The lowing of cows can be heard coming from a neatly built cow shed in peaceful Kubu village in Central Kalimantan.
The shed hosts 20 cows and several calves, with the hungry youngsters being fed by their mothers. A devoted cattle breeder, Syahrian, looks intently at the infant cows, making sure they are eating well.
“Sometimes I stay until one in the morning, just to check on the calves, so I know they’re healthy—even though my wife complains about it,” Syahrian says with a laugh.
Syahrian is the head of Pusat Pelatihan Pertanian dan Perdesaan Swadaya—known more simply as P4S—Karya Baru Mandiri, an agricultural training centre in Kubu village.
Established in 2013, P4S Karya Baru Mandiri is supported by 25 farmers’ groups and has more than 250 members from the Kotawaringin Barat Regency. Its goal is to increase the knowledge base, and hone the skills, of farmers in the area.
In November 2018, the centre formed a partnership with the Indonesia-Australia Commercial Cattle Breeding (IACCB) Program, which is working with a range of Indonesian partners to develop breeding plans that reflect each partner’s financial and management capabilities as well as their willingness to expand operations.
“The IACCB team provided us with technical knowledge to care for Brahman Cross cows,” Syahrian explains. “Every two months, they would come for the whole week to give us training.”
On 21 February 2019, P4S Karya Baru Mandiri received 20 pregnant Brahman Cross heifers from Australia, as well as a cattle crush and an electric scale.
To Syahrian and the other farmers at the training centre, breeding cows imported from Australia is a new experience. Until now, the concept of raising anything other than local cattle has seldom been given consideration because the costs have been prohibitive.
“We’re just smallholder farmers. We thought it was impossible for us. The imported cows are expensive,” Syahrian says.
The integration of the imported Brahman Cross breed from Australia has delivered some unforeseen advantages for P4S Karya Baru Mandiri, with the expanded grazing operations improving the training centre’s ability to cover its cattle production costs.
The centre has traditionally generated income from a variety of sources, and has supported itself by producing organic fertilizer, mainly compost, which is sold to other farmers and palm plantations in the area.
Since joining the IACCB Program, the centre has increased its organic fertilizer production and made more than 20 metric tons of compost from cow manure.
“We’ve sold it at 1,000 rupiah per kilogram,” Syahrian says. “So we’ve received about 20 million rupiah from the compost already.”
Despite the farmers of P4S Karya Baru Mandiri already having some experience in integrated cattle breeding with local cows, many also gained new knowledge and found several differences in managing the Brahman Cross cattle.
“The good thing is that they aren’t picky with feed,” Syahrian says. “But we need to manage their feeding very well. The IACCB team trained us to weigh the amount of feed according to the cow’s weight. We also record everything. Any small event, we will note it down.”
The initial challenge faced by the farmers was the constant supply of food for the cows, but Syahrian took the initiative to use two hectares owned by the centre to grow grass and fodder. The farmers also utilize vacant spaces between their existing crops, planting these areas with corn and other plants that can be used as cow feed.
“We were a little concerned about the feed supply, but now we can cut the grass every day and bring it to the cattle yard,” Syahrian says.
The joint efforts of the centre and the IACCB team have already resulted in 11 calves being born, which paves the way for other farmers in the area to start breeding Brahman Cross cattle from Australia.
Ida Pandanwangi, the Head of the Livestock and Animal Health Office at Kotawaringin Barat District, says the local government fully supports the partnership between P4S Karya Baru Mandiri and the IACCB Program.
“We want to encourage the supply of red meat by smallholder farmers,” she says. “The farmers have the motivation and the land. By partnering with IACCB, they can also get the technical skills in cattle breeding.”
Ida says she and her team will continue to facilitate cooperation between the IACCB team and P4S Karya Baru Mandiri to allow smallholder farmers to scale up their cattle breeding operations and become more commercially viable and sustainable.
She also explains that training centres such as P4S Karya Baru Mandiri are important for the development of local youth, with the centre also conducting a training program for vocational school students in agriculture.
“Students come and stay for three months in the village to learn about farming,” Ida says. “And now, with this partnership, they can learn more about cattle breeding.”
For more information on the IACCB Program, visit iaccbp.org