Story and photos by Bruce Schultz
ESTHERWOOD – It all started back about 30 years ago when Trent Broussard and Aaron Dore were in elementary school and they worked as ball boys during Notre Dame Football games.
They struck up a lifelong friendship that evolved into D&B Farms with crawfish, cattle and rice.
“Needless to say, we’re like brothers now,” Trent said.
After graduating from Notre Dame in 2002, Trent went to McNeese University with Aaron, who
graduated from Notre Dame in 2001, but Trent moved to Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, to join the rodeo team there as a bull rider.
Aaron graduated from McNeese with a degree in agricultural science, and Trent left school 9 credits shy of getting his degree in ag business.
After college, Dore was working for Francis Drilling Fluids and Trent was working cattle and breaking horses. One day, they both decided to leave their jobs to start farming together.
“This was always our dream to do what we’re doing,” Aaron said.
They had a small herd of cattle and they began their crawfish farming enterprise with 300 acres of ponds.
“We planted our first rice crop in 2013,” Trent recalled.
They started with 100 acres, then 600. The next year, they grew twice as much. “That’s when prices were the worst,” Trent said.
Along came 2016 with the devastating floods. “We lost a lot of money.”
Trent said the rice went underwater and sprouted and they had to use a boat to get to their harvest equipment. One field only made 18-20 barrels and it was sold for about $12 a barrel.
“We learned a lot from that,” Trent said. “We are thankful to be in business today.”
Upon starting their farm, they relied on advice. “A lot of friends have helped us a lot on the way,” Aaron said.
Several farmers, including Ross Thibodeaux, Wes Simon and Dennis Hensgens were eager to help.
Trent said one of their landlords, Steve Cart, has helped them make their operations more efficient.
Trent’s parents, Scott and Julie, have the Acadia Crawfish processing business in Crowley.
Aaron’s family has a background in the rice business. His grandfather owned Dore Rice Mill in Crowley.
But neither man had a working knowledge of growing rice.
They have each carved out their own specialty on the farm. Aaron mainly is in charge of the crawfish, while Trent manages the rice crop.
They have about 1,300 acres of crawfish.
To harvest crawfish, they have four airboats, made by The Weld Shop in Mermentau, to avoid rutting fields. The airboats are powered with 350-cubic-inch engines.
They still have conventional boats, but they are now propelled by basket wheels instead of lugged wheels.
They use about 10 traps per acre, baited with pogey chunks. Warmer weather in April will allow the use of artificial bait.
In 2014, they bought the crawfish wholesale business, Southern Specialties, when it was based in Iota. Eventually, they realized they were spread too thin and they relocated the crawfish business south of Estherwood.
They buy crawfish from other producers, and buyers ship their product across the south, from Texas to Florida.
“We had to start from scratch,” Aaron said. “We’re finally getting it somewhat together.”
“It’s getting better,” Trent added. “The whole operation is getting better.”
For now, Trent said they expect to improve their operation instead of expanding more.
“My oldest son is 15 and Aaron’s is 11,” Trent said. “When our kids are of age to work on the farm, we’ll think about growing.”
Throughout March, they were disappointed with the catch, but it started picking up with warmer weather and Easter demand was high.
The crawfish are larger than last year, they said, but the catch is considerably lower. Many of their neighbors have the same complaint.
Aaron said last year, their crawfish wholesale business bought 7,600 sacks of crawfish in February. By late March, they had bought less than 2,500 sacks.
Some producers are the exception, he said, with good catches but they’ve been outnumbered by producers with less-than-normal harvests.
He said the catch could increase late in the season. “Some years, you can make it up. It’s bumping up a little but nothing significant.”
On the other hand, the price has remained high, he said, because of the lower catch numbers.
Aaron said the hard freeze in March halted the crawfish harvest. “It stopped those crawfish for 3-4 days. Completely stopped them. We’ve had cold weather but nothing like this.”
They wonder if the hurricanes had some adverse effect on the crawfish. And they are sure that the catch on their second-crop rice fields haven’t peaked,
They use a rice-crawfish rotation on the farm near Estherwood. On the farm near Gueydan, they have a cattle-rice rotation.
They have a herd of about 100 head of commercial cattle, and they use Charolais bulls from a seller in Missouri.
Trent said crawfish doesn’t work well on the farm near Gueydan because geese eat most of the rice stubble.
“The challenge of this operation is the distance,” Trent revealed.
Their Gueydan farm, with cattle and rice, is 20 miles from Estherwood, and the crawfish headquarters is in between.
The good thing about driving back and forth is that they get to observe what their neighbors are doing. “We’ve got some guys around us who’ve been pretty successful, and we try to follow them.”
Since Trent and Aaron can’t be everywhere all the time, keeping everything going requires good help.
“We’re very fortunate we’ve got some good crews.”
Mexican labor and a few locals keep things going, he said.
His father’s crawfish processing operation has a large Mexican work force, and many of them have been working at the Crowley business for almost 20 years. “They’ve watched me grow up,” Trent said.
The first rice of 1,300 acres was planted this year on March 8 with a RiceTec hybrid planted at 22 pounds per acre with a 30-foot air drill. Their seed is treated with Dermacor for weevils and AV1011 bird repellent.
The last field to be planted was on the farm southwest of Gueydan. It was sprayed before planting to kill weeds, then no-till drilled with hybrid rice seed.
The Gueydan location is a pump-on, pump-off field, surrounded by a high levee system. ”It’s a totally different animal down here.”
Saltwater intrusion can be a problem with a drought, he said.
In addition to hybrids, they also will use Provisia on about 200 acres this year to address bad red rice and outcrossing problems that can no longer be remedied with Newpath herbicide.
They were pleased with last year’s rice yields in the mid to upper 50-barrel range. Trent said they had everything cut before Hurricane Laura except 100 acres of late-planted rice that still yielded over 40 barrels.
They are heavily involved in show cattle with their kids.
Aaron’s family shows Beefmaster and commercial cattle, while Trent has red and gray brahmas along with Simbrah.
They each have quite a crew to enter the show ring.
Trent and his wife, Lannah, have 7 children. Oldest to youngest are Trent Jr., Cooper Mary Reece, Jacob, Owen, Mariana and Eleanor.
Aaron and his wife, Lauren, have 6. The oldest is Elliot, followed by Camille, Charlotte, Caroline, Catherine and Cassidy.
“We just came back from the International Show in Waco,” Aaron said, explaining that the event was held to replace the cancelled 2021 Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show.
One of their Beefmaster heifers won reserve champion in the senior division, and they cooked crawfish at the event.
Trent enjoyed bull riding. “I wasn’t nearly as good as my little brothers.”
Trey and Taylor Broussard have made a name on the rodeo circuit.
Some of Trent’s kids participate in rodeo. “We don’t let them ride bulls,” he said. “Instead, they rope, and we try to stay with show cows. It’s a lot safer.”
Jeremy Hebert, LSU AgCenter county agent, said both families are quite active in livestock shows.
“They’re big into cattle, and they have a successful crawfish operation."
Hebert said it’s encouraging that young farmers such as Aaron and Trent are continuing a way of life.
“They’re going to keep that legacy going.”