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Tomaru pig farm - in Gumma north from Tokyo


Growing pigs

Tomaru-san in his office

A sow and her piglings
When Tomaru-san succeeded his father as a farmer in Gumma prefecture(*), he decided to found a pig firm. He then started to study everything related to it. Since then a few decades have passed and he now possesses 180 sows and three breeding pigs and markets more than 3,000 pigs a year.
(*)Gumma prefecture is hilly till mountainous and located in the north of Tokyo. It is a center of livestock industry near Tokyo.
The size of Tomaru-san's firm is about an average among pig farms in Japan. However, he has produced a more-then-average result, as he is very eager to improve the management of his firm. He sells his pigs not only through markets but also directly to good clients, because the quality of his pigs is highly appreciated. However, he makes efforts not only for himself, but jointly tries to enhance the management quality with like-minded farmers through organizing a study group.

However, Tomaru-san is now facing a hard period. There are several reasons for his difficulties.

The first problem comes from the fact that Japanese pig farmers are almost completely dependent on the imported feed. The self-sufficiency rate of pig meat is more than 50 percent in volume, but only 5 percent in original calorie count. Therefore, when the feed price hiked up last year, most Japanese pig farmers fell into a management crisis more seriously than other livestock farmers.

Though price hike of animal feed calmed down this year, the recession following the American subprime loan crisis cooled down the consumer demand. Compared to beef, pork consumption has not shrunk much in quantity, but consumers have turned to cheap parts and as a result the expenditure on pork has decreased a lot.

The third factor is the introduction of circo vaccine last year. This has drastically decreased the rate of accident of growing pigs - in case of Tomaru-san from over 10 percent to 3 to 4 percent - and as a result increased the number of marketed pigs by 10 percent.

All these factors have worked jointly and pulled down the pig price in the recent months to the historically low level and troubled pig farmers, including Tomaru-san. Some short term measures must be taken so that pig farmers could survive the next months. But, in the end, the reduction of the number of marketed pigs is necessary to save the pig industry as a whole and a concerted action of pig farmers is required for this purpose.

Pig farms are nowadays not welcome by neighbors, because pigs are deemed dirty and stinky and it is almost impossible to build facilities on a new site. Therefore, Tomaru-san took over the site of an old pig farm when he needed to have the second

A breeding pig
site for his pig farm to detach growing pigs from sows and piglings, in order to better prevent infection between pigs.

Anyhow, Tomaru-san must be happy that his son is ready to take over him as a pig farmer and is already working together with him. The most difficult problem for Japanese farmers is to have a successor, because farming is thought to be a hard work and very few young people want to be farmers, though the labor market has cooled down and young graduates nowadays cannot easily find good jobs.

Akagi mountains seen from Tomaru farm

 2009.10.7