Selecting Stock and Daily Operation of Snail breeding

The management in the extensive snail farming(Snail breeding) in free-range pens is well reduced as the snails only follow their natural life cycle and Interference from the snail farmer is restricted to the daily removal of any dead snails, refilling watering troughs, and also making sure that the moisture in the pen is constant even during dry season, and occasionally harvesting mature snails for sale.

But in semi-intensive or intensive snail farming you will have to be managing the snails during the successive stages of their life cycle such as egg laying, hatching, growing and maturity. Management activities proceed in tune with the snails' life cycle, which in turn follows the seasons with their periods of snail activity.


Selecting breeding stock

When selecting a Snail breeding stock for your snail farm It is better to use sexually mature snails, weighing at least 100-125 g, as initial breeding stock. Farming should preferably start at
the onset of the wet season because that is the time snails normally start to breed.
The most reliable way of obtaining parental stock is from known breeders, or from agricultural institutes. Such parent snails might be more expensive than snails from other sources, but they are better and safer because they have been properly fed and managed from hatching, and have not been damaged during collection and subsequent handling. Once the snail farm is established, farmers should select breeding stock from their own snails. Breeding stock must be selected in the wet season preceding aestivation Simple records kept by snail farmers can provide the necessary information.

As a general rule, the fastest growers with the strongest shells should be selected as breeding stock. The stronger its shell, the better the snail is protected against predators.


6.2 Nursery

If you are operating an intensive snail farming(Snail breeding), you should place the selected snail that you want to use as breeding stock in hutch boxes or trench pens, which must contain feed and water troughs.
You might want to allow snails to lay eggs in the grower pens, and then transfer the eggs to the nursery boxes or pens, but this is not recommended. It may be difficult to locate the eggs, and the eggs may be physically damaged during the transfer. After egg laying, the parent snails should be returned to their grower pens.

Generally, snails lay between 100 and 400 eggs. The eggs are broadly oval and measure about 5 mm long. They are usually laid in round-shaped holes dug 2-5 cm deep in the soil. Occasionally they are laid on the soil surface or at the base of plants. Snail eggs require a certain amount of warmth to induce hatching. They usually hatch 12-20 days after laying.

Young snails do best if they are kept with snails of the same size. Usually, a parent snail lays several clutches in a year. A parent snail may produce several clutches a year and the incubation period of snail eggs is around 4 weeks. Hatchlings remain underground for 2-5 days after hatching.

 Seasonal and daily management
Just like any other livestock farming operation, good management practices are the key to success. In semi-intensive or intensive snail farming, farmers keep and care for hatchlings, growers and breeding snails in separate hutch boxes or pens.

Hatchlings

Hatchlings require a lot more humid conditions than adult snails. You feed them with tender leaves, such as paw paw and/or cocoyam, and a calcium supplement for good shell development. You should make sure that the soil in their pens are kept moist and enough water should be provided. The pens should be fitted with small wire mesh or nylon mesh so that the small snails will not escape. Hatchlings and juveniles may be kept at a density of around 100/m2.

Growers
When the hatchlings reach three months of age they should be transferred to a separate pen at a stocking density of 30-40 snails/m2. To increase their growth rate you can be giving them compound feed, rich in crude protein, calcium and phosphorus, besides their normal diet.

Breeders

When the growers reach around the age of 10 to 12 months they should be transferred to boxes or pens at a density of 10-15 snails/m2, soil in the pens should be loosened to facilitate egg laying. The breeders' feed must be rich in crude protein and calcium. Any egg you find on the surface must be buried promptly to a depth of 1 to 2 cm. Before hatching, the soil on top of the clutches might be loosened or removed to facilitate uniform emergence. After the hatchlings emerge, the breeders must be removed to their growing pens soon to avoid cannibalism.

  
The following daily management activities are very important:


Soil

You must keep the soil moist by mulching and watering in the dry season. Change soil in the cages every three months.

Hygiene

Check the pens for any dead snails and remove them immediately. Do not use insecticides or herbicides in your snailery. Handle your snails carefully and wash them with water from time to time.

Recording


Record inputs and output of your snail farm daily. Include your own labour or that of family members, and inputs, like food or repairs to the pens to keep track of your expenses.

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