Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Raising shrimp in America's Heartland

Inside a fish farm (not the shrimp farm...photos were blurry)
When I accepted my job as a livestock specialist, I was excited that I would still be working with dairy cows (some of the time, anyway). However, I never expected to be learning so much about aquaculture. Between teaching producers about the importance of public relations and facilitating the trainings to visiting farms, I'm learning a lot every day.

Yesterday I visited a shrimp farm and it was really interesting. I wasn't sure what to expect. Since the shrimp are in pools beneath the water you can't see them unless it's feeding time and they come to the surface or if you take a net to catch a few. 

It seems like common sense, but I never realized shrimp were gray when they are alive and turn white when they are dead and pink when they are cooked (I knew that part). If the head is left on the shrimp, it's really fresh. Usually the heads are removed.

Fish are livestock. They just live in water instead of on sand bedded free stalls or in traditional barns. A lot of the terms used in other industries, such as "grow out barns" are also used in aquaculture.

This farm had a hatchery where the PLs (post larvae) grow up before moving into the grow out barn to mature and increase in size. 

Water quality is so important on these farms and is tested regularly. If the water isn't what it should be, the shrimp can't survive. This is something farmers take very seriously. 

Like other livestock farms, there are aquaculture farms of all sizes--small, large and everything in between. The diversity of an industry helps make it strong. Besides shrimp, some of the other fish/etc. grown in Indiana include yellow perch, hybrid striped bass, decorative fish, tilapia and freshwater prawns. 

Indiana produces approximately 1.5 million pounds of fish per year, valued at $15 million. For more economic impact information, check out this piece from Purdue University

I never know where these livestock adventures will take me, but that keeps life interesting!

1 comment: