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If you want to start a crawfish business, you're going to need space for a rice farm, hot weather, rain, money and time. Most of the crawfish sold in the United States come from Louisiana, a state with ideal conditions for raising crawfish. If you want to raise and sell crawfish for profit, you need to live in a state with the right conditions for raising these crustaceans.
Often referred to as "mudbugs," crawfish are actually less like bugs and more like rabbits or gophers because they burrow underground. People love to eat them, and if you can get your business up and running, there is almost always a demand for crawfish.
Plant a Rice Field
To start your business you'll need space for a field of rice. The size of the field will determine your yield. Rice crops are the perfect environment for crawfish. In order to plant rice, you'll need a flat, open field with clay in the soil, and access to water. Grow rice in two inches of water and plant your field in early March. By June, the rice should look like a thick field of grass.
Add "Seed" Crawfish
In June, the canopy of rice should be thick enough to keep the water cool underneath. This is when you add "seed" or young crawfish. You can purchase seed or source it from the wild. The best source is the Atchafalaya basin in South Central Louisiana. It is recommended that you plant 50 to 60 pounds of crawfish per acre of rice.
Harvest Rice in July
By mid-summer, the water should have drained from the rice field and the crawfish are in burrows underneath. Now is the time to harvest the rice which should be a golden field at this point in the season. If you have a big operation, you will need a combine to harvest your crop. Rice can be sold as a second crop in order to make extra money and offset the costs of the crawfish. Let the crawfish remain in their burrows and pray for rain. A drought can kill them.
Flood the Rice Field
If all went well and the weather cooperated, you can flood the rice field in late September then watch for the female crawfish. You should see them emerging from their burrows with baby crawfish attached to their tails. These babies are very tiny – about the size of ants. Each female should hatch 400 to 900 babies and can reproduce several times during a season. Crawfish typically take about 90 days to mature. This means that the babies born in early September can be harvested in late November, and subsequent groups will mature up until February.
Harvest the Crawfish
This usually begins in November during a warm year, but can take place as late as February. This is when you take your specialized crawfish boat out onto the field and begin catching the crawfish with bait – either fish or manufactured pellets. Mechanized boats are available for this task and can cost between $4,000 for a used one on up to $10,000 and more. The harvest is labor intensive and time-consuming. Expect to harvest into June.
Sell Your Crawfish
Because crawfish are perishable, you should be selling as you harvest.
The current price of crawfish in 2018:
- Live crawfish = $3.12 per pound
- Boiled crawfish = $4.46 per pound
Depending on the size of your crawfish operation and the success of your harvest, you should be able to make a decent living or earn some extra cash on the side.
Heather Skyler is a freelance journalist and novelist. Her work appears in The Daily Beast, The New York Times, GOOD magazine, the OC Register, Delta's SKY magazine and elsewhere.