Feeling like a nomad
By Chris Jackson
My visits this time have taken me to Indonesia and to Australia visiting my family farms.
The contrast in farming could not be more dramatic, coming from what is largely a subsistence farming system, where the Government is keen to try and improve rural incomes.
The policies and interest were reinforced by the President, himself touring the agricultural and livestock event that I was in Jakarta to attend along with Perendale. A keen interest was shown in their technical magazines focusing on milling and aquaculture. There is a real thirst for technical information that can help their business become more efficient and by default more profitable.
There is a need to encourage the small farmers to move away from growing a small acreage of rice and get them to produce livestock and keep two cows instead of one by growing more grass and less rice.
Pig production after chicken production is the usual next logical step as its intensive nature allows for fast reproduction and expansion, however because of religious sensitivities this avenue for income is not widely available. Having said that the demand from neighbouring Singapore for pig meat is largely insatiable.
Also, in the southern state of Bali predominantly Hindu and Christian there is a viable industry and large-scale production on Batam Island for meat exports. The majority of the population therefore have to rely on cattle and goat production. Beef is very important and there are large beef-lots relying on imported cattle from Australia to finish.
Much more could be produced locally if the dairy farmers could be persuaded to change their breed and use animals that can produce both beef and milk. The added advantage of a shift in breed is that the females will have a much longer working life than the Holstein, freeing up resources from replacement production.
Infrastructure is key for industrial development but also crucial for rural communities enabling them to access the city markets, especially for the very perishable vegetable crops. Much can be achieved locally with processing for meat and milk that can be transported long distance in properly chilled, died or frozen.
The farming of both fresh and seawater fish also opens up other areas for income. These rely on correct training and a reliable and efficient feed supply. They therefore rely on a modern technological efficient industry to supply them correctly formulated feeds at a price that allows them a sustainable income.
Most of the farming with the exception of palm production in Indonesia relies on manpower which must never be ignored by trying to put in machinery to replace labour this will slowly have to come to pass as the age of farmers is increasing and the younger generation does not wish to continue farming.
The contrast with Australia is extreme where rice is grown in very large paddies sometimes up to 1000 acres of laser levelled paddies which because of different varieties and growing techniques yield more per acre.
The downside to these techniques are that they rely on water being made available for the irrigation and very large horse power machinery which allows production which were not available until relatively recently. Also, in Australia labour for farming is not easily available event though the technicians are being given care of very expensive and technical equipment.