Snail farming business also known as Heliciculture or Heliculture or snail rearing is the process of raising edible land snails, primarily for human consumption or cosmetic use.
With soil being a major part of a snails habitat. Soil composition, water content and texture are important factors to consider in site selection due to the following reasons:
- The snail’s shell is made up mainly of calcium derived from the soil and from feed.
- Snails derive most of their water requirements from the soil.
- Snails dig in the soil to lay their eggs and to rest during the dry season.
Because of all these reasons, it is essential that the soil is loose and that its calcium and water content is high. You must be aware of the fact that Heavy, clayey soil that becomes waterlogged in the rainy season and compacts during the dry season is undesirable also very sandy soil is undesirable as well because of its low water holding capacity.
Acidic soils should be avoided because acidity would interfere with the development of the snail’s shell. Soils that are too acidic might be neutralized with lime to about pH 7.
Soils with high organic matter support the growth and development of snails. In general, if a soil supports good growth of cocoyam, tomatoes and leafy vegetables, it is suitable for snail farming.
Before introducing snails to the site, the soil should be loosened by tilling because Snails need damp, not wet, environments. Although snails need moisture, you must drain wet or waterlogged soil. Similarly, rain water must run off promptly. Snails breathe air and may drown in overly wet surroundings. A soil moisture content of 80% of field capacity is favorable. In the hours of darkness, air humidity over 80% will promote good snail activity and growth.
Most snail activity, including feeding, occurs at night, with peak activity taking place 2 to 3 hours after the onset of darkness. The cooler temperature stimulates activity, and the night-time dew helps the snail move easily. Snails like to hide in sheltered places during most of the day.
In Nigeria for instance, shredded semi-dry banana leaves are put in the snail pens for the snails to hide under during daytime.
To maintain adequate humidity and moisture levels in drier locations, misting sprayers can be used (like those used for plant propagation) if technically and economically feasible.
Snail shells are 97-98% calcium carbonate; therefore, calcium must be available to them, either from the soil or from an external source (ground limestone, egg shells and so on). Organic matter in the soil is as important as carbonates. Soils that are rich in exchangeable calcium and magnesium stimulate growth best. Calcium may also be set out in a feeding dish or trough so the snails can eat it at will.
Snails dig in soil and ingest it. Good soil favors snail growth and provides some of their nutrition. Lack of access to good soil may result in fragile shells even if the snails have well-balanced feed; the snails’ growth may lag far behind the growth of other snails on good soil. Snails often eat feed, then eat dirt. Sometimes, they eat only one or the other.
Eventually the soil in the snail pens will become fouled with mucus and droppings. Chemical changes may also occur. The soil must therefore, be changed once every three months.
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