Texas crawfish production remained steady, but consumers should expect higher prices this season as demand continues to grow, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
Todd Sink, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension aquaculture specialist and director of the AgriLife Extension Aquatic Diagnostics Lab, Bryan-College Station, said the crawfish industry continues to thrive in Texas and demand continues to rise across the state.
Sink said crawfish have fared better in Texas than Louisiana this year. Sizes were below average in Louisiana this year due to weather, but crawfish have been consistently bigger in Texas during the early season.
Drought conditions and the impacts of winter freezes were worse in Louisiana production areas compared to Southeast Texas, he said. Dry conditions forced crawfish to remain in burrows for long periods, which meant they were foraging and growing less. Winter freezes in early winter also killed back vegetation, which compounded their lack of winter foraging.
Producers around Beaumont, however, were not seeing smaller sizes, he said.
“Our crawfish are bigger and bringing better prices,” Sink said. “Jumbo crawfish demand premium prices and could be close to $1 more per pound compared to regular grade crawfish. It also takes more crawfish per pound when they are smaller.”
Texas crawfish production remains strong
Texas ranks second in crawfish production, but it is far behind Louisiana, which produced 150 million pounds on around 250,000 acres in 2019. About 60%-70% of crawfish consumed in Texas come from Louisiana, Sink said.
Texas production is hard to pin down due to the lack of official reporting, but Sink believes producers average between 750-800 pounds per acre, or 7.125 million to 7.6 million pounds of crawfish from about 9,500 acres annually.
“The Texas crawfish industry is doing well, but production remained static this year,” he said. “We went through good expansion years, but no new farms have come in over the past year. We’re kind of running out of acres suitable for crawfish.”
Sink said crawfish farming has tried to move beyond Southeast Texas but that sandy, acidic soils and lack of water proved inhospitable to production. Fortunately, he said, Texas producers in areas suitable for production are making the most of their acres.
Around 60% of Texas crawfish acres are dual-purpose flooded rice fields that provide habitat for crawfish farming until rice is planted. Those acres produce around 650 pounds per acre of crawfish until they are shut down for rice planting.
Acres dedicated solely to crawfish can produce 900-950 pounds per acre and can be harvested a month to six weeks longer than rice acres, Sink said.
Sink believes rice variety introductions over recent years have helped dual-purpose producers harvest crawfish deeper into the season.
“The shorter-season rice varieties give producers an edge,” he said. “The beginning of the season pays the farm bills. They want to be first while prices are high, but the crawfish at the end of the season are the profit. Extending harvest a week or two can add 70-100 pounds per acre.”
Prices higher per pound
Sink said crawfish lovers should expect to pay higher prices than last year. Price increases are associated with the inflationary pressures that have led to higher overall food costs.
The per-pound price paid for crawfish is influenced on where and when consumers purchase them, Sink said. Consumers closer to crawfish production in Louisiana and Southeast Texas will pay less due to lower shipping costs.
Early season crawfish can be expensive, but the prices typically peak during Lent, the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and the Holy Saturday before Easter. Last year, live crawfish in College Station were $4 per pound, or $120 per bag, on the first day of Lent.
Prices were even higher in metropolitan areas like Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, he said. Live crawfish prices routinely pushed beyond $5 per pound during peak demand last year.
Live crawfish were priced at $4.75 per pound in College Station in January and are now $2.97 per pound, Sink said. Boiled crawfish were $8.99 per pound.
In San Antonio, live crawfish were unavailable at numerous retailers already, and boiled crawfish were $9.99 per pound. Live crawfish in Dallas were $3.97-$4.99 per pound and unavailable in some locations.
Prices begin to fall after Easter, Sink said.
“Demand continues to increase each year, and I don’t see that slowing down,” he said. “I am just worried we’re running out of suitable production acres and that the ability to meet demand that grows year after year will push prices higher and higher.”
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
Soil moisture levels were adequate to surplus. Most of the district received little to no rain. High winds and colder weather, including one day of freezing temperatures, blew through at the end of the week. Some producers put out fertilizer on hay fields and cropland. Corn and grain sorghum planting got off to a great start. Many producers in areas completed planting while the northern part of Central Texas was just getting started. Producers were optimistic that emerged corn would survive the short freeze. Small amounts of rain delayed planting in some areas. Some early planted vegetables were damaged from the late-season frost. Oaks were in full bud throughout the district. Broadleaf weeds and ryegrass started to grow and made fields look green. Some producers expected noxious weed pressure will be higher this season. Small grain fields looked better than they have all season. Wheat and oat fields looked promising in front of the cold spell. Most wheat was going into the boot stage, and rust stripe and leaf diseases were developing. Large populations of lady beetles were seen in many fields, and bird cherry oat aphids were being found. Overall pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to poor. The cattle market turned up slightly as pastures began to green up. Sheep and goat markets were still strong. Supplemental feeding continued for all livestock. Water levels in tanks were lower and beginning to cause some concern.
Parts of the district received a light freeze on Saturday night with temperatures near 30 degrees. Soil moisture was still decent from the moisture received earlier this month. Pastures started greening up. Wheat pastures looked better and finally putting on some growth. Most fields were prepared, and producers will likely start planting some corn and sorghum in the next couple of weeks. Supplemental feeding was still taking place. Spring calving and lambing was in full swing.
Temperatures were moderate to warm. Most areas reported rain with amounts ranging from 0.4-2 inches. Warm-season perennial grasses were breaking dormancy. Most corn was planted and around 60% emerged. Grain sorghum planting was nearly complete. Most early planted cotton had emerged, but the cooler temperatures slowed its progress. Producers were preparing to plant most cotton when the weather and soil warm back up. Rangelands and pastures were greening up but could use more moisture. Conditions were good where pastures were not overstocked. Most livestock were finding plenty to eat and were in decent condition for this time of year. Livestock markets were holding strong, and cattle prices were at historic highs.
Most of the district received good amounts of rain recently. Angelina County reported receiving 4-5 inches. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Warmer weather and good soil moisture helped pastures green up. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good. Some counties, however, had late-season frosts and cold spells that have set growth back a bit. Spring planting was underway, and some producers were soil testing. Armyworms were spotted in Harrison County. Livestock were doing fair to good with limited supplementation still taking place in most counties. Anderson County producers reported goat and sheep losses to predators. Beavers were very active.
Soil moisture ranged from very poor to adequate. Small amounts of moisture in the mornings allowed for some green up, but overall, winter wheat was in very poor to fair condition. Irrigation on wheat may increase soon with favorable grain prices and decent conditions. Pasture and rangeland continued to be very poor to fair. A cold front brought cooler temperatures and high winds.
Topsoil and subsoil moisture was very short to short. The wind continued to cause topsoil moisture loss and erosion, and blowing dust was reported. A mix of rain and snow delivered small amounts of moisture. Dryland wheat conditions were very poor to fair and continued to deteriorate. Winter small grain crops and pastures needed moisture to support new growth. The overall condition of pasture and rangeland was very poor to poor. Cattle diets were being supplemented on rangeland, and herds were being liquidated.
Topsoil and subsoil conditions were adequate to surplus. Corn planting stalled in some counties due to wet soil conditions. Pasture and rangeland conditions were fair to good for most areas. Ryegrass pastures responded to sporadic rainfall and warmer daytime temperatures. Bermuda pastures will begin producing forage soon. Winter wheat and oat fields looked better and were growing in fair to good condition. Livestock were in good condition, but the lack of hay and slow cool-season grass growth was still having negative impacts.
A few small showers were reported but nothing significant. A cold front blew through with winds of about 20-25 mph followed by snow flurries and a small rain shower. Daytime temperatures ranged from the 40s to 60s with overnight lows between 27-33 degrees. Soil moisture levels were very short to short in most areas with some areas reporting adequate conditions. It will take time to determine if the freezing temperatures damaged wheat. Tillage continued to prevent wind erosion, but growers were having a difficult time plowing deep enough to bring up soil with moisture. Corn and sorghum planting should begin as soon as the soil warms back up. Producers turned on drip irrigation to prewater cotton fields for planting. Grazing conditions were very poor. Pastures were trying to green up, but limited moisture was hindering growth. Drought-tolerant invasive weeds and toxic plants were a problem. Overall pasture and rangeland conditions were very poor to poor with very few areas reporting fair conditions. Livestock were healthy, but ranchers were spending more to feed them. Lambing finished and goat kidding should wrap up in a few weeks.
Dry conditions continued for most areas. The weather was warm early in the week, but very windy and cold late in the week with a light freeze reported. It will take time to assess freeze damages. A fast-moving storm system mid-week brought 0.5-1.5 inches of rain to some areas. Many stock ponds remained critically low as recent rains have not provided enough runoff to fill them up. More moisture was needed to save the wheat crop. Some wheat was fair to good and improving. Some fields were being grazed, while cattle were being pulled from others. More moisture will be needed for producers taking wheat to grain, but some expected a higher percentage of acres to be grazed out. Rangeland and pasture conditions were improving some with lots of winter annuals and forbs growing. Despite improvements, grazing was limited, and producers continued to provide supplemental feed to livestock. Calving continued, and livestock were in good condition. Some producers were preparing to re-seed pastures where grasses were lost to drought. Cattle prices continued to be very good. Stocker steer prices were steady to $6 higher per hundredweight and heifers selling up to $4 higher per hundredweight. Feeder heifers sold $4 higher per hundredweight while steer prices were steady. Pairs and bred cows were in good demand amid a limited supply. Field preparations continued for cotton planting. Some trees were blooming, and a few mesquite trees were putting on new leaves. Producers suspect fruit trees that bloomed early due to unusually warm temperatures will show some freeze damage depending on their location. Pecan bud break was in full swing.
Some areas received rainfall. Soil moisture levels were adequate to surplus. A cold front delivered cooler temperatures and gusty winds. A light frost was reported one morning. High winds downed limbs and even trees in some areas. Planted corn emerged and was growing well. Rice planting was underway and expected to ramp up soon. Wet weather could delay some planting activity. Pastures and rangelands were greening up, but ratings remained very poor to excellent. Cooler temperatures slowed grass growth, but moisture conditions were good. Clover, oats and ryegrass looked excellent and provided grazing. Supplemental feedings were declining. Improving conditions were spurring calf prices upward.
Dry, windy conditions continued. Topsoil and subsoil moisture was short. A strong late-season cold front dropped temperatures dramatically, and lingering showers throughout the weekend produced trace amounts of rain up to almost 1 inch across the area. Pastures and crops responded well to the moisture. Moisture helped green-up significantly but slowed plantings. Trees and grass were trying to grow, but there was not enough moisture. Small grains were short and fields protected from deer were starting to head out. Producers were fertilizing fields and planting corn and sorghum. Gardeners were planting and plants were beginning to grow. Rangelands were very dry in some areas, and burn bans were still in effect. Livestock conditions remained good throughout the district, but producers were still culling their herds and providing supplemental feed. Lambing and kidding continued. Oats were in fair to good condition. Winter wheat, pastures and rangeland ratings were poor to fair.
Much-needed rain was received in areas. Some areas received hail and high winds, which hurt some barns and equipment. Temperatures were mild and dipped near week’s end with temperatures as low as 46 degrees. Corn planting continued. Most producers were waiting for moisture as long as possible before planting cotton. Spinach was still being planted and harvested. Citrus, sugarcane and vegetable harvests continued. Sesame planting was expected to start soon. Winter wheat fields were in fair condition. Wheat and oat crops began to head. Pasture and range conditions continued to improve as new green growth and forbs continued to grow. Some hay producers were planting hay grazer. Supplemental feeding continued for all livestock to maintain good body condition scores. Hay prices were increasing and supplies were dwindling rapidly. The coastal Bermuda grass fields already looked green and should be ready for the first cutting soon. Producers continued to cull herds due to high feed and hay costs. Some stock tanks were beginning to dry up. Slightly higher cattle prices were reported, and sale volumes were above average across all classes. Ungrazed rangelands posed an elevated fire danger with current conditions. Ranchers were supplementally feeding wildlife.