KENINGAU: A visit to Yap Yun Fooks livestock and dairy farm in Keningau initially can be disappointing for visitors as they may not immediately be able to see cows or goats roaming about.
Instead they will find a big and spacious bungalow that belongs to Yap.
Only after bypassing this beautiful house will visitors find evidence of Yaps livestock and dairy farming activities, including an abattoir and organic animal-feed processor.
The 40ha farm in Kampung Ansip Lama, located some 15km from here, is probably one of the countrys largest private livestock and dairy farms.
Yaps farm, which currently has about 1,600 head of dairy cattle, produces about one million litres of milk or about 11% of Sabahs total dairy milk production a year.
This millionaire livestock farmer also keeps more than 600 deer and 20 ostriches in another farm where his parents live.
Yaps success story in livestock and dairy farming is not only known in Sabah but also nationwide as he is the recipient of the Outstanding Services to the Development of Livestock and Feed Industries in Malaysia Award.
His farm, known as Evergreen Livestock Farm, was also accorded the award for excellence in dairy cattle breeding and has since provided practical training in livestock farming for undergraduates.
Despite being modest about his achievement, Yap admits that he plans to globalise his business.
Yap took this writer for a brief visit to his new multi-million ringgit pet project, located at a sprawling scenic hilltop, covering 110ha where construction of an international-class feedlot building and a row of terraced houses for his workers is almost completed.
This industrious farmer said the giant project, situated about 6km from his house, comprises 10 facility buildings for cattle breeding as well as a milking parlour.
When fully operational, this farm will produce 600,000 litres of milk each month, or 60% of Sabahs milk production, Yap said.
It will be my biggest investment and hopefully a meaningful contribution to help enhance the countrys cattle and dairy farm industry, said Yap, who is also involved in palm oil, padi and fruit plantations.
Yap, 43, talked passionately about his involvement in livestock breeding, which is a genuine fascination he developed as a young boy.
My parents were very poor. When I was in primary school I had to swim across Pegalan river as the ferry service was quite far from my house. Sometimes, I cycled but most of the time I walked to school.
To earn some money, I helped villagers round up their cows that had gone astray. Over the years, I became an expert in catching wild cows or buffaloes, said Yap, who is a son of Kampung Ansip in Keningau.
Yap said he liked to spear fish in Pegalan river and one day he almost drowned as he went out too far and could not swim as the river was littered with fallen logs and dead wood.
A childhood friend, Shawal Ghani, said he knew Yaps family well.
Yap sometimes slept in my house. I noticed that he was very enterprising. He tapped rubber as well as reared chicken and ducks, said Shawal.
Yap said he first started his dairy farm on 0.8ha in Ansip Baru, Keningau, in 1982 with support from the Department of Veterinary and Husbandry which supplied him with two cows.
I cleared the land, built huts and planted grass for animal feed. After 10 years, my dairy farm was already producing 400 litres of milk a day, he said.
Yap said an unfortunate incident in 1987 nearly ruined his business when about 100 head of cattle at died mysteriously. A check later found that the animals were poisoned.
I started all over again with what was left. I was not dispirited but deep in my heart, I believed that God knew the truth, he said.
Yap believes his experience in livestock and dairy farming should be shared with others.
Now and then I receive invitations to give talks about my hands-on experience. Sometimes, people also phone to ask advice on how to start this business, said Yap.
He said his next step was to become a global player and in doing so put Malaysia in the world dairy industry map.
I think while there is a need to encourage big players to participate in the livestock and dairy farming industry, I hope the Government will consider giving more incentives, like allowing a more competitive price for locally produced dairy milk, he said.
Sabah is the countrys top producer of fresh dairy milk with yearly production of almost seven million litres. Bernama