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The Cambodian champion smallholder farmer raising cattle for business

Prepared by Dr. Suon Sothoeun, Project leader ACIAR project AH/2011/014

The livestock project “Village-Based Biosecurity for Livestock Disease Risk Management in Cambodia, ACIAR, AH/2011/014” commenced in 2015 and continuing until 2018, was developed following the success and recommendations from the project “Best practice health and husbandry of cattle, Cambodia, ACIAR, AH/2005/086”, conducted from 2007 to 2012. A feature of project AH/20005/086 was the high levels of adoption of tropical forage plantations to improve the nutrition of cattle and leading to improved rural livelihoods through time-saved in feeding cattle and improved financial returns when selling cattle with improved condition scores. Both projects received funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) through the Australian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and are implemented by the Cambodian General Directorate of Animal Health and Production (GDAHP) in collaboration with The University of Sydney.

In the AH/2011/014 research project, the focus is to extend the research on improvement of animal health and production beyond just cattle and buffalo activities, through interventions that stimulate farmer interest in improved biosecurity for all their livestock species. This project is investigating a whole of village approach to improved animal raising, including nutrition, breeding, husbandry, disease prevention and control, and management of cattle, poultry and pigs, whilst encouraging the farmers to raise the animals commercially.

Previous research has identified the importance of champion farmers in extending the research findings from these projects. Below is the history of a primary school teacher and champion farmer Mr Chhea Ben, who lives in Sen Ouk village, Kus commune, Tramkak district, Takeo province, with his wife, Mrs. Sam Sodany, and their two children. The family have been successfully raising cattle commercially and has earned a reasonable income from this activity every year since 2011. Through income earned from cattle raising , Mr. Chhea Ben’s family has improved their lifestyle. He has also become a ‘famous farmer‘ based on his success in growing forages and raising cattle, including his importation of superior Brahman genetics. This provides an example for other farmers who can observe that successful cattle raising can generate superior incomes, improve living standards and enable rural families to stay in their villages and not have to go to other countries to find work.

In 2003, Mr. Chhea Ben and his family lived in a small wood house. Mr. Chhea Ben’s income was based on his teacher’s salary of 220,000 riels per month (USD 55.00). In addition to his teaching, he engaged in agriculture:

  • owned 1.2 ha of rice paddy;
  • planted 0.4 ha of Taro;
  • raised 3 local breed cows a calf);
  • Had some chickens.

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Picture 1. Mr. Chhea Ben, his wife Mrs. Sodany and two children (2008)

In 2008, the ‘Best practice health and husbandry of cattle, Cambodia, ACIAR, AH/2005/086’ project started in Chheng Toung commune in Tramkak district, Takeo province. The project introduced and encouraged farmers to plant forage. The project provided 4 types of forage seed: 1/Brachiaria brizantha–Marandu, 2/Brachiaria hybrid-Mulato 2, 3/Paspalum atratum–Terenos and 4/Stylo 184. This project also provided training on forage cultivation techniques. Mr. Chhea Ben contacted a farmer in the project in Chheng Toung commune in Tramkak district and asked for forage seed to test himself for planting and feeding to his cattle. Knowing the farmer interest on forage cultivation, the project started to visit his house and supported him the establishment of forage. The decision to provide forage seeds and technical advice to this farmer outside the project was made to extend the activities to another place.

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Picture 2. Shortage of feed during dry season 2007

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Picture 3. Forage grass during wet season 2008

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Picture 4. Visit forage plot in Takeo province 2008

In 2008, Mr Chhea Ben planted 0.5ha of forages and raised 10 head local cattle including 7 cows and 3 male calves.

In 2011, Mr Chhea Ben had 8 cattle (changed from local cattle to crossbred cattle) including 7 cows. He started to build a cattle pen (10m x 8m) including a water trough and he put netting around the cattle pen to protect from insects. All the cattle were kept in a pen and provided cut-carry forages 3 times per day from the 0.5ha forage plot. In 2011, the income from cattle raising was 18,271,000 riels (4,456 USD) and Mr Chhea Ben was the 1st winner entitled as the best champion farmer for Cattle Raising during the Annual Farmer conference, organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

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Picture 5. Field Visit by His Excellency Dr. Chan Sarun, former Minister of MAFF, Senior Minister and Deputy Council for Restoring and Development Agriculture and Rural Development

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Picture 6. Field visit led by Dr Suon Sothoeun, project leader, currently Deputy Director General, General Directorate of Animal Health and Production and Dr Werner Stur, ACIAR and Dr Peter Windsor, project co-leader

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Picture 7. Field visit to Mr Chhai Ben’s forage plot

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Picture 8. Project sign board, ACIAR, AH/2005/086

Income from cattle raising and forage selling

From 2008 to 2016 Mr. Chhea Ben sold 36 head of cattle (4 head per year) and earned 18,271,000 riels (USD 34,200). He also earned money from leasing his bull for breeding and earned USD 2,250 (300 head). Total income from cattle was USD 36,450. The average annual income was USD 3951. During 5 years from 2012 to 2016, total income from selling forage seedlings was 2,100 USD per year. In 2017, Mr. Chhea Ben had 2 hectare of forage and sold 4 cattle for 5000 USD and earned 4000 USD from selling forage seedlings and grass.

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Picture 9. Mr. Chhea Ben’s crossbred cattle

Observation changes on Good Animal Husbandry Practice of Mr. Chhea Ben:

Change from local cattle breed and free-grazing to crossbred cattle, forage feeding, cattle housing, biosecurity and good management.

In the last 10 years from 2008 until 2017, Mr. Chhea Ben and his family have improved their living standard and now have a good reputation in Cambodia. He is a champion cattle farmer, forage seedling distributor, advisor on forage planting to other farmers throughout Cambodia and his farm is good field visit site.

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Picture 10. Forage nursery for selling

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Picture 11. 1 seedling costs 30 – 50 riels

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Picture 12. Mr. Chhea Ben, his family and their new house

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