Cattle grazing to resume on Mt. Bandai ranch after 6-year hiatus

12 May 2017

A municipal stock farm at the foot of Mt. Bandai in Inawashiro town, Fukushima Prefecture, is set to begin pasturing cattle on June 23 for the first time in six years, or since it was suspended following the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The resumption was decided at a meeting in the town office on May 11. Dairy farmers and other parties concerned are pinning high hopes on the move to restart long awaited local grazing.

The Mt. Bandai ranch is scheduled to accept about 40 head of milk and beef cattle at two places on a tract of grassland about 15 hectares wide. The farm will set up electric fences while hearing from dairy and other farmers in and outside the town about their desire to have their cattle put in the care of the ranch.

The farm opened in 1966 in the foothills of Mr. Bandai overlooking Lake Inawashiro. Of its land about 110 hectares, some 80 hectares are grassland. It used to accept about 40 head of cattle usually from late May to the end of October.

In a survey taken in February 2012 when a provisional permissible level of radioactive cesium content in cattle feed was tightened to 100 becquerels per kilogram, feed samples collected in the town exceeded the standard, forcing the municipality to refrain from using the farm. The town undertook cleanup work such as plowing to replace surface soil over four years from 2013. A new survey in June 2016 found feed contamination below the standard, prompting the town to discuss the farm’s restart.

Toru Asakawa, 59, a dairy farmer in the town, used to pasture about a dozen head of cattle on the farm every year before the nuclear disaster. He now has about 15 dairy heifers six months and older in the care of a farm on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido. Asakawa, who heads a dairy division of JA Aizu-Yotsuba, a local chapter of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group, expects to have them return gradually to the farm in Fukushima now that it is reopening. “Some farmers outside the town are also expecting to see the farm resumed,” said Asakawa, who is awaiting it eagerly himself. “We are happy to grow cattle in the natural environment of the hometown while always watching their conditions.”

(Translated by Kyodo News)