How to Start Snail Farming For Beginners in Nigeria -Everything you need to know
Snail farming in Nigeria is a very lucrative business that can be easily set up with low initial capital outlay and minimal running cost. Snails are found all over the rain forest zone of Nigeria. And it is the same in our neighbouring contries of Ghana, cote D’ivoire and Benin. As a snail farmer, you can maximize your profits by employing simple strategies coupled with excellent husbandry practices and application of good quality control. You might also see snail farming business being referred to as “heliculture”, they both mean the same thing.
Snail farming for beginners can be quite challenging, especially if ventured into without the proper knowledge and requisite snail farming techniques. If you’ve been searching for information on how to build a snail farm, then you’re at the right place. The essence of this article is to answer your questions on how to start snail farming business in Nigeria. Before we start though, let’s have a brief overview of what this business is all about and the snail farming techniques that are guaranteed to bring you success.
Achatina is a genus of medium-sized to very large, air-breathing, tropical land snails. There are about 200 species of Achatinidae in Sub-Saharan Africa. For the purpose of snail farming business as an SME, we will concern ourselves with only three species of that genus that are commercially viable. They are Achatina achatina Linnaeus, Achatina marginata and Achatina Fulica. Snails are hermaphrodites, which simply means that there’s nothing like a male snail or a female snail. Any snail you see is both a male and a female at the same time. Anyways, this is not a zoology class, so onwards and upwards.
Procuring your breeder snails:
Breeder snails are going to be the foundation of your snail farm. Snails are highly reproductive. A single GALS (Giant African Land Snail) can lay up to 400 eggs at a time (though not all of them are likely to hatch). Due to both the snails being hermaphrodites, each snail is likely to lay fertilised eggs. Good breeders should be about 12 – 24 months old. Suggestive characteristics you should be alert to include good shell health, age, species, source location, stress factors present in capturing and transporting as well as the size of your own farm, location of farm and type of housing to implement.
It is highly recommended to always procure your breeders from deep in the forests rather than farms. The reason is simple; forest snails have led a rigorous and natural life and are usually more able to withstand stress and diseases. Snails from farms on the other hand have lost some of their natural adaptive mechanisms to cope with stress and diseases. They might also have had too much contact with slime from other snails in the farm and this significantly reduces their fertility and overall immunity to diseases. You don’t have to be Judge of the jungle to be able to get your forest snails ready.
Snails generally love cool and humid environments, they can be found plentiful in Plantain and cocoa plantations-meaning you don’t have to spend any money getting them. Otherwise, you can contract it out to other people who will pick them for you according to your requirements. Also take note that snails are very sensitive animals and may not lay eggs until they feel the environment is right for them. So try to ensure that you provide them with as comfortable a life as possible.
The essence of housing is to provide the snails with an environment that’s as close as possible to the one in the forest. As previously pointed out, snails require moist and humid conditions (greater than 60% at least) in order to survive and thrive. In order to carry out snail farming business successfully, you have to pay special attention to variables such as soil characteristics(loamy soil vs clay soil vs sandy soil), climate, wind speed and direction and of course adequate protection. Soil should be loamy and well drained. It’s also a good idea to locate your snail farm close to trees, such as plantain, to provide that critical shade as well as act as wind breaks. As an aside, you can even decide to combiine the two as a bi-venture. You can easily breed your snails within your banana plantation. That’s cheap food guaranteed already.
In designing housing for your snails, you must pay special emphasis to the snails’ age. Younger snails will require more comfortable housing and should be properly sealed with small hole mesh/net to prevent them from crawling away as they are small in size. The size of mesh that will keep your mature snails in their pen will definitely not keep your hatchlings in. This will also help to prevent predators such as snakes and birds and other nuisnaces such as flies, mites and cockroaches from gaining easy access to your snails.
Types of housing system for snails include:
- Semi-intensive system
- Extensive system
You can construct wooden pens as in the case of hutch boxes with legs that raise them above ground level, or you could prefer pens laid on bare ground. You can also construct concrete troughs just liike you would construct foundation for a building and fill it with good loamy soil. You’ll of course then have to cover the troughs with mesh for protection.
Extensive methods include mini paddock systems and free range pens. This can greatly reduce the cost of feeding as you can plant crops such as plantain and banana to provide shelter as well as provide food for your snails. The extensive system is even more sensible if you have free land but not enough capital.
Feeding and general care:
Feeding is a very critical factor in snail farming business. Snails are easy to feed and they can consume most organic food source including leaves, fruits, tubers and household left overs so far the salt concentration is not too high and should not form more than 0.3 per cent in the diet of your snails as it does not have any adverse effect on feed intake, weight gain and survivability at this low levels.
Common food sources include fruits such as banana, plantain, pineapple and vegetables such as cabbage, pumpkin, pawpaw, lettuce, carrot, cucumber, cocoyam, potato, etc. These are readily available in bushes, plots under construction, fruit markets, gardens and even the market. Smaller snails prefer succulent feed sources while adult snails can accept hardier feeds.
Calcium is the single most important factor in the feeding of your snails. You can easily use two cheap calcium sources. One from the green outer leaves of cabbage. You can even get it free from any fruit/vegetable market in Nigeria. The outer leaves have as much as 80% more calcium (40mg/kg and 70mg/kg) than the inside leaves.
The other effective calcium source alternative is broken limestone pieces. You can simply place them as ‘Licking stones’ around your snails housing in strategic locations where the snails can easily access them. Ask around from stores that sell poultry feeds. Without adequate calcium in your snails diet, they will not increase in size properly, since they need calcium to build their shells, just like layers chicken will have problems producing eggs without suffiicient calcium. The shells will also be quite weak and fragile, and this may increase their susceptibility to breakage and death. There’s also the need for a proportionate balance in the the calcium/magnesium content of feeds as too much magnesium will prevent calcium absorption, which has the same implication as not havinhg enough calcium in the diet.
Judicious use of space is a strong determinant of whether your snail farming business will thrive or not. Overcrowding is a problem for snails, just as it is for humans. It is not a good idea to overstock (have too many snails together in a place). High density populations tend to grow slowly, develop into smaller adults, and lay fewer clutches of eggs and fewer eggs per clutch. Snail slime has been shown to be have a negative impact on the reproductive life of snails. Hence by breeding them in a small place, there’s a higher risk of your snails getting exposed to other snails slime. Overcrowding also increases the incidence and transmission of diseases. Avoid it at all cost. You can aim to have a density of about 20 mature snails per square meter, 50 per square meters for medium snails and about 80/Sq2 for little snails.
Note that eggs and very small babies should be kept separate from adult snails in order to minimise the chances of damaging them and also prevent unfair competition.
In their natural habitat (forest), snails mature within 24 months. When bred in captivity however, they can attain market size/weight in just 7 – 9 months. Forest snails spend an average of 6 months to aestivate and this accounts for their longer maturity period. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the snails in your snailery can never go on aestivation. Snails respond to both heat and cold. If you allow your snailery to get dry and lose its humidity, your snails will go on a long long sleep, so beware. You’ll know when you start seeing a papery white film covering their shell opening. If you are fast enough, you can quickly pick them up and spray them with lukewarm water, then place them upright and observe them to see if they’ll oblige and come out.
Clutches of eggs are produced in batches of between 50 and 150 and are often laid inside the pen substrate. It’s recommended that you check for eggs every 3 days. Eggs are white or yellowish and are 4-5mm in diameter. Eggs can take up to 6 weeks to hatch and if conditions are good, around 90% of the baby snails will survive.
Giant African Land snails can lay up to 1ooo eggs in a year! In a bid to simulate the conditions which permit them to thrive in the wild, loamy soil is an imperative for your snailery substrate. This will facilitate easy laying of eggs and hatching baby snails as the case may be. The import of this is that snail farming in Nigeria requires minimal resources, since loamy soil is plentiful all across the country.
Snail farming in Nigeria -export commodity and FOREX earnings:
Escargot simply means snail meant for consumption. Like most molluscs, escargots are high in protein and low in fat content. Thus it is an advisable substitute for those on a diet to lose weight and even thsose with heart-related disorders. Escargots contain about 15% protein, 2.4% fat and about 80% water. It is a delicacy dish on restaurants’ menu especially in European countries including France, Spain and Portugal and even in the U.S.A.
There is an increasing demand on the international market for the Giant African snail, and you should aim to take advantage of this potential market. This will enable you to improve the profit margins of your snail farming business exponentially. So if you are involved in snail farming in Nigeria, there are several opportunities available to you to turn your snail farming business into a mega money business.
It is not that expensive to begin exporting your snails and start earning some hard currency. All you have to do is harvest your mature snails, process and sort them properly and store them in a freezer. For starters, you could start selling to reputable restaurants, frozen food depots. You could even sell directly to consumers by having your own retail outlet.
So, there you have it. In this post we have presented you with critical information on how to start snail farming business. We do hope you make use of this information appropriately by taking concrete steps about starting your own snail farm today. It’s a low capital business that anybody can do and really you don’t have much excuse for not starting.
If you wish to ask more questions or would like further clarifications, then feel free to ask your questions in the comment section. Snail farming in Nigeria is a potentially profitable business if you are ready to bid your time. Remember, the single most important driver of success in life is doggedness. Your future is in your own hands. You can also check out our extensive list of other businesses you can start with minimal capital in 2017 here. If you’d like to know more about grasscutter rearing or how to set up a sachet water business, then check out these easy to follow guides by me.
On a final note, snail farming in Nigeria is a business anybody can partake in, irrespective of level of education. And from everything that we have discussed thus far, money is not really a limiting factor. If you’d like to do a feasibility study or need a proffessional snail farming business plan, feel free to drop your requests in the comments section. We’ll get back to you. If you are a snail farmer already, we’d love to share in your valuable experiences too. See you at the top!