Rural Doc Makes Good with Ulang
The ulang or giant freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) is a high-value species that can now be commercially grown in the country with the availability of fry (post-larvae) from local hatcheries and culture technologies. It sells for P300-600 per kilo at a size of 60-80 grams apiece.
Freshwater pond culture of the tilting in Central Luzon has progressed much, thanks to the efforts of researchers and extensionists at the National Freshwater Fisheries Technology Center (NFFTC) of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in CLSU, Science City of Mufioz, Nueva Ecija led by NFFTC head Melchor Tayamen. Fry of the prawn and extension services for its grow-out culture can be availed from the center.
One cooperator of the NFFTC for ulang culture who has made good is Dr. Arturo Marcelino, Sr., a practicing family physician in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija. He first tried growing prawn last year in a 1,000-sq.m. pond in his farm at Barangay Santa Barbara, San Antonio, Nueva Ecija.
“As an advocate of sustainable organic farming, I wanted to see if I could grow the tilting without using commercial feeds,” Dr. Marcelino said. “With fry and technical assistance from the NFFTC, I stocked 1,400 pieces in the pond and only used cooked vegetable wastes and chicken entrails from the market for feeding.”
Dr. Marcelino also placed brush shelters made of bamboo twigs in the pond to protect the prawn from predators and to prevent cannibalism when they are molting (change of body covering). He also applied a commercial probiotic product containing beneficial microorganisms to improve water quality at the rate of 50 grams per month for only P200 for the whole culture period.
When he harvested the stock after 3-4 months of culture, each prawn weighed of 70-80 grams and had a survival of 70 percent. This meant that he was able to produce 73.5 kg of market-size tilting with a value of at least P22,050 from 0.1 hectare pond in four months.
Dr. Marcelino believes that his use of the probiotic product enabled him to save on the high cost of fuel used for pumping water into his pond for water change. He also only relied on rainwater during the rainy season and maintained a water depth of 0.5 meter in the culture pond.
Aside from protecting the prawn, the brush shelters, he observed, also served as attachment for the eggs of the “golden kuhol” that thrived in the pond. The prawn relished the crimson-colored snail eggs.
Due to his initial success, the rural doc stocked four 500-square meter ponds in his farm. He believes that by doing away with commercial feeds and too much water pumping, the two most costly item in fishpond operation, ulang culture can be a very profitable venture, especially when two crops are produced in a year.
Looking ahead, Dr. Marcelino is now trying to produce his own ulang fry by using a 100-gallon seawater aquarium. He is also growing tilapia with the prawn to see if they can be compatitable.
For more information on ulang, interested readers may contact NFFTC Chief Melchor Tayamen at (+63917) 331-2543.