At a cowshed, we found a small calf at the entrance, isolated from the other cows. Miyata tells us the calf had been abandoned by its mother. Usually, the mother licks the amniotic fluid off the newborn. But in this calf’s case, it was Miyata who wiped the calf clean with a towel and kept it warm. “The calf managed to grow this big thanks to my wife who gave it milk every morning and night,” Miyata says, looking at the calf with kind eyes. It used to be that calves neglected by their mothers or born early at the farm mostly died. But now, such babies live and grow up healthy because Miyata and his wife, who have acquired the necessary knowhow to handle the newborns, take turns caring for them.
Although he has part-time workers and his own father helping him, Miyata pretty much runs the farm single-handedly. His wife Shizuka is his reliable partner. She helps him at the farm while working at the Asago livestock hygiene service center. Shizuka’s parents own a dairy farm on Awaji Island. Miyata says, “Beef and dairy cattle are different, but livestock and dairy farms are both about raising cows.” Because they both grew up among cattle, they seem to share the same feelings and thoughts for the animal.
Actually, the champion heifer was also born one month premature. Not just Miyata and his wife, but also their children took turns in diligently feeding the calf with milk. But it remained weakly and was slow in putting on weight. So Miyata decided to raise the calf at his farm instead of selling it at auction. Then, after about 18 months, it began eating and sleeping well. It steadily put on weight and developed into a well-shaped cow. When we asked Miyata at the start of the interview why he was able to win the award, he said the cow delivered more than expected. Now we know what he meant.
The family must have experienced a mix of emotions to see the cow they raised with loving care win an award. Miyata says his children visit the farm at least once every day. There are animals other than cattle on the farm, including chickens, rabbits, dogs and a goat that the children had begged to keep. The children feed and play with the animals in an environment that allows them to naturally learn the difference between livestock and pets.
“I would like to see my children help more…but it is demanding work. In my case, I loved cows and the work at the farm, so I had no reluctance.” Miyata is waiting for his children to act voluntarily instead of forcing them to help. But he apparently need not worry.
His 11-year-old daughter keeps track of the cows’ due dates and is always asking her parents whether a cow has calved. Miyata’s nine-year old son’s hobby is to look at auction data and check the pedigree of the cattle up for sale. And his two-year-old son loves cows so much that he’s not afraid to go near a big cow.
Miyata Farm wants to focus more of its efforts on breeding from now on. At the moment, 30 percent of Miyata’s fattening cattle are born on his farm. His first goal is to produce more calves for fattening. That’s why he has various measures in place to keep low the number of cattle that become ill, such as having a vet compile an annual vaccination program. He also obtains the latest information from trade journals and the internet. Miyata tells us, “Ultimately, I want to bring to my farm rare breeds of cattle born in Hyogo Prefecture to produce even better beef cattle.”
He says he is inspired by his fellow university alumni. He says it’s encouraging to see them working hard and succeeding in their respective fields that include cattle, dairy, orchard and crop farming.
Although Miyata is a third-generation cattle farmer, he has not inherited everything from his father and grandfather. Instead, he has built up is own kingdom, which is his farm, by pursuing extensive knowledge and establishing wide personal connections. It is not an overstatement to call him the standard-bearer of a new generation of cattle farmers.