OSAKI, Miyagi–Livestock farmers in Miyagi Prefecture are deeply concerned about the government’s total suspension of beef cattle shipments from the prefecture after some local beef was found to be contaminated with radioactive cesium above permissible levels.
With some cattle overdue for shipment farmers don’t know how long they can maintain their cattle’s health and manage their farms.
Tomohiro Izumi, a 31-year-old cattle farmer in Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture, keeps 80 beef cattle. Six of the cows are over 30 months old, and the oldest cow is aged 33 months. The shipment period for these cattle has expired.
Izumi usually buys 10-month-old beef cattle at 400,000 yen to 500,000 yen each and ships them after raising them to about 30 months old. “I’ve never postponed shipment this long,” he said, adding if he cannot ship the cattle, he will not earn enough to buy new calves.
In addition to beef cattle, Izumi also keeps about 60 cattle for breeding. He needs 1.5 million yen to 1.8 million yen a month to feed them.
In order to produce the marbled beef prized by the industry, Izumi increases the amount of a certain kind of vitamin-free feed, and feeds rice straw, to bovine aged between 13 and 20 months.
Cattle old enough for shipping must be handled with care. Weighing nearly 800 kilograms, they are prone to losing their balance and becoming ill due to the lack of vitamins.
According to the prefectural government’s livestock division, about 900 cattle farmers are raising about 47,000 beef cattle in the prefecture.
Manabu Otomo, beef section chief at JA Furukawa, an agricultural cooperative in Osaki, said: “Cattle farmers are raising their cattle for longer periods than ever before. We don’t have any reference data on this.”
Hokkaido University Prof. Osamu Inanami, an expert in radiation biology, said livestock raising involves much fine tuning and controlling the meat quality requires adjustments to auction timing.
He is worried that some exhausted livestock farmers might discontinue business due to the suspension of shipments.
“The government should take measures to protect domestic cattle industry as well as alleviating consumer fears,” he said.