would prefer
Fruit Trees as shelter and food Plants: Some fruit trees provide shelter as well as food for snails. Banana, plantain, mango, pawpaw, sweet oranges, cocoa etc serve dual purpose of providing shelter as well as fruits. Snails prefer feeding on over ripe fruits of these trees .Ripe oil palm fruits, broken pods, seeds and seedlings of cocoa are also consumed by snails. Generally, snails usually hide on shelter plants during the day when it is dry and move to food plants to eat at night or early in the morning
when they are wet with dew.
Other Feeds: Snails also feed on synthetic diets containing a good amount of protein, calcium and phosphorus. An example of such diet is poultry marsh. Wet poultry droppings, rotten vegetables and dead animals are all consumed by snails. Apart from the items mentioned here, there are many other foods in the farmer’s locality which snails like to eat. As stated earlier, these could be found out by trial and error.
Feeding Habit of Snails: Snails are nocturnal and feed on a wide variety of feed mainly in the night, early morning, evening or on cold rainy day. Their activity level (including their rate of feeding) fluctuates with the ambient temperature.
TAKING CARE OF THE SNAILS:
After the snails are put in the pen, the farmer should:
*Watch them carefully to see that they are eating well.
*Give them the right type of food in adequate quantity.
*Wet the food and shelter plants and moisten the ground regularly. On dry days
during the snail growing season, water the ground daily. Always water in the evening at sunset. Ensure that the soil is moist and not wet. In areas with dry season, when plants do not grow, snails dig into the ground to rest. They should not be watered at this time, otherwise the snails come out of the ground when they should not. The snails breeding season in Nigeria corresponds to the period of the rainy seasons.
CAUSES OF MORTALITY IN SNAILS:
Snails have many enemies. These include termites, soldier ants, frogs, toads, rats, snail eating birds, lizards, and larvae of some beetles. Common salt is also poisonous to snails. Over crowding is a serious cause of mortality in snail pens. When too many snails are crowded in a pen, they produce undesirable secretion which is observed to reduce their productivity. To remedy these;
*Examine the pen fence regularly and mend any openings.
*Use materials that keep out pests from your fence.
*Maintain the right stocking density in you pen.
*Keep away poisonous chemicals like common salt.
Generally, snails that are well fed and managed would be ready for harvesting within 12 to 24 months from the date of stocking. Also, when the farmer sees a lot of baby snails in the snail pen, he could harvest the fully grown snails that
He first put into the pen. Average weight of a snail a well matured snail of the giant type is 200gm. It takes not less than two years of efficient feeding to attain this weight. Growth rate is slow and a lot patience has to be exercised in snail farming.
ECONOMICS OF SNAIL PRODUCTION :
Unlike other livestock enterprises, housing for snails is cheap to construct. Snails could easily be kept even in make shift housing. The feeding of snails is cheap, snails do not compete with man for food, rather, they feed on the wastes from man’s kitchen, poultry droppings, leaves and over ripe/rotten fruits. Snails have very high multiplication ratio.
The A. marginata for example lays up to 80 – 100 eggs/growing season while the
- achatinalays up to 300 eggs or more in a growing season. Snails hatch within 30 days and in 12 – 24 months are ready for table. One snail therefore can in a growing season give 100 – 300 new snails (depending on the breed).
Labour requirement for attending to snails is very low. 1 man hour/day can care for 100 snails .If a farmer started with 10 snails which cost about N600 – in a growing season the 10 snails will give about 10 x 300 eggs = 3,000 eggs. When hatched and reared, and allowing 10% mortality, in a growing season, the farmer
will come up with about 2,700 new snails. Feeding on leaves, fruits and kitchen waste, the farmer spends nothing on feed. At maturity; the 2,700 will sell at 2,700 x N40 = N108,000Internationally, snail meat commands good market in Europe and North America. The French snail requirement is about 5 million kg/annum ,out this, more than 60% is imported. Italy is said to consume about 306 million snails annually. Back home in West Africa, Cote d’Ivoire has an estimated annual snail consumption of 7.9 million kg. Although the annual snail consumption figure for Nigeria is not known, one thing is certain that the demand is far ahead of the supply. Snail farming in Nigeria therefore has very bright future.
Should you need additional materials or information on how to start and grow a profitable snail farming, let me your specific challenge so that solutions can be proffered…