Location: Warmwater Aquaculture Research UnitTitle: Catfish production using intensive, pond-based culture systems in Mississippi
Submitted to: World Aquaculture Society Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/1/2015
Publication Date: 2/2/2016
Citation: Brown, T.W., Torrans, E.L., Tucker, C.S. 2016. Catfish production using intensive, pond-based culture systems in Mississippi. World Aquaculture Society Meeting. P. 115.
Technical Abstract: The leading form of aquaculture in the U.S. is catfish farming. Many catfish farmers feel that intensifying production will reduce production costs by improving efficiency and profitability. Catfish farmers in Mississippi have been able to increase production by increasing aeration rates (~5 to 15 hp per acre) in small-acreage traditional ponds (2 to 6 acres each) or by building split-pond aquaculture systems. Most split-ponds are constructed by modifying conventional ponds where fish are confined in a small culture basin about 15 to 20% of the total pond area which is intensively managed. The remaining area of the pond (80 to 85%) is used as a waste-treatment lagoon. Water is circulated between the two basins with various high-volume pumps during daylight hours and no water is pumped at night. High aeration rates are used in the fish-culture basin at night or when the dissolved oxygen concentration falls below a minimum desired level. In most split-ponds, no mechanical aeration is used in the waste-treatment lagoon. For the last three years, ARS researchers have been monitoring and verifying production performance on three farms in Mississippi using these two intensive production systems. We now have two full production cycles of data, and for the most part results have been impressive. The first production cycle was presented last year and the second cycle will be presented this year and compared to the first. When compared to conventional ponds, for the second production cycle, net production rates were greater than three times the national average on numerous occasions (~11,100 to 18,800 pounds per acre), survival rates greater than 80 percent have been easily achievable (77.2 to 95.5%) with an FCR of less than 2.0 in many on-farm examples (1.6 to 2.7). In addition, direct energy use ranged from 0.329 to 0.657 kw-h per pound of fish produced, and in most cases, water quality has not been an issue. Based on both production cycles, a complete economic analysis will be performed and will provide the necessary guidance to make recommendations to farmers. Intensified, pond-based production systems will continue to draw the interest of catfish farmers, researchers, and other aquaculture growers. These systems have demonstrated many advantages such as increased production, improved survival, and reduced FCR, and many other advantages are attainable if managed correctly. However, with all the possible benefits, economics is most important. Higher initial construction cost is unavoidable, different management issues are common, and new and different technological experience may be required. The ongoing development of improved production technology for the U.S. catfish industry will continue as we strive to be competitive in a world economy flooded by competition from lower-priced imports, greatly increased feed and energy costs, and more attractive land-use alternatives.