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Thread: Reality & Mystique: Bloodlines, Experimentation, Marketing & More

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Reality & Mystique: Bloodlines, Experimentation, Marketing & More

    As so often occurs, an interesting topic popped up in another thread. So, I'm starting a new thread to keep the discussion somewhat focused. I was going to call it "Reality & Mystique: Bloodlines, Experimentation, Marketing", but that may have been too limiting, so I added "& More".

    The idea is to gather in one spot explanations about the realities of how nishikigoi are produced, brought to the hobbyist and promoted. I don't know if this will generate much interest, but we'll see. In the process some myths may be burst and the mystique of koi may wear a bit thinner, but I do not mean to eliminate the mystique of koi. Understanding the reality of koi production and marketing makes for a better consumer. There will always be a special mystique to koi. Breeders are searching for rainbows as well as a living. Koi are living art. They are living jewels. Nishikigoi can also be cut flowers, and in their transitory perfection embody the wisdom of the Buddha, and the spirit of Nature. The mystique is in what we humans bring to the hobby, and in the history of effort that has refined nishikigoi over so many generations. It is an important aspect of the total enjoyment of the hobby. Understanding the reality of koi production will not eliminate that very human contribution.

    I'll begin by copying a post by Ray Jordan from that other thread (which I've edited for punctuation). There has to be a dozen separate sub-topics touched upon by Ray. Perhaps others will expand on them. I'll sub-title it...

    ___________
    What Breeders Do

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RayJordan
    I agree with Dick. Consider that the larger breeders that we hear about use many different parent koi. For the sake of discussion let's say they have 12 potential female parents and 24 male parents. Some are given a year off and some die, plus the males which provide 50% of the genetics are paired at 2 to 3 to a single female. At most females would only be bred on average perhaps 6-7 years, but likely not in consecutive years. The average number of years would be less and sometimes only once. Also, individual males can be matched to different females year to year. So the percentage of identical pairings year to year, and especially over a span of several years, can change dramatically. I have heard that some breeders try for 50% repeat pairings and 50% new pairings.

    I said all this to point out that when you have a good or a bad experience with a specific breeder's koi it likely has very little to do the genetics of another koi you would get from the same breeder a few years later. In fact it might have near zero relationship. Even if you buy koi from the same breeder and the same female parentm, you are likely only getting 50% of the same genetics.

    Remember that the "look" of the koi from a specific breeder has several components. Genetics, phenotype based on breeders culling focus, and environmental issues such as weather, pond size and location. Add to this that all major breeders produce several grades of koi even from the same exact parents.

    If a well know breeder had a significant higher or lower occurrence of something like shimi or hikui they would be out of business or their koi price would soar to the point few could afford them.

  2. #2
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
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    Another contribution to understanding would be the example of putting fish production into comparing it to any other crop. let's say Peaches....from the same roots as the tree, a known pair of proven breeders mated exactly the same each year, year after year, can produce minimal or bumper crops, depending. This luck of the draw can keep breeders and anticipated buyers kept pretty humble, depending on the luck of the timing. I've always said to never go to Jpan or a dealer's with a color variety in mind as it may be an off year and your better to be focused on buying what is the best koi irregardless of color variety. The fewer of something in a scant year will be more expensive while a bumper crop will give better selection and a better price.
    Dick Benbow

  3. #3
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    Complex subject but also a interesting one to me. How about we start with a overview of breeders year. Depending on pond temperature most breeders in Japan spawn there koi in late spring or early summer. In general a single female is spawned with 2-3 males a indoor pond with netting hanging inside the pond for the eggs to adhere The parent koi are removed as soon as the spawning is complete. At about the same time a fry pond is filled with new water and fertilized to cause a algae and plankton bloom to produce live food for the tiny fry. After about 4-5 days the fry are moved to the newly filled prepared pond. To make the math a bit easier let's say there are 100,000 fry that are placed in each pond. After about a month the surviving fry will be seined and sorted. About 20,000 fry will be kept to grow another month. This will be repeated another 2- 3 times until about 1,000-2,000 baby koi will be selected to spend the winter in a heated koi house. Fry ponds have to be checked daily for any potential problems with disease or water quality. This same process will be repeated for each female koi that is spawned with larger breeders spawning many dozen groups of koi each year.

    These baby koi are sorted in several grades and placed in separate indoor ponds. This sorting process will be repeated a few times during the winter with the koi believed to have the best potential to become much more valuable grown another summer in larger deeper mud ponds designed for larger koi. Two year old koi are kept in separate ponds from three year old koi. Depending on the breeder there may be separate ponds for four year old koi plus separate ponds for older koi and parent koi. Of course male parent koi and female parent koi are keep separate except for breeding.

    Now as to breeders selling koi. The majority of one year old koi are sold by their breeders their first spring when about 9-10 months old with pricing depending on grade(quality) and quantity purchased. These koi will be separated into indoor ponds by grade including the baby koi that the breeder wants to grow another season and not for sale this year. Lower grade baby koi are sold by the box with no individual selection permitted. Higher grade baby koi are sold in various ways but the highest grade sold are the most expensive and priced individually. This same process is repeated every fall season after the koi are harvested.

    I would advise that one of the keys to buying koi is understanding grades(quality). Buy one or two koi of the highest grade your budget will allow vs. spending the same amount of money but getting a dozen lower grade koi and hoping to hit the koi lottery. I think I will stop here for some comments.
    Disclosure:These opinions are based on my experience and conversations with persons I consider accomplished koi keepers and do not reflect the viewpoint of any organization.

  4. #4
    Honmei Brutuscz's Avatar
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    I like the subject. I will tell you about the article that took away the mystique and gave me a dose of reality some years ago. It was in Koiusa. The idea of the article discussed a breeder that had won an award at a large show in Japan. After the win, many people came to that breeder to purchase that variety...and they sold very well. What those buyers did not know was the problems that breeder had the year before. The breeder lost all their fry of that variety from a common fry disease. The breeder then acquired fry from another breeder of that same variety. Well, they raised and sold those fry as their own. So, people were buying koi that was in no way related to the one they saw in the show. The article also stated this was commonly done, as fry may be easily lost for many reasons. My overall lesson was to buy the fish...not, the breeder. Things are not always what they seem!!


    If your desire to succeed is greater than your desire to fail, then you will succeed.

  5. #5
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Ray points out that there are tosai not for sale... the special 'tategoi' that will be grown another year. There is a continual selection process. Some that were not for sale in November may be for sale in January. More may be made available for sale in March. Selection for the future actually never ends. And, not all of those kept to be grown a second year are considered to be potential great koi. Many are kept simply because they are expected to peak as nisai or sansai, and will fetch a very good price as a finished or nearly finished nisai. Some may be considered by the breeder to have the potential to be great koi, but few if any will reach that point. The breeder does not know whether such fish will become great koi. He just knows they have traits that leave them in the running compared to siblings. There are very few great koi. Breeders have extensive experience in identifying koi that will develop along normal paths, that will fail or will be beautiful but not extraordinary. Inherently, their experience with extraordinary koi is limited. Even for breeders, the elusive "true tategoi" can be as much a dream as the reality of the fish twisting in their hands.

    Anyone care to guess how many gosanke Marudo, Nogami, Torazo or some other "name breeder" has considered worthy of taking space on their farm for more than 5 seasons?

  6. #6
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    Let's discuss a often repeated scenario.

    Breeder "A" has harvested his two year old koi and separated them into different sales ponds in his koi house based on age and grade.

    Let's say there are three ponds with two year old koi for sale separated into low, medium, and high grade. There is also another pond of two year olds not for sale as they are considered tategoi and will be grown another year before being sold. The 2 year old koi in the low grade pond are $1,000 each. The 2 year old koi in the middle grade pond are $1,500 to $3,000. The koi in the high grade pond are $4,000 and up. Let's assume you want to spend $3,000 so you ask to be shown several koi from the middle grade pond in that price range. After some discussion you select a kohaku and are told you have a excellent eye for koi and have selected the #1 kohaku in that pond. Later in the evening you meet up with another group of hobbyists buying koi and find out that the day before one of their group was also told he bought the #1 kohaku out of that same pond. How is this possible or were one of you lied to?

  7. #7
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post

    Anyone care to guess how many gosanke Marudo, Nogami, Torazo or some other "name breeder" has considered worthy of taking space on their farm for more than 5 seasons?
    My guess is very damn few!!

  8. #8
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Very few is absolutely right.

    Unless a fish is being kept as oyagoi, I do not believe a rational breeder is going to keep a koi past the 4th season unless there is a genuine belief that the fish can compete for top honors at a major national show.

    There was a bit of a trick in my question being focused on Niigata breeders. The preferred facilities for raising such rare gems are the huge greenhouse ponds, such as SFF, Momotaro and Narita maintain. The mud pond is a dangerous place for a 6 year old being groomed for greatness. For non-gosanke, things are a bit different. Size sells when it comes to the single-color kawarigoi, ogons and the like.

  9. #9
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RayJordan View Post
    Let's discuss a often repeated scenario.

    Breeder "A" has harvested his two year old koi and separated them into different sales ponds in his koi house based on age and grade.

    Let's say there are three ponds with two year old koi for sale separated into low, medium, and high grade. There is also another pond of two year olds not for sale as they are considered tategoi and will be grown another year before being sold. The 2 year old koi in the low grade pond are $1,000 each. The 2 year old koi in the middle grade pond are $1,500 to $3,000. The koi in the high grade pond are $4,000 and up. Let's assume you want to spend $3,000 so you ask to be shown several koi from the middle grade pond in that price range. After some discussion you select a kohaku and are told you have a excellent eye for koi and have selected the #1 kohaku in that pond. Later in the evening you meet up with another group of hobbyists buying koi and find out that the day before one of their group was also told he bought the #1 kohaku out of that same pond. How is this possible or were one of you lied to?
    Are only we playing, Ray? ...

    The breeder was likely telling the truth. The hobbyists misunderstood. As soon as the #1 koi was sold, the #2 became the new #1. And of course, we are only talking about #1 in that pond. That fish may be #98 among nisai on the farm. ....And, 3 months later, the breeder may evaluate the koi differently. A different one may be #1 in his estimation at that point.

    Buying the #1 does not mean a person necessarily got what they most wanted. Generally the breeder's evaluation is based on the quality of the fish and the breeder's preferences. If the hobbyist wants a koi to enter in a show that week, a different koi may be a better choice. The breeder may consider a koi that will attain super-jumbo size superior to a slightly higher quality fish that will only reach 75cm, at best. For many hobbyists, that 'tiny' koi is a much better choice.

    But, people do like getting the #1 koi, and will pay more for it, even if they do not understand what makes it #1 on the day.

  10. #10
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    What about the magic of Niigata mud? It has to have special characteristics found no where else... even Sakai Hiroshima sends some special koi to summer in Niigata mud ponds.

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