How to start catfish venture at your farm

What you need to know:

Before any prospective farmer starts catfish farming, there are several basic considerations to ensure success, writes George Katongole.

Catfish farming consists of two most important types, which could either be operated separately or as an integrated process. These include, the nursery fish farming and the grow out fish farming.
The grow out fish farming is dependent of the nursery fish farming because you cannot grow fish without the nursery.
The nursery involves the inducement of the female fish to lay eggs, which are then fertilised, incubated and hatched.
These little fishes are known as fries. These fries are then nurtured from between three and four weeks into fingerlings which is the size suitable for use in the Grow Out farming.
Catfish farming is a major investment operation. And so, starting one needs careful consideration.
In between the nursery and grow out operation is what we referred to as the primary operation.
It involves the nurturing of the three or four weeks within which they could grow into post fingerlings, mini juveniles and juveniles respectively.
These can then be nurtured for between four to five month into grow out or table size fish suitable for sale and consumption.
Venturing into catfish farming involves the following;

Step 1: Land for catfish farming
This is very important. One has to acquire at least half plot of land in a suitable location. This means, you must consider good access road, closeness to market and labour. If the land is already available, it is good. Then we apportion it as follows:
Location of ponds
Location of farm house
Location of water supply and lastly, location of drainage facility. The last point is very important, as you do not drain your water to constitute public nuisance.

Step 2: Pond planning
You need to determine whether you want to go into big or small-scale commercial catfish farming.
Secondly, the pond system to adopt, re-circulatory system, earthen pond or concrete/plastic pond or both.
Once the pond was dug and the area has been developed, there is nothing you can do to undo the work and recover the cost.
So, extensive evaluation must be done by someone planning to start catfish farming before he or she finally decides whether it is wise for him to pursue the particular type of pond construction project.

Where should the pond be located? Does the site have enough supply of quality water (from wells or springs)? There is a minimum water flow rate requirement in building a pond for a catfish.
Will the source meet them? Employ professionals to test whether the water supply volume and flow rate meets standard requirement.
Is the water supply suitable for catfish farming? Try growing a few catfish using water taken from the target source. Is the area suitable for pond construction in terms of soil composition and permeability?
Ideal soil for pond construction is one with good compaction property. One resource you can run to check on this is your local soil management office.
Catfish farming will require some water movement. Will you be able to obtain permits and other necessary licenses for the operation?

Step 3: Water supply source
The best water for catfish farming is from borehole. One or two must be sunk to guarantee steady water supply. Overhead tanks for holding water should also be installed. The mechanism of pumping of water must be back up facility. The system must not fail.

Step 4: Pond
It is advisable to engage the service of a consultant. The success or failure of this project depends largely on construction of standard ponds that can stand the test of time.

Pond design
One major consideration in designing a pond for catfish production is the flatness or steepness of the area and the source of water supply.
For a generally flat area that has access to a well, a levee pond could be built. Watershed ponds are built for steeper areas near a natural source of water.
The depth of the pond is also crucial as this influences the availability of oxygen for the fish. And so is the amount of fish per surface acre of water.
Check catfish growing manuals for standards to adhere to.
For one to get the most profit for a catfish harvest, it is necessary to determine buyer requirements when planning the season’s production.
Consider what buyers demand in terms of weight, frequency, size and price. One can sell the season’s harvest to fish processors or directly to consumers. The later results to greater return to the farmer.

The procedure below should be followed by the farmer to the letter when preparing the pond for stocking. These steps will help boost the productivity of the pond.
For an old pond, drain all water and allow it to dry for 14 days.
Apply lime to the pond bottom and dyke slopes. Choose agricultural limestone (CaCO3) for application in your fishpond
Apply organic fertiliser in the pond before filling it with water. The most common examples of organic fertilisers are animal manures (from cattle, poultry, donkeys, rabbits, sheep and goats) and decaying plant matter, such as cut grasses.
Fill the pond with water.
Apply inorganic fertiliser in the pond after it has been filled. Apply DAP and UREA to your fishpond at the following rates: wwDAP: 2g/m2/week (or weekly applications of 15 tablespoons DAP for every 100 m2) wwUREA: 3 g/m2/week (or weekly applications of 30 tablespoons urea for every 100 m2).

Catfish feeds
There are various feeds that can be offered to the fish in the pond. Some commonly available feeds include: Meals, crumble, dry sinking pellets, moist sinking pellets, floating pellets and tilapia fingerlings.
The feeds can be formulated so as to meet the body requirements of the catfish. This can be done as follows:
Cotton seed cake— 37 per cent
Wheat bran— 57 per cent
Fresh shrimp— 6 per cent