Best Option for Snail Farming in Nigeria
…Farmers Support Initiative
Snail experts’ who tell you to construct a pen, buy snails from their own farms , feed them with paw-paw leaves or a ‘super formulated feed’ , allow each parent snail lay anywhere from 20-400 eggs 5-6 times a year, achieve 100% hatch-ability so you can have 1,000,000 baby snails (one million) snails worth N200,000,000 (one million dollars) in an 12 additional months is simply not being practical.
These conditions can only be met in a scientific laboratory with huge funds allocated. Guess what? Since you do not have a lab neither do you have money to waste because such a venture if ever done will be for scientific ends and definitely not for personal profits the best you can do is to maximize your profits using these simple methods of cheap and practical secrets which coupled with best practices and application of good quality control will reward you more often than not.
These are ‘little secrets’ which will give you ‘big results’.
They have been compiled in a fun way from A-Z and it will hopefully raise up more owners of profitable snaileries in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.
Let’s read A,B, C – the snail way!
Achatina is a genus of medium-sized to very large, air-breathing, tropical land snails, terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusks in the family Achatinidae. There are some 200 species of Achatinidae in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some species are kept as terrarium (just a fancy name for an aquarium without water 😉 animals due to their size and colourful shells.
For the purposes of snail farming however, we will concern ourselves with only the three species of that genus that is commercial, marketable and of course profitable. They are Achatina achatina Linnaeus, Achatina marginata and their younger brother – Achatina Fulica.
Breeder snails are the patriarchs and matriarchs (even though snails are hermaphrodites) of your prospective snail farm. Snails are “highly reproductive”! These breeders are 12-24 months old snails who possess the required qualities needed to start, sustain and “successfulize” your snail venture. Logical characteristics include shell health, age, species, source location, stress factors present in capturing and transporting as well as your own size of farm (estimated), location of farm and type of housing to implement. Sourcing mature adult snails from deep in the forests rather than farms may be the best option. Snails from farms have had too much contact from ‘snail slime’ from the snail trails of other snails in the farm and this significantly reduces their fertility and overall immunity to diseases. (Snails from farms are like spoilt kids. Check out ‘Density Matters‘)
The only place you shouldn’t buy snails for production is city markets. Live snails from such markets are usually stressed and are best for eating.
Calcium is the single most important factor in the feeding of any snail venture. Why? Low calcium intake will slow the growth rate and cause the shells to be thinner. Calcium may be set out in a feeding dish or trough so the snails can eat it at will. Food is only one calcium source. Snails may eat paint or attack walls of buildings seeking calcium, and they also will eat dirt. I use two cheap calcium sources in all my farms. One from the green outer leaves of cabbage (you do not pay for this. It is freely available in any fruit/vegetable market in Nigeria). They will even beg you to help them carry the ‘dirty’!
“An experiment was carried out to assess the growth performance of African Giant Land Snail Achatina achatina fed with three natural feedstuff; pawpaw fruit, pawpaw leaves and cabbage leaves. A total of 24 growing snails of approximately one year old were used for the study. These were randomly divided into six groups and then allotted into the three experimental diets, arranged in a completely randomized design (CRD) order. Dry matter intakes of feed being served every other days, weight gain and size increase of snails were assessed fortnightly. The results showed that pawpaw leaf is higher in protein than cabbage leaf and pawpaw fruit.
However, cabbage leaf contains some essential mineral elements, which are useful in body building than the other two feedstuffs. It also showed that snails fed with cabbage leaves had the highest dry matter intake and weight gain of 14.2 and 18.6 g, respectively. Highest shell length and circumference increase of 0.3 and 0.6 cm were obtained in pawpaw fruit and pawpaw leaf respectively. Although there was no significance difference (p > 0.05) in the weight gain of snails fed with pawpaw fruit and cabbage leaves, cabbage leaf seems to be richer in protein and other essential mineral elements than pawpaw fruit. It was therefore concluded that cabbage leaf could serve as a good substitute for pawpaw fruit and leaves, which hitherto were known as the preferred natural feedstuff for snails.”
That was the abstract of a research paper by 4 professor level experts from the Federal college of forestry Jericho, Ibadan; I have applied it successfully since 2009.
The other cheap but effective calcium source is broken rock fragments of limestone. Just place them as ‘Licking stones’ in pens or the habitat where you plan to house your snails. Find them easily in stores where poultry feeds are sold or just take a hike to the hills of Okpella in Edo, Nkalagu in Ebonyi, Obajana in Kogi or mfanmosing in Cross River and load sacks of it for you.
Good Calcium Supply, Bigger Healthier Snails.
Density matters! Instead of wondering what brought Physics into snail farming, proper use of space can determine if your snail venture is successful or not. Why have plenty of snails in a confined space or little snails in a wide enclosure. One issue as I mentioned in ‘Breeder Snails’ is the fact that density affects the growth and breeding capacity of snails. High density populations tend to grow slowly, develop into smaller adults, and lay fewer clutches of eggs and fewer eggs per clutch. If the snails are very densely packed, they may not breed at all. The accumulating slime suppresses reproduction. Other disadvantages of high density are the high rates of parasitism and ease of transmission of diseases.
Snails tend not to breed when packed too densely or when the slime in the pen accumulates too much. The slime apparently works like a pheromone and suppresses reproduction. On the other hand, snails in groups of about 100 seem to breed better than when only a few snails are confined together. Perhaps they have more potential mates from which to choose. Snails in a densely populated area grow more slowly even when food is abundant, and they also have a higher mortality rate. These snails then become smaller adults who lay fewer clutches of eggs, have fewer eggs per clutch, and the eggs have a lower hatch rate. Smaller adult snails sell for less. Dwarfing is quite common in snail farming and is attributable mainly to rearing conditions rather than heredity factors. Crowding snails is false economy
Think of about 20 Mature snails per square meter.( In fact, Per cube meter as they tend to climb). 40/Sq3 for medium snails and 80-100/Sq3 for baby snails. Remember density matters!
Escargot simply means snail meant for consumption usually in Europe and particularly in France, Spain and Portugal. For this backyard farming purposes, I will restrict it to farming, harvesting, processing and marketing of well packaged snails. You have to get to the ‘escargot level’ if you are ready to fully exploit the goldmine that is snail farming. It is not really expensive to start. As little as having 100 mature snails laid freely by 5 breeders can start off your snail empire. Instead of selling to the market woman who would price and haggle, just harvest your snails, clean them hygienically and store raw in a freezer. Now you can have a better price from your road side ‘frozen chicken and fish store’, a neighbour or even a hotel or fast-food chain. 100 pieces x 250-400Naira in 6-8months.Do the maths for 1000 pieces when all you need is 50 metres square (5metres by 10metres piece of land) I smell money!
I promised to bare ‘every secret’ in snail farming.
Bigger escargot operations can rake in Millions from exporting to Europe, Asia and of course U.S.A. The U.S.A is a goldmine as the government banned ‘Live’ snails from being imported. Our African brothers need snail in that country no be small since no Giant African Snail farm can exist legally.
You can even do what I call stock market trading in snails. I simply buy small to medium sized snails from the forests at a very cheap rate in the rainy season (we are about entering one at the moment so take action and put them in my ‘snail bank’ for 6 months). With a mix of expertise not unrelated to cheap/quality feeds and complete snail care you can sell in the dry season 4-6 months later and make 4-5 times gross profits. (Take into account initial capital, feeding costs).
For instance, buy 1000 snails at N50 and sell for N250 after ‘Banking’ them. More preferable is you harvest, clean and market yourself.
This stock market is surer than sure.
Feeding is the single most important factor in snail farming. Snails are easy to feed; they will feed on nearly every organic food source that is non-toxic, not hairy/waxy including leaves, fruits, vegetables, tubers and household wastes (that contain no Table Salt (NaCl).
Common food sources include fruits and veggies like banana, melon, cabbage, carrot, pawpaw, lettuce, cucumber, potato, pumpkin, plantain etc. Some people formulate special feeds for snails but you have to outweigh the cons with the pro. Why buy when you can have it all natural and next to free? Think of cheaper sources! Fruit markets, gardens and even the bush behind your house.
The type of housing and the scope of your farm will ultimately determine your source and type of feeds. In that respect, contact us. Consultancy is not expensive.
Unless your snail farm is of the very extensive type, you will have to provide your snails with some or all the food they need for good development. This will require efforts on your part in growing or collecting snail food, or cash for buying it. Therefore, you must know what snails eat and what they need. Smaller snails will prefer juicer feed sources while adult snails can eat hardier feeds and will sometimes eat soil substrate to enrich its calcium source.
Calcium as I mentioned earlier is plentiful in some sources. I used to peel off the outside leaves of the cabbage until I read that the outer leaves have as much as 80% more calcium (40mg/kg and 70mg/kg) than the inside leaves. I also wait until the last minute to cut the cabbage, as exposure to the air causes loss of vitamin C.
Not forgetting the calcium/magnesium balance needed in feeds as too much magnesium will prevent calcium absorption which creates growth problems. There are plenty secrets indeed!
This is just the start of a revolution…grab a copy of our next edition and know what G-Z holds…Existing farmers can share their experience