Wisconsin dairy farmers start indoor shrimp production

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LAFITTE, LA - AUGUST 16: Gulf Coast shrimp moves along a production line at Lafitte Frozen Seafood Corporation on August 16, 2010 in Lafitte, Louisiana. During a tour of the plant, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said it was important for consumers to know that Gulf Coast shrimp is safe to eat and that testing has not shown any adverse effects caused by the massive oil spill brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

WEYERHAEUSER — A northern Wisconsin dairy farm family is supplementing its income with fresh shrimp.

Larry and Laurie Fortuna have 230 cows on their 500-acre dairy farm in Rusk County, the Leader-Telegram of Eau Clarie reported . The couple started raising saltwater Pacific white shrimp last year.

The Fortunas had expanded their dairy herd from 60 to 230 in 2001 but didn’t want to add more cows to their operation. They began exploring the option of indoor shrimp production after becoming discouraged by low milk prices and drought a few years ago.

The biggest expense in the operation was construction a free-stall barn to house the shrimp. They have 20 swimming pools in the facility and 40,000 shrimp which need to be fed three times a day.

Larry Fortuna said the key to raising shrimp is maintaining the water quality.

They sell a pound of live shrimp for about $20. They sell the shrimp directly from the farm to customers.

“It’s a learning curve for people,” Laurie Fortuna said.

Larry Fortuna said many customers enjoy purchasing local food.

“The biggest thing is they see us catch them fresh,” he said. “How much fresher can you get?”

Despite the high demand, the Fortunas said they don’t anticipate selling a high enough volume to supply grocery stores or restaurants.

“We haven’t pursued it; we’ve been selling out,” Larry Fortuna said. “We would rather have 100 customers than four.”