Buying tosai in spring.
As mentioned earlier, these have been housed in heated, indoor ponds since late September and fed daily up to four times. They are now significantly stronger and larger and are in perfect condition for export shipping to other countries. The facilities each breeder has for his tosai vary; the smaller breeders may only have one pond to accommodate all their stocks whilst others may have more than six larger ponds available. I will give a real-life example here of a four pond set-up for tosai kept indoors with each pond holding roughly the same volume of water as well as sharing a common filtration system. The Koi are introduced into these ponds in late September after they were harvested and after several ‘selections’ have been made since hatching in June. Further selections take place during the ‘golden 90 days’ spent in the summer field ponds.
If some 1,500,000 fry were produced from the various spawnings of the parent stocks then approximately 4,000 12cms to 20cms tosai will be harvested in autumn which results in around one Koi kept for every 375 destroyed in the culls. As a result, even the worst Koi remaining in the 4,000 harvested has been selected as the breeder’s ‘tategoi’ for some five previous selections. In truth, all the tosai placed into the indoor systems are tategoi before that next selection is made.
(Obviously these figures and stated prices are subject to annual variations in production, but they are here to give some reasonable estimation.)
Prior to these being released into the four indoor ponds, a further, rough selection is made where the ‘best’ are placed in one pond, the next best in the second pond and so on until all four ponds contain the total harvested. In the next few days they must adjust to a brand-new filter which also must begin to start working properly to produce the necessary ammonia and thus precious bacteria and this is when new mains water must be added to assist the process. The pond and filter drains are religiously flushed to waste daily and the Koi are given food once conditions start to stabilise. After 10 days or so when the Koi have adjusted to indoor conditions, these tosai are fed up to four times a day during the period that the breeder is harvesting larger Koi. After a few weeks of daily observation whilst feeding and discharging all drains to waste, the breeder gets to know his stocks well.
Regular selections are made between early December through to late April when some of the previous Koi in the ‘best’ pond are relegated into other ponds and others from the ‘lesser’ ponds are promoted into the ‘best pond’. Throughout this period many others are destroyed after being discarded as of no value. By the time the final selection has been made in late April, the ‘best’ pond will contain some 400 tategoi and the other three ponds will hold around 2,300 tateshita. This is the best time for prospective buyers to visit the farms.
As to the breeder’s tategoi on view, there is a myth abounding that these are not for sale. To clarify this nonsense – ALL Koi are ‘for sale’ and always have been in my experiences. Whilst they may not be actually openly ‘offered’ for sale is always true because the breeder is far more concerned with disposing of his tateshita instead. To the buyer interested in purchasing any of these tategoi and asking for prices, the reply will almost certainly come back as ‘These are my tategoi’ and this is intended as a warning only which relates to his considered value of each individual one in that pond. Persistency is required here if one wishes to go further by asking to inspect a few selected by one’s eye and having them caught and placed into a bowl. This is only very rarely refused and more often than not the Koi can be studied close up as requested. If a price or prices is/are asked by pointing to the one/s in question, it is then when the breeder will study the Koi and think for a while. If the Koi is 30cms and considered by him to be female, the breeder will estimate his value of it when it has spent a further four seasons with him and has reached 77cms or so, at his risk and after his costs involved have been considered in growing. If, as an example, he considers that this could be then worth 1,500,000yen (£10,500.00) then he will subtract the risks and expenses he would have had to bear and then come up with a price of 750,000yen to sell the Koi there and then. (It’s all rather simple, in the same way a wine producer estimates the real worth of his wine on any given day, truly convinced that this will mature to become a really important and collectable wine in years to come. If this is the case, the quoted price on the day would take into account his estimated value in four years or so.) Coming back to tategoi, if more than one are selected then the breeder would take this into account when quoting his prices. If twenty or so are selected then the total price would be further reduced accordingly and substantially.
In earlier times, the breeders worked on the assumption that every egg that hatched after the combined spawnings actually cost them one yen in overheads for the 12 months following the spawnings. Their quoted prices one year later was also quite simple to understand, if a Koi was judged by the breeder to be the best from 1,000,000 fry then it would be offered at 1,000,000yen; if another was the best in 100,000 fry then it would be offered at 100,000yen. On the other hand if a Koi was only the best produced from 200 fry then it would be priced at 200yen.
As to the 2,300 tateshita available for sale, the breeder also has a final price in his mind that he needs to realise in order to make a working profit for his year’s labours in production of these tosai. In this example, the breeder needs to sell them all for 500yen each which produces a total of 1,150,000yen. The breeder is happy with this amount – providing ALL are purchased in ONE sale as this is the least labour-intensive way of disposal.
In all my years of purchasing this class of Koi, I have never once even considered this avenue which is simply a route to disaster unless I have a couple of thousand eager customers who truly believe that ‘a Koi is a Koi is a Koi’ etc.
In any pond of Koi, there is a best and there is a worst – all the others take their respective places in-between these two.
Even to a trained and experienced eye, there is hardly any difference visually (either to the buyer or the breeder) between the bottom 50 of the tategoi and the top 50 of the tateshita. On many occasions the breeder has advised me that, if more field pond space had been available to him, then he would have selected more from the top selection of his tateshita. As to the top tateshita that do resemble the same quality of the tategoi in many respects this is not so with the bottom 30% of the stocks on offer that are not even worth the airfreight costs involved in transportation, even if they were bought in the ‘job lot’ it would be almost impossible to even give them away.
For the few buyers who actually purchase ALL, they must have a significant number of customers who have no idea as to what they are looking at as mentioned above, or this is much more probably the hard fact that the buyer has not the faintest idea as to what he/she is looking at – this is a very dangerous situation to be in!
Once again, these Koi are NOT 500yen each, they are only that price if ALL are taken in one purchase.
The wiser buyer, providing he knows what he is looking at, may ask for a price for say 500 when he will usually be met with a prompt question from the breeder to ask ‘Do you wish for ‘net scoop rate’ at 1,000yen each or do you wish to select each one at 4,000yen each?’. The only answer here is to ‘select’ as taking the net scoop rate is as big a risk/gamble and as stupid as buying ALL the 2,300 Koi. If the 500 Koi are selected at 4,000yen each, this would mean the sale would be 2,000,000yen – much more than the breeder required and he would still have another 1,800 assorted grades of tosai for sale. In this example the breeder is not concerned with the ‘eye’ or expertise of the buyer who is selecting the 500 Koi as he knows he is safely ‘in profit’.
However, this point does come to the fore when a prospective buyer spends some thirty minutes or more, closely inspecting all the tateshita swimming in the ponds below him before asking ‘the best price to select 50 Koi from the entire 2,300 tosai’.
(An experienced buyer will have already assessed the exact 50 Koi he wishes to purchase – in truth he feels he can buy 75 or so that meet his needs.)
In this example the breeder knows full-well that the buyer is ‘cute’ and most prospective buyers worth their salt will know full-well that the breeder is just as ‘cute’ or even more so. It is around this point when a tea break is suggested or even a ‘Please come back tomorrow after I have calculated my price’. Whatever the actual time delay involved, the breeder will assume that the buyer ‘knows his onions’ and will be resigned to the fact that his best 50 tateshita will be most likely be selected in a process that may well take six hours or so to arrive at the final 50.
In similar situations I have often protested to the breeder that I am only just another ‘rookie gaijin’ buyer with no ‘eye’ at all for Koi but it has always fallen on deaf ears when I am given a final price eventually. I have long-since given up making these feeble protestations because I have been ‘found out’ many years ago by true experts!
The breeder also knows that, once these 50 tosai have been removed from view, there will be a serious drop in ‘the overall attraction’ of the remaining 2,250 tosai still for sale. Eventually a price may be given of between 20,000yen to 30,000yen each, depending on actual selection by the buyer. At the worst, the breeder will get 1,000,000 and at best 1,500,000 and still have the worst 2,250 tosai for sale which he could easily dispose of tomorrow at 200yen each which produces a further 450,000yen of income and a total extra profit of between 300,000yen to 800,000yen over his previous expected total of 1,150,000yen.
If the buyer of these 50 selected Koi is wise – a vital necessity here, he will also realise, full well, that these Koi have not cost him 20,000yen or 30,000yen EACH, they have actually cost him a total of either 1,000,000yen or 1,500,000yen FOR FIFTY KOI.
As mentioned earlier, in any pond of Koi, there is a best and a worst and the rest fall somewhere in-between. If anyone experienced in parting with their own hard-earned cash for these Koi then they would be extremely foolish to offer them for resale back home at a standard price for all 50 Koi when the first 20% would ‘fly out’ and the remainder would sit there until severe price reductions were made. Instead if all these are to be sold then the ‘best’ would be priced far higher than the ‘worst’ in order to make them cost-attractive to customers.
Please also bear in mind that the breeder did not sell these Koi for 20,000yen or 30,000yen each as stated. Most likely, and in reality, the best one was sold at 200,000yen and the worst one was sold at 3,000yen and all the others priced somewhere in-between to arrive at the final price of 1,000,000yen or 1,500,000yen.