Aquaculture for all

Study Reveals Impact of Winter-feeding Catfish

ARKANSAS, US - A new study at Arkansas University is challenging the notion that catfish spend winter months on pond bottoms, lethargic and uninterested in feeding.

As director and researcher at the Aquaculture/Fisheries Center at the university, Carole Engle does much work with the economics of catfish production, says the DeltaFarmPress. Engle is interested in winter feeding because, besides being a function of biology, it also impacts producers bottom lines. Engle and colleagues are trying to determine how essential the feeding is.

It takes two years from the time a producer stocks a fingerling until he harvests a catfish. Because of that, we build economic models over a two-year period, Engle told the DeltaFarmPress. Most farmers stop feeding in October and pick back up in April. Theres a five-month period that we dont know much about. Are the fish losing weight or not? If so, how much? Does the size of the fish play a part?

What we found was unexpected: even the fish that were fed over the winter lost weight. The recommendations for winter feeding kept them from losing as much weight as the unfed ponds. But it was bothersome that even the fed fish lost weight.

Engle decided to take a closer look, reports the news agency. Its no good when producers put all that money and feed into them during the first growing season only to see weight and profits shed over the winter.

Catfish were placed in concrete vats and fed full-sinking pellets. The pellets were placed on a feed tray that looks like a square, fine-mesh net that was placed on the tank bottoms. Every day, wed pull the trays out and count the pellets to see exactly how much the fish had eaten.

Water was pumped in from the bottom of a pond to keep temperatures in the vats close to what would be experienced in the pond. Data-loggers that continuously measured the temperatures were also employed.

The study showed catfish continue to eat daily down to water temps of 45 degrees. Lower than 45 degrees and they quit eating theres no point feeding at that level.

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