For the November club night we had the ever popular Mark Davis from Cuttkebrook Koi Farm visiting the club to provide us with a talk and presentation on "Japan Then and Now". The 'then' being 1986 and the 'now' being 2012.
Mark started the journey by studying fish farming at Sparsholt College for two years in 1985. This course was mainly focused on Aqua culture with year one on salmon / trout and then year two on carp and catfish. For work experience Mark travelled to France and worked on a 100 hectare fish farm. This was a mixed fish farm with carp, pike, roach, rudd, catfish plus they had one pond of koi.
He was advised that in order to gain the best knowledge and experience selecting koi that he must go to Japan. He immediate wrote off to Hamiharte (also know for Hikari fish foods) and to his delight was given the opportunity to help out on the farm. For the first month Mark had to relearn handling again from scratch and he wasn't able to hold a koi for one month. It has to be done perfectly or not at all!
His first few months were spent preparing the mud ponds and the spawning tanks to ensure everything was immaculate. Once everything was toothbrush clean they were ready for the first spawnings to begin.
They would ideally spawn at 18-20c in 12-14" of water with lots of spawning ropes and then would just leave them alone to do their thing. The eggs will catch on the spawning ropes would be left for five day to incubate / hatch and then another five 'ish' days to swim up.
After this period the water would be slowly siphoned away leaving all the fry to collect into a carved out lower section. Depending on the breed but you can expect to have 250-500k fry per spawning.
The mud ponds were only filled to about knee high so the fry will swim around the whole area. If the water was too deep the fry tend to stay around the sides. Mark also had to ensure the mud ponds weren't over oxygenated. This would shell to prevent air bubbles attaching to the fry. If the happens this is fatal for the fry because it won't be able to separate from the bubbles and whilst swimming down it was fine but whenever it stopped for rest it would float upto the surface and perish.
In Japan in 1986 the most advanced type of filtration (mechanical and biological) Mark saw was a series of large concrete boxes containing stones. The first one containing large stones, then medium stones and then each box containing smaller and smaller stones.
Every second Friday was auction day at Himaji. Mark would load bags of koi onto the pickup truck at 5am and travel to the auction. There would be about 30-40 farms all heading to the auction and by lunchtime all the floating boxes would be in place for the bidding to begin. The auction house was positioned over the edge of the lake with water path running through the centre. Th buyers would stand on a viewing gallery in the centre of the house, above the water path, and they would bid on the bags of koi in the floating koi baskets as they travelled through the house. The majority of these koi were being sold for export. Thinking back this does propose an interesting health challenge.
Tanaka was regarded as one of the very best selectors of young koi and he had numerous of farms in the hills. When he visited the farm where Mark was working he would do selections from dawn till dusk. At lunchtimes Mark was able to do selections with him and would receive a direct "good koi" and even more direct "bad koi" guidance which has proved invaluable ever since.
Mark returned to the UK in 1986 and immediately started working on a huge koi pond with Eric Devis at Brit Koi. One day on his way back home on a train to High Wycombe he sat opposite a guy called Keith. They started talking and realised that they were both passionate about koi. Overtime they became best mates and they were both head hunted to work for Kent Koi. This was where Mark met his wife Lisa. It was around this time that Mark and Keith decided to go their separate ways on their business venture. So Keith (now of Koi Water Barn) bought mark out and went his own way. It's all a very small world!
Mark continued to show us photos from his return visit to Japan in 2012. The changes to the koi farms has been dramatic and they have faced significant challenges with the recent earthquakes.
Some key buying dates for Cuttlebrook Koi Farm next year are,
- 03 / 04 April 2015 - Easter Clearance Sale
- 25 April 2015 - Koi Forum Day
- 20 September 2015 - Autumn Harvest Sales Day
- 31 Oct / 01 Nov 2015 - Tosai Sales Weekend
Also next year (2015) Cuttlebrook koi farm will be open on Saturday's during British Summer Time so no need to book your visit in advance.
Many thanks from all the members of Kangei to Mark for providing another really interesting talk to the club.
Next month (Wednesday 10 Dec 2014 from 19:45) we have Gary Pritchard providing us with the results from this year's Garden Show. I am personally really looking forward to this and with the quality of koi entered it will be great to see who are the winners.
This will be the final club meeting of 2014 so as is customary all wives, girlfriends and partners are very welcome to come along and join us.