If you are looking for an innovative business idea, then starting a farm to table business like a crawfish farm might just be the ticket to entrepreneurial success. If you want to know how to start a crawfish farm, then the first thing you’re going to need to do is know how to grow the crawfish in the first place. You’ll also need to have some consistent weather conditions, plenty of patience, and have enough of a flood plain available for the animals to burrow in during the summer.
It can be challenging to start and then run a crawfish farm, but there are many rewards available if you’re able to do it right. Here are some of the skills that you’ll need to develop in order to have a higher chance of success with this unique entrepreneurial opportunity.
1. Get Ready to Grow Some Rice
The crawfish growing season typically begins in either late March or early April. It doesn’t begin with the inclusion of “seed” crawfish into a bond, however, because it’s too early for that. It actually begins with the growing of rice. You’ll need to have a large enough pond or paddy to grow a fairly thick crop. It isn’t until the rice canopy has grown thick enough to cover the water and keep its temperatures cooler that you can introduce crawfish into the pond. The good news, however, is that the rice you grow can also be sold commercially if you wish.
2. Find a Seed Crawfish Supplier
Most seed crawfish come from somewhere in the South Central United States. The prices can vary from season to season, but if you’re starting a farm, you’ll need to have these starter animals. You could go hunting for your own crawfish to introduce from the wild, but that can be a time intensive effort. For a successful farming experience, you’ll need to introduce the animals to your water while it is still cool.
3. Then You Just Wait… And Wait Some More
Spring will turn into Summer and the waters will begin to warm up somewhat. As the waters begin to warm, the crawfish will begin to burrow into the ground. This is why many people like to call them “mud bugs.” As you hit the warm weeks of July, you’ll need to drain your pond so that the rice crop can be harvested after it matures. This is where the weather plays a major role in the success of your farm and forces you to wait. It isn’t just water that the crawfish need from rain as they survive in their burrows. It’s barometric pressure changes.
4. Flood the Ponds After Summer Turns to Fall
Once you’ve harvested the rice and the cooler temperatures of Autumn start to seep in, you’re ready to flood your ponds once again. This will cause the crawfish to emerge, assuming the weather has been right, and there will be hundreds of young crayfish coming out of the burrows with their mothers. The animals feed on the rice leftovers and this causes them to molt. It will generally take about 3 months for your crawfish crop to come of age.
5. Knowing the Weather Will Help You Know When to Harvest
Crawfish are very sensitive to the weather, so if you have colder weather that dominates in your region, you could be waiting an entire year to begin harvesting crayfish from your first rice field planting. Warmer weather might mean getting your first crawfish harvest as soon as November. Once you’ve got the farm started, however, you’ll be able to continue harvesting until the crawfish burrow into the ground for the warmer months once again. Then you just continue the cycle as described in the steps above.
6. You’ve Got to Know How to Catch Crawfish
The most labor intensive part of crawfish farming comes from the harvest period. Unlike other livestock products, crawfish are caught using bait. Farmers will set traps with either fish or pellets, depending on the weather conditions, and you’ll need to invest into a crawfish boat in order to have the most time efficient and successful harvest. Catching crawfish can happen all Winter and Spring, so it can be thoroughly exhausting.
7. Salt Water Isn’t Going to Clean Your Crawfish Properly
What will set your crawfish farm apart from all the rest in your area is how you clean your crawfish. Tradition says that you clean the crawfish with salt water, but this will only remove the wastes that have already been excreted by the animal. Putting the crawfish in oxygenated water, however, will help the animals be able to purge themselves of waste through their gills and this will create a healthier fish. Then you’ll simply need to deliver the animals quickly and directly because the product needs to be alive in order to get the best results.
8. Become a Certified USDA Farm
If your farm is inspected and certified by the USDA, then you’ll be able to ship your crawfish virtually anywhere in the country. This will open up new markets to you that other farms aren’t able to access, but it does mean that you’ll need to keep high standards up on your farm on a consistent basis. It also means that you’ll need to install shipping procedures into your business model so that you won’t be stuck relying on a third party that could wind up damaging your reputation.
9. Know Your Sizes and Grades
Many people are aware of the grades and sizes of shrimp and assume this translates over to crawfish, but it doesn’t. In the world of crawfish, there’s just one rule you need to know: bigger is better. A good harvest will give you about 20 crawfish per pound and be considered a premium product.
Knowing how to start a crawfish farm is knowledge that can take you into an innovative and profitable farming venture. Focus on these skills, get the land you need to have, and whatever equipment you’ll need for planting and harvesting. In doing so, you’ll create an amazing farm to table experience.