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May 28, 2010

Visitors to the Farm - May, 2010

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Senior State and Federal Officers from FAMA came to inspect the farm.
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Dato Kok, ex-Dpty Trade Minister, environmentalist and food lover came with Datin and two Filipina agri grads, for a 'look-see'.

May 24, 2010

Raising Free Range Chickens - Watch That Water!!!

People ask me what is the most important thing that they have to watch out for in successful free-range poultry raising in Malaysia and I always answer : water!

Watch out for water in the litter

Water in the reban

Water under the reban

Water in the padang

Watch out for leaking pipes, even in the fields as the birds will drink from the leaked water which will become contaminated from the dung.

Watch out for the temperature of the water - it must always be colder than the surrounding air.

Above all the farm must be dry.  With our humidity, a wet farm will raise humidity to 70% plus.  That will bring with it many diseases.

We shape the land by creating swales, retention ponds and contours to move rain water to areas away from the fields and coops.

But sometimes the volume is just too great and we have no choice but to cut the earth and make drains.  This is what happened to us over the weekend.  There was a sudden huge downpour and the chicken fields were flooded.  One particular field with marketable size chickens was flooded 3 feet and 407 chickens drowned.  That's a revenue loss of about RM8000.

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Mud everywhere blocking off culverts and drains.

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A drain buried in mud.

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A field covered with mud.

We had no alternative but to dig a huge earth drain to handle similar volume in future.

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The weather at the farm have changed in the past few years and coupled with land clearing nearby, the farm has become a focal point of run-offs from these cleared areas.

Though the work was tiring, the workers were cheerful.  they had fun catching the many wild eels in the farm for their lunch and dinner.

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After a hard morning's work, a quick lunch of fried chicken, prawns, fish, eels and vegetables.
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With organic watermelon to boot!
That wild eel was one of the most delicious meats I have ever eaten.  It was lean yet tender, melting in the mouth.  There was no fishy smell or taste.  Rather it had a rich umani taste.  Once we humans had meats like this everyday.  We have really lost Eden!

May 19, 2010

Proud Farmer II

Around the Klang Valley are literally hundreds of small farms producing vegetables and fruits for the insatiable appetite of city residents.

These farms are mainly unsupervised and are farmed mostly by immigrants, legal or otherwise.  Buyers will come and load up and take them to the wholesale markets.  At the wholesale markets, retailers will come to cart off their selections to sell them at pasar malam(s), stalls and other retail outlets.

Smaller buyers will come to the farms too, to buy and sell them to nearby restaurants where you have your weekend holiday meals (for the 'freshness' of the meats and vegetables).

We decided to visit one such farm situated right next to a stream feeding a river further down.  The farmer is very proud of his produce which looks appetizing, fresh, healthy with no insect or fungal damage.  It is sold at nearby restaurants and also taken to the main wholesale market in the Klang Valley.

The farm is situated in a picturesque location where senior government and corporate officials often come to take their break or to attend seminars and training courses.

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The vegetables like these long bean and angled bean are 'full', obviously crunchy and juicy, bright in color and with no insect damage.
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Lunch at these seminars and training sessions will often feature these vegetables as ulam (salad).
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Dengan Bangganya....
Here's the farmer proudly explaining how he keeps insects at bay.
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These are the fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that he uses.

He explains that he sprays the vegetables with insecticides every 3 days right up to harvest.

He gave us some samples to take back.

The vegetables reek.


The farmer is illiterate.

One of the chemicals he uses is a paraquat.  Just two teaspoons of paraquat will kill a man.  Read here on paraquat.

The insecticide he uses every 3 days until harvest is an organophosphate (OP). Read here on OP and here.  OP has been implicated in some Parkinson's or Parkinson's like diseases. 

Paraquat and OP are controlled items and require permits to purchase.  Unlicensed farms are obtaining these chemicals through illegal means.

17:20 Posted in Blog | Permalink | Comments (2) | Tags: pesticide, herbicide, weedicide

May 17, 2010

Proud Farmer I

Look At What Our Compost Did!!!

We grew a watermelon variety that normally ripens at around 2 to 3 kg (easier to sell, we thought).

Look at what our compost have done to the fruits:

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Pak Din took care of the watermelons, and he is one proud farmer! He's going to be a watermelon millionaire when he goes  back to Indonesia when his contract with us is over.
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These guys kept the watermelon free from insect attacks.
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Close up of these red ants (click for larger image).  They are fearless and have a toxic bite.  An entire nest of kerangga (weaver ants) can be wiped out by them in less than an hour. Anybody know their scientific name?

May 13, 2010

Sustainable Goat Production System - A Model

Red meat is considered bad for you.  But this was not the case 50 years ago.  There were tribes then, and still, who consume mainly meat and live normal healthy lives.  Some eskimos eat only meat throughout their lives.  Nomadic people used to consume only the meat and milk of the animals they herd.

Perhaps the problem lies with how we raise the animals.  Here's the lipids content of a sample cut of 100 grams taken from the USDA nutrients database:

Beef - saturated fat: 9.75gms, omega 6: 2.56gms, omega 3: Nil, Cholesterol: 90 mg

Lamb - saturated fat: 11.76gms, omega 6: 2.08gms, omega 3: Nil, cholesterol: 74mg

Chicken - saturated fat 2.6gms, omega 6: 1.87gms, omega 3: 0.03gms, cholesterol: 64mg.

The chicken sample had an oddity, trans fat of 0.105gms.  Wonder what are they feeding the chickens, recycled frying oil?

Compare the above with the goat meat produced from our farm:

Saturated Fats : 0.3gms, Omega 6: 140mg, Omega 3: 49.6mg, Cholesterol 51. 

The non-existence of omega 3 in industrialised meats as per the samples from the USDA database is worrying for consumer health.  The chicken had an omega 6 omega 3 ratio of 62:1.  Our goat meat has a ratio of 3:1.

Read here why a low ratio is important for your health.

This is how we produce our goat meat.  The goats are happy, the land is happy, the consumer is healthy.

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The goats are moved from field to field every 3 to 7 days. This reduces disease and intestinal worm problems.

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We choose local indigenous goats and cross them with boers to produce a herd that's resistant to local diseases, eliminating to a large extent the need for medication and dewormers.
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Local goats are chosen over imported goats for resistance to disease.
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The goats are moved to fresh fields every week. 
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Grass is planted separately, harvested, and fed to the goats.  This ensures better utilization of land and thereby reduce the demand for expanding land acreage.


An acre of land using normal grazing methods can raise a maximum 15 goats.  In our case, we can raise 200 goats on an acre of land.


With less disease and better control on the quality of grass that the goats are eating, the net result is happy goats, healthier meat for the consumers and less impact on the environment.


We are the only producer of red meat that can guarantee an omega 6: omega 3 ratio of 4:1 or better (in the world!).


May 10, 2010

Raising Free Range Chickens - Leave The Ammonia Behind!

Many readers write to us asking about diseases affecting their birds.  However, many of these problems have to do with basic management, in particular the formation of ammonia(1) in their coops.

Initial signs of excessive ammonia include eye irritation and trachea and lung problems.

Subsequent to that, secondary infection sets in - mycoplasma for one, leading to chronic respiratory disease.  Another common poultry problem is coryza resulting in a mad rush for antibiotics.  Coryza, in the Malaysian context is often the result of exposure to ammonia which corrodes the mucous membrane allowing pathogens to gain entry into the body.

So the root cause is excessive ammonia and the solution to many diseases with symptoms like gasping, coryza, swollen eyes, etc is to manage ammonia production in your poultry system, rather than treat the end-result all the time, resulting in the abuse of antibiotics.

Ammonia production also leads to environmental issues - flies, smell, leachate, etc. 

At our farm, we decided on a movable hoop house:


The hoop house design encourages air movement.  The temperature difference within / outside the house can be as high as 2 degrees celcius. 

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The hoop house is moved every 7 to 10 days.  During dry spells, 10 days.  During rainy seasons, every 7 days.  Feeders and waterers are moved every 3 days.  Don't let dung and discarded food accumulate to form ammonia.

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Lay down the bedding material.






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The house can be pulled by one man if the move is on flat land.  If it needs to be lifted, then two men is required.

Note that the old floor have been covered with dried grass to start the in-situ composting.  In no time, humus will be formed.


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Each hoop house is designed to shelter 300 800grams chickens from the sun and rain.





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The house is moved in less than 15 mins.  The chickens have clean fresh beds instantly. No necessity to remove litter and top up litter, etc resulting in labour and material costs savings.




Resulting in healthy, happy, nutritious chickens:

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Birds are moved to the hoop house when they are 800 grams in size.








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(1) The formation of ammonia is part of the natural process in the breakdown of organic material. Ammonium is poisonous and often wipe out a newly established aquarium of its fish. Industrial animal husbandry often raise animals in ammonia prone conditions - poultry, feedlotted cattle wading in their own dung, etc. Waste water from farms with animals often contain nitrites and nitrates which can also harm humans. At our farm all discharge is treated naturally and regularly tested for nitrite and nitrate levels as part of responsible farming.

May 05, 2010

Tonic for Chickens

Some of the readers of this blog have asked me to write more on natural poultry rearing methods.  This post is for readers of citypullagro and lopehpoultry and other poultry blogs.

At our farm we use this tonic for the chickens:

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We use a large glass jar ('balang').  Do not use plastic. Here's the receipe:

Ginger, red or normal                                                1 kg
Garlic                                                                       1 kg
Small red onions                                                       1 kg
Kunyit                                                                      1 kg
Chili Padi                                                                  500gms
Lengkuas                                                                  200gms
Serai                                                                        500gms
Hempedu Bumi leaves                                                I handful
Patawali stem (images)                                              50gms
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Slice, pound, crush as need be to release the active ingredients.
Top up with Apple Cider Vinegar
Let sit for minimum 2 weeks.  Can keep up to a year.

To Use

One part tonic to 1000 parts water for 5 days for adult chickens.
One part tonic to 2000 parts water for 3 days for chicks.
One teaspoon to a glass of warm water once a week for humans.


This is a preventive and a restorative.  It is not a cure. 
Note that there is no 'cure' for viral diseases like Newcastle.  This tonic will reduce mortality but will not cure. 
If you are serious about rearing poultry as a means of earning a living, implement a strict vaccination (allowed by organic standards) and biosecurity program and never ease off just because your birds have not shown disease for years. 
Don't waste money using antibiotics (not permitted by organic standards) for viral diseases. 
Also do not waste time listening to those selling all kinds of natural and herbal remedies for viral outbreaks.  THEY DON'T WORK!!! 


For smaller quantities, reduce each ingredient by a certain percentage, say, you want to make 10% of the above, use 100gms ginger, etc.
Apple Cider is available at Giant.  Choose the cheapest, you don't have to follow the brand shown above.
Be careful with lengkuas.  The danger dose worked out by us for chickens is 5 grams fresh root for a 2 kg bird.  So, better to use less than more.
Close container tightly to prevent molds and fungi which may release toxins harmful to the chickens.