The potential of using tree and shrub biomass as feed in snail farming

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Snail farming has become important in Ghana and as the number of farmers and the number of snails increase, it would be necessary to find a sustainable source of feed for the animals. Snail farmers are already experiencing production related constrains as a result of poor husbandry practices such as inappropriate feeding and poor housing leading to low productivity. It was therefore decided to identify biomass of multipurpose trees and shrubs that are palatable to the Giant African Snail, Achatina achatina, and what it consumes in the wild. Field survey was conducted in twenty snail production localities in the East Akyem District of the Eastern Region of Ghana. The farmers were interviewed to obtain information on indigenous and underutilized multipurpose trees and shrubs which are palatable and available in large quantities for snail consumption, and to identify the important pest of snails using structured and semi-structured questionnaires. The survey identified fifteen herbaceous plants and twenty-one multipurpose tree species as potential forage for Achatina achatina. Fruits of Carica papaya and Citrus sinensis were recognized as being very palatable for snails and hence are utilised by all farmers interviewed in the study. Other palatable feedstuffs identified were the leaves of Voacanga africana and Persea americana while those of Aibizia zygia, and Artocarpus ultilis were least preferred species. The majority of farmers interviewed (64%) are in the age group between 51 and 70 years while only 4% are below 30 years. The study also showed the prevalence of driver ants and Aliuaudihellaflavicornis as a major constraint to snail production. A. achatina in its natural habitat was observed to consume seventeen feedstuffs. The studies also investigated the development of formulated feed for the giant African snail, using the biomass of indigenous tree and other plant materials. The availability of the identified feedstuff, palatability to the animal and the proportion of farmers who utilized the browse species to feed their stock were the major parameters used in the ranking of multipurpose tree biomass for feed formulation. Fruits of C. papaya, C. sinenesis F. americana and M indica were highly ranked however, these were not selected for feed formulation because of the difficulties in preservation and storage of their fruits. V africana, G. sepium and cocoa pod husk were identified as suitable for feed formulation in the study. Various proportions of V. africana, and G. sepium with or without cocoa husk were tested in a completely randomized block design feeding trials at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, Akyem Tafo. Two feeds formulated from 80% V africana and 20% G. sepium and 60% V. africana and 40% G. sepium elicited the best growth response in A. achatina. A level of inclusion of up to 80% V. africana and 40% G. sepium is recommended for snail ration. The high fibre content of cocoa husk limited its suitability as feed substance for A. achatina, however a level up to 10% may be included in snail ration for good growth.
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Science in Agroforestry, 2003