Tag Archives: farming

Desa Dairy Farm in Mesilau, Little New Zealand of Sabah

Desa Farm of Mesilau

DESA is a household name in Sabah because most Sabahans grow up drinking milk from Desa Dairy Farm, which produces nearly one million liters of fresh milk annually. But Sabah people feel affection for Desa milk because of more reasons. You will know why if you visit Desa Dairy Farm in Mesilau, which is about 100 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City (KK). In fact, this farm has become a well-known tourist attraction. Throngs of tourists go there every day to enjoy the delicious dairy and beautiful scenery.

fresh milk by DESA
Pic: The fresh milk made in Sabah. They also produce goat milk.

milk cow as wet nurse
Pic: meeting my “milk mother” in Desa Cattle Farm

pasture of Desa Dairy Farm in Mesilau under Mt. Kinabalu
It took me about 2 hours to reach Desa Dairy Farm in Mesilau by car. The green pasture with grazing cows at foothill of Mt. Kinabalu is a sight to behold. Doesn’t the place look like grassland of New Zealand? No wonder locals call it the New Zealand in Sabah. To see Mt. Kinabalu, you need to be there before 8:30am because the mountain will be covered by dense fog.

tourists taking photos at Desa Dairy Farm
The scene is so breathtaking that many tourists taking selfie and photos. FYI, many photographers also come here to use Mt. Kinabalu as the background for wedding shots of their customers. Photo taking is free outside the fence. The photography permit fee is RM100 (≈US$27) for you to enter the farm for better camera angles. In case you worry that the cows will charge at people who wear red dress. No, they won’t. lol

entrance of Desa Dairy Farm
Pic: the entrance of Desa Dairy Farm (ticket booth at the right). It is open to visitor who purchases a ticket.

cows grazing in pasture of Desa Dairy Farm
Good Mooorning milk cows and welcome to the Moo-Moo Land of Sabah. The farm is 199 hectares in size and most cows are Holstein Friesian cows imported from New Zealand, the highest milk producers of all cattle breeds. It’s quite cool and windy here (about 20°C / 68°F) so you better put on a jacket or fleece to keep warm.

milk cows of Desa Dairy Farm
Cows are amazing. They are probably the best workers in the world. They turn grass into milk (and cut the grass). They don’t complain a lot. Instead, they ask for Mooooore.. But that’s why cow has no Mooney because people milk them dry. Ok, it’s a cow pun joke, such life sounds familiar though.

tourists taking photos with cows
The cows were busy grazing and occasionally staring at tourists with “what you want?” expression. They were all pretty relaxing. I didn’t see any cowboy to look after them. Do these cows know when to clock-in at milking station?

Desa Building

For more things to do, the milk processing plant, milking station, office and shop of Desa is about half a KM from the entrance by gravel road.

welcome sign of DESA
Pic: welcome sign near Desa activity centre

pasture of Desa

visitor taking photo on boulder
Pic: There are many big and beautiful granite boulders in the farm. A lot of tourists like to climb up to take photos, so Desa has to put a warning sign “Climb at your Own Risk” next to almost every boulder.

lot of tourist cars at DESA farm
Desa Dairy Farm is more famous than I think. The Desa activity centre was packed with visitors and most parking lots were occupied that day. I chit-chat with some tourists and found that many of them are from Peninsular Malaysia, and some of them are from Hong Kong.

milk processing plant of DESA
Pic: milk processing plant (left) and shop (right) of Desa

The following are the activities you can do at Desa. Family and student groups would find the tour educational, and it’s important for younger generation to see and learn how food is made and processed.
Milking Process: 2:30pm – 4:30pm (Daily)
Raw Milk Processing: 10am – 3pm (Tue, Thu, Sun)
Calf Feeding: 9am – 4pm (daily)
Toilet is at left-hand side of the building (RM0.30 per entry).

T-shirt of DESA Dairy Farm
Pic: Desa T-shirts

There is a souvenir kiosk in Desa building where you can buy T-shirt, postcards, fridge magnet, stickers, etc. with Desa branding.

postcards of DESA
Pic: funny postcards of Desa

long queue to buy DESA food
Then a long queue caught my attention. It must be something good, I thought.

snacks menu of DESA
Seem like milk is not the only product being sold there, they have different snacks made of the freshest milk such as ice-cream, yogurt and pudding. I drove 100 KM to this place so it would be a shame if I didn’t try one of these dairy food.

vanilla and chocolate ice-cream of DESA
Pic: enjoying Desa’s vanilla & chocolate ice-cream in cooling weather of Mesilau. Couldn’t be better!

durian ice-cream of Desa
Pic: Durian ice-cream

Their ice-cream and yogurt were sold out very fast. I wanted to go for second round and there was no more. 🙁

hard cheese
New! (Jul 2015): They have started selling fresh mozarella and ricotta cheese at food kiosk. You also can drop by viewing bay and cheese cellar room to see making of yogurt and cheese.

view room for milking
There is a view room for visitors to see milking process through a big window. Too bad I couldn’t wait a few more hours so I moved on.

Calf Pen / Barn

After seeing and eating something at Desa, probably you want to touch something as well. You can head to calf pen next to the main building.

taking photo with goat at calf pen
This year is the year of goat, so it would be auspicious to touch goats. Note what the little lamb is doing (see photo above). The farm also rears saanen goats for their milk.

grass and milk bottle for calf
You can buy grass (RM1 per bunch) or milk (RM1.50 per bottle) to feed the calves. They really know how to milk the money of tourists lol.

grass and milk bottle for tourists
Pic: tourists buying grass and milk. Please note the calf may not take your food when they are full, and there is no refund for that. Anyway, they all looked hungry during my visit.

selfie with calf
Hold the grass tight while feeding. The calf is quite strong and would pull the grass out of your hand.

bottle-feeding young dairy goats
Pic: bottle-feeding the young dairy goat. Oh My Goat, it’s so cute.

viewpoint of cow barn
Next I went to cow barn where I could see hundred of milk cows laying or standing under the roof. Tourists can only see them from a distance (I believe some curious tourists would squeeze their udders if they are allowed to touch the cows, haha). Milking a cow is not as easy as it looks. If you upset the cow, it would kick the milk bucket, and you.

cow barn
A cow emits nearly 300 Litres (about 80 gallons) of methane a day, which is enough to power up an average size refrigerator for a day. No kidding, cows can turn grass into milk and also bio-fuel. The cows in photo above look dirty because it rained heavily the previous night.

cow enjoying rotating cow brush
Pic: a cow enjoys rubbing its body against rotating cow brush, which said to make cow healthier and happier thus better milk production.

Ticket & Contact Info

The following is more information of Desa Dairy Farm.

Visiting Hours: 8am – 5pm (Daily)
​Ticket Fee: RM5 (≈US$1.30) per Adult, RM4 (≈US$1.10) per Child / Student (Free if under 6 years old). Prices as of Jul 2015

grassland of Mesilau

Company: Desa Plus Sdn. Bhd.
Address (office): Level 3, West Wing, Wisma 2020, 18, Lorong Belia Karamunsing, 88991 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Website: www.desaplus.com
Facebook: Desa-Cattle-Dairy-Farm-Kundasang-Sabah
Tel: +60 88-889562

How to get there

Desa Dairy Farm is in Mesilau and about 100 KM away from KK. Though far, it’s quite accessible if you own / rent a car. There is no bus goes directly to Desa Dairy Farm. However, you can get a bus to Kundasang town, then hire a taxi to go to the farm (you may need to arrange with taxi driver for return trip), which is about 10 KM away from Kundasang.

GPS Coordinates: 6°00’59.0″N 116°35’28.9″E (see Location Map)

road to Desa Dairy Farm in Mesilau
Pic: the road to Desa Dairy Farm

signage to Desa Dairy Farm
Pic: you will see a few direction signs of Desa next to the road in Mesilau

junction to Desa Dairy Farm
The road to Desa Dairy Farm is mostly on paved road, until you reach the last junction, which is the start of 2 KM gravel road to the farm. The road is not well-maintained but you still can get in easily using standard saloon car. Just drive slowly and carefully.

photo album of Desa Dairy Farm
You may check out my photo album if you want to see more photos.

Photos taken in Mesilau, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

Tenom Farmstay, healthier food and planet with Integrated Farming

Tenom farmstay

Some city kids are very afraid of chicken though they eat a lot of KFC. “Apple” is probably the first English word pupils learn but they have never seen an apple tree. Though our young generation is no longer required to get their hands dirty in the farm today, we must let them understand how agriculture works, as it’s the most important knowledge for survival of mankind. We can’t improve things that we don’t know.

house of Tenom farmstay
Pic: Tenom farmstay with pineapples in front

Run by Tham’s brothers in Sapong, Tenom Farmstay is about 12 Kilometres away from Tenom town (Ladang Batu 10, Jalan Kemabong) of Sabah interior (see Location Map). It’s a 35-acre real farm that practices organic farming and open for people who want to experience authentic farm life. Besides, they also bring their guests to volunteer in local community projects and interact with the local people.

Neem tree
Pic: Neem tree outside the house. It is a natural mosquito repellent.

The Plantation

Different from other farms, Tenom Farmstay is an integrated farming with the concept of diversifying the crops / livestock and making them to complement one another. For example, the manure from animals can be recycled as fertilizer for the crops. The end result is the creation of multiple recurring income streams and more sustainable organic farming.

calamansi plantation
Pic: lime orchard produces 200 Kg of fruit monthly

The owner, Tham Yau Siong took us to tour around his farm, which is thriving with pineapples, tapioca, calamansi, banana and other crops. He supplies fruits and vegetables to market as far as Kota Kinabalu city and also gives some to his friends. (Note: many mosquitoes in orchard, do bring insect repellent)

Calamondin fruit / Limau Kasturi
Pic: Calamondin fruit (Limau Kasturi in Malay language)

Calamondin fruit is in good demand because its sweet and sour juice (locally known as Kik Cai Ping) is the favorite drink of Sabahans.

aroid plant
Pic: Aroid plant

What surprised me was – I found corpses flowers in his plantation. This flower (a.k.a. Samurai Flower) is a close relative to titan arum in Sumatra, a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. According to Alim from Sabah Parks. it is Amorphophallus lambii, a plant under the family Araceae. There are 5 species of such flower in Borneo. FYI, Amorphophallus means “misshapen penis” in Greek.

stem of Amorphophallus lambii
Pic: beautiful stem of Amorphophallus lambii

Samurai Flower takes many years to bloom and I was not in time for its flowering. Anyway, it is still worth taking a close look. Its trunk is actually part of its leaf structure. If you squeeze its soft stem, you can feel layers of leaves under its skin, what a peculiar plant. I never expect to see such natural wonder in a farm and there are 6 of them! Tham said someone told him that he could charge people entrance fee to see this flower.

jungle on the slope
We kept on walking and enter a mini “forest” on a slope. Tham keeps slope area of his farmland forested, for conservation and as a buffer zone to prevent soil erosion. Sometimes wildlife such as mouse deer and eagle forages here.

giant softwood tree
Pic: this giant tree is the highlight of this forest. It’s a softwood that called “包皮青” in Chinese (literally translated as Wrapped Green Skin). Please tell me if you know its identity.

big tree in Tenom
This tree looks like a long-necked Sauropod dinosaur from a close distance. There are a few other beautiful tall trees too and Tham decides not to cut them down.

forest and plantation
Pic: stand of 5-acre forest in the plantation

Shortly we came to an open space and walked among large area of banana and Sabah vege (Sayur Manis in Malay language) plantation, and also passed by a lush grassland, which is the food stock for his goats. Probably Tenom was used to be the floodplain of Padas River, so the soil is fertile, making Tenom one of the most important agricultural area in Sabah. Both lowland and highland crops seem to grow well in Tenom.

grasses for goats
Pic: 7 acres of grasses for goat farming

Tenom is also famous for its pomelo, avocado and coffee. Unlike greedy farmers who always aim to maximize profit by using a lot of chemical fertilizers, Tham uses goat dung from his farm instead, it is more organic and save him 70% of money spent on fertilizer.

tall papaya tree
Pic: a super-tall papaya tree in the farm

He prioritizes the well-being of the environment and consumers over the money, which makes his integrated farm more sustainable. This reminds me of the 3P model (People, Planet and Profit). Tham proves that winning for People-Planet-Profit is attainable with mixed farming.

banana plantation

“Nothing is illegal if a hundred businessmen decide to do it.” Well what’ll go wrong if people are obsessed with money? Just look at the recent cases like the use of gutter oil and plasticizing agent in our food and drink. Feed your chicken with unwashed vegetables and they will turn blind in weeks. When fruit juice is not real juice, fat is not real fat (trans fat), food issues become a world crisis. We have been putting highly-processed or harmful food into our mouth. How many “real” food are there in the market? I think “Food Education” is more important than Sex Education now. Consumer is the key force to drive the change. We are no longer afford to say, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” It’s time to question how our food is made.

open view of Tenom
Pic: a high ground area with nice view of the farm, forest and mountain. A chalet will be built here.

Tenom farmland
Besides 8 acres of orchard and vegetable farm that provides fresh banana, Sabah Vege (Sayur Manis), pineapple, durian, mangosteen and various other crops, Tham also owns a 16-acre oil palm plantation.

oil palm
These oil palm is mainly nourished by goat dung from Tham’s farm, which cut down the need for chemical fertilizer significantly. Moreover, he keeps a long vegetation zone between the river and his plantation, to prevent fertilizer causing pollution to the river. As a matter of fact, oil palm can be environmentally friendly if planted correctly.

big pumpkin
Pic: Brian (Tham’s nephew) holding a big pumpkin from the farm

Tham says it is very satisfying if you cultivate your crops with heart, and everyone can enjoy your healthy food worry free. Looking at his happy face, I have no doubt he is a good man rich in economic and inner wealth. I know some farmers who don’t dare to eat their own crop due to heavy use of pesticides. I wouldn’t sleep well if I were them.

Guyabano tree
Pic: Tham Yau Kong (left) shows us the formula to cure cancer with the leaves and fruit of Guyabano.

Then we met his brother, Tham Yau Kong in the orchard, he is a no-nonsense but a very friendly and kind man. He travels to a lot more places in Sabah than I do. He has climbed Mt. Tambuyukon numerous times as if it’s in his backyard. He still works in tourism industry and comes back to this farm regularly.

Goat Farm

Next we checked out the fertilizer factory, no.. I meant the goat farm. You might think that Tham Yau Siong is a farmer since the beginning. Nope. He was a financial controller. When economy turned bad in late 90s, he returned to Tenom and started his farm in 2004. He saw the potential of goat farming. With 0 experience, he ventured into goat rearing in 2005 after he took a 1-week course conducted by Veterinary Department.

goat farm
He started with 6 goats and now he has about 300 goats in his farm and even won the Successful Breeder Award (Sabah) in 2010. Most important of all, he finds meaning in his new business and really love his job. His success story is an inspiration to those who only want to stay in comfort zone.

Mulberry leaves
Pic: Tham shares his secret recipe on goat’s diet. The mulberry leaves in the photo is a natural multi-vitamin for goat. Tham also feeds his goats with Jackfruit leaves that can de-worm and high-fibre oil palm leaves that keep their guts healthy. This eliminates the needs for chemical and synthetic nutrients injection.

cuddling a baby goat
In contrast to what I imagine, his goat feedlots are clean, well-ventilated and well-lit. It doesn’t smell bad at all. Hundred of goats started bleating like baby when they saw us approaching, so cute.

smiling goats
The goats are so adorable and look like smiling. In Sabah, about 85% of the lamb is imported (as frozen meat from Australia and New Zealand), so it is demand over supply hence a huge market. Tham stressed, “Everyone needs food and world population is growing, so food supply is getting scarce and becoming more and more expensive, so you won’t go wrong producing food.”

There are 3 types of goats in his farm, namely, Ferrel and Boar goats, and 3rd kind is a cross-breed of these two Australian breeds. It takes about 6 months for the goat to grow to the marketable size of 25 Kg. Each goat can be sold for RM1,000 in Brunei, quite a lucrative business as every goat costs less than RM300 to raise. The advantage of Sabah is that our livestock has no foot and mouth disease problem, so exporting them to other countries is easy.

healthy goat
Pic: Tham shows us how a healthy goat looks like. This goat seems pleased.

goat testicles
Male goat can mate 3 times in a minute. Though “fast” it is impressive. Most guys believe mutton is good for men. I even made fun of its big “sperm tank” in one of my blog lol.

playful goat
Pic: the goat is so happy and playful, as if it sees its father.

goat licking my pant
Pic: a goat tried to eat my pant. Want to keep a goat as pet? Think twice.

Goat eats anything. “You better rear them behind the fence. If you let them wander around, they will eat plastic, cloth, rubbish and everything. Their meat will smell bad,” Tham smiled and said.

goat dung fertilizer
Pic: the by-product of goat farm, organic fertilizer

His goats produces 1,000 bags of goat dung per month. Each sack weighs 30 Kg, and Tham sells 200 bags for RM20 each every month, generating a side income of RM4,000. He uses the rest of the goat dung for his farm, saving him a ton of money. FYI, chemical fertilizer costs RM5 per 400g, which is far more pricey.


After a long walk, we were hungry and Tham prepared a yummy Kampung (village) lunch for us. We had some rice, pumpkin, Sabah vege and chicken. Somehow I felt the food tasted better when I knew that they were fresh from the farm.

organic meals from farm

The soy sauce chicken meat tastes really delicious. I think it’s the famous Maize Chicken of Tenom, another high-quality product by Tenom farmer. The chicken is fed with corn instead of cheap pellets, so its skin appears yellowish and the meat is sweet, springy and less fatty.

Tenom chicken meat
Pic: soy sauce chicken

Tenom Farmstay welcomes anyone who wants to experience farm life to stay there. They have been receiving many student groups, especially from UK. The youngsters will be kept busy doing real works. Instead of being a braggart in social media, they gain more pride by doing volunteer work to help the local community.

living room of Tenom farmstay
The farmstay has 6 rooms with fan and bunk beds, and able to host up to 30 people. The fee is RM60 per night (≈US$18.50) (normally it is a 2-Day-1-Night package). Tham joked, “the large quantity of fruits they can eat here is already worth more than that.”

room and beds in Tenom farmstay
Pic: the room of the farmstay

toilet and bathroom at Tenom farmstay
Pic: toilet and bathroom

BBQ area
Pic: BBQ area

If you are interested in Farmstay, you may contact TYK Adventure Tours for more info:
Name: Padas Farmstay or Tenom Agro Paradise Farmstay
Website: www.tykadventuretours.com
Address (office): Block E, Lot 38, 2nd Floor, Damai Plaza IV, Luyang, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: (6088) 232821
E-mail: thamyaukong@gmail.com / b.oswanda@gmail.com

Below is the leaflet of the farmstay:

brochure of Padas Farmstay, Tenom

Brochure of Padas Farmstay, Tenom (Updated: Oct 2017)

To see more photos of Tenom Farmstay, you may browse my photo album.

Photos taken in Tenom, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo