Meet the Indonesians who care for our cattle

Host: Lisa Wood/ AGP Indonesia
Written by Lisa Wood – Traceability Officer, AGP.

Here we are, the halfway point of my week hosting Central Station and we have seen the journey the cattle have made from the top end of Aus to a port, followed by a relatively short ship trip to another port (approx 3000km depending which port they leave from, which is about the same as driving from Darwin to Adelaide) where they have been unloaded and trucked to our feedlot. We are not the only feedlot in this area; there are others and we all pretty much do the same thing.

Yesterday we left off with cattle waiting in their quarantine pens. After two weeks they will join the general population, yet still remain in their shipment group, unless they become sick (in which case they go to the sick pens) or they become pregnant (these then go to the breeder pens). This is where we meet Dr. Neny and Pak Nyoman.

Pak Nyoman is our feedlot manager and an absolute champion. He oversees both feedlots and has been to Australia on numerous occasions to learn about Brahmans and how we do things in Aus. Nyoman has helped with animal handling training for the extended workforce dealing with cattle. He is held in high regard by all who meet him. And he is willing to get his hands dirty.

 4 20130411-Pak Nyoman - Handy Dandy electricianThis is Pak Nyoman organising stuff on the phone while he attaches a light to the cable. The lighter is used to melt the plastic a wee bit so the join is neatened up and closed.

He oversees the quality of the feed ensuring it is what the cattle need. He makes the maintenance schedules for Tony (our engineering manager) and all staff reports come to him. He does visual checks and data checks and makes sure that everything at the feedlot runs smoothly. If there is ever a bit of a bump, he is out there getting it fixed.

Dr. Neny is our vet. She is pretty awesome as well. She oversees the health of all the cattle; the births; the vaccinations; any sickness; oversees the health of the cattle at Way Laga AND helps a small group of local farmers with their cattle and calves.

4 Dr. Neny at Way LagaWay Laga is a special Breeder Project, more to come on Saturday.

Neny has a pretty full day. First up she will ride around the breeding pens doing a general check of the cattle, talking with staff and viewing all the pens to identify if there is anything urgent to deal with.

Next she will go to the dairy pen to check that all is OK there. She looks at the feed to see if any changes need to be made to their forage or improve their rations. She checks with the staff about the milk, for example, if the milk is a reddish colour, that cow’s milk will not be used and the cow will be given medicine and extra attention until she is better.

Then Neny will go to the calving pens and check all the calves, with the newborns being the main focus. She will identify if any are sick, and then try to identify what sickness it could be. This could involve speaking with other cattle professionals, and trying new medicines, which she then has to teach the staff how to use. Sometimes this involves changing systems and following up on the results.

4 20130601-Calf 1This is Weaner 26, one of our calves born in Indonesia from an Australian breeder cow. You may notice he has an RFID tag in place. We use them too. They are useful management tools. 

Neny really enjoys improving the systems of medication and seeing better results for the cattle. In the afternoon she meeting with the admin staff to hand over her handwritten notes which then get converted into reports for Pak Nyoman, along with overseeing the afternoon milking and monitoring of the dairy pen.

4 20130601-Calves 3These are our breeder and young weaner pens; the dairy is very close to these pens.

Some days there is overseeing treatments for sick cattle; some days it’s working with the animal health team; some days there is pregnancy testing to do; sometimes it is seeing which calves are ready for weaning; some days there is going to Way Laga to monitor the cattle there and then two times a month there are visits to local farmers.

Indonesia is big on a thing called CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility. All businesses here are expected to contribute to their local communities is some manner. Our way of contributing has been to find some local farmers who have an interest and desire to learn about cattle.

Each of the farmers has been loaned two pregnant cows.  When these cows calve, the farmer has the choice to sell the calf or to keep it. If they choose to sell the calf, they keep the money. After three calves, the farmer can choose to give the cow back to us, or they can continue on the program.

Thousands of people across Indonesia have one or two cows. If someone owns 15 cows (very rare), they are considered to have a ‘really big herd’. This is part of the reason why it is so difficult to establish the local cattle population – the national beef cattle herd.

A farmer will hold onto the cow until the family needs money. It’s a bit like having a living piggy bank to pay for an education or the wedding of a child down the track. This is another reason behind the difficulty of establishing the local herd.  Nobody can predict when he will choose to sell that cow/s.

Part of Neny’s job is to visit these local farmers to monitor and help them with their cows. General health checks, pregnancy testing, vaccinations, overseeing calving, checking the health of the calf and helping educate the farmer on what he needs to feed the cows to keep them healthy.

As you can see, Dr. Neny has a pretty big job, and she’s a very nice lady to boot. Tomorrow I will take you through more of the general feedlot operations, the side that Pak Nyoman oversees.