life at the farm.

It was 3.57 AM on the third day of Ramadhan. Received a text from a good friend of mine Hanif Malek that he will be arriving in Muar soon. I promised him the day before that I'll fetch him at the bus stop, never would I imagine that it would be this early.

Normally a bus trip from Terengganu to Muar will arrive around 5.30 to 6.00 AM.

My head is all groggy from the lack of sleep but I washed my face, took the car key and off I went to the bus stop.

Today will be an entry about a man who chooses to be a teacher by profession, but ultimately is just a man who's a farmer and a cattle breeder by heart.


However a second message arrived informing me that the bus will arrive late, by about an hour and a half. With that info and me not wanting to go home just yet, I decided to stop by a nearby mosque for sahur. The bilal there (though the correct term should be a muezzin) was kind enough to lend me the mosque's bowl for me to put the food into and the mosque's spoon for me to feed.

I had brought along food I bought from the day before, hoping to eat with the good friend of mine but alas, not my luck today. I ate slowly, looking at an increasing score of people coming into the compound. The stereotype states that only retired men go to the mosque but I find that not to be the case, many I figure were in their early or late 30s.

Later he called and asked me to fetch him and so I did. It has been close to 10 months I think since I last saw him. We exchanged quick formalities and I drove him around this still sleepy town. We chatted and he invited me to his family's farm at 8 o'clock in the morning.

The Old Lorry.

He fetches me with his dad's old lorry at my home. I was asleep when he arrived. The sound of the engine was loud enough to woke me up from sleep. He asked me to hurry up and just wear my dirty clothes. I did and out we went.


We had 3 things to do before going to the farm, first to fill up the lorry with fuel, second to buy some grated coconut and lastly to buy palm sludge oil. The weather is a bit cloudy today. Hopefully it won't rain.


Off we go.

It is an old lorry and the interior shows. The sound of the engine shows its age too. Loud and clanky. The family's trusty friend and fellow mechanic, we'll just call him Mr Alehan almost always gave advise to Mr Malek to buy a new lorry.


They hoped to buy a new one, a bigger one in 5 years time.


We stopped by a Petronas Station nearby Bakri Batu Lima's cemetery to fill it up with diesel. There by chance we met up with another cattle breeder. I didn't engange a conversation with him but Hanif did. "Berapa ekor lembu ko ada kat ladang?" "Jenis apa?", "Dah berapa tahun?".

Those were among the questions exchanged between those two. I cannot process their conversation much, they use terms and abbreviations too foreign to me.


Next, a kilometre to the north we stopped by the humble town of Bakri Batu Enam to search for the grated coconut. A certain school named MRSM Muar is only a few stone's throw away from this town.


We went straight towards the market.


Unfortunately, none of the sellers sell what we want. The seller that my friend was familiar with was on leave due to Ramadhan.


"No grated coconut for today, but that's fine, let's go get the palm sludge oil."Hanif said to me. To be honest I don't even know what a palm sludge oil is. "What is it for?"

"It is food for the cows, if grass is their equivalent for rice, consider sludge oil their KFC". He added.


We went straight to the lorry and continued our journey. That water bottle over there was always present.


This is our last stop, a palm oil processing factory. This place is so big. We had to first stop by the weighbridge to calculate the lorry's load. Then can we proceed to get the sludge oil.


We bought one tonne of palm sludge oil. That is 1000 kilograms of food for the cows. I asked Hanif how long will these lasts? "About a day". He answered simply.


Into the lorry it goes.


I wouldn't state the price of the thing but you would not believe how cheap it costs.


Lorries are getting inside the place in droves. The processing centre is privately owned, and I was told that the place's monthly trade is over RM 7 million a month.


On our way to the farm, aside from the normal conversation of relationships, marriage, whom-with-who and who-works-what-now, Hanif told me a bit about the livestock's food. He said that out of all the type of grasses, Napier Grass is the best one due to its high protein content. This is followed by bran and then paddy husk. "But all those costs a lot of money", he sighed.

And finally the lorry signalled left onto a gravelled road.


I noticed an interesting image, these vegetations prosper living under these power grids.


That is the tauke of the farm right there.

Tauke Sayur Muar.

He refers to himself as Ani so that is what we will call him. When asked about his crops he simply said not good. He lost tens of thousands of RM last year alone. "Don't even bother becoming a farmer, it is hard." Well of course there are more to his words but that is the gist of the conversation.

But I suspect he is just playing mind games with me. After all no engineer will ever advise others to become like him, nor a doctor will advise the same. No way he's going to talk about his profit and hard work to a stranger he just met.

Ladang Labu.

This is how they water the plants quickly. I have done this before, when playing Harvest Moon on the Playstation. Haven't we all played that game once? One of my favourite game series of all time.

Ladang Kelapa Sawit Muar.

The farm, at last. 40 acres of land.


The cows, now about a hundred of them, and 2 horses.

Kolam 2.

The pond. Arif, which is Hanif's little brother said catfishes the size of his forearms live under here. He asked me to join him fishing the next day but I had to decline since I had other things to do.

Untouched Farm.

Land not yet cultivated. They tried to plant sweet corns but it just doesn't seem to grow.

Lembu Berlawan.

2 cows trying to show their superiority.

Fighting Cows.

Hanif said that this is normal. Nothing to be afraid of.


This is Yanto. Hanif describes him as an honest and hardworking man. A rare 1 percent, a diamond amongst the rocks.

He used to work here ages ago, but went back to his home country due to some matters which he doesn't disclose. No news from him for over half a year then suddenly he came back. Hanif was filled with joy when he knew Yanto came back. He considers him his best friend in the farm.


Those sludge oil that we bought earlier needs to be fed to the cows. We often forget that these processes need manual labor.


It is a slow process. Looks very tiring too.


There are more than 6 of these food containers. Yanto would unload the sludge oil until the container is full, move to lorry forward to the next container and repeat the process.

It is very repetitive and tiring. Remember this needs to be done every morning every single day. "Farming isn't hard once you get used to it, like other jobs sometimes it is a bit repetitive", my friend added.


In the evening and at night, the cows will then be fed with grasses. The veterinar from the government whom visits biannually commented Mr Malek to not raise the number of his livestock anymore due to the limited amount of grass in the farm.


Notice the yellow tag on the brown cow's ear. That was tagged by the veterinar. The process was done randomly on several dozens of cows. Every year the tagged animals will be checked for any abnormalities, diseases and growth. Their blood will be checked as well.

Epidemics among animals are no small matter. Just recently the local government reduced the amount of imported meat from Thailand due to concern of of Hand, Feet  & Mouth disease.


Yanto's soaking with sweat. Remember that it is currently Ramadhan and he's fasting. I admire the man greatly.

Pokok Kelapa Sawit.

The farm is also filled with palm trees. Just like many other things, there are grades to the palm fruits. A higher rate of oil being able to be extracted from it will lead to a higher grade.

A higher grade means a higher selling price. The farm's palm fruit grade is 19% which is quite good. To compare, FELDA's yield are between 20-21%.

To be honest even I can't wrap my head around this.

Kelapa Sawit.

Malaysia used to be the number one palm oil producer in the world. Not anymore, the title now belongs to Indonesia.

Kambig Di Muar.

Next up, we went to the goat barn. Between goats and cows, the local demand nowadays seems to be more toward goats. Maybe because it is cheaper to buy. One can buy a goat for around RM700.


These goats are shy.


Plenty of chickens in the farm two. My friend brought up and interesting point about these chicken. He said on average, one chicken dies every day. Chickens are very vulnerable to diseases and if an epidemic were to strike the chicken coop, he said don't be surprised to see the whole score of chicken being dead.

One can raise a chiclet to a grown chicken in 6 months and sell it.

Farm - 1

This is where they live in the farm. This house is made by hand, by themselves believe it or not.


Items such as these unused school tables are used to make fences, barns and even parts of the house.


Multiple water bottles to store fresh water for bath, washing, drinking et cetera.


Inside the house.


Leftover food from sahur earlier.


I wonder if I can survive here, in this condition. Probably not.


I don't even know what half of these are for.


The second floor is where the rooms are. There are 3 rooms above. One for Arif, another for Yanto, and the third for a female worker whose name escape me right now. She's responsible for cooking and planting crops.

Farm - 3

I was surprised to see a television set upstairs. "So they have some entertainment". I thought to myself.

Farm - 2

The view from above. Yanto is such a workaholic. He's very likable as a person too.


This is Arif's room. Arif is Hanif's little brother.


His bed. He was sorry that it was a bit messy. I'm not surprised a bit. I am only gonna being surprised if I see his room all tidied up. For us male, this is all normal.


His clothes and books.


Mr Malek is the owner of this farm. I call him Pak Cik while many calls him Cikgu Malek, due to him being the principal of a secondary school. He still is.  At first he started this farm as a hobby - as a way for him to release his stress, and as a way to get close to nature.

That is why there is a slightly unconventional way of him running this farm. What I mean is most farms are focused on one thing, be it an-all cattle farm, an-all goat farm, or even an-all palm tree farm.

His is mixed with no single focus that even some of the workers complained that there's too much work to do.


But you got to admire his hardwork and vision. Even most people from the ministry recommends young aspiring agriculturist to visit this farm to see how to manage a farm on a successful but very cost effective way. Many buy fences costing multiple thousand of RM to store the cows. He builds them using recycled items that costs at most several hundred RM.

It is an eye opening visit and I hope that the farm will thrive to be even bigger and better than it is now. Hanif said that he hoped the farm will be successful in 5 years. I can't see why it should not be.