The meat is sourced from "Top Farm Group,"
which raises a variety of beef cattle in Saroma-cho in Hokkaido including,
"Saroma Select Beef," the first breed to be certified by "Nojo HACCP"in Japan,
an organization that sets a strict standard for safe and secure beef.
The Top Farm Group raises beef cattle in Saroma-cho, Okhotsk, from calves to adults. They have hopes and dreams, and strive to raise healthy cows. Cows are cute animals that respond to loving care. Therefore, it is important to raise the cows with love, and think about their feelings. Valuing teamwork, the team works hard in unison. The mission of the Top Farm Group is for each staff to pride themselves as an individual producer, and work to contribute to the region.
Calves are considered newborn up until about 1 week after birth. The newborn calves are purchased and introduced into the farm. The Top Farm incorporates about 600 newborn calves every month. They are purchased from Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives markets serving Toyotomi, Nakashibetsu, Kitami, and Asahikawa. Most of these are purchased by Inoue and the president, and the rest are purchased by reliable distributors specializing in beef cattle. The part of the reason why I decided to go to the market myself is to select the healthy newborns on my own, but ultimately, in order to secure 600 calves every month, I had to do it myself. Of the 600 calves, 500 are F1 cattle. F1 newborns are limited in quantity, and thus in great demand. In the past, we have purchased the newborns in mainland markets and transported them back to Hokkaido. However, Saroma being located on the northern tip of Hokkaido, it is not ideal to put newborn calves under great stress during transport.
Immediately after birth, calves are raised on mother's milk. However, when they arrive at the farm as beef cattle, they are raised on a substitute (powdered milk). Normally, calves are nursed twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. The feeding is limited to once a day to make the nursing process more economical, and also for the purpose of promoting the development of calves. At Top Farm, we feed the calves using a large bottle for the single feeding. Calves consume 2.4L at a time. Bottle-feeding simulates feeding off of mother's udder, thereby facilitating saliva production to promote digestion. Single feeding has an effect to accelerate weaning. In addition to the single milk feeding, feed and water are constantly available for ad-lib feeding. In this set-up, calves eat solid feed when they feel hungry, which makes them accustomed to regular feed quicker for an earlier weaning. Accelerated weaning promotes development of first stomach, rumen, and consequently the overall development of the animal.
In order to strengthen the stomach, animals are given feed with fiber. There are 2 kinds of cow feed: compound and coarse feeds. Compound feed is a calculated mixture of grains, like wheat and corn, vitamins, and hay for optimal nutritional value. Coarse feed contains things that are high in fiber, such as hay, wheat and rice straw. Newborn calves are given nutritionally-balanced substitute milk (dissolved formula milk), and a constantly accessible solid baby food called the starter. This accelerates the weaning process, and facilitates maturing of stomach. Furthermore, after weaning, they are fed coarse feed. Calves are like seedling for plants. It is not necessary to fatten them at this stage by overfeeding them with compound feed, instead, it is most important to develop a robust stomach. Grass is abundant in Hokkaido. Though it is more costly, we selectively use safe, domestic grass. This is how we raise healthy calves with strong, large stomach.
There are 4 cattle barns: hatch, initial growth, development, and maintenance. When the calves first arrive, they are kept in a nursing barn called the hatch. Presently, there are 1,256 hatches at the Top Farm. In the morning and evening, President Inoue, Sudo Chief, Moritani Manager, Shigeyuki Inoue, and Kensho Onaka make rounds through the hatch. The initial growth barn is where the calves transition into communal living, from individual living space in the hatch. There are 4 types of barns, depending on when it was build. However, they were all designed with special considerations for sufficient floor space for each animal for optimal growth and ventilation. The cows are located on both sides of a large center isle. 1 pen holds 25 cows. The spacious barn with high ceilings is well ventilated, and does not trap the ammonia smell. The animals are fed once a day. Several times a day, the feed, gathered toward the rear, is pushed forward. In this way, cows are able to eat fresh feed whenever they want. The specific designs of the maintenance barns differ with the age of the building, however, much work is put in to keep the cows as comfortable as possible until the day of shipment.
In order for the cow seedlings to blossom during the maturation period, it is most important to raise animals with robust stomach. Robust stomach facilitates absorption of nutrients for the best cows. Additionally, it is important to maintain strong legs. To this end, it is necessary to raise them in a spacious area. Strong lungs are also important. This is achieved by keeping the barns well ventilated to maintain a constant flow of clean air, and preventing the cows from contracting illness. By raising healthy claves, it is possible to make variety of arrangements during the maintenance phase. If you want to make fatty or lean meat, you can keep them under conditions that elicit desired meat types. The mission is to raise healthy, robust, and responsive calves that respond well to a variety of manipulations during the maintenance phase.
We believe it is very important to consider the impact on nature, when conducting a large-scale beef cattle production. We are heavily involved in recycling the manure. With the increasing number of animals we raise, we are adding more manure barns to accommodate the proportionally increasing amount of cow manure. The fully matured compost is returned to the local farms, to promote cyclic farming. While Top Farm Group has more than 20 staff and an increasing number of animals, it is still a single farmer. Farming is not an isolated job for individuals. It is only possible through collaborations with the region itself and the other local farmers. Going forward, we hope continue alongside other the local farmers, as a cattle farm rooted in this region.
Since 1997, Top Farm Group has started managing individual information on computers. The staff who initially struggled to use computers are much more comfortable with them now. The Top Farm Group uses a software called "Ushi Seitai Kanri System (Cow Animal Management System)." It is possible to enter detailed information at each rearing phase including, incorporation, weaning, vaccination record, interim weighing, castration, and shipment. All of the information is organized and stored based on the ear tag number, such that detailed information for each animal can easily be accessed. As a result, we are able to retrieve necessary data, such as growth conditions, like weight gain, and cost calculations, and analyze them to assess risk management and ensure profitability. In order to keep up with the open information movement popularized in recent years, we have added treatment and feed management functions to the system in 2002. We plan to incorporate "Nojo HACCP" in the next upgrade. Thus far, we have been keeping a handwritten treatment record for each animal. By converting it to an electronic system, it is not only beneficial for the health management of each animal, but we can also release a detailed information on each cow, as its "passport," to the buyer at the time of shipment. We aim to be more open with the information using an electronic system to meet the needs of the producers, distributors, and the consumers.