PIKETON, Ohio — Production opportunities for growers delving into the shrimp market continue to expand with newly developed Ohio State University research on feeding options.
Researchers at Ohio State's South Centers at Piketon used this season's shrimp harvest to study the growth of shrimp that were fed fishmeal as opposed to fish-free meal. Results indicated that shrimp fed on a fishmeal diet were 10 percent larger than those fed on a fish-free meal diet, and the ponds targeted with fishmeal yield nearly 100 pounds more shrimp.
"At an average of $8 to $12 a pound, which is where most growers are selling their shrimp to customers, that's a pretty nice increase in value," said Laura Tiu, a South Center's at Piketon aquaculture specialist for Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "The shrimp are probably getting more out of the fish meal animal source than the fish-free meal plant source." Shrimp fed on fishmeal yielded 585-680 pounds per acre and clocked in at an average of 39 grams, while shrimp fed on the fish-free meal diet yielded 500-570 pounds per acre and averaged 31 grams in size.
Fishmeal, a highly digestable form of protein made primarily out of fish components, is the main type of feed used in aquaculture and in some livestock, such as swine. Because of the environmental push away from animal-based products, fish-free meal — a plant-based material — has come on the market as a substitute feed.
Part of the Piketon research was meant to analyze the effectiveness of the fish-free meal against its counterpart, as well as address to issue of PCB contaminants in the feed.
"Both growers and consumers are asking what level of contaminants if any are in the product," said Tiu. "They want to know if we have contaminants in our shrimp. Since research has shown that PCBs are coming from the fish diet, we wanted to address that in our research."
The samples have just been sent away for analyses, and results won't be available until around the first of the year. But researchers are hoping for nondetectable PCB traces, providing growers an additional opportunity to choose which type of feed to use.
Tiu pointed out that even the smaller size of 31 grams per shrimp is nothing to scoff at. "It depends on who your market is," she said. "If you are shooting for a premium price or are looking to sell to an organic market determines what type of feed to use. Either way it's still good production."
One disappointment in the research was the low survival rates — about half of what the six quarter-acre ponds were stocked with. "We started out with around 16,000 shrimp per acre and ended up with about 47 percent survival," said Tiu. "Ideally you want to hit a target of about 1,000 pounds per acre. This year we ended up with between 500 to 600 pounds per acre and that's just not economically feasible."
Tiu speculates that cool spring temperatures contributed to the loss of shrimp. Researchers plan to conduct studies on stocking techniques next year.
Despite the challenges, Ohio shrimp production and its market is still growing. An annual shrimp festival held in Urbana — the biggest in the state — attracted 20,000 visitors and 41 vendors this year.