The Holstein, Red and White Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss herd is milked in a tiestall barn and produce 400 tons of milk every year. The island receives significant snowfall and bitterly cold temperatures in the winter, but experiences mild summers making the region attractive for dairy farming and tourism.
PHOTO SUBMITTED
The Holstein, Red and White Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss herd is milked in a tiestall barn and produce 400 tons of milk every year. The island receives significant snowfall and bitterly cold temperatures in the winter, but experiences mild summers making the region attractive for dairy farming and tourism. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    Toyokoro, Hokkaido, Japan – In the northernmost region of Japan, the Dendo family is caring for the land and their livestock as first-generation dairy farmers.
    Tom Dendo and his family – his wife and their grown children, a son and two daughters – milk 40 cows on their farm located in the town of Toyokoro in the Tokachi Subprefecture on the island of Hokkaido. Dendo is the sole workman for the farm alongside his wife.
    Dendo said his days begin around 5 a.m. His morning milking routine takes one hour to complete. After milking is taken care of, the barn is cleaned. Dendo feeds the cows at 8 a.m. In the afternoon, Dendo begins milking at 4 p.m. and is typically done for the day by 6 p.m.
    The farm’s profits support Dendo’s family.
    “We make approximately 100 yen, including subsidies,” he said.
    Looking five years ahead, Dendo would like to keep doing what he is now, making a living from the satisfying work of a dairyman.
    “I would like to aim at relaxing and relaxing farm life in the future,” Dendo said. “I like the dairy lifestyle.”
    The farm is home to a collective herd of Holstein, Red and White Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss. Dendo said the cows produce 400 tons of raw milk every year. Dendo milks his cows using a pipeline system in a tiestall barn.
    Japan traverses an archipelago of 6, 852 islands; Hokkaido is one of the five main islands, joining Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. Hokkaido is the country’s second largest island but is home to a very small percentage of the country’s population.
    According to The World Encyclopedia Book, much of the island is covered with forested mountains and hills. From southwestern Hokkaido, a curved peninsula extends. But, northeast of the peninsula is the Ishikari Plain, which is Hokkaido’s largest lowland and principal agricultural region. Along the east coast are small plains areas. The economy of the island revolves around the dairy industry, fishing and forestry.
    Toyokoro lies along the east coast of the island near the Pacific Ocean.
    Dendo said there are 50 dairy farms surrounding his area. The milk from the farm is sent to a dairy plant where it is processed into cheese and butter.
    According to livejapan.com, Hokkaido is dairy kingdom, producing 4 million tons of milk each year – a whopping 55% of Japan’s annual production of 7.3 million tons.
    While the dairy industry is prevalent on the island, the number of households dairying has dwindled in recent years. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 18,600 dairy farms were in operation in 2014. By 2018, that number had dropped to 15,700. The number of milking cows has fallen from 772,500 to 731,100 in the same period.
    Dairy cows can thrive in the island’s climate. Similar to the state of Maine, Hokkaido has cool summers and cold winters. Rain is plentiful in the country but varies greatly depending on region. The mountains of the Sea of Japan coast may receive 63 inches while the Sea of Okhotsk coast may have 31 inches of precipitation.
    Dendo said wintertime temperatures can dip as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. The area is subarctic; snowfall can accumulate as much as 400 inches on the mountains near the Sea of Japan and measure near 70 inches on the Pacific Coast.
    Because of the area’s plentiful snowfall, the area is a popular destination for snow sports. The area has several winter festivals and ski resorts. In addition, because Hokkaido is Japan’s coldest region and is less humid in the summertime than other parts of Japan, tourism is a beaming industry.
    Dendo said their herd is fed a diet based around grass silage which they produce on their land. They also feed purchased potato pulp and various grains. He said common crops grown in the area are soybean, potato, wheat, corn and beets. A common feature to many farms in Japan are terraced fields. Rice paddies are also characteristic to the nation as rice is Japan’s leading crop.
     While the dairy industry in Japan will no doubt continue to face challenges, from limited farm land to a diminishing population of active dairy farmers to trade and much in between, Dendo said he is happy to reap the benefits of a life spent on his little island dairy farm.