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Thread: Musings On Backyard Breeding

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Musings On Backyard Breeding

    There seems to be heightened interest in the U.S. in breeding koi for fun. Unlike the freshwater aquarium hobby, where spawning fish for fun has been considered a marker of fishkeeping expertise, the prime focus of the koikeeping hobby has been raising professionally bred koi for show. The competition at a show is between hobbyists, but at another level it is between the breeders whose koi are entered by the hobbyist. Under the Japanese model, the fish are often raised by the breeder or by a professional with facilities designed for maximizing the potential of koi. In Australia, however, a very different model has developed due to import bans. The hobbyist is often also the breeder, and much of the hobby experience is focused on breeding and development of one's own line of a particular variety. This makes the koi hobby quite different from the Japanese model.

    In the U.S., backyard breeding is more for the pure fun of tackling the challenge, rather like the aquarist spawning freshwater tropicals. There is seldom more than a dream-like glimmer of hope that any offspring will be worthy of entry in a show, even in the small size groups. But, that glimmer does add to the fun. Anyone who has kept koi for very long has dealt with a spawning at some point, often unintended and not particularly desired. Some folks want a spawning just for the experience, and having gained the experience one time do not particularly care to repeat it. Some think they can make a huge profit off of their backyard breeding, but are soon disillusioned (at least if they do the arithmetic of their actual total expenditures). A few, however, get more enjoyment from their backyard breeding than from other aspects of the hobby and breed their koi every season. The increasing number of threads on this and other boards about backyard breeding seems to indicate the number of such hobbyists is growing in the U.S.

    I think it is great that folks enjoy their koi in so many different ways. I also think the backyard breeder has a responsibility to consider their work in the context of the overall hobby. There is as much of a moral duty for the backyard breeder to protect against the spread of KHV as it is for any commercial breeder. There is an ethical responsibility to not sell or give away fish carrying parasites. Poor traits should not be perpetuated. Deformities should be rigorously culled, not given away to perpetuate the deformities. And, junk is junk. The world does not need more junk 'koi' marketed as rare, special or unique, serving no purpose beyond misleading and disappointing the uninformed.

    For all those engaging in their own breeding hobby, have fun and good luck ... But, don't forget the responsibilities you assume. Having an 'amateur' status does not make a person less responsible than the commercial breeder.

  2. #2
    Daihonmei
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    There seems to be heightened interest in the U.S. in breeding koi for fun. Unlike the freshwater aquarium hobby, where spawning fish for fun has been considered a marker of fishkeeping expertise, the prime focus of the koikeeping hobby has been raising professionally bred koi for show. The competition at a show is between hobbyists, but at another level it is between the breeders whose koi are entered by the hobbyist. Under the Japanese model, the fish are often raised by the breeder or by a professional with facilities designed for maximizing the potential of koi. In Australia, however, a very different model has developed due to import bans. The hobbyist is often also the breeder, and much of the hobby experience is focused on breeding and development of one's own line of a particular variety. This makes the koi hobby quite different from the Japanese model.

    In the U.S., backyard breeding is more for the pure fun of tackling the challenge, rather like the aquarist spawning freshwater tropicals. There is seldom more than a dream-like glimmer of hope that any offspring will be worthy of entry in a show, even in the small size groups. But, that glimmer does add to the fun. Anyone who has kept koi for very long has dealt with a spawning at some point, often unintended and not particularly desired. Some folks want a spawning just for the experience, and having gained the experience one time do not particularly care to repeat it. Some think they can make a huge profit off of their backyard breeding, but are soon disillusioned (at least if they do the arithmetic of their actual total expenditures). A few, however, get more enjoyment from their backyard breeding than from other aspects of the hobby and breed their koi every season. The increasing number of threads on this and other boards about backyard breeding seems to indicate the number of such hobbyists is growing in the U.S.

    I think it is great that folks enjoy their koi in so many different ways. I also think the backyard breeder has a responsibility to consider their work in the context of the overall hobby. There is as much of a moral duty for the backyard breeder to protect against the spread of KHV as it is for any commercial breeder. There is an ethical responsibility to not sell or give away fish carrying parasites. Poor traits should not be perpetuated. Deformities should be rigorously culled, not given away to perpetuate the deformities. And, junk is junk. The world does not need more junk 'koi' marketed as rare, special or unique, serving no purpose beyond misleading and disappointing the uninformed.

    For all those engaging in their own breeding hobby, have fun and good luck ... But, don't forget the responsibilities you assume. Having an 'amateur' status does not make a person less responsible than the commercial breeder.
    You scooped me! LOLs, leave it to a lawyer-- LOLs ( good post!!) JR

  3. #3
    MCA
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    I doubt the oyagoi for such projects are from superior lines. So there is a strong likelihood that the best of the fry will be in the "cheap and cheerful" category. So the backyard breeder could have thousands and thousands of poor quality fry to euthanize, sell to a pet store (who should know better), or basically give away (which potentially lessens the market for any dealers who might be their club sponsors). The world just does not need more cheap and cheerful koi.

    As you can easily discern, I not a proponent of backyard breeding...of koi, dogs, cats, or other domestic or wild animals. Leave that to professions who have good oyagoi, experience, and are ready to deal with thousands of fish at a time.

    OK, ready for the incoming flack.
    Koi keeping is not a belief system; it is applied science with a touch of artistry.

  4. #4
    Jumbo jnorth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    In the U.S., backyard breeding is more for the pure fun of tackling the challenge, rather like the aquarist spawning freshwater tropicals. There is seldom more than a dream-like glimmer of hope that any offspring will be worthy of entry in a show, even in the small size groups. But, that glimmer does add to the fun. Anyone who has kept koi for very long has dealt with a spawning at some point, often unintended and not particularly desired. Some folks want a spawning just for the experience, and having gained the experience one time do not particularly care to repeat it. Some think they can make a huge profit off of their backyard breeding, but are soon disillusioned (at least if they do the arithmetic of their actual total expenditures). A few, however, get more enjoyment from their backyard breeding than from other aspects of the hobby and breed their koi every season. The increasing number of threads on this and other boards about backyard breeding seems to indicate the number of such hobbyists is growing in the U.S.
    I think you missed what may be an important reason for the increase in people in the US "breeding koi"...and thats pure and simply the economy. We all know that the hobby is expensive but what do you do when you can't justify in your mind the purchase of a two year old and you really really really want a new koi? You could buy tosai but thats probably not the greatest idea when you are used to buying nisai and up so what the heck lets breed a couple of the koi you paid good money for back when times were better. I think this person probably has no expectation of making money off breeding but rather is trying to fill that void of not being able to buy a new koi and instead will breed for "free" and still get that new koi feeling . I've personally thought about doing this myself but so far I've just stuck to auction tosai.
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  5. #5
    Oyagoi Flounder's Avatar
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    MikeM is right, for me it is all in the challenge and "fun" of the process. This is my first year at breeding koi, the first attempt in April was a miserable failure. I got a lot of fries but could not keep them alive until the first cull, all of them died within the first 5 weeks. That was a learning process and since I wanted to learn from my mistakes attempted again in mid May and this second try was a lot more productive. Theyre still alive now and will be culling this week.

    Michael (MCA) even with really high quality oyagoi it is still so tough. The keepers that I see now are infinitely so many less compared to the mongrels that are outgrowing them. The fugly koi are huge compared to their better pattern but weaker siblings, I'll be ecstatic if I am able to get a good dozen kohaku out of this breeding.

    The time spent on maintaining the water, the feed is not worth it IMO but it is a challenge. Do it once and you'll find that it is extremely difficult to get one nice show koi from the process. Try breeding koi and it will make you a humble person.

    A friend once told me:

    If pattern is great then body is poor, If body is great then pattern is not refined, If both pattern and body are excellent then quality is relatively inferior...... this is the ironclad rule of koi production and very few koi would be free from the rule.

  6. #6
    Jumbo Tosai_Sunny's Avatar
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    Good post Mike! Are you sure you and Jim are not long lost twin brothers? You both posted the same subject at almost exactly the same time.

    I am a casual backyard breeder. It's my second year doing it. I find that aspect of the hobby very rewarding. I have never sold any koi that I've bred nor I ever will. My interest in breeding is purely for fun and educational. Your points regarding our responsilbility as backyard breeder are well taken.

    Quote Originally Posted by MCA View Post
    I doubt the oyagoi for such projects are from superior lines. So there is a strong likelihood that the best of the fry will be in the "cheap and cheerful" category. So the backyard breeder could have thousands and thousands of poor quality fry to euthanize, sell to a pet store (who should know better), or basically give away (which potentially lessens the market for any dealers who might be their club sponsors). The world just does not need more cheap and cheerful koi.

    As you can easily discern, I not a proponent of backyard breeding...of koi, dogs, cats, or other domestic or wild animals. Leave that to professions who have good oyagoi, experience, and are ready to deal with thousands of fish at a time.

    OK, ready for the incoming flack.

    To say we should leave breeding to the professional is like saying it's too difficult don't try it. What happen to the spirits of creativity, innovation, and inventiveness? I guess those things don't apply in this hobby. When the automobile was invented in the west...did the Japanese say to themselves that the innovation of it should be left to the west because the west were better at it than them? I am glad they didn't because their cars are pretty good. Sorrry, I digressed! My point is...if we want better koi, we should encourage more envolvement in breeding not discouraging it. Without the ameteur backyard breeders, there wouldn't be any professional breeders because most or all of them started as ameteur breeders.

    I would disagree with the implied notion that backyard breeders are causing market saturation in the industry. As we all know, there are to two distinctive types of customers involved in this hobby. Let's call them "koi people" and "colored carp people". Each has different needs. Most colored carp people only want cheap fish for their water gardens. If a backyard breeder wants to get in that market, I would say more power to him or her. The professional Japanese breeders should have nothing to worry about because they still have the captive market of the higher end koi which attracts the majority of the "koi people". Like most of us, the "colored carp people" will eventually graduate to become "koi people".

    Regards,
    Sunny

  7. #7
    Oyagoi dizzyfish's Avatar
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    QUOTE=Tosai_Sunny;199412]

    I am a casual backyard breeder. It's my second year doing it. I find that aspect of the hobby very rewarding.
    I started out the same way about eight years ago and now I have a farm with mud ponds.
    My interest in breeding is purely for fun and educational.
    Watching the koi develop is fun, but finding a way to make your hobby pay for itself is even more fun.
    To say we should leave breeding to the professional is like saying it's too difficult don't try it.
    I'm with you on that bro.
    My point is...if we want better koi, we should encourage more envolvement in breeding not discouraging it. Without the ameteur backyard breeders, there wouldn't be any professional breeders because most or all of them started as ameteur breeders.
    Good points.
    I would disagree with the implied notion that backyard breeders are causing market saturation in the industry.
    Your right Sunny backyard breeders aren't really much of a problem for the industry. Growth rates are generally slow and production is low.......and the lesson of why we must cull is driven home.


    I think the country guys that have a couple of mud ponds are capable of doing much more damage to the industry. They can produce a lot of pond spawned specklegoi for next to nothing and dump them on the market for next to nothing as well. At least the backyard guys are trying to produce something representative of the variety, and IME you don't have to have $10,000 broodstock to produce some koi that look decent........at least at the 5-6" size. Backyard breeding is a great way to see if you have the knack for learning to cull. If you can learn this discipline and enjoy the effort then perhaps it is worth getting more serious about it.

  8. #8
    Daihonmei
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    "Your right Sunny backyard breeders aren't really much of a problem for the industry. " - Dizzyfish


    When I think of the 'industry' I think of where the Big Money is generated from. And that is the Landsape/wholesale low grade/longfin koi industry. Lets face it, some of those operations have sales in the multi millions.

    But neither Mike or I are referring to that greater pond keeping industry. We are talking about the koi or nishikigoi 'industry'. It is Far far smaller and depends on more dedicated enthusiasts as the quality is much higher and the prices are much higher.
    As Jim N just said, the Japanese koi industry was never cheap but it has now, due to the yen among other things, gotten quite expensive. Expensive at a time when the economy is doing quite poorly. So these two extrmes collide.
    So based on massive volume, the Industry ( landscape/low grade) has little to worry about as they produce a down right cheap product. But the serious koi community are not there customers. Ironically, many a backyard breeder or skill can produce as good, if not better than, tosai that some of these arkansas koi farms can.
    It is the upper grades that are the issue. And also the domestic sources that would be impacted. Not a death knell, but another example how things are changing.
    I never bought Bettas once I had my breeding stock. I buy very few corals now that I 'frag'. I used to breed guppies and the only guppies I would buy were those that I wanted in my breeding experiments. Were my guppies really good? hardly. But they were 'my guppies' and that was something more than just opportunities of what I could buy. In addition the prices seemed very high to me in the guppy world once I was making dozens of my own for 'free' ( never free of course). I have produced a really great line of Libery mollies( now they are really good compared to store bought. I don't think I'd ever buy a molly again??

    Bad examples, I know, but a good indication that as serious hobbyists produce their own and they are getting far better than the guess-a-goi of the 1990s, the classic relationship between hobbyist/dealer and the divisions in koi shows, will all change. IMHO. JR

  9. #9
    Oyagoi dizzyfish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasPR View Post
    When I think of the 'industry' I think of where the Big Money is generated from. And that is the Landsape/wholesale low grade/longfin koi industry. Lets face it, some of those operations have sales in the multi millions.

    But neither Mike or I are referring to that greater pond keeping industry. We are talking about the koi or nishikigoi 'industry'. It is Far far smaller and depends on more dedicated enthusiasts as the quality is much higher and the prices are much higher.
    I don't disagree with your assessment of how the industry beaks down but I think there is also a large niche in the middle. People who want something that is representative of the various varieties without being real expensive. A lesson Kodama and Blackwater Creek have both learned, along with a lot of other domestic breeders these days. So your post explains how the backyard breeder won't compete well with the high end dealers or the water gardens. I don't see how they will hurt Kodama or BWC much either. So I think MCA's assertion that the backyard breeder is hurting the industry has been refuted, including the high end, the low end, and the middle.

  10. #10
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Tosai_Sunny;199412]Good post Mike! Are you sure you and Jim are not long lost twin brothers? You both posted the same subject at almost exactly the same time.

    LOL.... JR and I have done it before, but definitely not twins.

    I brought up the subject because a few days ago I counted over a dozen active threads on backyard breeding efforts on the 4 boards I visit. There have never been so many on this board as there have been this year. I used to agree with MCA's thought that backyard breeding should be discouraged. I still believe the world does not need more trash 'koi'. However, what's a few gazillion backyard Bekkos compared to the multi-gazillions commercially produced for the low-end market?

    I have come around to thinking of it as no different than my production of guppies for fun. I no longer try to maintain a top line of show quality guppies, but enjoy raising them even though it has become nearly impossible to give them to a pet shop. (The chains don't want them, and the few owner-operated shops can't take more than a few pairs. ...Anybody want 50 pairs of mature half-black yellows? I can't handle another 50 batches of fry this month.) It is just fun. Serious breeders do not need to worry about the backyard efforts. The Arkansas Bekko market may be dinged, but the Malaysians are grabbing that market already. So, have fun. But, be responsible.

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