Increasing Sustainability of Crawfish and Low Salinity Shrimp Production in West Alabama

Final report for FS20-322

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $12,581.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Greene Prairie Aquafarm, LLC
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
DAVID CODDINGTON
GREENE PRAIRIE AQUAFARM
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Project Information

Abstract:

Traditional versus Deep-water Crawfish System

We evaluated the production economics of crawfish farming in traditional and deep-water systems practiced on two commercial farms in west Alabama. We also proposed to evaluate the contribution that crawfish farming can make to a commercial saltwater shrimp farm enterprise as a diversification crop. After 2 years of data collection, we have produced limited enterprise budgets for each system.

The traditional system yielded much higher production and net income than the deep-water system.  Costs were similar for each, but the traditional method of flooding a cover crop was more efficient than feeding crawfish cattle pellets, fish feed fines and shrimp feed.  Yields for the traditional method as practiced in Alabama were similar to those practiced in rice fields.  Costs of production were about the same.

Trapping Efficiency 

We evaluated the efficiency of trapping on the shallow inner slopes of ponds instead of in the deeper pond bottom of deep-water ponds. Short-necked traps were placed on the slopes and long-necked traps on the bottoms.  The time required to harvest traps from the deeper pond bottom was not appreciably different from that required for the inner slopes.  While the shorter necked traps were much easier to handle than the long necked traps, the time it took to walk the perimeter of the pond was similar for both kinds of traps.  There appeared to be a slightly greater harvest quantity from the bottom placed traps, but the increased handleability of the shorter traps seemed to surmount the decreased catchability.  In the future, pond depth will be lowered so that the shorter necked traps can be placed on the bottom rather than the slopes.

Project Objectives:

Traditional versus Deep-water Systems

Two farms were studied to provide us with economic analyses of crawfish production.  At Greene Prairie Aquafarm (GPA) two deep-water earthen ponds ranging from 4 to 4.5 acres each and averaging 3 to 4 feet deep were originally stocked with crawfish in June of 2018. These ponds would provide data for economic analysis of deep-water crawfish systems for comparison with traditional crawfish and inland, low salinity shrimp systems. They would also serve as the study site for the deep vs shallow trapping portion of the study. 

Two traditional crawfish ponds at German Creek Crawfish (GCC), originally stocked in May of 2016, provided data for the economic analysis of a traditional forage crop based production system. These ponds are 6.5 and 7.5 acres in size and have an average depth of 3 ft. These ponds were planted annually during July with a mixture of sorghum and Japanese millet for forage at a seeding rate of 50 pounds per acre.

Records of total costs, harvest yield, and sales for deep-water and traditional ponds were recorded on each farm in order to accurately compare the two production systems. A limited economic analysis was applied to each system to develop an enterprise budget for each production strategy. The returns from crawfish production will also be compared to low salinity shrimp culture which will be farmed during the same time at GPA. Additionally, water temperatures were monitored with automated temperature measuring devices ( Onset HOBO temperature loggers, Bourne, MA) in all ponds to identify the level of influence pond depth had upon maintaining cooler temperatures and extending the harvest season.

Tall vs short traps

We tested the use of long and short necked traps for harvesting crawfish at GPA.  Short necked traps were 30" and the long necked were 53" total length.  The short necked traps were modified to be 8" taller than a typical pillow trap used in the Bayou.  The short traps were placed on the pond slopes in 18 to 24 inches of water and long neck traps were placed in 36 to 40 inches of water on the pond bottoms. The traps were alternated shallow and deep around the periphery of each pond with the same number of short and long necked traps in each pond.  On 3 different occasions the time it took to walk the ponds and harvest the traps was recorded.  On each occasion, the ponds were walked twice, once to harvest the short necked traps and once to harvest the long necked traps.  The total weights of crawfish were recorded for each harvest.

 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Jesse James - Producer
  • Dr. Luke Roy (Educator and Researcher)
  • DAVID TEICHERT-CODDINGTON (Researcher)

Research

Materials and methods:

Traditional versus Deep-water Systems

Two farms were studied to provide us with economic analyses of crawfish production in traditional crawfish and inland, low salinity deep water shrimp ponds. 

Greene Prairie Aquafarm, LLC (GPA) produces saltwater shrimp in low salinity water (2 to 3 ppt salinity)  using  earthen ponds ranging from 2 to 4.5 acres each and averaging 3.25 to 4.25 feet deep.  These ponds are designated deep-water ponds.  Three of these ponds were stocked with crawfish in June of 2018. The ponds also originally contained shrimp which were fed on a regular basis with a 32% protein pellet. The ponds were drained in 2018 without harvesting any crawfish.  The ponds were refilled and stocked again with shrimp in 2019.  During May - July the ponds were trapped for crawfish using long necked traps.  The ponds were drained again in October of that year to harvest the shrimp.  In 2020, the ponds were refilled, but not stocked with shrimp.  The ponds were fed twice a week starting in March at 20 lb/acre with catfish feed fines or cattle stocker pellets containing 13% protein. Trapping commenced the first week of April and terminated the third week of July.  These ponds will provide data for economic analysis of deep-water crawfish systems for comparison with  They will also serve as the study site for the deep vs shallow trapping portion of the study. 

Two traditional crawfish ponds at German Creek Crawfish (GCC), originally stocked in May of 2018, provided data for the economic analysis of a traditional forage crop based production system. These ponds are 6.5 and 7.5 acres in size and have an average depth of 3 ft. These ponds were planted annually during July with a mixture of sorghum and Japanese millet for forage at a seeding rate of 50 pounds per acre.

Records of total costs, harvest yield, and sales for deep-water and traditional ponds will be recorded on each farm in order to accurately compare the two production systems. A limited economic analysis will be applied to each system to develop an enterprise budget for each production strategy. The returns from crawfish production will also be compared to low salinity shrimp culture which will be farmed during the same time at GPA. Additionally, water temperatures will be monitored with automated temperature measuring devices ( Onset HOBO temperature loggers, Bourne, MA) in all ponds to identify the level of influence pond depth has upon maintaining cooler temperatures and extending the harvest season.

 

Long vs short traps

We tested the use of long and short necked traps for harvesting crawfish at GPA.  Short necked traps were 30″ and the long necked were 53″ total length.  The short necked traps were modified to be 8″ taller than a typical pillow trap used in the Bayou.  The short traps were placed on the pond slopes in 18 to 24 inches of water and long neck traps were placed in 36 to 40 inches of water on the pond bottoms. The traps were alternated shallow and deep around the periphery of each pond with the same number of short and long necked traps in each pond.  On 3 different occasions the time it took to walk the ponds and harvest the traps was recorded.  On each occasion, the ponds were walked twice, once to harvest the short necked traps and once to harvest the long necked traps.  The total weights of crawfish were recorded for each harvest.

Research results and discussion:

Short vs. Long Neck Traps

The mean time taken to harvest tall and short neck traps was similar for both ponds.  Even though the tall traps were more difficult to handle, the majority of the time to harvest the traps was to walk the pond perimeter.  Mean production of tall traps placed on pond bottoms was very similar to those placed on pond slopes in N15.  In S8, the production appeared greater in the tall traps than in the short traps, however 95% confidence intervals placed around both means overlapped, so the means were not significantly different.  

Harvesting tall traps in deep water was more daunting and energy sapping than harvesting short traps.  This is because deeper water inhibits movement, and because the tall traps most be lifted much higher in the air in order to dump out the crawfish. The repetition of this action is quite tiring.  In 2021, pond depths will be lowered in order to make harvesting simpler.  Additionally, the placement of tall traps will be modified to allow them to be more easily removed for dumping and then replaced.  In the shallower pond, all traps will be placed on the pond bottom and none on the slopes.  It is thought that this may increase the catchability of traps.

Table 2. Summary of testing tall vs. short neck traps during 2020.

Pond S8 
  Tall Traps Short Traps 
Date Wt (lbs) Time (min) Wt (lbs) Time (min)
14-May-20 16.6 32.5 8.3 27
15-May-20 5.6 30 3 25
22-May-20 17.9 30 7.9 32
29-May-20 10.9 31 7.7 28
Total 51.0 123.5 26.9 112.0
Mean 12.8 30.9 6.7 28.0
STDEV 5.65 1.18 2.50 2.94
CI (.05) 5.54 1.16 2.45 2.88
         
Pond N15
  Tall Traps Short Traps
Date Wt (lbs) Time (min) Wt (lbs) Time (min)
14-May-20 8.8 38 9 35
22-May-20 10.1 31 7.1 29
29-May-20 5.5 30 5.2 40
Total 24.4 99.0 21.3 104.0
Mean 8.1 33.0 7.1 34.7
STDEV 2.37 4.36 1.90 5.51
CI (.05) 2.32 4.27 1.86 5.40

 

German Creek Crawfish 

Production and limited enterprise budgets for 2 ponds at GCC follow.  Yields ranged from 334 to 813 lbs/A, and returns above costs ranged from $487 to $1,805/A.  Even the lower yielding ponds were profitable.  These ponds have been in production since 2016 and their yields have stabilized over time.  Initially, there was some financial loss when the new ponds did not produce as expected.  

GCC ponds were initially constructed for catfish, so mid depth and depth at the drain end would be 3 to 4 ft.  This depth is too great for crawfish and traps, so traps are placed only along the inside periphery and in the shallow end of the ponds.  Crawfish ponds are usually shallow and the whole pond bottom can be laid out with traps.  

During both years the yield from BD North pond was much greater than that from BD South.  Also, the crawfish in PD North are larger than those in PD South.  These ponds lie next to each other, so the difference is thought to be due to filling time.  Both ponds are planted with millet in late July, but BD North is flooded in October and BD South is not flooded until January.  It is thought that the earlier flooding gives crawfish greater access to food and a longer growing season.  These ponds are rented from someone who hunts ducks and therefore has alternative goals for the use of ponds.

Crawfish harvested in GCC ponds during 2020
Pond Wt (lbs) Area (Ac) lbs/A Net returns ($/A)  
BD North 5593 7.5 746 1,660  
BD South 3115 6.5 479

885

 
Crawfish harvested in GCC ponds during 2021
Pond Wt (lbs) Area (Ac) lbs/A Net returns ($/A)  
BD North 6097 7.5 812.9 1,805  
BD South 2169 6.5 333.7 487  

Enterprise Budgets for GCC

GCC BD North in 2020
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 5593 $3.00 $16,779.00
Total Reciepts $16,779.00
         
Supplies        
seed lb 300 $0.75 $225.00
traps # 100 $2.55 $255.00
sacks # 100 $0.37 $37.00
bait lb 120 $0.30 $36.00
Rent acre 7.5 $300.00 $2,250.00
         
Labor        
harvest hr 118 $13.00 $1,534.00
sales hr 25 $13.00 $325.00
         
Total costs $4,662.00
per acre       621.6
per lb       $0.83
         
Returns over total costs $12,117.00
per acre       1615.60
per lb       $2.17

 

GCC BD South in 2020
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 3115 $3.00 $9,345.00
Total Reciepts $9,345.00
         
Supplies        
seed lb 260 $0.75 $195.00
traps # 80 $2.55 $204.00
sacks # 36 $0.37 $13.32
bait lb 100 $0.30 $30.00
Rent acre 6.5 $300.00 $1,950.00
         
Labor        
harvest hr 78 $13.00 $1,014.00
sales hr 14 $13.00 $182.00
         
Total costs $3,588.32
per acre       $552.05
per lb       $1.15
         
Returns over total costs $5,756.68
per acre       885.64
per lb       $1.85

 

GCC Combined in 2020
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 8708 $3.00 $26,124.00
Total Reciepts $26,124.00
         
Supplies        
seed lb 560 $0.75 $420.00
traps # 180 $2.55 $459.00
sacks # 136 $0.37 $50.32
bait lb 220 $0.30 $66.00
Rent acre 14 $300.00 $4,200.00
         
Labor        
harvest hr 196 $13.00 $2,548.00
sales hr 39 $13.00 $507.00
         
Total costs $8,250.32
per acre       589.31
per lb       $0.95
         
Returns over total costs $17,873.68
per acre       1374.90
per lb       $2.05

 

BD North in 2021
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 6097 $3.00 $18,291.00
Total Reciepts $18,291.00
         
Supplies        
seed lb 300 $0.75 $225.00
traps # 100 $2.55 $255.00
sacks # 100 $0.37 $37.00
bait lb 120 $0.30 $36.00
Supplemental feed lb   $0.00 $0.00
Rent lb 7.5 $300.00 $2,250.00
Labor        
harvest hr 120 $13.00 $1,560.00
sales hr 30 $13.00 $390.00
         
Total costs $4,753.00
per acre       $633.73
per lb       $0.78
         
Returns over total costs $13,538.00
per acre       $1,805.07
per lb       $2.22

 

BD South in 2021
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 2169 $3.00 $6,507.00
Total Reciepts $6,507.00
         
Supplies        
seed lb 260 $0.75 $195.00
traps # 80 $2.55 $204.00
sacks # 36 $0.37 $13.32
bait lb 100 $0.30 $30.00
Supplemental feed lb   $0.00 $0.00
Rent acre 6.5 300 $1,950.00
Labor        
harvest hr 63 $13.00 $819.00
sales hr 10 $13.00 $130.00
         
Total costs $3,341.32
per acre       $514.05
per lb       $1.54
         
Returns over total costs $3,165.68
per acre       $487.03
per lb       $1.46

 

GCC Combined 2021
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 8266 $3.00 $24,798.00
Total Reciepts $24,798.00
         
Supplies        
seed lb 560 $0.75 $420.00
traps # 180 $2.55 $459.00
sacks # 136 $0.37 $50.32
bait lb 220 $0.30 $66.00
Supplimental feed lb 0 $0.00 $0.00
Rent acre 14 300 $4,200.00
Labor        
harvest hr 183 $13.00 $2,379.00
sales hr 40 $13.00 $520.00
         
Total costs $8,094.32
per acre       $578.17
per lb       $0.98
         
Returns over total costs $16,703.68
per acre       1193.12
per lb       $2.02

Greene Prairie Aquafarm

The total quantity of crawfish harvested in  ponds at GPA during 2020 and 2021 appear in the following tables.  Pond N14 produced an acceptable quantity of crawfish, but ponds N15 and S8 produced relatively few crawfish in 2020.  In fact, many more crawfish were harvested in N15 and S8, but they were unmarketably small and thrown back to the pond.  These ponds were regularly fed with cattle cubes, but crawfish did not gain much weight.  We think that grass carp, put in these ponds earlier to control weeds, ate the cattle cubes and other vegetative material that crawfish might have consumed.  So N15 and S8, were drained and the carp removed.  The inside periphery of the ponds were seeded with Japanese millet, and then refilled in the fall once the millet had grown. 

In 2021 production was remarkably higher in N15 and S8, but lower in N14.  There was an episode of low dissolved oxygen in N14 and dead, marketable size crawfish were observed floating around the edges of the pond.  Also, green sunfish were occasionally observed in N14 traps.  The sunfish likely consumed young crawfish.  Production was subsequently lower in this pond. 

Removal of grass carp from ponds N15 and S8 allowed these ponds to produce much higher quantities of crawfish.  Crawfish ponds need to be kept free of fish that may compete for food or consume the crawfish directly.  While this observation comports with proper aquaculture management, it is difficult to keep ponds free of sunfish that inhabit the streams to which crawfish ponds are discharged.  For example, Pond N14 had been drained at the end of 2020 and it was during this time that the green sunfish were able to infiltrate the pond.  These fish are able to ascend moving water from draining ponds.

In 2021 we added another pond to crawfish production.  This was Pond N10 which was a shrimp production pond.  The crawfish had stocked themselves in this pond by crawling out of Pond N14 during 2019 and 2020 seasons. We set out traps in half of this pond in 2021 and were able to catch a significant quantity of crawfish.   The number of traps was increased for the 2022 season to go around the whole periphery of N10 with the expectation that this pond would produce much crawfish after another year of natural population expansion.  No special food is given to these crawfish, so their harvest is largely free of costs.  A disadvantage of locating traps in the shrimp pond is that shrimp also become caught in the traps after they reach 8 to 10 g in size.  They have to be separated from the crawfish and released back to the pond or they will die.  As a result, the traps are discontinued in late June even though crawfish are still being caught.

Crawfish harvested in GPA ponds during 2020

 

Pond

Wt (lbs)

Area (Ac)

lbs/A

Net returns ($/A)

N15

574

6

96

 

S8

865

4.8

180

-8.26

N14

1446

1.75

826

1601

 

 

 

 

 

Crawfish harvested in GPA ponds during 2021

 

Pond

Wt (lbs)

Area (Ac)

lbs/A

Net returns ($/A)

N15

940

6

156.7

170

S8

2356

4.8

490.8

865

N14

851

1.75

486.3

709

N10

566

4

141.5

299

 

Economics of Production in GPA Ponds

Limited enterprise budgets were made for each of our crawfish production ponds for each year.  These budgets are limited because they are based primarily on operating costs, and with the presumption that ponds had already been constructed for other purposes.  Pond construction and land costs would represent a much larger fixed investment to anybody just getting into the business.

GPA Pond N14 in 2020
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 1446 $2.61 $3,779.61
Total Reciepts $3,779.61
         
Supplies        
seed lb   $0.00 $0.00
traps (5 yr life) # 39 $12.75 $99.45
sacks #   $0.00 $0.00
bait lb 323 $0.30 $96.90
Supplemental feed lb 1 $366.00 $366.00
Misc        
Labor        
harvest hr 28 $13.00 $364.00
sales hr 4 $13.00 $52.00
         
Total costs $978.35
per acre       559.06
per lb       0.68
         
Returns over total costs $2,801.26
per acre       $1,600.72
per lb       $1.94

 

GPA Pond S8 in 2020
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 864.9 $2.66 $2,302.41
Total Reciepts $2,302.41
         
Supplies        
seed lb   $0.00 $0.00
traps (5 yr life) # 91 $12.75 $232.05
sacks #   $0.00 $0.00
bait lb 900 $0.30 $270.00
Supplemental feed lb 1 $1,086.00 $1,086.00
Misc        
Labor        
harvest hr 50 $13.00 $650.00
sales hr 8 $13.00 $104.00
         
Total costs $2,342.05
per acre       $487.93
per lb       $2.71
         
Returns over total costs -$39.64
per acre       -$8.26
per lb       -$0.05

 

GPA Combined in 2020
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 2310.9 $2.63 $6,082.02
Total Reciepts $6,082.02
       
Supplies      
seed lb 0 $0.00 $0.00
traps (5 yr life) # 130 $12.75 $331.50
sacks # 0 $0.00 $0.00
bait lb 1223 $0.30 $366.90
Supplemental feed lb 2 $366.00 $1,452.00
       
Labor      
harvest hr 78 $13.00 $1,014.00
sales hr 12 $13.00 $156.00
       
Total costs $3,320.40
per acre     $506.93
per lb     $1.44
       
Returns over total costs $2,761.62
per acre     $421.62
per lb     $1.20

 

GPA Pond N14 2021
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 851.3 $2.72 $2,319.40
Total Reciepts $2,319.40
         
Supplies        
seed lb 1 $100.00 $100.00
traps (5 yr life) # 39 $12.75 $99.45
sacks #   $0.00 $0.00
bait lb 323 $0.30 $96.90
Supplemental feed lb 1 $366.00 $366.00
         
Labor        
harvest hr 28 $13.00 $364.00
sales hr 4 $13.00 $52.00
         
Total costs $1,078.35
per acre       616.2
per lb       1.27
         
Returns over total costs $1,241.05
per acre       $709.17
per lb       $1.46

 

GPA Pond S8 2021
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 2356.4 $2.76 $6,496.62
Total Reciepts $6,496.62
         
Supplies        
seed lb   $0.00 $0.00
traps (5 yr life) # 91 $12.75 $232.05
sacks #   $0.00 $0.00
bait lb 900 $0.30 $270.00
Supplemental feed lb 1 $1,086.00 $1,086.00
         
Labor        
harvest hr 50 $13.00 $650.00
sales hr 8 $13.00 $104.00
         
Total costs $2,342.05
per acre       $487.93
per lb       $0.99
         
Returns over total costs $4,154.57
per acre       $865.54
per lb       $1.76

 

GPA Combined 2021
Item units Quantity $/Unit Total
Receipts      
live sales lb 3207.7 $2.75 $8,816.02
Total Reciepts $8,816.02
       
Supplies      
seed lb 1 $100.00 $100.00
traps (5 yr life) # 130 $12.75 $331.50
sacks # 0 $0.00 $0.00
bait lb 1223 $0.30 $366.90
Supplemental feed lb 2 $726.00 $1,812.00
       
Labor      
harvest hr 78 $13.00 $1,014.00
sales hr 12 $13.00 $156.00
       
Total costs $3,780.40
per acre     $577.16
per lb     $1.18
       
Returns over total costs $5,035.62
per acre     $768.80
per lb     $1.57

 

Comparison of Farm Production Characteristics

Comparison of German Creek Crawfish (GCC) and Greene Prairie Aquafarm (GPA). Each year is an average of the 2 ponds studied for each farm.
Farm Year Acres Yield (lb/A) Receipts ($/A) Total Costs ($/A) Net Receipts ($/A) Net Receipts ($/lb)
GCC 2020 7 622 1866 589 1375 2.05
GCC 2021 7

590

1771 578 1193 2.02
GPA 2020 3.3 353 929 506 422 1.44
GPA 2021 3.3 490 1346 577 769 1.57

The production yields were significantly higher for GCC than GPA.  It is probable that harvest pressure was slightly greater at GCC and this would have accounted for some of the higher yields.  However, crawfish grew better at GCC most probably because they had more food available to them in the form of planted forage crops.  The traditional system that relies on annual plantings of crops like millet and sorghum seem to do better.  In Louisiana, the crawfish rely on forage from rice that often is double cropped with crawfish.   

In 2020, GPA relied totally on added feed products like cattle cubes, catfish feed fines and shrimp feed.  In the Fall of 2020, the ponds were seeded around the peripheries with Japanese millet so that a partial cover crop grew before flooding.  In February of 2021, several large round hay bails were rolled into the ponds and unravelled at a rate of about 1 roll per 1.5 acres to provide additional forage for crawfish.  Cattle pellets, catfish feed fines and some shrimp feed was added to ponds as in 2020.  In essence, a hybrid approach was taken in 2021 between the traditional forage system and the deep water feed approach taken the year before.

Net economic returns were much greater for GCC than GPA.  This was due in small part to a higher selling price of $3.00/lb compared to $2.75/lb at GPA. However, the great difference between economic returns at the two farms was directly related to greater yields at GCC, because the costs were similar for both farms.  The efficiency of production per input cost was much greater at GCC.  Costs at GCC included a significant charge for rent that GPA did not have.  The cost of feeds and feed products for GAA were higher per acre than seed for forage crops at GCC.

In the future, GPA will trend towards the traditional system and seed ponds with a cover crop for flooding later in the Fall where possible.  One of our ponds is difficult to drain, so this pond will be supplied with hay bails and low amounts of feed products.

Average yields of crawfish in rice fields has been reported as 600 lbs/A and cost of production as $750/A.  The yields and and costs associated with the Alabama traditional system are similar.  This is surprising given that crawfish farming is not practiced to a great extent in Alabama because it is not thought to be very profitable.  Net returns per pound at both farms was between $1.44 and $2.05.  This is high for an animal product.  However, the season is limited and the labor requirements for working the ponds is high and arduous during the harvest period.  These factors probably tend to limit entrance to farming crawfish.  Also, the ponds in this case study were built for other purposes and the costs were not included in the enterprise budget.  However, there are quite a number of extinct catfish ponds in the surrounding counties that could be put into crawfish production without a high investment.

Crawfish as a Diversification for Shrimp Farming

GPA is primarily a shrimp farm and an objective of this study was to evaluate if crawfish farming might be useful for diversifying production or for adding an additional product to ponds already producing shrimp.  Net income with crawfish at GPA ranged from $422 to $769/A.  Yields will be higher in the future as the system stabilizes.  Comparable shrimp income might be 2 to 3 times that amount.  However, the costs and risks of producing crawfish are far less than for shrimp.   Crawfish is a good product for ponds that are difficult to drain or not easily managed.   They are not as productive as shrimp, but the demand is high, the costs of production are relatively low, and risks are minimal.

The addition of crawfish to shrimp ponds as an co-product to increase net income seemed simple, but is not problem free.  First, shrimp ponds cannot be seeded with a cover crop, nor can hay be added for forage.  Shrimp ponds are filled during the Winter and drained in September to October every year.  Crawfish can repopulate these ponds naturally, but many young are lost during draining.  Crawfish trapping begins in late March and could continue through the first of July.  Shrimp are stocked in early May and become big enough to get caught in crawfish traps by mid June.  Therefore, traps must be removed from ponds before crawfish harvest is completed.  Also, the labor requirements of crawfish harvest overlap to an extent with those required to acquire, acclimate and stock shrimp.  However, the crawfish catch from shrimp ponds can be sizable and the costs are minimal, so they can be a good co-product with shrimp.  There are early indications that an additional net income of $500 to $600/A might be harvested from shrimp ponds as crawfish.

 

 

 

Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

8 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
1 Tours
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

4 Farmers participated
2 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

There are a number of crawfish farmers in the immediate area besides the two participating in this study.  Communication takes place informally with all of these producers from time to time.  Most often, information is shared about production , selling price of crawfish, bait usage and importation of shrimp from outside the State for sales purposes.  These has been discussion about forming a crawfish producer's association to formalize these discussions.  After the studies are repeated in 2021, we expect to have convene a meeting with all the producers.

Learning Outcomes

2 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

2 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

After 2 years of study on 2 farms, we determined that the traditional way of seeding fallow ponds with plants such as Japanese millet and then flooding these ponds is more productive of crawfish, and yields significantly more net income than feeding crawfish in deep-water ponds with a combination of fish feed fines, beef cattle cubes (20% protein) and shrimp feed.  Crawfish yields and costs to produce in Alabama traditional ponds were similar to that reported for crawfish culture in rice fields.

The use of long-necked traps in deep water ponds will be abandoned where practical in favor of shorter necked traps.  The shorter traps are much easier to deploy and harvest.  In order to make the use of shorter traps possible, we will lower the water level in the deep ponds by 12 to 18 inches.  Shallower ponds will also allow for easier movement in the ponds while working the traps. 

The labor to deploy and harvest traps became a demonstrable issue while working the traps in shallow and deep-water ponds.  The traps are worked 2 to 3 times a week.  Anything that makes the repetitive nature of trapping easier and less time consuming becomes important to the labor force as well as to the economics of trapping.  Crawfish farming on a large scale is done with specially designed harvest boats and very short traps.  Our smaller scale crawfish farming relies on people to walk the ponds to deploy, bait and harvest the traps.

Crawfish culture as a diversification crop on shrimp farms can be useful if existing ponds are difficult to drain or have other management problems. Crawfish can be quite profitable. However, net income from shrimp can be 2 to 3 times that of crawfish, so substituting crawfish for shrimp is not economically advantageous. Crawfish yields in shrimp ponds also stocked with shrimp can be sizable and the costs are minimal, so crawfish can be a good co-product with shrimp.  There are early indications that an additional net income of $500 to $600/A might be harvested from shrimp ponds as crawfish.  However, the labor to work crawfish overlaps with the crucial time period when the shrimp farmer must acquire and acclimate baby shrimp and stock shrimp ponds.  Large scale polyculture of shrimp and crawfish would require a significantly larger labor force from April to June.

Participants

No participants
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.