For our February field day we visited 12 Mile Creek Aquafarm, just north of Raymond Terrace. Our host, Tom Ford, gave a wonderful talk about his methods in breeding silver perch.
Toms selection of adult fish are examined to determine if they are male or female, then the ‘best’ are given a hormone so that within a couple of days they will release a many thousands of eggs & sperm simultaneously into a large oxygenated tank in the shed. The adults are then removed so that they will not consume the developing embryos. After utilising the nourishment from the yolk, the growing young are feed very fine food, then gradually increasing sized pellets, until large enough to be moved to the outside ponds which are continually oxygenated. Here, they are fed larger sized pellets which are sprayed by machine onto the surface of the ponds. This happens twice a day. But life is not so easy as they are preyed upon by the eagles or very pesty (yet protected) cormorants which consume many of the fish.
When the fish are of a size ready to go to market, a net is carefully moved towards the lower end of the pond while the water level is also lowered. The fish are gathered into a white vinyl floating tub and then a given a small dose of oil of cloves to keep them relaxed while they are sorted for size. They quickly recover and those of correct size are the taken to inside tanks with slightly salty water which acts to purge the fish. A truck then comes and transports the fish in oxygenated tanks down to market in Sydney. They mainly go to Japanese restaurants.
It takes about 2 years to reach the size to sell to the Sydney market, and Tom says that he has problem keeping up with the demand on these fine eating fish which have very high levels of Omega 3.
Tom also sells silver perch fingerlings to people who wish to restock their dams.The breeding & growing out of the silver perch requires constant analysis of water quality in both inside tanks and outside ponds and examination of fish to determine that they are healthy and growing well. Tom has a scientist to monitor these aspects of the business. Silver perch like the warmer water conditions and do not grow much in the cooler winter months
Other work involves draining of ponds and then removal of some of the bottom layer to keep a depth of 2 metres. This matter is spread on his property. All water must remain onsite, so there is continual pumping from pond to pond, with some in a resting phase.
Yabbies are also grown in the ponds. We found out that they are vegetarian and do not like any ‘meats’ in their pond and so clean it away. So to catch a yabbie, you use meat/maggot to trap them as they come to do their cleaning!! Tom believes they are better eating than prawns.
We were fortunate to meet & have our lunch in the well appointed club house of the motorhome park. Tom also took us via golf buggies on a unique track on the property where the trees were adorned with all sorts of soft animals (teddy bears, monkeys, tigers, snakes, cats, birds etc). There were lots of oohs and ahhs!
A big thanks to Tom for this wonderful field day.