A FEW days ago, I made a trip to see a goat farm at Kampung Janda Baik. I was keen to know if it really was doing well and if it was a good way to use the land.
It took about thirty minutes on the road past the tunnel at Genting Pass and then a stop for a coffee at McDonald’s, before turning to the old road to Pahang, now made quiet by the Karak Highway.
A while later, we were on the narrow road flanked by ferns, rocks and little waterfalls. There is an arch to say you are entering Kampung Janda Baik.
No one call tell you how the place got its name, for it means a good widow. The stories vary, including one about an orang asli who had reconciled with his widow and she took him back.
But the truth may be lost in the mists of time. Certainly, it is true that the air is fresh, the humidity is low, and it felt good to be there.
I had been to the village before, to see the land belonging to my friend Awaludin Mohal, who grows padi, and now we were in the car driven by Hashim Natt, who is related to the owner of the goat farm, Abdullah A Kadir.
The approach to the house was along a lane that turned off the circular road of the plateau, went up a slope, and was hidden until I came to a valley where it was on a slope. Below it was several rows of sheds where a small stream flowed.
Abdullah is probably not a typical farmer for he was trained as an actuary in Adelaide, and later worked in Kuala Lumpur for many years, including in a research body. Then he decided to drop all and went up to the hills of Janda Baik where he set his goat farm.
The farm took him away from the busy city life, which was what he wanted, and his family agreed with him. They come to stay on the farm and go back once in a while to their main home.
I would say that the land is bestowed with fresh water, fertile soil and green countryside. The blue mountains of the main range in the distance gave you a splendid view.
Abdullah’s house on the slope is next to some chengal and jelutong trees, and by the boundary of the two hectares, there were the young purple leaves of a tree that told you it is jering, which has the special fruit that is an appetiser that you would enjoy if you had grown up with it like I did in my village.
Walking down the road to the valley below, I passed by vegetable patches and a papaya tree that had come up spontaneously, healthily and bearing fruit.
And then we walked past thick rows of Napier grass that grew close to the steps of the goat shed.
He has Saanen goats – white, docile, and coming to lick our hands or wanted to be patted, an endearing trait of the breed.
Saanen is also said to be the best for producing milk. It is originally from Switzerland and now favoured by goat milk producers worldwide.
Here, some are mixed with the Boer and the Toggenburg, but they still retain their main features of the Saanen.
Abdullah has nearly two hundred goats, and he feeds them three times a day with the Napier grass and some supplements.
He watches over their health, catching early any diseases or disorders such as diarrhoea, and he has learned enough to care for them that mortality rates are not an issue. He selects the goats for milking and feeds the kids separately.
His four workers milk the goats each day, getting about one to two litres of milk from each nanny, and it is sold in 200 ml bottles.
He has a following and explains: “The body adapts to it quite easily, it has low fat, is high in calcium and Vitamin A, and is wholesome.
“For some people who have an allergy to other milk, they tell me this is the answer.
“Certainly, the market for the milk is always there. It all depends on how much you want to earn and the amount of effort you want to put in.”
Droppings as fertiliser
He has built another new shed with an improved design that has the droppings fall into a slope so it can be collected readily and applied as fertiliser for his grass.
There, the goats too were docile, stepping up to the bar along the corridor and asking to be patted. And they would try to lick your hand. The billy-goats however kept away, like they had something else on their mind.
“I sell the goats that I don’t want, and there is a ready market, more so before Muslim festivals. I also import sheep and keep them here for a few days. They can be bought by traders or individual customers.”
As we walked back up the slope for tea prepared by his wife, I asked him, “Do you want to scale it up?
“I do not want to make it any bigger for now. It would mean more of my time will be tied up on it, and age can catch up with you.
“My son-in-law is helping me, but the problem is really to find workers, or perhaps then I would need a full-time manager. There is much that can be done if you set your mind to it.”
It was not for me to suggest anything to him. He had done a lot to the land by building a house on the hill and adding a large patio that lets you enjoy the open air, great view and the breeze. There is also a guest room with a separate porch.
The water comes from the rain into the big tanks and he has put in water pumps to get extra supply from a tube-well down in the valley.
If he wanted to, he could dig a pond along the stream and rear fish, or get his workers to plant rows of papaya trees on terraces where some were doing well already. He could plant durian trees on the steeper slopes at the far boundary.
But I did not think that was what he wanted. He had been there for 10 years and settled in the way he wanted it, with his family around him.
He takes in the view as he gets up each morning and hears the birds and the gentle bleats of the goats from down in the valley.
I could picture him, after his tea and breakfast, going down the road to the shed with a walking stick in his hand.
That stick was just for show, and although he grew a beard, he was fairly young, fit and healthy and did not have a real need for it just yet.
He was there to enjoy a way of life that many of us can think of often but would never dare to do.
Mahbob Abdullah is a former planter. Comments: email@example.com