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Ready for the Easter rush

BUSY WEEK: Leah Van Itallie of Central Queensland Crayfish with a tray of harvested crayfish.
BUSY WEEK: Leah Van Itallie of Central Queensland Crayfish with a tray of harvested crayfish. Vanessa Jarrett

LEAH and Paul Van Itallie have had a busy week at their Valentine Plains fish farm getting their crayfish orders ready ahead of Good Friday next week.

"Orders are going really well for Easter, all we have done is advertising on Facebook,” Leah said.

"We expect to get a lot more orders next week and we usually do sell out.

"We can only produce so much.”

Leah and Paul first began the Central Queensland Crayfish farm in 1992 and it first began as a way to innovate the family farm.

"We were looking at diversifying the farm and we had looked into a few different things then we heard about the redclaw farm,” Leah said.

"We could use the infrastructure we already had at the farm and we had the right soil.

"We used to be a lot bigger but we did a big restructure and came through the drought.

"Now we are just building it back up again for domestic use, we won't be looking at going back to exporting.”

The crayfish farm has also proved to have good sustainability for the property through water and feed.

"When we harvest the ponds we are also able to use that water to irrigate and recycle it that way,” Leah said.

The crayfish side of the farm is run on five hectares of the 400 hectares property, with the rest cropping country for anything from mungbeans and chickpeas to wheat, sorghum and barley.

"We fed the fish the grain rejects and grade outs, whatever is leftover and not good enough to sell,” Leah said.

Ten ponds are on the farm, six of which are full at the moment, and sheep graze around them to maintain the grass.

"We try to drain the ponds every six months per one to cleanse them and so we know there are only crayfish in it, as we don't know what the wildlife and birds have dropped in,” Leah said.

"And then we sanitise them for a few months and let them dry out.”

Native to Queensland, the crayfish like their water to be above 18 degrees and can be a bit fussy.

"We also have paddlewheels in the ponds that run through the night and day to aerate the water,” Leah said.

"The aeration encourages growth and better stocking rate.”

All around the ponds lie tyres as the fish like to hide in them.

"The more habitat you provide them, them more fish you will grow which is why we have the tyres,” Leah said.

In terms of harvesting and processing, Leah said each pond was different.

"We got about 10 baskets from the pond this morning which is about 50 kilos,” Leah said.

"But that's not saleable product, you can get anything from 20 to 50% that is profitable and marketable.”

Topics:  biloela eating crayfish farming easter 2017 good friday


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