Designated Producers

Recipient of the Distinction Award from the 2014 “Kyorei Kai” Kobe Meat Cattle Show
[Yamanokuchi Farm]Naoki Yamanokuchi

Efforts bear fruit a decade after migrating from Miyazaki
Naoki Yamanokuchi came to live among the idyllic landscape of southern Awaji Island in 2004, leaving his hometown in Miyazaki, where he and his elder brother ran a family cattle farm they had inherited. What drove him to make a fresh start in Awaji was encouragement from his uncle who lived in Kobe City and was a well-known Tajima cattle farmer. He recalls, “I wasn’t able to raise Tajima cattle from the start, partly due to funding issues. So I bought and raised crossbreds that have a faster turnover, and used the proceeds to gradually increase the number of Tajima cattle.” Yamanokuchi says he learned a lot from his uncle about the fattening techniques and he tastes the beef raised on his farm with his uncle as much as possible. “When I first started, my uncle was always critical of the taste of my beef, saying it needed much improvement. He especially told me over and over again I must make sure that the taste of my beef stays constant throughout the year.” Yamanokuchi says with a smile, “It’s only recently that the scolding has become less frequent.”
Detecting subtle changes in a cow’s condition
Work at the Yamanokuchi Farm starts at 6 a.m. It takes all morning to check on the cattle, feed them, and to take care of the ones that aren’t well. Yamanokuchi says, “Cows can’t speak, so it’s important how quickly you can notice any subtle change in their conditions. This is especially true for Tajima cattle because they can seem fine in the morning but suddenly fall ill in the evening.” If there’s a cow that doesn’t seem right, it is isolated in a separate barn and carefully monitored. Yamanokuchi checks on his cows frequently so he doesn’t miss the slightest change in their health. He tells us, “We are fortunate because my brother in Miyazaki has a veterinary license and provides us with helpful information.”
Building on the experience of growing up on a cattle farm
To raise animals, one has to work 365 years a day with no days off. But that doesn’t seem to bother Yamanokuchi who says matter-of-factly, “Cattle farming is all I know.” Every month he has a chance to show his skills as he looks for the best calves he can buy within the limit of his budget. He tells us, “I select my calves based on what my uncle has taught me as well as my own instinctive preference.” Yamanokuchi’s parents in Miyazaki started off as cattle breeders and then expanded their business into an integrated operation that included fattening. So, from when he was little, Yamanokuchi often witnessed and helped the births of calves. He says he didn’t learn much from his father in words but picked up a lot of things by watching what he did. Yamanokuchi says the experience is helping him now.
Yamanokuchi has pursued his path for the past 10 years, carrying the expectations of his father, brother and uncle on his shoulders. Describing the year in which he put many high-quality cows on the market, he says, “2014 was one of the best years ever.” He is determined to continue raising cattle in a careful manner by keeping the scope of his operation within his sight and reach.

Yamanokuchi is shy in front of the camera. He says, “Kobe beef never lies heavy on the stomach even if you eat a lot,” vouching for the quality of the meat.

Yamanokuchi offers cattle manure to neighboring farmers. In return they give him vegetables from their fields. Traditional recycling is still alive.