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Raising crawfish can be a profitable endeavor, but it's not without risk. You need the right location, environment and pond design, along with sufficient money to buy your initial seed crawfish. Keep in mind that harvesting crawfish is also a lot of hard work! But with dedication and passion for the industry, you can have a profitable business that involves a lot of time outdoors.
Items you will need
Property for raising crawfish, including a pond on open, flat land
Water pumps, boats and crawfish traps
Adequate start-up money that can wait six to nine months for profit
Cash reserves to cover equipment failure and weather issues
Time to work long hours during harvest
Location, Location, Location
The majority of crawfish farming takes place in Louisiana. Some other states with similar climates, such as Texas and Mississippi, also produce crawfish. Finding the right environment is the key to this industry, because heavy drought seasons or unseasonably warm weather can reduce your crop significantly.
The state where you choose to farm your crawfish isn't the only type of location you need to worry about. Your crawfish pond should be in an open, flat area with clay soil. Clay holds water better, helping crawfish to burrow without farmers' having to worry about the burrows collapsing and killing the crop.
Utilizing a Rice Crop
One way to make a profit and recoup some of the costs of raising crawfish is by having two crops in your pond: a crawfish crop and a rice crop. Plant the rice crops between March and April in 2 inches of water. Around June, when the rice has grown in thickly, seed the pond with crawfish you've either purchased from another source or caught in the wild.
The most commonly used crawfish species for farming are red swamp crawfish and white river crawfish, with red swamp accounting for about 70 percent of production. The seeded crawfish dig burrows underground as temperatures warm. Around July, you'll be ready to harvest the rice.
The Importance of Rain
After you've harvested the rice crop, rain is vital to your crawfish crop's survival. A drought can cause many of your crawfish to die in their burrows. If there's not enough rain, you can pump water into the crop to make up for the difference. However, crawfish may not respond as well to artificial irrigation. Farmers commonly flood their crops with water when temperatures have started to cool, around late September.
After the ponds are flooded with water, female crawfish exit their burrows with their babies. A typical female can produce 400 to 900 babies per crop. The babies and adults feed on any stubble left from the rice harvest. While growing, the crawfish molt multiple times. Each time they molt, they come out with a soft body that can be nearly twice as large as its previous shell. The timing of the actual harvest depends on the weather. In colder seasons you may harvest your crawfish in February, and in warmer seasons you typically harvest your crop in November.
The harvest itself is a time-consuming, difficult process. Be ready for long hours! You'll need a boat and bait boxes. In warmer seasons, you'll put bait pellets in the bait boxes to lure the crawfish inside and then haul the boxes full of crawfish into your boat. You can buy crawfish bait pellets at most feed stores. In colder harvest seasons, you'll use fish pieces in the bait boxes instead. Harvest season lasts until the crawfish create new burrows in the clay soil after the temperatures warm up. This is typically in late June or early July. Raising crawfish for profit is a year-round endeavor, not just a part-time, seasonal job. Make sure, before you make this commitment, that you're ready to put in the time needed to bring in a profit.
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.