Koi USA Magazine produced a six page article on Cuttlebrook Koi Farm which featured in their January/February 2018 issue!
On the edge of a small village in Oxfordshire, deep in the heart of “Midsommer Murders” country, sits Cuttlebrook koi farm. Owned by Mark and Lisa Davis, the farm was built by them in 1989 and since that time they have built a reputation for breeding some of the finest Koi, or Nishikigoi to be precise, outside of Japan.
Mark trained as a fish farmer at the prestigious Winchester College of Agriculture (Sparsholt) and after graduating in 1985, he went on to spend six months living and working at Kamihata’s Yamasaki Koi farm in Japan. On his return to the UK, Mark worked for a while in a couple of well-known Koi dealerships and then in 1988 he got the opportunity to set up his own Koi farm where he could he combine his knowledge of fish farm design and management with the specific Koi farming skills that he had learned in Japan. It took a few months of searching to find the site that became Cuttlebrook Koi Farm, but over the years Mark and Lisa have developed it from a bare field to the most successful Koi farm in the UK.
The site holds 9 mud ponds, one perspex fish house, two polytunnels and three insulated buildings. The first to be built was the polytunnel, used as a main sales area, with the second polytunnel being devoted purely to holding parent fish and breeding facilities. The first insulated building to be erected was the quarantine building, followed by two further insulated buildings – the Tosai and Nisai houses where koi are overwintered in temperatures of around 75 degrees F. One further building has recently been added for use with the farms newest venture, Marisa Koi Farm. Marisa Koi farm was set up in 2016 to handle the sale of dry goods and the quarantine of Japanese imported koi for customers who accompany Mark on buying trips to Japan. Mark travels to Niigata twice a year to help customers to find their perfect koi when they are looking for something that Cuttlebrook Koi farm doesn’t already produce.
At six acres in size, Cuttlebrook Koi Farm is quite small as koi farms go but the quality of the koi produced have been impressing customers and show judges alike for many years. It was customers taking their Cuttlebrook Koi to Koi shows, and competing successfully against Japanese koi, that helped to build their reputation – particularly for their stunning Shiro Utsuri. Selling against the mighty reputation of the combined output of all the Japanese breeders hasn’t been easy over the years but Cuttlebrook Koi Farm is now firmly established as a producer to be reckoned with.
Koi Keepers can visit the farm and have a guided tour of the facilities. Mark Davis is always happy to answer any questions that they have, and to provide invaluable advice on anything Koi related, whether it’s filtration, Koi health or pond construction. Mark also travels to Koi clubs around the UK giving talks on any number of subjects. The farm has grown organically and its success is due largely to Mark’s ability to design and construct pretty much anything. From filtration to holding tanks, insulated buildings, mud ponds, automatic feeders – you name it, Mark has designed and built it himself.
Mark’s passion for art and for fish were what led him to breeding Koi. On leaving school he had to make a choice – to train as a graphic designer or as a fish farmer. A holiday job on a fish farm in the highlands of Scotland, that became a yearlong stay in a caravan on the banks of Loch Earn rearing trout, was what earned him his place at Winchester Agricultural College. And it was whilst on work experience at a carp farm in France that he first came across Koi. Koi combined his love of art, with his passion for fish and from that moment on, he knew where his path lay. On graduating from college, he worked fixing sewers and sold his beloved MG Midget car to make enough money to travel to Japan where he had been offered six months work experience on what was the largest Koi Farm in Japan at the time.
Never one to shy away from hard work, Mark pitched straight in with the other workers on the farm, and as the work experience student was given some of the less desireable jobs! He spent weeks working on the mud ponds and, whilst it may have seemed hard work and tedious at the time, he learned a great deal about what makes a productive, healthy mud pond and also observed the consequences of not doing that valuable work. On his breaks he spent all his time studying Koi fry at first and second selection. The great thing about being on such a large Koi farm was the number of different varieties that were produced. Being able to learn about the selection of Gosanke as well as metallic varieties, Koromo and some of the rarer varieties, such as Kumonryu was invaluable and is one of the reasons why Cuttlebrook Koi Farm are able to produce a number of different varieties so well.
Cuttlebrook Koi Farm breeds several different varieties including Showa, Sanke, Kohaku, Shiro Utsuri, Shusui, Karashigoi and Chagoi as well as several metallic varieties, and this year Beni Kumnoryu have been added to the list. Many of their customers prefer to buy all of their Koi from Cuttlebrook Koi Farm as they appreciate the quality of the Koi produced and they feel that there is no point in buying imported Japanese Koi when you can buy as good quality, if not better in many cases, direct from the farm in the UK.
Success hasn’t come easily over the years and there are always new challenges to be overcome. It is their willingness to try new things and their ability to adapt to changing circumstances that has helped Mark and Lisa’s Koi farm to stand the test of time. Their story has even caught the attention of the Sunday Telegraph, where an article about them appeared earlier in 2017. You can find out more about Cuttlebrook Koi Farm from their website: www.cuttlebrookkoifarm.co.uk