News Filed Under Catfish
By Chance McDavid
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Decreased water and oxygen levels in Mississippi's drought-damaged ponds could lead to trouble for cattle and fish.
Muddy pond bottoms that occur when water levels fall can cause problems for cattle. Roy Higdon, area livestock agent with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said cattle sometimes get stuck in the mud while looking for water to drink.
“When cattle get stuck, it is sometimes a challenge to get them out. It's a good idea to try and dig them out first,” he said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi's farm-raised catfish farmers have had their best hatchery season in 30 years and are seeing their best market prices since 1995.
Jim Steeby, aquaculture specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the warm temperatures in April were ideal for the final maturing period.
“Fish started spawning by mid-April and were nearly finished by the first week in June, which is about three weeks early,” Steeby said. “Farmers were able to stock fry ponds earlier and have the entire summer for the fish to grow.”
STONEVILLE -- The research of two Delta professors has the potential to save Mississippi catfish producers an estimated $5 million to $8 million annually. Now the researchers are being awarded for their contributions.
Ed Robinson and Menghe Li are research professors in catfish nutrition at the Mississippi State University Delta Research and Extension Center's National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville. They recently received the “most relevant publication to Mississippi” award from the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- After extensive scientific research, at least one food scientist has reached a definite conclusion about freshwater prawns.
"They are just good," said Patti Coggins, director of the Garrison Sensory Evaluation Laboratory at Mississippi State University.
Coggins is one of a group of MSU scientists studying the feasibility of growing prawns in Mississippi, and she has data from formal sensory evaluation studies, including taste tests, to back her personal opinion.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The right tools give catfish producers an edge in the battle against production problems, and research is providing those tools.
Ongoing research at Mississippi State University's Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center focuses on several aspects of catfish production. Two major problems facing producers are trematode infestation and off-flavor. Researchers have found that one chemical applied in the correct dosage can help producers win battles against both problems.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi producers had been using 60-year-old recommendations from Alabama to fertilize ponds in preparation for young catfish, but now are seeing good results with updated recommendations made for local soils.
Fish producers fertilize nursery ponds to stimulate the growth of oxygen-producing algae. These phytoplankton become food for zooplankton, tiny animals that are eaten by catfish fry, or those less than 1 inch long. Fertilizer is used to alter the nutrient content of the water, making it more desirable for this tiny plant and animal life.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Good prices and lower feed costs are helping catfish producers after they suffered nearly four years of high production costs and low market prices.
Terry Hanson, Mississippi State University Extension agricultural economist, said catfish producers are receiving 70 to 75 cents a pound, and prices have been above 70 cents since October. Market prices in 2002 and 2003 dropped as low as 55 cents a pound. Prices may be helped by increased U.S. interest in eating catfish.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Two upcoming workshops will help Mississippi catfish producers evaluate operational changes and the overall financial health of their farms.
The east Mississippi workshop will take place on May 10 at the Four-County Electric Power Association building in Mayhew. The Delta workshop will be on May 17 in the Charles W. Capps Jr. Entrepreneurial Building at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville. Both workshops will take place from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A catfish hatchery owner with a little time on his hands developed a cheap and easy solution to a problem that nags producers.
Hatcheries typically place catfish egg masses in mesh baskets in metal troughs, and flow water over them with rotating metal paddles placed between the baskets. The paddles move water to simulate the care male fish give eggs.
Jim Steeby, aquaculture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said this technique, while simple and effective, poses some danger to workers.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A new antibiotic has the potential to treat one of the most costly diseases in Mississippi's $287 million catfish industry.
Pat Gaunt, a veterinary toxicologist with Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, began studying the use of florfenicol to treat enteric septicemia, or ESC, in U.S. catfish more than five years ago. That process is nearing an end as the Food and Drug Administration considers final approval of the drug.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A current Mississippi State University research project has the potential to eliminate a devastating disease in channel catfish, one of the state's most economically significant agricultural products.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Market prices for catfish are up slightly from the record lows of recent years, but increased production costs are preventing growers from any major celebrations.
Jimmy Avery, Extension professor at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville, said this year's prices should average 8 to 10 cents more than in 2003 when prices averaged 58 cents per pound. Fuel, feed and other production expenses are adding 8 to 9 cents per pound to growers' production costs.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Catfish producers saw actual profits last year after two years of losses, and are hoping feed prices in 2004 won't put their operations back into red ink.
Jim Steeby, Extension aquaculture specialist with the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Belzoni, said feed prices have made it difficult to see a profit in the catfish industry.
"Last year, our average feed price was $230 a ton," Steeby said. "This year's feed prices are going to be at least $50 a ton above that price."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The deadline for catfish producers to apply for cash assistance to offset import competition and the required technical training is fast approaching.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Keith Coble and Terry Hanson are listening a lot as part of their effort to reduce the economic risks associated with production of catfish and other aquaculture species.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The catfish industry's cash-strapped producers are set to receive their first-ever federal disaster assistance, and it couldn't come soon enough.
Feed accounts for half the cost of raising catfish and was $220 per ton in Mississippi in 2002. Catfish prices are at the lowest levels in 20 years and producers are finding themselves in financial stress.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The only numbers looking good to Mississippi catfish producers this year are the disaster payment credits they have at the feed mill.
The supply of catfish is large, current prices are at break-even levels or lower than the cost of production, feed prices are inching up, and current acreage and production are down in Mississippi. But state catfish farmers are starting to receive their portion of the $20 million earmarked for disaster relief in Mississippi.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- One of the costs of operating a catfish farm is rebuilding ponds once a decade, but research is showing that if they are built deeper, they will last longer.
Jim Steeby, Extension aquaculture specialist with the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville, spent much of the summers of 1999 and 2000 documenting the age of ponds and the depth of sediment accumulated on the bottom. Catfish ponds have historically been built about 4 feet deep and must be rebuilt every eight to 10 years.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- For more than two decades, catfish producers across the Southeast have used Mississippi State University-produced software to help manage their operations. The latest version, Fishy 2003 Version 4.0, is now available through Catfish Farmers of America.
"A licensure agreement between Mississippi State and Catfish Farmers of America to market Fishy 4.0 was signed in April," said Fishy programer and MSU professor of agricultural economics Wallace Killcreas. "So far, farmers owning more than 24,000 water acres have bought one-year licenses."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A Mississippi State University study reveals that while catfish producers have experienced lean times recently, the industry continues to spur the state's economy.
MSU agricultural economics professor Terry Hanson co-authored "Economic Impact of the Mississippi Farm-Raised Catfish Industry" with two MSU Extension Food and Fiber Center professors, Stuart Dean and Steve Murray. Hanson said he believes the many benefits of farm-raised catfish to consumers can create a demand that will more than make up for low market prices since 2000.