March 14, 2022 at 6:23 p.m.
Fukuya and his family operate Elmlane Holsteins near Eniwa in the Japanese province of Hokkaido. The farm is home to 130 cows and 100 heifers at any given time. The family has been dairying for more than 90 years and grows corn, grass for silage and dry hay on 160 acres.
“My grandfather settled in Eniwa city in 1930,” Fukuya said. “He started dairy farming with his wife with two dairy cows. In 1991, my father moved the farm to our current location due to the urbanization of the city. In 2009, I took over management of the farm from him.”
The island of Hokkaido is located near the same latitude as Wisconsin, and Fukuya said the climate is similar. Eniwa is a city of 70,000 people and is located near the city of Sapporo, which has a population of 2 million people. Fukuya said that population center makes land prices in his area very high.
In the early 1990s, Fukuya traveled to the U.S. to work as a trainee and spent two years working for Indianhead Holsteins in Barron, Wisconsin. During that time, his love and appreciation for breeding high-type Holsteins was truly born.
“I had a great experience working for Bob and Karyn Schauf,” Fukuya said. “Before that, I had little interest in breeding cows and in cattle shows until I went to Indianhead. Bob Schauf picked me up at the airport; driving home, he told me there was an amazing 2-year-old in his barn.”
That cow was Stookey Elm Park Blackrose-ET EX-96-3E-GMD-DOM.
“She was graceful with a completely different impression from the cows in Japan,” Fukuya said.
The awe that struck Fukuya when he first walked into the barn did not stop with meeting Blackrose.
“I was surprised with the light and cleanness; there were so many Excellent cows in the barn,” Fukuya said. “I was carried away by the shows: beautifully decorated barns, fluffy cow beds and the graceful cows relaxing there.”
Besides the Schaufs, Fukuya said he was introduced to other mentors who became life-long friends: Mark Rueth, Joel Kietzman, Mike Deaver and Roger Turner.
“I longed for the coolness of the highly professional fitters,” Fukuya said. “I greedily learned techniques from them. Returning to Japan, the knowledge and skills I learned in the U.S. were immediately successful. I continued to be a premier breeder in big shows for many years, and I was invited all over the country for fitting and judging shows.”
Fukuya has taken what he learned at Indianhead and developed his own dairy farming philosophy, blending show ring type with bill-paying production. The herd has a production average of 24,250 pounds of milk with 4.2% butterfat and 3.3% protein tests and an average classification score of 85.5 points.
“I like to make good cows, but farm management is also important,” Fukuya said. “I have to make cows with high production; my breeding philosophy is in harmony with production and type.”
Fukuya aims to breed moderate-sized cows with correct frames, dairy strength, correct udders and feet and legs. He places importance on health traits, trying to breed highly fertile cows with resistance to diseases such as mastitis.
Building on cow families is also important to Fukuya, and he takes pride in developing individuals from top families.
“There are some cow families which have done very well at shows in my herd,” Fukuya said. “One in particular is the Prelude Spotty family, and I also have descendants of Blackrose, Paradise and Rudy Missy.”
A homebred granddaughter of Spotty, Elmlane Skychief Sunny was the grand champion cow at the 2005 All-Japan Holstein Show. Sunny’s influence continues to be felt in the herd today, with many Very Good and Excellent descendants.
Elmlane Altaoak Shammy, a granddaughter of Rudy Missy, leads Fukuya’s index breeding as she was introduced into the breeding sire production program of a Japanese bull organization.
“Shammy’s daughters are highly productive,” Fukuya said. “They have good type with good udders. They are resistant to disease and extremely fertile. Economically, they are the most contributing cow family in my herd.”
Fukuya’s dairy career has not always been smooth sailing. Tragedy struck in August 2019 with a barn fire that resulted in the death of 20 milking cows and 40 heifers. Fukuya persevered through the tragedy to begin the rebuilding process.
“Most of the barns were burned down,” Fukuya said. “I fixed up a burned building and built simple frame barns for the cows to milk them until the barns could be rebuilt.”
The new barn was put into operation in January 2021. The facility has a double-10 parallel parlor with cows housed in both tie stalls and free stalls. Dry cows are housed in a separate barn.
In the midst of the construction, the coronavirus pandemic began to affect the world’s dairy industry.
“The dairy industry in Japan is in a very difficult situation due to the influence of COVID now,” Fukuya said. “Due to the national production increase policy, the scale of the Japanese dairy farm has been increased, and raw milk production has continued to increase. However, COVID has dramatically reduced the consumption of commercial dairy products and dairy manufacturers’ inventories continue to grow. Dairy farmers have to curb production.”
In addition to declining consumption, dairy farmers are faced with a disruption in the importation of many inputs vital to their operations, such as feed and fertilizer.
“COVID has deteriorated distribution of these, and prices of the materials have continued to rise,” Fukuya said. “This year will be a very difficult for Japanese dairy farmers.”
With these challenges, paired with the high value of farm land, Fukuya has no future plans for expanding his dairy. He plans to place his focus on improving efficiency and increasing production.
The future of his farm, beyond his own career, is uncertain, Fukuya said. His children are too young to know if they wish to be the fourth generation of dairy farmers.
“I have four daughters, the oldest being 14 years old,” Fukuya said. “I think my goal is for some of them to take over my farm in the future, and their children to take over from them and to protect it like my father and I have done.”
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