Tilapia farming has become an integral part of the aquaculture industry, but its growth is not without its challenges, particularly in the realm of production costs. One major cost that tilapia farmers grapple with is the expenditure on commercial supplemental feed. Researchers at the Freshwater Aquaculture Center of the Central Luzon State University (FAC-CLSU) have found that the cost of supplemental feed constitutes a substantial portion, accounting for about 60 percent of the total production cost. In essence, for every 10 units of currency spent on producing tilapia, a staggering 6 units are allocated for feeds. However, hope is on the horizon. Studies conducted in collaboration with North Carolina State University and several other countries have unearthed innovative feeding strategies to optimize tilapia production and trim costs, thereby boosting profits.
The collaborative project between FAC-CLSU, North Carolina State University, and other countries is known as the Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP). It has evolved through different phases, including the Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture CRSP (1982-1999), the Aquaculture CRSP (2000-2005), and the Aquaculture and Fisheries CRSP, also known as AquaFish CRSP (2006-2011). The CRSP initiative was established to bridge the expertise of American agricultural universities with the needs of developing nations. Dr. Remedios B. Bolivar of FAC-CLSU leads the project in the Philippines as the host country principal investigator, while Dr. Russell J. Borski of NCSU serves as the CRSP US lead principal investigator. The project’s funding comes from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), NCSU, and CLSU.
Delayed Feeding: A Cost-Efficient Approach
One of the innovative feeding strategies discovered through this collaboration is delayed feeding. This concept is not entirely new, as Thai researchers had previously found in 1966 that delayed feeding could help save on production costs without compromising fish yield. The CRSP study at FAC-CLSU conducted experiments in seven farms. Each farm provided two ponds for the research, stocked with the genetically improved fast-growing tilapia (GIFT) strain of Nile tilapia. These ponds were initially stocked with four fish per square meter.
To promote the growth of algae (lablab), which the fish consume before supplemental feeding, the ponds were fertilized weekly with inorganic fertilizer, equivalent to 5 kg of urea (46-0-0) and 28 kg of ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) per hectare. The experimental design involved initiating supplemental feeding at two different time points, 45 and 75 days after stocking, and continuing until harvest at 150 days after stocking.
The results showed that fish given supplemental feed starting at 45 days after stocking were heavier at harvest, with an average weight of 164 grams. However, they also consumed significantly more feed, totaling 8,299 kg per hectare. This amount of feed was 2,231 kg more than the consumption of fish given supplemental feed starting at 75 days after stocking.
The data provided by Dr. Bolivar revealed that the total value of feed consumption for fish starting at 45 days after stocking until harvest constituted 81 percent of the total production cost. In contrast, the total value of feed consumed by fish starting at 75 days after stocking until harvest represented almost 78 percent of the total production cost. In terms of net return per hectare, delayed feeding starting at 75 days after stocking resulted in a higher return of P99,133 compared to only P44,332 per hectare for delayed feeding starting at 45 days after stocking.
Alternate Day Feeding: A Profitable Strategy
Another effective feeding strategy is alternate day feeding, which involves providing supplemental feed to the fish every other day. In other words, feed is not given on the day following the provision of supplemental feed. The study conducted by Dr. Bolivar and her team compared this alternate day feeding strategy with daily feeding, with supplemental feeding commencing at 45 days after stocking.
Similar to the delayed feeding study, the results indicated that fish in the daily feeding strategy had a higher weight at harvest, with an average of 167 grams. However, they also consumed more feed, totaling 6,331 kg per hectare, compared to only 2,807 kg per hectare for those in the alternate day feeding strategy. As a result, the total value of feed consumption in the daily feeding strategy was considerably higher than in the alternate feeding strategy, representing almost 73 percent of the total production cost compared to only 58 percent.
In the final analysis, the daily feeding strategy resulted in a negative net income of minus P30,166 per hectare, while the alternate day feeding strategy yielded a net return of P62,435 per hectare. This demonstrates the profitability of the alternate day feeding strategy.
Sub-Satiation Feeding: A Cautionary Approach
In a different study, researchers at FAC-CLSU examined sub-satiation feeding to assess whether it could reduce production costs without negatively affecting fish production. Similar to the previous experiments, seven farms participated, allowing the use of two ponds each. Inorganic fertilizers were applied to the ponds weekly.
The study involved giving two different amounts of supplemental feed to the fish starting at 45 days after stocking, with one pond receiving full daily feeding and the other only receiving 67 percent. However, the results did not show any significant benefit from sub-satiation feeding up to 67 percent. While this approach may still hold potential for cost savings, further investigation is necessary to determine its effectiveness.
In conclusion, the feeding strategies discovered through this collaborative research initiative offer promising avenues to reduce production costs in tilapia farming. Delayed feeding, alternate day feeding, and potentially sub-satiation feeding not only trim expenses but are also environmentally desirable, reducing the organic materials loaded into fishponds. These strategies are easily adoptable by fishpond operators as they do not require complex procedures or inputs. By implementing these feeding techniques, tilapia farmers stand to significantly increase their profits while contributing to sustainable aquaculture practices. So, why not give these strategies a try? You may be amazed at the results, as they not only benefit your bottom line but also contribute to a more eco-friendly approach to tilapia farming.
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