Healthy cattle developed with little effort
Hayama is a town in the western part of Miura Peninsula in Kanagawa prefecture. A town of temperate weather, surrounded by the ocean and mountains, Hayama is home to livestock, fisheries and agricultural businesses. Hayama Beef, a black-coated wagyu (Japanese beef) raised in Hayama, is a reputed brand, popular in the Kanto area.
We visited Ishii Farm, which raises Hayama Beef.
For some 30 years, the farm has been raising about 70 wagyu cattle on a slope by the mountains. It is also one of the farms that introduced Biobalance in spring 2017.
When Yuichi Ishii, the second-generation owner of the farm, showed us into the barn, there was surprisingly very little odor characteristic of barns. We did not even hear cattle moo.
“Since we introduced Biobalance®, the odor of cow dung has been minimized, making the environment much better for both the cows and humans. Not hearing cattle moo is a sign they are not feeling any stress,” explained Ishii.
Ishii gives them a heated and then fermented, unique blend of barley, tofu lees, beer lees, cooked white rice and other ingredients. He adds Biobalance® to it. Apparently, when the cows take in these special lactic acid bacteria, they get less bad bacteria like e-coli, and more friendly bacteria that help them accumulate nutrients.
There is also a trick in the beds (made of hay and sawdust). Generally, the bed is dried to keep bacterial growth at bay, but the beds in this barn have a lot of moisture. The cow dung and urine containing Biobalance® generate heat when mixed with sawdust and fermented, and that heat destroys harmful bacteria that make cattle ill.
In fact, during the eight months since the farm adopted Biobalance®, the farm needed to call a veterinarian only once for cattle illness. The new environment also developed no mold, which used to grow often on feed and beds.
“We have tried many things but have never seen such visible results. It is incredible to see our cows grow healthily without much effort. The meat is delicious, and it also helps that we can reduce the costs of raising the cattle or treating their illnesses,” says Ishii.
“Power of microorganisms”—Researcher’s strong belief blossomed as Biobalance®
Learning about Biobalance ®, Ishii contacted representative of Biobalance, Inc., Yoshio Naito. Naito not only provides Biobalance® to Ishii, but to maximize its effects, provides detailed support to Ishii’s livestock farming activities, from raising cycles to managing the cattle’s health.
Biobalance® is correctly the name of the feed formulated with Anti-Muffa, a special lactic acid bacteria strain with antifungal properties. Naito was the first person in the world to discover Anti-Muffa. He obtained patents in Japan, China, Korea and the U.S., established a company to manufacture Biobalance® in 2002, and offers farming instructions and management in over 200 farms and other institutions across Japan, based on introducing Biobalance® .
Naito has a unique career as a researcher.
In China, where he studied after graduating from high school, he became ill due to an unfamiliar diet, which made him realize the food and health are very closely related. After that he had a chance to enjoy a bottle of premium wine, a gift from his friend from Italy, which blew him away. Driven by a strong desire to find out what created such tasty wine, he moved to Italy when he was 23, and devoted himself to researching wine production thereafter.
“Naturally, you need tasty grapes to make tasty wine, and when I delved deeper, I learned that good soil is vital for producing tasty grapes. And I learned that bacteria play an essential role for good soil, so my interest shifted from soil to bacteria.”
After returning to Japan Naito studied under a university professor who was known as an authority of lactic acid bacteria, and spent a few years researching it. After that, he discovered the Anti-Muffa strain.
“Improving the cow’s intestinal flora with lactic acid bacteria is just one of the measures. I would like to create a cycle of livestock farming that eliminates stress to the cattle, producers and consumers, using and thoroughly understanding the power of microorganisms and the ingrained power of nature in a way that is as natural as possible, instead of forcing a style that is convenient for humans,” says Naito.
Looking to a recycling agriculture that brightens up local economy
The expertise Ishii Farm gained from introducing Naito’s Biobalance® has been applied further to manure development.
The lactic acid bacteria in Biobalance® thrive in cow dung, which can be used to make good manure. It used to take a long time to prepare manure: accumulated dung was stirred to bring in air to promote fermentation and needed to achieve certain conditions. After introducing Biobalance®, cow dung apparently ferments itself thanks to the power of lactic acid bacteria that just stacks up. Temperature of fermentation with lactic acid bacteria only reaches around 60 degrees Celsius making it possible to create manure with effective, live microorganisms intact.
Oftentimes manure in bad condition that cannot be used needs to disposed of and incurs expenses as it needs to be treated as industrial waste. If all manure can be recycled, its benefits to livestock farms are not negligible.
Going forward, Ishii wants to proactively invite vegetable farmers around Hayama to use this Biobalance ® manure.
“Raising cattle in a healthy environment leads to growing good vegetables in nearby areas. My future dream is to build a tourism facility in Hayama, with a barn, farm, a market and a restaurant all in one place, pivoting around Biobalance®,” says Ishii.
Biobalance® was developed by Naito and is gaining support from many producers, including Ishii. It could become a big trump card for solving the current issues livestock and vegetable farms face, and transform them as sustainable industries.
Writer : TAICHI UEDA / Photographer : SATOSHI TACHIBANA
Kanagawa Tourism Information