Do you want to know how the number of crawfish that can be raised per acre? If YES, here are 7 factors that determine how many crawfish can be raised per acre. According to reports, an average independent crawfish farmer earns around $46,800 in gross revenue annually. But the average income isn’t much help for determining what your personal income will be from raising and selling the product.

The income of a crawfish farmer will be determined largely by how big you can scale the farming operation. The income potential of an individual crawfish farmer will vary widely and will depend on many factors, primarily the number of acres and the yield each acre can produce.

Note that the more space you have to produce crawfish, the more products you’ll be able to sell each year. Most crawfish farms are under 150 acres total. The farms are usually small operations between 10 – 20 acres. But the largest producers could reach as high as thousands of acres.

You can expect to grow 700 – 1200 pounds of crawfish annually in what is considered to be a high-yield farm. Not all farms are created equal and the yield and size of the crawfish will depend on how well they are cared for, fed, and their environment including the weather.

However, note that location and pond design are the most important factors that influence the amount of crawfish that is obtainable per acre. Crawfish ponds are generally categorized as wooded, semi wooded and open ponds. Open ponds are further subdivided into permanent, rice field and marsh ponds, and all produce different quantities and sizes of crawfish.

Types of Fish Ponds

1. Wooded ponds

This is the earliest type of pond used for crawfish cultivation in the United States. These ponds are built in forested areas on heavy clay soils near drainage canals filled with precipitation from surface runoff. Wooded ponds produce 200 to 800 pounds of crawfish per acre.

Production is limited by the inability to manage water effectively. These ponds have internal borrow ditches that channel water directly to the drains, impeding water circulation throughout the pond.

Wooded ponds are also known to have poor stands of vegetative forage because of shading, but leaf litter provides a significant amount of forage for the crawfish. Water flow and crawfish harvest are difficult because the trees hinder movement of water and obstruct harvesting boats. Tree-free lanes are cut to provide trapping areas in wooded ponds.

2. Semi-Wooded Ponds

Note that after so many years of alternate flooding and drying, wooded ponds have high hardwood mortality, thus reducing tree density and generally improving crawfish habitat. A vegetative forage base of terrestrial grasses and aquatic plants is developed which requires better water circulation and more intense water management.

Properly managed semi-wooded ponds produce 15 to 30 percent more crawfish than wooded ponds, but poorly managed semi-wooded ponds produce fewer crawfish than wooded ponds because water quality is often poorer.

3. Open Ponds

Open ponds (those containing few or no trees) are best suitable for crawfish aquaculture. Open ponds account for 65 to 70 percent of the production area in the United States and are the main type of pond found in other states.

  • Permanent ponds: Permanent crawfish ponds are those constructed solely for the purpose of cultivating crawfish. Crawfish can be harvested in permanent ponds 1 to 2 months longer because there is no conflict with planting, draining and harvesting schedules of other crops. Crawfish yields are 1,000 to 3,000 pounds per acre with an average of 1,500 to 1,800 pounds per acre.
  • Ricefield ponds: Ricefield crawfish ponds are productive, open ponds because they are located on fertile soil and often have baffle levees, a good water supply and recirculation capability. Crawfish yield is generally 1,000 to 2,500 pounds per acre with an average production of 1,200 pounds per acre. Note that total production is decreased because of the shortened harvest period. These ponds are drained early to replant rice in the spring.
  • Marsh ponds: Marsh ponds are constructed in coastal areas and have low crawfish yield (50 to 500 pounds per acre). High concentration of organic matter in soils reduces water quality and decreases crawfish production. Marsh ponds are generally not recommended for crawfish production.

Other Factors that Influence the Amount of Crawfish You Can Raise Per Acre

a. Water Supply

Water quantity remains one of the most common limiting factors in crawfish aquaculture. Note that for a better yield, a pumping capacity of 70 to 100 gallons per minute per surface acre is needed to exchange (turn over) water in a 4- to 5-day period. This exchange rate is imperative to maintain satisfactory water quality in the fall when water is flooded onto vegetation in the pond.

Crawfish producers can reduce water demand by flooding the pond to an 8- to 10-inch level rather than the full 18- to 22-inch level at the initial flood in fall, and thereafter flushing the pond with fresh, oxygenated water as needed to maintain satisfactory water quality.

b. Water Quality

Also note that over 99 percent of production problems in crawfish ponds can be directly attributed to improper water management. A good water quality management program requires that crawfish ponds be properly designed and constructed, and that they have a dependable supply of surface or subsurface fresh water.

Have it in mind that inadequate concentration of dissolved oxygen (DO) is the most serious water management problem in crawfish aquaculture. Low concentration of DO results in high crawfish mortality; moreover, crawfish do not feed or grow well and can become predisposed to diseases in ponds with chronically low concentrations of DO.

c. Habitat

Crawfish brood stock is gotten from a variety of habitats (monoculture ponds, rotational ponds and the wild crawfish fishery) and from a wide array of conditions within each of those habitats.

Note that it is likely, though, that the environmental conditions within habitats where breeding stock is obtained, such as water temperature, quality and quantity of nutritional resources, crowding and other factors, are responsible for much of the variability in reproductive success.

Suitable brood stock can be obtained from any type of pond or natural habitat as long as the crawfish are in good health and not under undue stress. Common stressors in any habitat are related to elevated temperatures, low oxygen, and poor nutrition and overcrowding, including overcrowding inside traps prior to harvest.

d. Handling

Also note that proper handling of brood stock is also very important for best results. Care should be taken to limit the amount of time brood stock remain in the trap prior to harvest and in storage and transit after harvest. Don’t forget that lengthy exposure to elevated temperatures, direct sunlight or wind will kill or severely stressed brood stock, as will rough handling or contamination with foreign substances such as fuel or chemicals.

Crawfish are expected to be kept clean, moist and at temperatures between 60 F and 80 F. These practices are best accomplished by shading (with tarps, burlap or other suitable materials) and wetting sacks of crawfish periodically.

Brood stock should not be kept in refrigerated coolers or completely iced down. Limited use of ice, however, may be a suitable means of controlling temperature and moisture during transport. Harvesting or transporting crawfish brood stock at dawn, dusk or night is also a suitable means of reducing stress.

e. Stocking Rates

According to experts, stocking rates are based primarily on anecdotal evidence, pertinent factors affecting successful survival and burrowing and, to some extent, personal preference. However, recommended stocking rates vary depending on the number of native crawfish present and the amount of cover around and within the pond.

Amount and type of cover, such as vegetation in the pond and at the water’s edge often will affect the number of crawfish surviving and successfully burrowing after stocking. Stocking rates of 50 lb/ac to 60 lb/ac are recommended for areas lacking native crawfish and with sufficient cover to protect stocked crawfish from predators (both in the pond and while burrowing).

Stocking rates may be decreased from these general recommendations when healthy populations of native crawfish are present. In the same vein, they should be increased when conditions make for poor survival following stocking or when burrowing is hazardous due to predators or inclement weather.

Although not well documented, it is possible that effective stocking rates may be lowered somewhat when stocking occurs in ponds with permanent levees that already have many old or existing burrows.

f. Sex Ratio and Condition of Brood stock

Also note that the sex ratio and condition of crawfish brood stock both are important. At least 50 per cent of the crawfish used as stockers should be females. The percentage of females can be higher, but percentage of males should not be higher than females. Healthy males can mate with more than one female. Have it in mind that quality crawfish brood stock also should have an outwardly healthy appearance and be highly active at normal temperatures.

Under typical stocking conditions, most of the brood stock should be sexually mature, especially if environmental conditions in the new ponds are poor (little food or shelter, poor water quality, high temperatures, etc.) or the pond must be drained soon after stocking.

If pond conditions or water levels deteriorate soon after stocking, it is desirable that crawfish be able to begin burrowing shortly after introduction. The goal of brood stock management is for crawfish to start burrowing on their own (for reproductive purposes) when they have reached maturity and mated, rather than being forced to burrow for survival purposes because of pond drainage.

Conclusion

There are many factors that influence the number of crawfish you can raise per acre in the United States. Nonetheless, aside from these factors mentioned above, to ensure maximum benefits and achieve the most return for dollars spent while minimizing risks, care should be taken to optimize the stocking strategy. The ponds should also be readied for animals in advance of stocking in adherence to recommendations for water quality.

Joy Nwokoro