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Salmon milking underway at Victorian aquaculture farm

It’s milking time at fresh water aquaculture farm Yarra Valley Salmon.

More than ten thousand salmon are being individually hand milked for caviar at the farm—the only aquaculture farm in Australia to milk Atlantic salmon by hand.

This year’s milking is only the second since the farm was hit by the Black Saturday fires last year, wiping out more than 13 tonne of fish.

Despite the significant shortage of salmon, the farm has thousands of healthy fish which spawn year after year, and so has refocused its business on its quality caviar.

Yarra Valley Salmon general manager Mark Fox says the quality of the caviar is influenced by the treatment of the salmon, and the way they are milked.

“We don’t use antibiotics and chemicals and allow our fish plenty of room to move around. Because they have lots of room and we don’t pump them full of food, they’re lean and healthy and this reflects in the quality of the roe which is plump and bright,” he said.

“Traditionally, and typically, a needle is used in the belly cavity of the fish to blow the eggs out, and the fish are then dumped.

It’s not something we believe is necessary, humane, or leads to the best quality caviar.”

“Our fish are carefully monitored to determine the best time to milk, and are gently hand-milked under an entirely natural anaesthetic—made from clove oil—so as not to cause the fish any undue stress, and they are then returned to their fresh water environment and spawn again the following year.”

Milking lasts for about ten days at the farm.

17 May 2010 | by Rosemary Ryan

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