Alumnus shares WI ag expertise with Japanese farms
Wisconsin’s reputation as a leading producer and innovator in the dairy industry does not stop at the borders of the state. Even beyond international boundaries, the word “Wisconsin” is synonymous with “dairy.”
That has been the experience of Kazutoshi Ueno BS’85, founder of eAnimal Company, a Japan-based business specializing in feed products designed to increase the health and performance of cows, pigs, chickens, and even fish. Through eAnimal, Ueno consults with clients across Japan, providing input on farm management and efficiency practices and offering essential nutrients through colostrum-derived products.
Ueno imports the colostrum (the milk that cows produce in the first few days after giving birth) from the U.S., where it is more affordable and available in abundance. The products themselves deliver immune protection to livestock such as cattle, pigs, and chickens. Since calves and piglets are born without immune protections, the products lay a foundation for the long-term health of the animals.
“The most important way to make a livestock business high-performing is to make sure animals are healthy,” says Ueno, who majored in agricultural and applied economics while at CALS. “The animals have to perform for the farmers to stay in business. Ensuring that they are healthy and perform well is my role in this industry.”
A life dedicated to livestock
Ueno’s passion for livestock and agriculture began at an early age. His father made a living importing chickens from Des Moines, Iowa, with Hy-Line International. In fact, he still remembers Americans visiting his father at the chicken house when he was 3 years old.
“Meeting Americans and seeing them visit the farm gave me the image of the U.S. as a wonderful country that had high-performance animals,” Ueno says. “This made me very interested in studying abroad in the U.S.”
Ueno first learned of Madison when reading his junior high English text book. He fondly recalled a passage about two children, Ben and Nancy, living in Madison, Wisconsin, where they skate on the lakes in winter.
“I thought it must be a wonderful place,” Ueno recalls. “I decided to go there so I could meet Ben and Nancy!”
Ueno never did meet them, but he forged valuable relationships with fellow students and built a strong foundation in agriculture and livestock, which he continues to draw upon to serve his clients.
“The fact that I went to the University of Wisconsin–Madison helps my business a lot, especially among dairy farmers,” Ueno says. “For Japanese people, ‘Wisconsin’ creates an image of a dairy state. Many farmers study dairy in Wisconsin as trainees. When I speak with dairy farmers and let them know I went to UW, they immediately think I am a specialist.”
After graduating from UW–Madison in 1985, Ueno returned to Japan and worked for the Ghen Corporation, a major poultry hatchery in Gifu. Ueno’s role was importing seed corn for silage and feed additive for the livestock. In 2007, Ueno founded eAnimal and began importing and selling his own products. Through a lifetime spent in livestock and agriculture, Ueno has gained broad knowledge of farming, which gives him an advantage in the dairy industry.
“There are several commonalities between all different types of animals, whether it is a cow, chicken, pig, or even fish,” Ueno says. “When dairy customers ask questions, I can talk about multiple animals. They value that information.”
Help for Cows at Horai
Horai Dairy, one of Ueno’s clients, draws tourists to the Senbonmatsu farm in Nasushiobara, Tochigi, with its beautiful landscapes, top golf courses, and hot springs. However, the centerpiece of the operation continues to be the farm’s 550 cows, which provide the milk for the company’s famous dairy products.
As Ueno explains it, Horai and other Japanese dairies differ in output from American dairies. Use of hormones is not allowed in Japan, so average annual milk output is 20,000 pounds per cow compared to more than 30,000 pounds in the U.S. But Ueno’s products can help cows make up part of the difference.
“It takes time to increase the milk yield without hormones, but there are certainly ways,” Ueno says.
Alongside the products Ueno provides to keep the herd healthy and productive, Horai manager Makoto Hasegawa and his staff increase yield by maintaining good sanitation techniques and keeping the cows supplied with plenty of good feed and water. The farm also milks only twice per day to minimize stress on the cows.
Proud UW–Madison alumnus
Since graduating, Ueno has continued to stay connected to the university, serving as secretariat (director) of the Wisconsin Alumni Association Japan Chapter, a role he thrives in through his ability to easily connect with people.
“Meeting with fellow alumni is very interesting because there are many different people to interact with,” Ueno says. “I enjoy connecting with people and meeting new alumni across industries. You can learn from them.”
In addition, the university continues to be a source Ueno utilizes to keep himself abreast of the latest in agriculture and livestock science. One connection Ueno noted was with the late Mark Cook, professor of animal science, who developed a method for using egg yolk antibody proteins to protect animals from disease. Cook’s egg yolk antibodies have since become another product that Ueno offers to clients.
Providing a product with roots in Wisconsin is just one more way that Ueno has become an ambassador for the university’s research, knowledge, and best practices. In addition, Ueno remains a familiar face in Wisconsin and on campus with his return trips for the annual World Dairy Expo and short courses at the UW Center for Dairy Research.