Hay Dairy Farm

In my quest to continue to explore Singapore, I decided to go visit Hay Dairy Farm–a goat farm here in Singapore.

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In 1920, Mr Hay Yak Tang came to Singapore at the age of 16 as a teacher of the Teochew language. Finding little interest in his profession, Mr Hay became a clerk for a hatchery instead, and later started his own hatchery.

Subsequently, he bought a 16-acre plantation in Punggol and started Yak Seng Hay Farm to rear ducks, chickens and some pigs, From there, he bred his own chickens as layers, and sold chicks from his own farm.

By the 1970, he had switched to pig farming. Breeders were imported from the US, and as the business expanded, eight of his eleven sons were in the day-to-day operations. In the next 10 years, Hay’s farm held 2,000 pigs had over 30 workers, and become one of the biggest suppliers of pork to the local market.

In the early 80s, pig farming was phased out in Singapore, With help from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority – AVA(formerly known as the Primary Production Department – PPD), Hay Dairies developed goat farming as an alternative livelihood. The AVA gave the Hays contacts in the US, and with the import of the first batch of Alpine, Nubian, Toggenburg and Saanen goats, on the 22 December 1988, the Hay become goat farmers.  Source

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There is no entry fee.  You walk past a few signs telling you the history of the farm, and then follow this sign to see the goats.

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If you arrive between the hours of 9 and 11 am, you can see the goats being milked.  The men are working efficiently, and you are on a raised walkway behind them.  This is an industrial operation.  It’s not like some of the farms in the US where they’re doing the industrial milking but you can also see them hand milk/try hand milking yourself.  In part this is due to AVA restrictions.

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From there, you follow the path and you walk between two sets of pens.  I counted roughly 12 goats per pen.  You’re pretty far back (again, AVA restrictions–this isn’t the county fair where you can feed/pet them–this is a working farm), so it’s purely an observational experience.  Once you walk through that row, the walkway takes you back to where you started.

IMG_2821The entire process of exploring the public part of the farm took about 15 minutes.  It took me 30-35 to drive there from United Square.

IMG_2823For me, though, seeing the goats wasn’t the highlight of my trip there–talking to the co-owner/spouse was.  She came out to ask if I wanted to buy any goats milk, and I struck up a conversation.

I learned a lot about the history of the farm, and a bit about the history of farming in Singapore in general.

The most surprising thing I learned is that niche farms like this one (and the frog farm, which I visited, but will post about another day) are living on borrowed time.  When they first moved to Kranji, they were given 20 year leases.  When those expired, the government only gave them a 3 year renewal.  Both the goat and the frog farmers I spoke to are worried that in less than three years they will be told to shutter their businesses.  Farms like Bollywood Veggies are less in danger as they supply a larger client base.

Hay Dairy has already gone through something like this when the AVA decided that no more pork was to be raised in Singapore.  The owner voiced her concerns to me about how dependent Singapore is on other nations.  We get beef from New Zealand and sometimes the US or Japan.  We get Chickens and pigs from Malaysia.  What happens if we can’t import those things anymore?  Where is our sustainability?  They’re valid questions.

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Would I advise visiting Hay Dairy?  I would encourage you to plan a full day excursion.  Bollywood Veggies (which was still closed for CNY when I went to Hay Dairy), Hay Dairy, and the Frog Farm would make for a fun day trip.  However, it would be next to impossible to do without a car.

If you don’t have a car, an in person visit is unrealistic given the cost and time of getting there (you would need a taxi).  However, they’ll deliver milk to you for a very small fee.

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