By Siti Salwa Shaari
ROMPIN, (Bernama) -- It is hard to miss the white fence surrounding an expanse of napier grass along Jalan Rompin-Muadzam Shah.
The serene view beyond it reminds one of the wide open plains overseas.
Inside the 248.37-hectare area is the Muadzam Shah Cattle Research and Innovation Centre, a facility under the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC).
Surrounding the centre is a dairy farm where thousands of cows graze the high-protein napier grass before being milked at the complex within the grounds.
This is where 40 per cent of the fresh cow milk in Malaysia comes from.
FRIESIAN SAHIWAL COWS
The Holstein Milk Company (The Holstein) is the anchor company appointed by the ECERDC to manage the centre.
The operations manager of The Holstein company, Azmi Zainal, said that there are currently 1,703 Australian Friesian Sahiwal cows bred at the facility.
"Some 9,000 litres of milk are produced by 584 cows daily. Milking is done twice a day, at 5am and 5pm," he said.
Each milking process lasts from three to four hours, he told the media during a tour of the facility recently.
Cows would start producing milk by the time they are two years old. For the writer who has never seen cows being machine-milked on a large scale, it was hard not to become awed by the animal's "discipline" throughout the process.
As if they knew it was time to "get to work", the cows would line up to the platform at the end of the milking station to be "bathed", a hygiene-control measure.
"When the gates to the bathing area, the cows would walk towards the milking machines and go into their respective compartments. Workers would then come to clean their udder before hooking it on to the milking machine.
"It seems easy, but it took us a long time to teach the cows this routine. We would have given up if not for the success we had after bringing in a cow experienced in the routine to set an example to the rest of the herd," he said.
FRESH MILK AND YOGURT
To preserve freshness, the milk will be channelled into a collecting tank below 40 degree Celsius.
Azmi said lorries carrying the milk would leave the centre sharp at every midnight to a processing facility in Larkin, Johor. From there, the final product would be delivered to supermarkets under the brand name Farm Fresh.
"All of The Holstein's milk products are in the supermarkets shelves within 48 hours after the cows are milked, because our products contain 100 percent fresh milk. We also don't use stabilizers normally used for flavoured milk products, so that we can ensure the pure taste of milk in ours," he said.
Farm Fresh also produces yogurt and yogurt drinks. Azmi is optimistic that the company would be introducing other dairy products, such as cheeses, in the future.
The Holstein started operating the research and innovation centre since Nov 5, last year. In under a year, it was awarded the winner of the "Excellent Dairy Farm" award at the 8th Malaysian Livestock Industry Awards in September.
Azmi said The Holstein has been working with the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) on the nutritional care and cow breeding.
"The cow we have now is brought in from Australia after research showed that this breed are more suitable for Malaysian weather and fodder. We want to create a second generation of this breed with higher resistance," he said.