Interview with Associate Professor Yuzo Kurokawa
Dairy cattle are inseparably linked to mastitis. However, is there any means for reducing the morbidity rate? Prof. Kurokawa is striving to contribute to dairy farming by producing a herd that is both resistant to the infectious disease confronting dairy farmers and highly productive.
Love for Cattle and Farms Leading Him to Research on the Management of Milk Cow Herds
  On the eastern boundary of the Higashi-Hiroshima Campus, there is a stock farm. If you watch cattle grazing there and hear them mooing comfortably, you will surely feel relaxed.

However, milk cows, which constitute the majority of the cattle on the farm, are always dogged by the risk of a disease?mastitis. No matter how hard humans try to prevent the milk cows from contracting the disease, they are plagued by it. In some cases, no treatment works.

“How nice it would be if I could produce a herd resistant to diseases such as mastitis!” --- this idea one day struck on Prof. Kurokawa, who loves cattle.
Prof. Kurokawa, a cattle researcher, is enthusiastic about cattle and environments with cattle, such as dairy farms.
This is true for his students, who also love cattle and farms and conduct research on them.

“When I was a graduate school student, I studied on the farm attached to a university. Since I had wanted to study in such an environment, it was a very comfortable setting for me” says Prof. Kurokawa.

Although he used to conduct research on fodder for milk cows and beef cattle, he started to research antioxidants about five years ago, and relationships between such substances and mastitis about three years ago. “At first, since milk cows are prone to diseases especially in summer, I was intrigued by such seasonal features. The range of my interest has gradually widened to cover the relationship with mastitis.”
Presently Exploring the Relationships between the Antioxidants in Milk Cows’ Blood and Mastitis
  Prof. Kurokawa is presently conducting research on dynamics of blood antioxidants, namely trying to find how the antioxidants in blood move and change.

To begin with, what is an antioxidant? Prof. Kurokawa gave an easy-to-understand explanation. “When animals breathe, “active oxygen” is generated. Since breathing is indispensable to animals, the generation of active oxygen is unavoidable, even though it is harmful to their bodies.”
According to Prof. Kurokawa, the capability to eliminate active oxygen is called “antioxidant capacity,” while the substances for eliminating active oxygen are called “antioxidants.”
He speculates that this antioxidant capacity has something to do with the protection of milk cows from diseases.

“In the process of verifying my hypothesis, I’m checking the blood concentration of antioxidants and the conditions of changes in the concentration. I’m also conducting research from the perspective of individual differences based on the assumption that different cows might originally have different capabilities to produce antioxidants.”
  In this regard, Prof. Kurokawa is currently spending a lot of time collecting a wide variety of types of data on milk cows on the farm.

“A complicated mix of a wide variety of conditions determines whether cows producing milk on the farm develop mastitis or not. I recognize such a phenomenon involving complex factors as it is, and collect related data, from which I try to find what can be generalized. I can say that this is one of my research approaches.”
Desire to Contribute Extensively to Dairy Farming by Generating a Cattle Herd Resistant to Infectious Diseases

  As was previously stated, what Prof. Kurokawa is striving to achieve through this research is to produce a herd resistant to diseases such as mastitis.

“Farmers’ profits and intensity of labor are determined by the characters of their herds. Accordingly, I’m aiming to produce an even better herd by identifying each cow’s features appropriately and using individuals’ information to ensure that cows with good features survive.”

While finding pleasure and significance in this research, Prof. Kurokawa revealed his contradictory feelings.

“I love animals, which is the first reason that I’ve started this work. But to produce a good herd, I need to select and screen cows, meaning that some cows are sent off as beef cows and lose their lives. Although the pursuit of economy is inevitable, I feel that I need to carefully consider what to achieve and how to proceed.”

Prof. Kurokawa also stated that research on herd management is not yet conducted sufficiently. He indicated that it is necessary to have an appropriate discussion on guidelines for the management of milk cow herds.

“I hope that my findings disseminated from the university’s farm will serve as an opportunity for farmers and researchers with the same concerns as mine to engage in more in-depth discussion” said Prof. Kurokawa. He added that to even slightly reduce the number of the cases of mastitis, while its total elimination is regarded as impossible, it is necessary to establish a proper herd management method. “I expect that progress in research will enable herds to be managed in a new method that has not been available so far. After all, I would like to be of some use, even if only a little, to dairy farming” said Prof. Kurokawa with a smile.

He concluded by addressing the following message to young people who might join his laboratory:
“On a farm, there are many things that you couldn’t recognize without much attention. I feel that such things harbor problems and challenges. I look forward to finding such challenges and solving them together with you.”
Yuzo Kurokawa
Associate Professor, Laboratory of Terrestrial Field Science

April 1, 1991~ Assistant, School of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
March 1, 2004~ Associate Professor, School of Agriculture Field Science Center, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
April 1, 2009~ Associate Professor, Graduate School of Biosphere Science, Hiroshima University
April 1, 2019~ Associate Professor, Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life, Hiroshima University

Posted on Jan 9, 2019