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Last cows from nuke crisis evacuation zone village go up for auction
MOTOMIYA, Fukushima -- A batch of 285 cattle from the village of Iitate went under the hammer at a cattle auction here on June 28, hardly a remarkable event, except the livestock were perhaps the last from Iitate -- part of the expanded Fukushima nuclear crisis evacuation zone -- that will ever be sold anywhere.
A total of 234 adult Iitate cows and 51 calves -- some still less than six months old, the usual minimum for auction -- were seen being stroked gently by their owners, who were apparently loath to part with their prized animals.
Iitate cattle farmer Kesao Kanno, 63, was here to put a prize-winning heifer and a month-old calf up for auction as a pair. On his last day with the animals, Kanno saw tears collecting in the edges of the heifer's eyes.
"I guess the heifer actually knows this is goodbye," Kanno says with a sigh. "I just want to sell to someone who'll take good care of them."
Kanno will join the exodus from his village by the end of June, when he will move to a refugee shelter in the city of Date, next to Iitate.
Four special cattle auctions have been held at the prefectural auction house since late May to help cattle farmers in the expanded evacuation zone sell off their herds, which they cannot take with them when they leave their homes. Some 1,600 cattle in total have been sold in the four auctions, though at prices five to 10 percent lower than those before the nuclear disaster.