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The Dairy Industry$in Asia B. Japan
Shin-ichi Kume
Department of Animal Nutrition
National Institute of Animal Industry
Tsukuba 305, Japan, 1994-10-01

Abstract

The Japanese dairy industry achieved dramatic post-war growth, but it has been affected by rapid trade liberalization and structural changes on dairy farms. Milk production increased from 4.8 million tons in 1970 to 8.2 million tons in 1990. Milk yield per cow in Japan is the highest in the world. However, the number of dairy farms, especially small farms with less than ten head, has declined drastically. New technology for improved milk productivity is needed for the future development of the dairy industry in Japan.

Abstracts in Other Languages: 中文(939), 日本語(967), 한국어(1083)

Introduction

The Japanese livestock industry achieved dramatic post-war growth, as higher national income created an increased consumer demand for livestock products. In Japan today, the livestock industry is the most important agricultural sector in terms of gross agricultural output ( Table 1(1143)). The gross output of the Japanese dairy industry increased rapidly up until 1980, but since then has remained constant. However, livestock production, including dairying, has been affected by a strong trend towards trade liberalization and structural changes on dairy farms, while consumer needs have become extremely diverse.

Dairy Farms in Japan

The number of dairy farms in Japan has declined drastically in recent years ( Table 2(1314)). The number of farms fell by half in a single decade, from 1980 to 1990, and this decline has since continued. The number of dairy cattle, 99% of which were Holstein, increased until 1980 and thereafter remained stable at 2.0 to 2.1 million head. This means that the number of cattle per farm has increased greatly, reaching 38 head in 1992. In 1970, farms with less than ten head constituted 67% of all dairy farms ( Table 3(1018)). These had fallen to only 20% by 1992. On the other hand, farms with more than 30 head increased from 0.5% of all farms in 1970 to 37% in 1992.

The most dramatic change in the number of dairy cattle was in these farms with 30 head or more. Their total inventory increased from 340,000 head in 1975 to 1.43 million head in 1992, while the total number and percentage of dairy cattle on farms with less than 30 head declined. A similar trend took place in the United States, where the number of dairy farms fell from 444,000 in 1975 to 182,000 in 1991. A comparison of the dairy industry in Japan with that of the United States shows far more similarities than differences (Simpson and Blokland 1993).

Milk Production and Self-Sufficiency Rate in Japan

Milk production in Japan increased from 4.8 million tons in 1970 to 8.2 million tons in 1990 ( Table 4(978)). The proportion of fresh milk in total milk production was fairly constant, at 58% in 1980 and 62% in the level of 1991. The level of self-sufficiency in milk and milk products was more than 80% in 1985, 78% in 1990 and 77% in 1991.

There are no imports of fresh milk into Japan, but imports of butter, cheese, and other milk products have increased (MAFF 1993). Consumer's needs for milk and milk products have become more diversified, and consumers are more conscious of quality, safety, and freshness. Since milk production has often exceeded consumer demand during the past decade, dairy farmers have agreed to regulate the supply to match the demand. Today, the Japanese dairy industry faces rapid trade liberalization following the GATT agreement. Japanese dairy producers are afraid that there will be a rapid increase in the importation of milk and milk products.

The Current Dairy Industry in Japan

Japanese dairy production can be divided into two different areas according to the pattern of milk utilization. Dairy farms in Hokkaido, where there are cool temperatures throughout the year, produce processed milk products because of the long distance to urban markets. Dairy farms in the rest of Japan produce mainly fresh milk for drinking. In 1992, the prices for milk used for processing in Hokkaido were 20% lower than those for fresh milk for drinking (Livestock Improvement Association of Japan 1993).

In 1992, there were 13,900 dairy farms in Hokkaido (25.2% of the total number of dairy farms in Japan) and 908,000 head of dairy cattle (43.6% of Japan's total number) (MAFF 1993). The number of dairy cattle per farm in Hokkaido was 65 head, compared to 29 head in the other parts of Japan. The total area of fields growing forage was 36.7 ha per farm in Hokkaido 1992, but in other areas only 4.1 ha. Thus, dairy cattle management in Hokkaido is on a comparatively large scale, and is rather different from that found in the rest of Japan.

Trends in Milk Production

According to dairy herd improvement records, milk production per cow for a 305-day period in Japan increased from 5,826 kg in 1975 to 7,994 kg in 1992 ( Table 5(1099)). During 1984 and 1993, 33 "supercows" produced a milk yield of more than 20,000 kg in 365 days, or 18,000 kg in 305 days. Milk fat increased from 3.6% in 1975 to 3.76% in 1992, although the calving interval did not improve.

These rapid improvements in milk yield and milk fat content in Japan's Holstein dairy cattle were the result of good breeding and feeding programs. Over the past ten years, of this annual increase in milk production, 46.6 kg is estimated to be the result of breeding improvements, while improved management contributed 109.6 kg for the first lactation and 147.7 kg in later lactations (Isogai et al. 1993). These values indicate that in these annual improvements, management had two to three times the effect of genetic improvement. The intake per head of feed concentrates increased from 1,889 kg in 1975 to 2,908 kg in 1992. The increase in the intake feed concentrates between 1975 and 1992 was higher than that of milk yield, which shows that the improvement in milk yield depended on the increased use of feed concentrates.

With the exception of Hokkaido, heat stress in summer adversely affects milk production in Japan. Milk yield and milk composition, in terms of e.g. milk fat and protein content, often decline when mean monthly temperatures are above 22°C ( Table 6(943)). In July and August, when the mean monthly temperature is more than 26°C, the reduction is very marked (Kume et al. 1990). However, milk prices are high between July and November, since consumers often drink more milk during the summer. Thus, an improvement in milk yield and milk composition during the summer is very important for improved dairy cattle management in Japan.

Feeding System for Dairy Cattle

The yield of forage crops such as grass, corn and sorghum has not changed in Japan in recent years, but the production of concentrates for dairy cattle has increased ( Table 7(967)). In 1992 there were 528,400 ha of forage cultivated in Japan, with an average of 1.9 crops per year (MAFF 1993). Apart from Hokkaido, Italian ryegrass and corn or sorghum are the most common forage crops in Japan.

The Japanese livestock industry depends mainly on imported feed grains. Any change in international economic conditions, such as changes in the production level in foreign countries or in currency exchange rates, has a considerable impact. In recent years, imports of grain have remained constant, but there has been a marked increase in imports of soybean meal and roughage ( Table 8(1007)). If we take into account the importation of feed, the self-sufficiency rate in milk products is less than 77%.

Good quality silage and hay is produced by controlling fermentation and storage. Roll baled silage or hay has been rapidly adopted on dairy farms in recent years. A year-long silage supply, harvesting grasses in spring and corn or sorghum in summer, or total mixed rations, have come into widespread use, because these are useful in maintaining rumen fermentation in high-producing cows. Fats and protein which bypass the rumen, such as calcium soaps of fatty acid, cottonseed, and soybean, are used for cows producing more than 30 kg/day, to improve milk yield and milk composition.

A basic part of management during the summer is physical modification of the environment, particularly by intercepting incoming solar radiation. Various other solutions have been evaluated, including fans, misting with fans, and natural or artificial shade, to see whether they help prevent the loss of milk production. Another basic aspect of management is improved nutrition to help the cattle maintain a proper body temperature and rumen fermentation. Since reduced feed intake is a common response in summer, increased amounts of feed concentrates and supplements, such as fat, protein and minerals, are widely used under high temperatures in Japan.

New Technology in Dairy Production

The milk yield per cow in Japan is one of the highest in the world, but the cost of milk production is relatively high. In addition, Japan's dairy farming has various problems such as environmental pollution from livestock wastes, urban growth, a lack of young farmers who wish to carry on their fathers' farms, and the diverse requirements of consumer demand. Especially with rapid trade liberalization, the number of dairy farms in Japan is expected to fall to below 30,000 by the year 2000, from 55,000 in 1992.

To cope with competition from imported products, the Japanese dairy industry must develop even more efficient milk production, which is however in harmony with the environment and rural society. Costs have to be lowered, and there must be a focus on supplying high-quality, safe dairy products which meet consumer needs. Some new technology has been developed to help Japanese dairy farmers achieve this.

Embryo Transfer

The first successful embryo transfer in Japan was achieved at the National Institute of Animal Industry in 1964, and since then embryo transfer has become widely used in Japan. Techniques of embryo transfer have greatly improved, and many organizations, including private companies, make use of them. In 1991, 7163 calves, including 1,094 twin calves, were born through embryo transfer ( Table 9(1203)).

In breeding dairy cattle, embryo transfer is mainly used to improve genetic quality, using highly productive cows as donors. About 80% of dairy breeding bulls were produced by embryo transfer in Japan (Kojima 1993), and the technique is now expected to produce beef cattle. About 90% of calves born after embryo transfer in 1991 were Japanese beef calves, with Holstein cows being used as recipients. In the future, embryo transfer will also continue to be used for the improvement of dairy cows.

Milking Parlors and Free Stall Barns

In recent years, the number of milking parlors and free stall barns has increased in Japan, a trend which is likely to continue ( Table 10(1056)). Between 1989 and 1992, 61.9% of newly built milking parlors were of the herring bone type, and 24.2% were the parallel type, but the number of parallel parlors is increasing (Hasegawa 1993). About 70% of dairy farms with milking parlors had facilities for producing mixed feed, and cows were fed on complete mixed rations.

Free stall barns are commonly used for large herds. Sixty lactating cows are fed in Japanese free stall barns (Hasegawa 1993). With the development of large-scale operations, the number of free stall barns can be expected to increase.

Physiological Function of Nutrients in Feed

Milk production has drastically increased in Japan, and farmers now aim at a milk yield per cow of 10,000 kg/305 days. However, the reproductive performance of dairy cows, measured in terms of calving interval, did not improve between 1980 and 1991 ( Table 3(1018)), and the occurrence of mastitis and metabolic disorders around parturition has increased. In addition, although the use of embryo transfer to induce twining has increased, anemia often occurs in twin calves ( Table 11(994)). Improvements in reproduction and general health, as well as in milk production, are important for the future development of the dairy industry.

Well-balanced feed rations benefit animal health. Vitamins and minerals have a useful physiological function for high-producing cows, by preventing metabolic disorders and improving reproduction. Colostral components, such as immunoglobulin, lactoferrin, minerals and vitamins, are very important to the immune system and general health of calves (Kume and Tanabe 1993). More needs to be known about the physiological functions of nutrients, and of feed generally, to make better practical use of them and to improve the health status of high producing cows.

References

  • Hasegawa, S. 1993. Research on milking parlors. In: Research on Free Stall Barns in Japan. Research Material, National Institute of Animal Industry.
  • Isogai, T., H. Endo, Y. Taniguchi, M. Yoshida, K. Kimura, Ikeuchi, T. Yoshizawa, T. Shirai. 1993. Animal model for genetic evaluation of dairy cattle in Japan. Animal Science and Technology (Japan) 64: 953.
  • Kojima, T. 1993. Embryo transfer for cattle. Unpublished Research Material used for Training Inseminators.
  • Kume, S, S. Takashashi, M. Kurihara, T. Aii. 1990. The effects of heat stress on milk yield, milk composition, and major mineral content in milk of dairy cows during early lactation. Japanese Journal of Zootechnical Science 61: 627.
  • Kume, S, S. Tanabe. 1993. Effect of parity on colostral mineral concentrations of Holstein cows and value of colostrum as a mineral source for newborn calves. Journal of Dairy Science 76: 1654.
  • Livestock Improvement Association of Japan. 1993. Summary of Dairy Herd Improvement Records. (By year).
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Statistics and information department 1993a. Pocket Statistics of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Statistics and Information Department. 1993b. Statistics of Livestock.
  • Simpson, J.R., P.J. Blokland. 1993. Japanese dairy industry faces pressures like that of US. Feedstuffs (June 14): 16.
Table 2(1314). Number of dairy farms and dairy cattle in Japan
Source: Livestock Statistics 1993.
Source: MAFF Statistics 1993

Discussion

Dr. Zainuddin pointed out that Table 4(978) shows an increase in milk production between 1970 and 1991, but a fall in the self-sufficiency rate, and asked the reason for this. Dr. Kume answered that this probably reflects the higher international prices for feedstuffs. Dr. Zainuddijn was also interested in why there is a lack of young dairy farmers to take over the farm when fathers retire. Dr. Kume explained that this is because dairy farmers work very long hours with no holidays, while there are plenty of jobs available in business with a shorter working week and regular holidays, which sons of farmers prefer.

Dr. Lustria asked how production costs could be reduced, particularly in view of the very high land prices in Japan. Dr. Kume replied that animal scientists in Japan would try to reduce the price of milk by reducing the cost of feed, and finding import substitutes. The cost of feed made from imported feed concentrates is very expensive, with an average price of 45 Yen per kilogram (c. US$0.45/kg). There would be active efforts to make increased use of local roughage resources.

Index of Images

Table 1 Gross Agricultural and Livestock Output in Japan

Table 1 Gross Agricultural and Livestock Output in Japan

Table 2

Table 2

Table 3 Number of Dairy Farms by Size in Japan

Table 3 Number of Dairy Farms by Size in Japan

Table 4 Milk Production in Japan, 1970 to 1991

Table 4 Milk Production in Japan, 1970 to 1991

Table 5 Milk Yield Per Cow Per 305-Day Period in Japan

Table 5 Milk Yield Per Cow Per 305-Day Period in Japan

Table 6 Dairy Milk Production Per Cow in Japan (Excluding Hokkaido), 1992

Table 6 Dairy Milk Production Per Cow in Japan (Excluding Hokkaido), 1992

Table 7 Forage Yield and Concentrate Production in Japan

Table 7 Forage Yield and Concentrate Production in Japan

Table 8 Import of Major Feeds into Japa

Table 8 Import of Major Feeds into Japa

Table 9 Number of Embryo Transfer Calves in Japan, 1975-1991

Table 9 Number of Embryo Transfer Calves in Japan, 1975-1991

Table 10 Total Number of Milking Parlors in Japan

Table 10 Total Number of Milking Parlors in Japan

Table 11 Blood Components of Calves Born after Embryo Transfer and Their Dams at Parturition

Table 11 Blood Components of Calves Born after Embryo Transfer and Their Dams at Parturition

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