Thursday, April 22, 2010

Splitting Seed in Half by Half Cages

Probably the thing that trips up most new oyster farmers is falling behind on seed work.

When oysters, especially when they are young, have warm water and lots of food they grow FAST!!! If you loaded a bag about a quater full of 1/2" seed today in about two weeks during the growing season you could easily have 1/2 to 3/4 full bag of oysters. If you let that go another two weeks you'll have a solid brick of oysters and the beautiful minature half shell style oysters will start to get real crazy looking as they run into one another reaching for more water and room. It can be an expensive and discouraging mistake to make.
After years of fighting bags and working our tails off to stay on top of our seed (often to no avail)we finally started using .5"x.5" low profile cages to do all of our seed work out on the farm.

Now, we haven't completely gone away from bags because when the seed is humming out of the upweller and it needs a place to go yet its too small for .5"x.5" we put them in 4mm bags. We'll let them ride there for two weeks then into the half by halfs if we are in a pinch. The best scenario is to run them long enough in the upweller so they can go directly into the half by half cages.
A couple of things are great about the half by half cages...
1. Holds a lot of oyster seed
2. Easy to open and close
3. Can be split out on the water in a rapid fashion
4. Can hold the oysters all the way to a size compatible with our 1x1 cages

When we are doing seed splits we will hoist a cage on deck and dump it on the bow as seen in these two pictures.
Once its on the bow we will fill orange bushels to a desired level, usually 3/4's full and we'll use that volume as our guage for reloading the cages to go back in the water. So we will add 3/4's of a bushel to the top and bottom of a lowpro cage.
The amout of oysters that are left over will vary depending on how long you waited to do a split, but those oysters as seen in the picture above will go in another empty cage that we brought out with us. If you want to cut the bill on your seed just hang the bushels over the side and shak'em up until they are nice and clean, we only do that if we let a cage get really loaded or if there is just a lot of junk and we want to rinse it out of the oysters for a fresh start.

Check out the video...

The bottom line seems to be no matter what you end up doing stay on top of giving your oysters room to grow.