As an industry consultant and a member of the original CSIRO Steering committee for the CSIRO/RIRDC CSA-17A Super Yabby Research project I am still involved with requests for further information and participation in current projects relating to the CSIRO SUPER YABBIES and yabby farming generally.
In addition to my commercial ventures, recently I had cause to review the project and provide information for a forthcoming Yabby Farming Field Day at Griffith NSW being held by the NSW Aquaculture Association Inc. (NSWAA) www.nswaqua.com.auin March 2015. As secretary of the NSWAA I compiled the following. Some of the following is what you will also find on the NSW Aquaculture site with a lot more commercial farming information added in this article. If you would like to see the NSWAA article http://nswaqua.com.au/super-yabbies-developed-by-the-csiro/ The NSWAA article contains all the scientific information, papers, photos and reports but only available to members via their member’s library. This article is more general information without the reports and scientific manuscripts.
Back in 1998 the CSIRO Livestock Industries at Chiswick near Armidale NSW self-funded a research project aimed at increasing the productivity of farms through genetic improvement of yabby stocks. Historically the CSIRO at Armidale (http://www.csiro.au/Portals/About-CSIRO/Where-we-are/New-South-Wales/FD-McMaster-Lab.aspx) started as a sheep research facility in the 1950’s. However, due to the decrease in wool and other commodity products that occurred in the mid 1990’s the CSIRO was looking for something sheep farmers could diversify into and identified yabbies/aquaculture as the option with the most potential. In mixed farming situations, risk spreading strategies such as diversification outside the traditional commodity mixes, can enhance economic stability and yabbies seemed ideal.
The research program was led by Dr Dean Jerry whose vision and dedication to the aquaculture industry drove this project. Dean was an industry hero at the time and had the full support of the NSW Aquaculture Association and Industry.
Dean started with an extensive search for naturally fast growing strains of yabbies. He finally selected 5 basic strains of yabbies from very diverse environments. From western Queensland, north western NSW, western NSW, the NSW Snowy Mountains and western Victoria yabbies were collected and sent to the CSIRO animal laboratories at Chiswick NSW.
Dean and his team started with these different strains of yabbies but found very early on that 2 of the strains grew exceptionally faster, compared to the others (Jerry et al. 2001). Different strains of yabbies from different populations have a remarkable variety of different genetic traits, some of these are advantageous and some are not so attractive. The main trait that the CSIRO was interested in was growth; they did trials between the different strains and selected the two fastest growers which showed the most promise. Now you can speculate on the reason for this but coincidentally both of the faster growing strains where from the upper reach tributaries of the Murray Darling Drainage Basin. Yabbies are native to the Murray Darling drainage basin of Australia and thrive throughout the whole basin. The Murray Darling Basin covers one seventh of the Australian continent, over one million square kilometres, it includes 20 major rivers including the 3 longest, the Darling 2740 kilometres, the Murray 2530 kilometres, and the Murrumbidgee 1690 kilometres.
The two strains selected came from the Warrego River in south west Queensland which is at the headwaters of the Murray River and the Tumut River which is at the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee River.
The research identified that there are significant differences in growth rates amongst wild populations of yabbies (Jerry et al. 2002). In fact the two fastest growing populations they evaluated grew up to 42% faster than the slowest one (which by the way is C. albidus destructor from the Wimmera region in Victoria). The Victorian yabbies, however, had longer tails than all the other strains. For commercial purposes tail meal is a major consideration as those that savour the flavour of yabbies want bigger tails to get more meat. However, for the CSIRO initial trials they were only selecting for growth
They selected the 2 fastest growing strains of yabbies (Cherax destructor) and in 2000 started a selective breeding program with these 2 varieties. They started with 28 families of yabbies plus controls (over 300 yabbies initially). The controls were grown with the selected families to ensure accurate results, but tagged to identify them. The idea was to use these selected strains as the genetic base for a selective breeding program to further improve growth rates and to use the controls to monitor the progress. The process was quite simple with single sire mating occurring in glass aquariums. This allowed full control of the breeding process and ensured that inbreeding was not a problem. Juvenile yabbies were then raised in the CSIRO hatchery till they were between 0.4 and 1 gram. The juveniles were then tagged with an elastomer insert and transferred to the outside ponds for the growth trials.
The CSIRO constructed 6 earthen ponds each 0.1 ha in size. The ponds are fenced and netted and are designed to replicate commercial yabby ponds, so results obtained will be the same as those received by industry. Typically for commercial yabby farming the minimum pond size is 0.1 ha and the maximum is 0.5 ha (see the book Commercial Yabby Farmer for further design details http://www.rbmaqua.com.au/bookshop.shtml)
The first F1 generation of yabbies at an average weight of 0.59 gram were stocked into the earthen ponds and grown for 78 days. Overall 62% of yabbies stocked survived and the mean weight of the crayfish harvested was 30.7 gram. There was a vast difference in individual size with for the males the largest was 52.6 gram and the smallest 16.5 gram. However, the bottom line is that the selected yabbies grew 14% bigger than the controls. The individuals both male and females with the best growth were then selected as broodstock for the next generation.
In 2001, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) who are supportive of rural industries and had a bit of vision, agreed to fund the CSIRO for an ongoing 3 year research project. This was the same year the first generation of animals were evaluated and selected for growth and progeny. With a bit of support from the RIRDC and lots of interest and enthusiasm from industry and the community the CSIRO started on the second generation under the leadership of geneticist Dr Ian Purvis.
F2 yabbies were hatched in the glass aquariums, grown to an average weight of 0.43 gram, elastomer tagged and released into the ponds in the first week of January 2002. They were allowed to grow for 205 days this time till mid July which is the heart of winter. Survival this time was only 55% all up but a longer grow out time and two months of winter, plus the drought all took a toll. Mean crayfish weight this time was 70.1 gram with the smallest being 43.8 gram and the largest 133 gram. In 2002, this second generation of animals where harvested from the CSIRO earthen ponds and measured for 11 different characteristics (weight, carapace length, tail length, tail width and claw size, etc). The results were remarkable, in a nutshell the selected yabbies grew much faster than the standard control. As expected female yabbies grew slower than the males but still averaged a 10% increase in growth rate per generation. The big improvement, however, was in the males. Male yabbies in the first generation grew 14% faster than the standard controls. Male yabbies in this second generation grew 14% faster than the controls again. So, in just 2 generations they had a 28% increase in growth rates, imagine what this will be like in 10 generations time.
The best of the animals harvested in July were over wintered in an internal recirculation system and then bred to produce the third generation F3 which went into the ponds at 0.5 gram in mid December. They need to be 0.5 gram to allow tagging for identification to occur. Yabbies were grown in the ponds for 163 days and survival again was 55%. Average mean weight was 64.8 gram and ranged from 55.7 to 105.2 gram (Jerry et al., 2005).
The funding so generously supplied by RIRDC finished so the project wound up and Dean published a paper in 2005 on the genetic breeding program. The last harvest of the F4 generation proved hard to interpret as initial indications that this generation only had a 10% increase of growth instead of the 14% expected. The problem is that in the pond this time is a far greater number of yabbies than expected. Uncontrolled in pond breeding is a major problem that plagues the commercial yabby farming industry. Typically, yabbies can breed from a small size and only 5-6 months of age. A 10 gram, 24.5 mm OCL yabby can have 150 eggs. Generally, the smallest size yabbies harvested are 30 gram so if yabbies waste energy breeding and then thousands of extra yabbies enter the pond population then they consume resources further slowing the growth of the whole pond population.
It may be that with these improved strains that because they are growing so much faster, they are now also maturing faster, so breeding earlier and as they are bigger having more young when they breed and those young are growing incredibly fast, so the pond biomass just explodes which strains the available food sources, limiting growth of the pond population as a whole except, for the more aggressive dominant males that still get more than their fare share. This may account for the vast differentiation in size with the F4 generation which varied from 40 gram to 180 gram.
Typically for extensive and semi intensive yabby farmers you would harvest your yabbies by using yabby traps. In NSW it’s traditionally the opera house traps but not the standard ones with a steel ring entrance, commercial farmers use opera house traps with NO ring. These type traps are only available for commercial farmers and not for use in public waters as they catch everything; turtles, fish, platypus, etc. Commercial farmers can purchase no ring opera house traps here, http://www.rbmaqua.com.au/aqua-shop.shtml
The CSIRO research was spectacular and an eye opener for many yabby farmers. Unfortunately, the yabby industry as a whole has not been genetically improving their stock in a consistent manner; in fact most are doing the opposite. Yabbies are in tremendous demand and as a rule every yabby farmer in NSW and Victoria just never has enough yabbies to meet the overwhelming demand. Most farmers catch their yabbies in opera house traps, these traps tend to capture the larger yabbies first. There is a certain amount of yabby etiquette in yabby ponds and it is just common courtesy and safer for the smaller yabbies in the pond to allow the larger yabbies to have a feed first. Now yabbies by character are sneaky, so if a smaller yabby can pinch a bit of food whilst the big boys are not looking they will, but generally it’s the big boys that feed first as the males are the ones that grow the fastest. When you drop a trap into the pond you capture the largest fastest growing yabbies first and generally it’s large ones you need, so these yabbies tend to get sent off to market and any small sneaky ones capture returned to the pond.
Unfortunately this leaves the smaller slower growing yabbies to breed so you are actually selecting for smaller slower growing yabbies. This is a common problem on most farms that do not have specific broodstock ponds or selective breeding programs.
Those semi-intensive yabby farms growing yabbies in purpose built ponds would stock with a set number of yabbies, grow-out for a set amount of time and then drain harvest the pond. This type production would achieve production of approx. 2500 kgs/ha/year. (see “The Commercial Yabby Farmer book http://www.aabio.com.au/products-page/ )
The CSIRO finished the research project and printed the final report in April 2006 (Purvis, 2006). The CSIRO to help the yabby farming industry not only release the research results to industry but they released the Supper Yabby. This was a fantastic boon for industry as these F3 and F4 generation yabbies are like getting a stud bull or ram. You can use these to breed up a whole new generation of improved super yabbies. Just one good male can look after dozens of females, so a few hundred improved yabbies to every farmer could go a long way to improving the industry as a whole.
Unfortunately, Fisheries NSW classed the super yabby as genetically modified and had concerns for the indigenous species of crayfish if the super yabby escaped into the wild. There are over 140 different species of freshwater crayfish in Australia (go to http://www.aabio.com.au/crayfish-list/ for a current list of all species) and most are nowhere as tough and hardy as the common yabby let alone a super yabby. In NSW the common yabby Cherax destructor is already creating havoc where it has been translocated into eastern drainages (Coughran et al.,2009; McCormack, in press). For industry to be allowed to culture the super yabby in earthen ponds strict environmental regulations were imposed by Fisheries NSW to protect the environment to ensure the super yabbies never escaped into the wild.
As a thankyou to the NSW Aquaculture Association for their support and assistance over the course of this research project the CSIRO only released the super yabby stock to members of the NSWAA. With the strict Fisheries NSW restrictions and prior inspection of the properties by Fisheries to ensure the premises complied with the new regulations only 5 commercial farmers received this incredibly valuable super yabby stock. Now in 2014 only 2 of those farms/NSWAA members have maintained the genetic integrity of their super yabby stock, one here in NSW and another in Victoria. Neither of these two farms are selling their “Super Yabby Stock” but holding it for future development. However, one of these farms is on the verge of a major project to revamp the Super Yabbies and achieve the industry holy grail of an F10 generation.
In NSW we have a “Class E” licence from Fisheries NSW that allows individuals to harvest yabbies from multiply sites. Yabbies (Cherax destructor) are indigenous to western NSW and most farm dams can support populations. Typically, farm dams can be harvested at 300-600 kgs of yabbies per hectare of surface water per year. So if you have 10 only 1000 square metre surface area dams, this equates to a hectare in total. If you have 10 properties each with 10 dams then you can harvest 3000-6000kgs of yabbies per year. With a market price of $20/kg there is the potential for a nice living to be made.
It’s not so easy as not every dam has yabbies, some are full of carp or spangled perch, etc. and only have a few yabbies. Distance is a big obstacle, as vehicle and fuel costs are a major consideration. Also weather is one of your greatest threats, droughts dry dams out, and wet weather makes driving through paddocks to get to the dams impossible. Add the fact that this is just a harvesting operation and most Class E operators have not learnt from the CSIRO research. They just trap, which selects the larger yabbies and harvest them so leaving the smaller yabbies to breed thus year by year slowly reducing the volume of harvest.
Your next option is to have an extensive yabby permit from Fisheries NSW for your own property. Known as a “Class C” extensive aquaculture permit only allows you to grow and harvest not to feed your yabbies with artificial foods. This means you can manage your yabbies and dams better but only at natural levels as without additional food you are limited to the natural food available and production of the 600-800kgs/ha/year would be the maximum. You can however do some selective harvesting and actually, increase your harvest every year.
Your final option is for the professional farmer that wants to maximise his yields and use artificial feeds to boost his production. This requires a “Class D” intensive aquaculture permit from Fisheries NSW and comes with a number of restrictions to ensure the environment is protected. When you add food to a pond there is a greater risk that something can go wrong. If for example you add too much food and it’s not eaten then you can pollute the water. That polluted water is not allowed to escape the farm and must be irrigated, etc. Additionally, you are now growing higher densities than occur naturally and the risk from disease becomes a problem. Yabbies are relatively disease free but the same permit conditions apply regardless of species and fish can get any number of diseases; if they do the licence conditions ensure that the disease does not escape and impact the fish in the local creek, etc. The same goes for the CSIRO super yabbies, you would need a Class D permit for these with additional restrictions all aimed at protecting the environment.
The NSW Aquaculture Association is holding a field day at Griffith NSW in March that covers everything above. If you’re interested in yabby farming then you should attend.
If you’re interested in attending the Yabby Farming Field Day at Griffith NSW you can sign up here http://nswaqua.com.au/yabby-farming-field-day-griffith-nsw-13th-march-2015/ and we will send further information by email as it becomes available. Ill be chatting to attendants about yabby farming on the day – “hope to see you there”.Cheers Rob
References and Further ReadingCoughran, J., McCormack, R.B., Daly, G. 2009. Translocation of the Yabby, Cherax destructor, into eastern drainages of New South Wales, Australia. Australian Zoologist. Vol 35 (1); http://dx.doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2009.009 Jerry, D.R., Piper, L.R., and Purvis, IW. 2001. Differences in growth parameters among populations of the yabby Cherax destructor (Clark). Proc. Assoc. Advmt. Anim. Breed. Genet. Vol 14 Jerry, D.R., Purvis, I.W., and Piper, L.R. 2002 Genetic differences in growth among wild populations of the yabby, Cherax destructor (Clark). Aquaculture Research 33: 12, pp 917–923 Jerry, D.R., Purvis, I.W., Piper, L.R., and Dennis, C.A. 2005. Selection for faster growth in the freshwater crayfish Cherax destructor. Aquaculture, 247 (1-4). pp. 169-176. Purvis, I.W. 2006. Breeding Bigger Yabbies – Developing a genetically improved yabby to facilitate farm enterprise diversification. Report for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation RIRDC. Publication No 06/042. RIRDC Project No CSA-17A. ISBN 1 74151 305 7. McCormack, R.B. (in press). New records and review of the translocation of the yabby Cherax destructor into eastern drainages of New South Wales, Australia. Australian Zoologist. McCormack, R.B. 2005. “The Commercial Yabby Farmer” RBM Aquaculture, Karuah, NSW, Australia. ISBN 0 9576524 1 X McCormack, R.B. 2008. “The Freshwater Crayfish of NSW Australia” Australian Aquatic Biological Pty Ltd., Karuah, NSW. ISBN 978-0-9805144-1-4 McCormack, R.B. 2008. “Keeping Pet Yabbies” RBM Aquaculture, Karuah, NSW, Australia. ISBN 978-0-9805144-0-7 (Reprint 2010, Second edition 2011, 2013) McCormack, R.B. 2012. A guide to Australia’s Spiny Freshwater Crayfish. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria. ISBN 978 0 643 10386 3
The NSW Aquaculture Association, in collaboration with NSW Fisheries and sponored by Pentair Aquatic Ecosystems are holding a two day Recirculating Aquaculture and Aquaponic Short course in Newcastle NSW on the 21th and 22nd of September 2013.
We will be covering a range of topics suitable to anyone wanting to learn more about designing and operating recirculating aquaculture or aquaponic systems of any size over the intense two day short course presented by Dr Tom Losordo and Dr Wilson Lennard.
Some of the topics that will be covered during this workshop (Full list of topics to be confirmed):
System design and management
- Construction Techniques
- Feeding, growth and survival
- Harvesting and processing
- Water quality
- Seedling production
- Importance of pest identification
- Disease and insect control
- Nutrient dynamics
Economics and Marketing
- Aquaponics economics
- Effect of scale vs Available market
- Marketing Fish
- Marketing Plants
About the Presenters:
Dr. Tom Losordo is the Director of Aquaculture Systems Engineering for Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems. Dr. Losordo has a Bachelor degree in Biology and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Having been involved in aquaculture for more than 38 years, Dr. Losordo recently retired as head of a program of applied research and extension at North Carolina State University in the area of recirculating aquaculture production systems.
Dr. Wilson Lennard is the Director of Aquaponic Solutions and has been studying aquaponics for the past 10 years. He is a PhD graduate from Australia (RMIT University, 2006) with practical commercial aquaponics experience and knowledge. Wilson also has scientific and engineering skills and experience in associated aquatic disciplines, including freshwater aquaculture, marine aquaculture, hydroponics, integrated aquatic farming systems, freshwater aquatic ecology and environmental biology. These skills and experience have been accumulated over a professional scientific career of almost 20 years.
Venue and cost
The venue will be the Soldiers Point Bowls Club, 118 Soldiers Point Rd, Soldiers Point NSW 2317
We are arranging for discounted accommodation rates which are located next to and across the road from the club (walking distance). So hold off on booking your accommodation.
- Refreshments and lunch will be provided/included on both days.
- Course workbook and proceedings are included.
- We are organising a separate meal at the club on the Saturday night as an option for us all to get together
- General registration will be $280 total for the two days
- Aquaculture Association members will be $210
- Students registration will be $230 (a copy of your student ID card will need to be sent prior)
Secretary NSW Aquacutlure Association
THIS FARM HAS BEEN SOLD
Marine and freshwater aquaculture farm on Port Stephens NSW. If you are looking for a yabby farm for sale or a fish farm for sale then look no further.
This one has it all. This site is unique with everything going for it, look at these features:
- Both freshwater and marine water available.
- 100 Acres of impervious clays ideal for ponds.
- Aquaculture permits current.
- 17 species approved for the site.
- Just 2 hrs and 15 minutes to Sydney CBD.
- Only 2 minute from the expressway with fish transports and couriers going past daily.
- Absolute salt water frontage ideal for boating and canoeing
- 11 large ponds and 5 smaller ponds
- 8 ponds netted
- Large water storage
- Sheds and equipment
Approved aquaculture species include:
- Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)
- Australian bass (Macquaria novemaceuleata)
- Balmain bugs(lbacus peronii)
- Black tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon)
- Brown trout (Salmo trutta)
- Eastern lobster (Jasus verauxi)
- Eell tailed catfish (Tandanus tandanus)
- Freshwater prawn (Macrobrachiumsp.)
- Golden perch (Macquaria ambiqua)
- Mud crab (Scylla serrata)
- Mullet (Mugil cephalus)
- Mulloway (Argyrosomus japoricus)
- Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
- Silver bream (Acanthopagrus australis)
- Snapper (Pagrus auratus)
- Yabby(Cherax destructor)
- Supper yabby CSIRO strain (Cherax destructor)
This farm will not be on the market for long so if your interested send me an email asap and Ill send you further information.
THIS FARM HAS BEEN SOLD
Members started arriving a good hour before the start of the event
In October 2012 the NSWAA held a field day at Mike Spiteri’s, Hebden Fish Farm near Singleton, NSW. Approximately 30 registered for the day which was sunny, hot and a bit windy.
The water storage dam
Our President Paul Van der Werf started the field day on the banks of the water storage dam that is the source of water for the farm and then moved down to the recirculating aquaculture system. We all gathered around the tanks, discussing the system design and construction.
Attendees around a Silver Perch culture tank
Mike showed us how the tank/system plumbing works and started draining one of the tanks for us. We then moved onto the engine of the system see and discuss the sumps, pumps, physical filters and bio filters, etc. Paul explained the function of each piece of equipment with a general discussion on best industry practice and what’s best to use for which system etc.
We all looked at the fish and yabbies and saw and discussed feeding and growth of the aquaculture produce. Once of the tank was partially drained we gathered around the tank, watched the fish and Paul discussed the handling and preparation of fish for sale and the markets/prices etc. Mike then showed us how to use “AQUI-S” to anesthetize fish. We were all able to catch and hold the stock from the partly drained tank once the anesthetic took effect.
As the tank water levels drop the fish became visible
Joe with a Silver Perch
Rob McCormack talked about fish breeding with general discussions of fish breeding habits in the wild and then how to manipulate them for commercial breeding purposes. Next followed a talk on building a commercial fish hatcher followed by a quick look though Mikes Silver Perch hatchery.
Pivot irrigation is used to water fodder crops for cattle with the nutrient rich fish water
Any excess water from Mike fish farm is irrigated onto a paddock to supply grass for his cattle which are also part of his overall farming business. As part of any aquaculture operation disposal of excess water must be conducted in an environmentally friendly manner. A large general discussion followed with much interest in hydroponic and aquaponics with excess water from the fish system being used to grow vegetable or herb crops.
Our President Paul talking about Silver Perch culture to attendees
A good day was had by all and we are thankful to Mike Spiteri for making his farm available to the Association and to our President Paul Van der Werf for sharing his wealth of knowledge with us all. Another field day is planned early next year so I hope you can all join us for that one.
We are please to announce Mike Spiteri from the Hebden Fish Farm has offered to showcase his recirculating aquaculture facility on behalf of the NSW Aquaculture Association. A large part of the Associations Charter is to promote sustainable aquaculture in NSW, this farm presents a perfect opportunity to do just that.
This particular system is very low tech and built by Mike at a very low cost which will demonstrate lower cost entry level recirculating aquaculture. Ideal for those thinking about starting up and want to get some ideas on system set up.
Mike, Rob McCormack and Paul Van der Werf with others will be fielding question and presenting information and discussion on the following topics:
- Species – Silver perch, Golden Perch, Murray cod, Mussels and Yabbies
- Feeding and growth
- Harvesting and Handling
- Alternate Feed Sources and DIY Fish Feed
- System design and filtration
- Growth capacity
- System construction
- System maintenance
- Day to day operations of the farm
This a fantastic opportunity for anyone interested in entering the aquaculture industry from the backyard fish farmer, to the hobby or small scale aquaculture even aquaponics operation right up to commercial to get a first hand tour of an operational commercial aquaculture farm and discuss the benefits and some of the issues an aquaculture farmer faces, from farmers with decades of experience.
The site is in Singleton, NSW a few hours out of Newcastle. You would need to plan a day trip coming out of Sydney. People attending out of State can fly into Newcastle and drive out to site. Signs will be put up on the road to help you find it. A download of a map to the property can be found here.
Start time is 1pm on Saturday 20th October to give time for those traveling out to get there. We will finish around 3 or 4pm on Saturday. Ticket purchases can be made below.
Australian Aquatic Biological are sponsoring the event with Hebden Fish Farm and Earthan Group Pty Ltd. All monies and payments are made directly to the Association. This post is provided to promote the Recirculating Aquaculture Field Day on behalf of the Association and all proceeds are to the NSW Aquaculture Association.
We look forward to seeing you all there.
NSW Aquaculture Association