If you’re thinking of a lucrative business you can venture into, then snail farming should come first in your list. Snail farming is a very profitable business anyone can think of. The truth is that even when this guide on Snail farming which happens to be the most comprehensive guide on Heliciculture on the internet today, there is still need for you to consult the services of a professional and dedicated Snail farmer with years of experience.
This is because, some of the articles you read will not explain certain problems you might encounter while doing the business. You’ll have to make sure you have a trainer/mentor who also is a practicing snail farmer. Almost everyone who has called me for consultancy of one thing or the other in their farms today started without proper training or without the help of a snail farmer. Anything you read online will only serve as a guide to you, it’s not enough for you to start with it. Before we continue, you might want to take a look at some of the disadvantages of starting a snail farm without a mentor;
- You cannot properly bury your eggs in the soil.
- You might not truly understand the degree of wetness of the soil. You will either over wet the soil or under wet the soil.
- You might not understand in details how to construct a hatchery pen that’ll record 100% hatchery rate, etc.
- You might not know how to handle some of the challenges you’ll come across in the process of snail farming.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Snail Farming Definition
- Types of Snails
- How to Make Snails Grow Faster
- Types of Snail Structures
- How to Start a Snail Farm
- Construction of Snail Pen
- The Dwelling Place of Snails
- Choosing the Best Soil for Snail Farming
- Controlling Soldier Ant Menace
- Feeding of Snails
- How to Wet Snails
- Importance of Calcium in Snails
- Why Snails die and How to Prevent their death
- Snail Disease Management
To start with, let us take a look at the definition of Snail farming, this is the process of raising edible land snails, mainly for human consumption or for industrial purposes like its usage in the making of cosmetics as face powder, as fillers to improve paper capacity and as reinforcement materials for the production of composites usable in automotive parts. There are basically three types of snails reared in West Africa and around the world.
Types of Snails
Achatina Achatina (AA)
This type of snail lays too many eggs and can fill your farm with snails. An achatina snail can give you from 70 eggs to 500 eggs at once. A single Achatina snail can give you between 300 eggs to 2000 eggs per annum. Achantina snails do not grow as big as Marginata snails. Their eggs are so tiny and their newly hatchlings are very tiny. Achatina snails are prone to diseases and can die easily. Their newly hatchlings are very difficult to handle. Most restaurants prefer Marginata snails to achatina snails because all achatina snail flesh shrink when boiled while many marginata snails do not. Instead of marginata snails to shrink, they’ll expand. Although there are bad species of marginata snails but the good ones do not shrink when boiled. Therefore, if you want do real business and sell faster, achatina achatina isn’t a good deal.
Picture of AA
Achatina marginata (AM)
Another name for Achatina marginata is African Giant Snail. This snail specie grows bigger and faster. Their eggs are big, and far bigger than the achatina eggs. Their newly hatchlings are also big. In comparison, the Marginata has resistance to diseases and are stronger than the achatina snails. Marginata snails lay between 6 and 15 eggs in every three months, therefore a single marginata snail can lay between 24 to 30 eggs per annum. A fast growing marginata snail grows to medium sizes from baby snails in just 5 months. Marginata snails sells faster than achatina snails because they have the best meat. Marginata snails are the best when you want to start a snail farm.
Picture of AM
Achatina Fulica (AF)
This type of snail doesn’t grow fast, neither does it grow big. They have high resistance to diseases and do not die easily. They lay too many eggs. A single AF can give you between 150 to 500 eggs in a month and between 1800 to 6000 eggs per annum. They’re not actually good for business as they don’t grow big. Their meat also shrink when boiled.
How to Make Snails Grow Faster
There is no such thing like making your snail to grow fast when you know that the snail you have is not the fast growing marginata. Make sure your marginata is the fast growing one before you talk of making them grow fast. If you want your snails to grow fast, you’ll need to feed them with snail concentrate/snail fattening feed. Please NOTE that the snail feed does not grow dwarf snails. Some snails are dwarfs by nature. They don’t grow big no matter what they eat. Some Marginatas are also dwarf by nature so be very careful when buying snails for your snail farm. Only buy the fast growing marginata. If you get the fast growing marginata from reputable farms, you’ll see how fast your snails will grow with even little food being given to them.
Picture of Snail Feed
Types of Snail Structures
We have basically two types of snail farms
- Intensive snail farm
- Extensive snail farm
Intensive Snail Farm
In this type of snail structure, snails are being confined in a particular environment. In this type of snail farming, snails do not move about freely. Roof is used to protect the snails from direct rainfall and rays of the sun. Below are examples of an intensive snail farm
Picture intensive Snail Farm
Extensive snail Farm
In this type of snail farm, the snails move about freely in a confined environment. Another name for this type of snail farm is “Natural Habitat”. We cultivate Plants like Plantain, Banana, cocoyam, pumpkin (known as ugu in Nigeria), etc. The plants cultivated inside the snail structure which provides a proper vegetative cover thereby protecting the snails from direct rays of the sun and direct rainfall. In this system of snail rearing, there is no roof unlike the intensive system. The extensive system of snail farming has an advantage over the intensive.
Picture: Extensive Snail farm still under construction
How to Start a Snail Farm
If you’re thinking of starting a snail farm, the following things should come to your mind
- First is how you can get trained by a professional. You’ll need a very good training from a snail farmer or you hire a snail farmer to construct and stock your farm for you.
- Secondly, you’ll have to sit down and plan your business. Calculate all the costs, ranging from cost of construction, Snail purchase and feeding of the animal.
- Thirdly, you’ll have to determine the type of snail structure you would prefer to have whether intensive or extensive (Natural Habitat). The last is the specie of snail you would like to rear, if you’ve been following this article from the beginning, you should be able to Choose Wisely the Best Snail Species to suit your business.
Construction of Snail Pen
When constructing a snail pen, there are few things you would consider;
- Environment; Is the place prone to soldier ant? if yes, then make sure you don’t construct the natural habitat in the place. Then you would be left with the option of constructing the intensive system. During the construction, make sure you cement the base of the pen and make it to slope towards the point of expulsion of water. Water must be expelled automatically if the base is cemented because the cemented base is capable of retaining water so the accumulation of retained water can definitely cause water-logging which is not good for the snails.
- Construction Materials; Materials used for construction of a snail farm must be 100% non-conductors of heat. The heat shouldn’t be metallic zinc but either aluminium or tarpaulin. Non heat conducting materials should be used in order to create a very conducive environment for the snails.
The Dwelling Place of Snails
Snails generally like a very COOL and DARK environment. Mark the two keywords COOL & DARK. It must be COOL and DARK if you want the snails to be productive. Snails grow faster under dark environment. In the intensive settings, we use dry plantain leaves to keep the pens COOL and DARK, while in the extensive system, we cultivate plantain and banana suckers, cocoyam, vegetables etc to keep the pens COOL and DARK.
Choosing the Best Soil for Snail Farming
If you get the soil right, then count yourself 70% successful in the snail farming business. The best soil for snail farm must contain enough nutrients for the survival of the snails. Snails need good soil that contains enough calcium and other mineral sources that support their growth rate, else they get stressed out and die. The best soil for a snail farm is PEAT. Peat is the soil generated as a result of decayed organic matter. You can equally call it “Dustbin soil” i.e soil from the waste bin. When you visit a dumping ground, that soil that has been generated over years as a result of decayed organic matter is the best soil for snail farming
Controlling Soldier Ant Menace
Soldier ant is the major problem of a snail farm. During construction, you must put this into consideration. Provisions must be made to counter the menace of soldier ants in your snail farm. Although not all ants are harmful to snails.
The question is, how do you prepare the soil for snail farming?
It doesn’t make any sense frying the soil as some people may suggest because it doesn’t stop soldier ants. In the process of frying it, you will destroy all the important nutrients that may be needed by the snails. Controlling soldier ants that may come through the surface is very easy. Now, how do you control soldier ants that may come from the underground? Below are the effective measures you take to get rid of ants;
This is an effective yet expensive way of getting rid of ants that may come from the underground. Soil excavation involves removing the top soil, filling the space created as a result of the removed top soil with ashes. After which you’ll cover the ash with the removed top soil. The snails also need that top soil to survive because they need it as it contains some essential nutrients. Soldier ants do not cross ashes. They’re allergic to ashes and as such do not near ashes.
Application of Condemned Engine oil
Condemned engine oil drives away soldier ants and doesn’t let them come close. This involves rubbing the condemned oil round the outside walls of the pen. Please do not let the oil touch the inside. This method can only drive away soldier ants coming from the surface not underground.
By creating water channel round the pen
Soldier ants do not have wings so they can’t cross the water channel. This method can only stop ants coming from the surface not underground.
Feeding of Snails
Snails are vegetarians and as such eat varieties of vegetables. Their food includes Pumpkin (Known as ugu in Nigeria), water-leaf, cucumber, water melon, banana and plantain peels, banana and plantain leaves, cocoyam leaves, pawpaw and pawpaw leaves, bitter leaves, cassava leaves, fermented cassava peels etc. Snails are mostly fed with wastes from fruits and vegetables, so don’t bother feeding your snails always with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Wetting of Snails
You must properly wet your snails everyday especially during the dry season. In an extensive snail farm, since the there is no roof, then wetting would be done only if it didn’t rain. But in an intensive snail farm, snails must be wet on daily basis whether in dry or rainy season. During wetting, you don’t hit your snails with water. Snails do not like direct rainfall or water hitting them directly. You must gently sprinkle water on your snails. To achieve this, I’ll advise you use a knapsack sprayer. Below is a video of how I wet my snails.
Importance of Calcium in Snails
Calcium is very important in snails. In the bush, snails get calcium from the soil while moving from one place to the other. Since you’ve confined them in a particular environment, you’ll have to supply them with calcium. Calcium helps the snails in growing shells and also help them in egg production. There are different sources of calcium; they are;
- Oyster Shell
- Bone meal
- Snail shell
- PKC (Palm Kernel Shell)
The best among them is the egg shell, Followed by snail shell and then limestone. From this article, you can also learn How to Prepare Natural Calcium for your Snails
Why Snails die and How to Prevent their death
Snails die mainly as a result of stress. Stress can cause a handful of damage in a snail. When you stress the snails through
- Exposing them to the sun
- Always moving them
- Moving them from/to a long distance
- Improper handling
When this happens, the snails can die from the resulting stress. Not all snails can withstand stress. They’ll keep dying as a result of a single stress. Some may withstand the stress for a week before dying, some two weeks some 3 weeks some even a month and beyond before finally dying. That’s why it’s advisable to buy growers that have proven to withstand more stress than the adult snails. When you buy the growers, they will quickly adapt to the new environment and grow with it. Growers are best to start a snail farm.
Snail Disease Management
The Common diseases affecting snails both domesticated and the ones in the wild are
There is a particular fly that is brown in colour, when that fly enters a snail farm, it’ll lay eggs on the snail flesh and the eggs hatch within 24 hrs and immediately they start feeding on the snails. To prevent this, make sure there is no opening in your snail farm that’ll give room for such fly to enter.
This is likely caused by over population. When snails are over populated, they tend to eat their slime thereby contacting this disease. Fungal diseases make snail eggs to turn to reddish brown and as such the eggs will not hatch. You may be wondering why your eggs aren’t hatching. This is one of the reasons. To prevent fungal disease, you’ll have to maintain a reasonable population density which is 25 snails per Square meter.
This disease is very deadly and no snail can survive it. It affects the snails intestines, thereby affecting their growth rates and the snail won’t do well. Good snail hygiene can prevent this.
This disease affects only domesticated snails only. snails in the wild do not experience this because they have enough calcium as they move about from one place to the other. This is caused by deficiency of calcium. The older snails tend to cannibalize on the younger snails. Proper supply of calcium can prevent this.
I’m Mathew Okara, A graduate of Agricultural and Bioresouces Engineering from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, Nigeria. I have worked in big farms of which one of them is Demaco Optimum Services, Akor Nike, Enugu East L.G.A Enugu State. The farm is an integrated farm. I started snail farming in 2013, I have had more than 7 years in snail farming. I have the best breed of Achatina Marginata (The fast growing species). I set up snail farms for people and supply them with good breeds for startup. I’m also a snail farm consultant.
You can reach me on +2347038408983