Snail farming also known as snail rearing or Heliculture or Heliciculture is the process of raising snails for subsistence or commercial purposes. Snails are Hermaphrodites meaning that a particular snail can act as a male as well as also act as a female.
Alternatively, Heliculture (snail rearing or snail farming) can also be defined as the process of raising land snails specifically for human consumption or use.
There so many things a snail could be used for, though eating snail as meat is the most commonly seen usage, snail shell, snail slime, snail eggs are all useful in some other areas of life (i.e. cosmetics etc.).
There are two main species of snail commonly reared in Nigeria and some other countries that has lots of market value and relevance and they include:
- AA = Achatina Achatina and
- AM = Achatina Maginata.
Achatina Achatina Snails are characterized by a tiger stripped yellow and black with a pointed tip while the Achatina Maginata snails have both yellow and black bands but more blurred with some what roundish and pinkish tip.
Achatina Achatina has its own uniqueness from Achatina Maginata for instance the rate of egg production, although Achatina Maginata eggs are usually bigger in size compared to that of the Achatina Achatina.
Achatina Achatina can lay up to 200 to 500 eggs per clutch and it can do so at least 3 to 5 times in a year and takes between 21 to 32 days for the eggs being laid to hatched.
Achatina Maginata is sturdy and fatter with a white or yellow tapered lid with sturdy end. The snail has a bulbous protoconch that is large and broad with a white or bluish-white columella, parietal wall and outer lip.
The shell of the snail can grow up to 21centimeters in diameter. The shell when magnified has the appearance of a woven texture.
Achatina Maginata snails for instance can start laying from 9 months old for instance to say at this stage, the snail have become sexually matured to start laying eggs.
In addition Achatina Maginata snails if matured can weight up to 500 to 600 grams, more so it can measure up to 20 to 25cm in length, can grow up to 20cm long and can live up to 10 years but it lays below 99 eggs, it does not lay much some even lay like 20 eggs while others lay like 50 eggs.
It takes a longer time to harvest an Achatina Achatina snails than that of Achatina Maginata but they produce more than the Achatina Maginata in terms of egg laying and hatching (production).
Meanwhile both species can be reared at the same place and the same time therefore I will advice you raise both species because although the Achatina Achatina is more productive, the Achatina Maginata is stronger in terms of survival rate.
Now let us take a look at a brief introduction to snail farming and its importance to man below:
Snail meat which is very nutritious can be a very cheap and viable supplement to the protein requirements for most people in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Unfortunately, due to ignorance of snails Farming techniques and modern snail breeding methods available, snails are still collected mainly from the wild by women and children and this is greatly leading to the extinction of this wonderful creature.
It has, therefore, become necessary to domesticate snails and organize snail Farming into a viable business as we are doing to fish and poultry farming as these have the potentials of supplementing the protein need of Nigerians and African, also for an alternative source of income and export opportunity for the country.
What Makes Snail Meat Unique?
Snails’ meat popularly referred to as “Congo meat” in local parlance is consumed in many countries of the world. In some countries, however, snails are considered a delicacy for the rich only because of its nutritional and medicinal benefits.
Snail meat simply known as escargot is popular meat of many Nigerians in the rural areas especially in the rain forest belt, where it is picked from the wild by children and women. When we were younger, we could go to the farm and find hundreds of snails clustered around our farm hut and these served good delicacies for us.
Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see snails as we used to see them around houses and farms, therefore there is an urgent need for many more people to be involved in snail farming.
The potentials for its domestication and commercialization in the country has not been fully harnessed or exploited, although many studies and experience have shown that snails Farming is highly profitable and productive if well managed with good snail farming equipment and techniques.
Nutritionally, snails meat is high in protein (12 – 16%) and Iron (45 – 50%), low in fat (0.5 – 0.08%) and contains almost all the amino acids needed by man, being also rich in vitamins.
Apart from the nutritional benefits, it is also known to have medicinal and cosmetic values hence the reason it is being sought for by pharmaceutical and cosmetic firms around the world.
In Nigeria for instance, from the rural perspective snails have become an income earner to the rural dwellers who are making a living from picking snails from the wild (Rain forest) and gathering to sell in the markets and roadside. They usually collect snails in the raining season when snails are mostly found.
In summary, Snail farming (Heliculture) is a very profitable agribusiness in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Cameroun and Kenya. However, the business seems to have been the most neglected among all the livestock businesses.
Snail farming is currently a profitable agribusiness with a high ROI; that is, you can make your profits within a short period. So if you dream of making it big in the agricultural sector, then consider heliciculture.
Read Also: Impact of Snail Farming on the Environment
Health Benefits of Eating Snails
As mentioned above, snails are high in proteins and water and low in fat. Additionally, there are many other health benefits of eating snails.
A 3-ounce serving of cooked snails delivers 76 calories with no cholesterol or sugar, as well as over one-third of an adult’s daily vitamin E requirement. It promotes the production of red blood cells that benefit muscles and other tissues.
Additionally, snail consumption can give you one-half of daily recommended selenium intake. Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that helps prevent heart disease, thyroid. Snails also contain minerals.
A single serving of escargots can provide you with one-sixth of the daily requirement of iron, as well as nearly 10 percent of the potassium, one-third of the phosphorus, and two-thirds of the magnesium.
Snails contain tryptophan which is important chemical human brains need. Eating snails thus can be a good mood booster.
What Do Snails Eat?
The snail despite its apparent sluggishness is a highly voracious feeder, depending on the choice of delicacies in its immediate environment. Snails feed on fruits, vegetables like cabbage, microscopic algae and moist leaves like banana or plantain leaves or lettuce.
Snails love lettuce and most vegetables we eat; they can also chow down on carrots, mangoes and apples. Snails prefer eating living plants, and you can also find them eating certain mushrooms and fallen leaves.
Other important food sources for your land snail can include algae, decaying leaves, flowers, and the bark of trees.
Snails also actively seek calcium because it is an important ingredient that helps build their shells. Snails are not strictly herbivores but more like omnivores because they are opportunistic feeders.
Snails also drink water so farmers should provide a source of water that is easily reachable.
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