Raising snails for food is known as
Heliculture. Snails belong to the second largest group in the animal kingdom known as Phylum molusca. They are invertebrates; that is, animals without back bones. Snails have both male and female reproductive organs, and as such they are hermaphroditic, which means they are capable of self-fertilization.
Snail is a very healthy source of meat, high in protein, phosphorus, calcium, iron, and low in fat and cholesterol. Snails reproduce rapidly; thus, they are capable of producing more than 300 eggs, which hatch into snails. There are many species of edible snails, varying in shape, size and colour. Examples are The Africa Giant Land Snail, Fresh Water Snail, Small Size Snails, and Periwinkle.
Snails are vital in different areas. The food, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and fishing industries rely on them for different purposes.
Snail farming in Nigeria requires small capital and the running cost is low. The farm size is determined by the capital and the location of the farm. The Giant West Africa Snail, Achatina Marginata, is the best specie for snail farming due to its prolificacy. Below are factors to consider before starting a snail farm.
– Snails are easily dehydrated, and wind increases the rate at which moisture is lost, which in turn leads to the dryness of the animal. To prevent snails from losing water quickly, snail house must be located in environments that are protected from wind. Damp and humid environments are suitable for snails, so it is required of you to plant tree crops like cocoa, plantain or banana around the house as a wind breaker and to promote the humidity.
Soil Type – The major habitat for snails is the soil, which contains most of the components and chemicals needed for their survival. The shell of the snail is mainly calcium and it derives most of them from the soil. The soil type should contain a high level of organic matter. Clayey and compact soil should be avoided because of the level of acidity .The suitable soil for snail farming is sandy or loamy soil with low water holding capacity.
Source – Sourcing for snails to startup a business is very important. Snails can be harvested from the forest with a basic technique; clear a little portion of land during rainy season and drop fruits like pineapple, pawpaw, plantain, or banana around 4 – 5 pm. Return around 7 or 8 pm and you will pick up snails suitable for farming. This process should be repeated until you harvest a reasonable amount to begin your business. Snails can also be purchased from the market.
Housing – Housing varies from boxes made out of suitable substances like wire gauze (net), wood, straw, etc. The direction and speed of the wind is to be considered when building. Wind is a means of dehydration, which is bad for snail farming. Snail pen should be divided into paddocks of not more than 4×4 meters to prevent overcrowding and to maintain a regular stocking density.
Food (feeding) – Snails mainly feed on green leaves and fruits. Aside from food to grow tissues, snails also need calcium to grow their shells. Feeding of snail should be regular. Food waste like maize or wheat bran is also good to feed snails. Food should be rich in calcium and essential minerals. NOTE: salt should not be fed to snails as it is very hazardous to their survival.
Harvesting– Maturity takes two years; only matured snails should be harvested. Check the brim of the shell. For matured snails, the brim is thicker and harder than other parts of the shell. Do not harvest all the matured ones for the market. Keep some for breeding which will serve as base stock.
Pests and Diseases
: Termites, lizards, snake, ants, chicken, geese and turkeys are the common predators of snails and should be prevented. There are not many diseases identified in snails but fungus and bacterial diseases which are spread by contact in overcrowded pens are not uncommon.
During dry season, it will be ideal to irrigate snail farms regularly or else the snails will hibernate. If there is drought, snails can hibernate even up to two years as is the case in desert snails. The prolific nature of snails and the market value (high demand) bridges the gap and compensates farmers for their long gestation period of two years.
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This article was first published on 11th March 2014