Snail Farming Guide
Introduction of Snail Farming
What is Snail farming? Snail farming is also called Heliciculture. It is recognized as a sub-category of agriculture and is widely recognized as a profitable and low-risk form of agriculture. Snails can be used in gastronomy, cosmetics or as food for reptiles. Now let us get into actual snail farming business plan.
Varieties of snail pens:
The modern construction of a snail pen comes on the source of three varieties which are best understood as “systems’’.
Therefore, the three systems are;
- Intensive system
- Semi-intensive system
- Extensive system
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Intensive system of snail farming business plan:
The intensive system is imitative of the environment snails are naturally created in. It is regular amongst farmers who engage in snail farming with the objective of generating profits.
Since such farmers generally aim to rear large amounts of snails, they tend to cultivate huge tracts of land. In general, the intensive system comprises different types of snail housing, including pens, greenhouses, plastic tunnels and buildings characterized by limited climate fall.
As the name implies, the semi-intensive system or mixed system integrates the intensive system with the extensive system. Going by the standards of the semi-intensive or mixed system, snails are confined to enclosures where they lay and hatch eggs. After two months from the hatching of eggs, they will be taken out of the enclosures.
The extensive system is a pattern of snail housing specific to subsistence farmers and those who practice snail farming on a small scale. Since such farmers engage in snail farming, mostly for the purpose of consumption, they spend less on snail housing by using some of the household materials available to them.
Snail farming equipment
Equipment required for snail farming is not much, they are locally available and easy to get. They are;
Feeder: You need is a flat tray, preferably a plastic material; where serves the food daily.
Drinker: The drinker can be of medium-sized curved plastic that can accommodate sufficient water without spillage.
Broom: For daily cleaning of the pen, you want a broom.
Sprayer: You want a hand sprayer for pest management.
These materials are generally cheap to get as they include pots, disused car tires, drums, abandoned tanks, baskets, and other usable domestic items.
Snail Farming Environment
Snails are very easily dehydrated, and wind increases the rate of moisture lose in snail which in turn, leads to the dryness of the animal. To prevent snails from losing water so rapidly, your snail house also known as snaileries must be located in an environment that is protected from the wind.
A low plain, downhill site surrounded with enough trees are suitable for snail farming. You could plant plantains and bananas around your snail farm to prevent the impact of wind.
Selection of site for snail farming:
Type of soil for a snail farm
Snail’s major habitat is the soil, and the soil contains some of the components and chemical substances that are required to survive. However, not all soils are fitting for snail rearing. The shell of the snail is mostly calcium which it derives most of it from the soil. Snail also laid its eggs on the soil and drinks water out of the soil. Hence, suitable soil for snail farming must have these elements. It should be balanced, not waterlogged, not too dry, and must not be acidic. The most desirable soil for snail farming is sandy-loamy soil with low water holding capacity. Clayey soil and acidic soil should be avoided.
Water or moisture
Water is a very important factor in any livestock farming. Water is an essential nutrient; snails want the water to aid digestion and growth. For you to successfully maintain snails in captivity, you need a stable source of water to ensure all-year-round production. A source of water has to be presented for feeding and keeping the snail pen damp always.
Temperature and humidity
The temperature and humidity parameters are very important and should be treated as important factors as well. They both parameters determine the activities of livestock, with snail inclusive. Snails are a cold-blooded animal; hence, they are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. Snails choose a place where the temperature is neither too cold nor too hot. When the temperature is too cold or too hot, the snails withdraw into their shell; this act is known as hibernation. Snails thrive best on temperature ranging between 10 to 23°C.
Selecting snail species of breeding:
Snails usually weigh at least 100-125g, are stocked for breeding. Snail rearing must preferably start at the beginning of the wet season because it is the breeding season of snails.
Farmers may, therefore, collect snails from the wild or buy them very cheaply from hunters or snail pickers in the peak season and fatten them in captivity in the off-season. Snails can be collected at nighttime and on cloudy or foggy mornings. It is advisable and suggested that farmers procure the parental stock from known breeders or agricultural institutes.
Although the parent snails may be more expensive there than snails from hunters or snail pickers, they are better and safer because they have performance record and history you can always refer to predetermine their productivity. They want to procure parental stock ends as soon as your snail farm is established; you can now choose a breeding stock from their own snails for subsequent batches. The breeding stock is usually selected during the wet season; the farmer should select breeding stock based on the following attributes;
Fecundity: This is the number of eggs expected from the snail, based on numbers laid in earlier seasons
Hatchability: The percentage of eggs possible to hatch out of the total number laid
Survival rate: The percentage of snails likely to survive after hatching
Growth rate: The variation in the growth of the snail after hatching
Shell strength: The thickness of the hatch from hatching.
All these attributes can be gotten from the performance record of the snail kept during the production phase. This is why it is important for farmers to keep a record irrespective of the size of the farm.
Species of snail to rear:
There are different breeds of snails with different characteristics. Commercially, only 2 breeds of snails are reared; they are Archachatina marginata and Achinata achatina.
Archachatina marginata: These snails are also known as swamp snails, big black snail or giant African land snail. These species of snail are originated in places where it is warm all year. They have a brown color to pale brown color shell with vertical streaks on its shell. Their weight at maturity ranges from 150 to 200g; if well fed properly, they grow to full size in 24 months.
They lay fewer eggs of big sizes and high survival rate; they lay about 7 to 10 eggs, four to eight times each during the growing season. The breeding season is always through the rainy season, May to October. In an intensive rearing system where there is a normal supply of water, food, and lime, they can grow and reproduce throughout the year. They have a rounded tail.
Achinata achatina: Achinata achatina also called forest snails or they are native of West Africa. They have strong brown shells with zig-zag lines on its shell and grow to full size in two years under excellent management conditions.
They are highly fecundity; they lay large number eggs, ranging from 100 to 300 in number, one or two times each growing season, but the eggs are relatively smaller in sizes with a high mortality rate. They have pointed tails.
Snail farming is about gathering the right resources, like humidity and temperature controls, the type of pen wanted and the quality of the soil. Some other considerations are the sourcing of food and provision of calcium, which constitutes 97% of the snail’s shell.
Climate control is very important, especially devices like sprinklers to keep the soil moist. Protective snail pens that are pest proof are needed. Snails can be killed by lizards, birds, and rodents. They are surprisingly mobile so keeping them safe and secure must be your number one priority.
The equipment needed to farm snails includes outdoor pens or indoor plastic tunnels for breeding. Climate control equipment like sprinklers and humidifiers is very important, to keep the temperature range from 16° to 24°C. A drainage system and adequate moisture are very important, with soil whose components are partly sand and clay plus additives like limestone (for calcium), polyacrylamide, and magnesium.
A pen could be made out of galvanized sheet metal, wire gauze, wood or block material. There must be easily accessible and it should be fenced or covered to prevent predators like rats. A plastic pipe network can be introduced into the pen. A sprinkler system and equipment to measure humidity levels is very important. You are free to explore different types of enclosures that can give shade, good soil and proper temperature, and prevent the snails from escaping.
The Snail House (Snailery):
Snaileries can differ from a patch of fence-protected ground, sheltered from the wind in a covered box if you are breeding on a small scale. For a larger population of snails, you can dug a trench or create a concrete pen with soil deep of about 10 inches, and cover it with the screen all around to prevent the snails from escaping. Remember that the snails can reproduce fast and become pests when their breeding is uncontrolled.
Snails love dark and cold places but ensure the humidity does not drop to levels harmful to the snails. You can use fresh leaves and cloth that is commonly wet to regulate the temperature. Also, the wire is very useful in keeping away rats and snakes or other predators from eating the snails in your snail farm.
Snails Foods and Feeding
Snails generally feed on green leaves such as; Cocoyam leaves, pawpaw leaves, okra leaves, cassava leaves, eggplant leaves, cabbage, and lettuce leaves and fruits such as; Mango, eggplant, pawpaw, banana, tomatoes, oil palm fruits, pears and cucumber, though they could utilize other ranges of foods. Snails can be fed with green leaves, fruits, or even formula from the feed store. Aside from food to grow tissues, snails want calcium to grow shells.
Once they start growing, divide the big ones from the small ones. It takes more than a year for the Achatina kind to grow to harvest size. Others mature in two years.
What snails need? Snails want carbohydrates for energy and protein for growth. In addition, they need calcium (Ca) for their shells, as well as other minerals and vitamins. Snail meat is low in crude fiber and fat; for that basis, these components are of minor importance in snail feed.
When do snails eat? Snails are nocturnal in nature; they feed mostly at night, early morning, evening or on cold rainy days.
Recommended food items
Leaves: cocoyam, kola, cassava, okra, eggplant, Centrosema, cabbage and lettuce. Paw leaves, as well as its fruit and fruit peels, stand out in many trials as excellent snail food.
Snails generally need to grow for at least one year to reach their proper size and weight. It is recommended to harvest snails by the time they reach 2 years because after this age their rate of growth slows down. Snails are mostly picked by hand, at nightfall, when they become active and are easier to find and collect.
Within 12 to 24 months from the date of stocking, snails can be harvested. It is expected that the snails weigh 200g. Harvesting of snail is done by handpicking the snails from the pen.