Japanese Delegates Visit Hopkins River
We recently had the pleasure of hosting a group of Japanese Beef Producer Delegates as part of the Producers to Producers (P2P) being run by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA). This is a program aimed at linking Japanese and Australian beef producers as a way of showing a united front to help promote beef consumption in Japan. Japan is one of Australia’s most important export markets so it is essential to keep a positive working relationship.
Many of the delegates who visited us are from Fukushima, which was where the nuclear plant accident occurred last year. Although they were not directly affected their regions now have a ‘bad reputation’ due to being associated with the accident and they are finding it hard to market their beef due to consumer fears of produce coming from their region.
They were very interested to learn some new ideas and compare our production systems with their own. The aim was that hopefully they will be able to take home some new techniques from a ‘hands on’ approach through to marketing and public relations. It was great that there was a mix of ages in the group and it was especially great that many of the delegates were in their 20’s and 30’s. There are not many young people in agriculture in Australia with average age of a farmer being 53 and this is magnified even more in Japan with an average age of 65.
The visit started off with dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. The Royal Mail provided us with a great meal using three Hopkins River cuts of beef. To start we had Eye Fillet tartare along with a well-matched local wine. This was then followed by a 130day grain fed marble score 3+ Scotch Fillet which was served thickly sliced on a shared plate along with some great slow cooked short ribs. It was a great way to showcase our products to the group before the tour planned for the next day.
The tour was not as simple as what we are normally used to as only one of the delegates spoke basic English, so all of the communication had to be done through translators. The first part of the tour took place at Hopkins River Feedlot.
They were keen to learn more about the types of cattle we have and how we handle them and all of the processes involved. We bought a mob of cattle into the yards and ran them through some of the procedures we undertake to both ensure they stay healthy along with their monitoring performance. Our recording system is completely electronic which ensures that all records are kept for each individual animal and we were able to demonstrate the power of traceability to the delegates.We also gave some of them a go at using the hydraulic squeeze chute. We use the chute to handle the cattle, collect all the data and also administer vaccinations (a demonstration video can be found below).
Moving on from the cattle yards we took a walk along the top of the feed pens to show them the cattle and also demonstrate the feeding process. They we very interested in this and asked lots of questions. The feeding systems in Australia from both a grain fed and grass fed system are very different from what they are used to back in Japan. They were mostly all Wagyu producers and they feed their cattle on a corn based diet for approximately 1000 days whereas most Australian grain fed cattle are fed on grain for only the last 70-150 days.
Once we got through the questions about the cattle and our feeding systems we headed over to the compost pad. This is something that was very new to the delegates and we were able to give them an insight into how we are able to value add our cattle manure which was previously looked upon as a problem but we now see it as an asset. They were very interested to see the compost turner in action and learn about the process although it is something that would be hard to develop in Japan due to the population density.
We then invited the group to our home near Dunkeld for a final lunch before they headed back to Melbourne. Once again grain fed Scotch Fillet was on the menu but this time in the form of steak sandwiches. They had never experienced beef this way and said it was the best meal they have had since they arrived in the country earlier in the week! We had enough time after lunch to go around the group to get their opinion on what they had seen and also ask questions of each other before they headed back to Melbourne.
It was a great experience hosting the group. Even with the language barrier it was amazing how well we got to know them and it gave us a great insight into their life and where they come from and I am sure they took a lot away from their visit with us. It would be great to hopefully get over to Japan in the near future to visit some of their farms and experience Japanese agriculture first hand.