Nestling in a ravine, shrouded in deep winter snow near the Hachibuse Kogen Heights in the Tajima district, is the Ohta Farm. Katsunori Ohta raises cattle here at this expansive farm in all of its eight cowsheds. Although he is a frequent winner at beef cattle fairs around the country, 2011 was an especially good year for Katsunori. The Kobe Beef cows he’d submitted for judging won him a string of A5-12 awards, the highest rank possible.
The first thing you’ll notice when you visit the cowsheds is how clean they are. As well as being painstakingly cleaned throughout, the many large fans installed in the ceiling keep the floor constantly clean and dry at all times. So much so that smells peculiar to cowsheds will hardly bother you.
Katsunori says, “I think that sloppily done cleaning is proof that you aren’t being attentive enough to the cattle, too. By nature, I’m a stickler for cleanliness myself. And, my farmhands are really thorough in keeping our place clean like this without me having to tell them so.” The clear air you would expect of these small secluded mountains also helps keep the cowsheds cool and refreshed in summer, too. It is because of this stress-free and comfortable environment and the care and attention given by the farm’s five hands that all of the cows are surprisingly calm and gentle in spite of the many head of cattle on the farm.
An Insatiable Passion and Devotion to Raising Cattle
Katsunori is in his 20th year as a rancher. During the past ten or so years, he has increased his head of cattle tenfold from 100 to 1,000. Just as he has been pushing himself from around the time he first started raising cattle to reach the eventual goal of 1,000 head of cattle, he’s been building new cowsheds almost every year and continually adding to his herd. As a result, he now owns an astounding five hectares or 5,000 acres of mountain land.
“I really think it’s about time I ought to behave myself and stop right here. But then I want more cows when I see a good one, and I think to myself ‘I’m not going to let someone else take such a good cow as that away from me.’ It’s my ‘rancher disposition,’ I suppose. It’s because of this that every new cowshed I’ve built soon fills up. It never ends, does it!” he jovially laughs. For his new purchases, Katsunori goes local and checks all of the cows carefully on the lookout for just the right ones. He asserts, “I just can’t approve of the cows that others choose. This is the one thing I have to do myself.”
Cherishing Every Day’s Arduous Efforts
When asked what the most difficult thing is in rearing cows, Katsunori replies “Well, everything. But, I’d say that everyday management of the cows’ health is the most difficult.” For feeding his herds Katsunori uses a special blend of feed that he himself developed through repeated research. He also adds that, since the thoroughbred Tajima-gyu cows are of a delicate disposition, more so than other brands of cattle, it is important to not overlook and anticipate even the slightest signs before the cows get out of condition, and give them the necessary care. Katsunori adds, “No room for sloppy slackers here! At any rate, it all depends on whether or not you can do things seriously and diligently. All of the hands on my farm work hard at it in spite of their young years!”
Katsunori gives his stamp of approval on quality, “Sure enough, Tajima-gyu Kobe Beef has a fine, delicate flavor.” This is without doubt the result of the special efforts of a diligent farmer to uphold the Tajima-gyu lineage.
The Tajima district is typically covered in snow from the latter half of December right through to early March. Katsunori Ohta painstakingly raises his cows here in this harsh environment.