A Fish Out Of Water

01 September 2014


Accounts Manager, Chimene Haines, leaves her desk to try out the life of a fish farmer…

Recently I was “lucky” enough to spend a week working on a trout farm in Somerset. My husband has recently bought a share in the business along with an old friend. The old friend happened to have booked a wedding and honeymoon so I was roped in to provide an extra pair of hands.

The farm is on 3 sites in North Somerset and they provide trout for restocking mostly to the fishing industry in South Wales. My days started at 6am with the routine tasks in the hatchery. Currently there are 100,000 eggs in the process of hatching along with 100,000 rainbow trout fry that hatched in June and about 20,000 brown trout fry.  Each raceway needed to be cleaned which involved dropping the level of the water and sweeping out any waste food or muck. You need to be quick though, as the fish get spooked quite quickly. Then it is on to feeding. They are fed 24 hours per day using clockwork feeders which need to be loaded twice a day. Apparently in the early days the fish grow at an extraordinary rate – just like most babies – hence the round the clock feeding. The water in the hatchery is bore hole water and is a constant temperature all year round.

Once the babies are fed and cleaned, the next job is the larger fish. These range in size from  20 grams upwards. Again the raceways are swept and the feeders loaded. The water these fish are in is river water so the temperature varies. The hotter the temperature the more feed they can have as they convert it more efficiently. 

Once the fish get to a certain size they go on to one of the other 2 farms where they are kept in earth ponds (better for their fins and tails than concrete raceways) to grow on to the required size. This could be up to a year for the average size of about half a kilo to many years for the larger ones of 3 kilos plus.

As with any farming enterprise there is more to it than meets the eye. You are on call 24 hours a day for any eventuality, for instance river levels may drop or there may be a power failure. It doesn’t always go according to plan – stock doesn’t grow as quickly as you want it to, or possibly it grows too quickly and the fish are too big for the customers’ spec.  

The week passed very quickly and I can safely say that the old saying “A change is as good as a rest” did apply in this case. Although I might  not have been so keen if the temperature was not in the mid to late 20’s. Sitting back at my desk in the Green & Co offices after a week  “in the field” (or should that be “in the water”!) makes you realise that the books and records that come in to us are such a small amount of what any business does!

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

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