Disclaimer: Findings from Project Semai are limited to better understanding the challenges faced by smallholders in different agriculture subsectors. The information furnished in this website is for informational purposes only. The information should not be relied upon by any person to make an investment decision or for any other purposes.


The Livestock sector is crucial for Malaysia’s protein source, and smallholders play a huge role in production of livestock for the nation

Smallholders play a large part in this subsector, representing ~72% of the total farmers in this subsector [1]. Smallholders raise ruminants such as cows, buffalos, goats, and sheep, as well as non-ruminants such as chickens, ducks, and swine. Project Semai surveyed 26 types of products, from pure livestock to milk and honey.

Top 6 products sold by smallholders surveyed


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[1] Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security of Malaysia, Department of Veterinary Services

Livestock sector is a male-dominated sector and has a higher proportion of youth farmers (below 39 years old)

Livestock smallholders are generally younger, possibly due to this subsector being more energy intensive than others. Most of them are secondary school graduates, with ~28% of smallholders having tertiary education backgrounds. Besides that, most farmers are independent, as 94% of smallholders are non-contract farmers in this subsector.

Key Demographics

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Livestock smallholders mainly sell fresh products directly to end consumers, through stores or wet market

57% of livestock smallholders surveyed sold their fresh products directly to consumers. The livestock products sold are typically not processed – only ~2% are processed internally into value-added products such as frozen products. This is highly dependent on the types of products and customers’ needs.

Besides that, poultry smallholders tend to sell to markets for consumers’ everyday protein needs. In contrast, cattle smallholders tend to sell bulk for religious festivals and events.

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Why become a livestock farmer?

Saya mempunyai minat terhadap haiwan, dari segi telatah dan proses pembangunan haiwan itu sendiri. Itu yang menggembirakan saya.

Kita ada potensi menjadi negara pengeksport baka di Asia.”

I like animals, their antics, and the process of developing them. That’s what makes me happy.

I see potential for us to be Asia’s main exporter for animal breed.


Goat farmer, Perak


Livestock farmers face various challenges such as fluctuations of input prices, weather changes, animal attack, lack of financing support, and labour shortage

Increasing input prices is the leading challenge for livestock smallholders, followed by pest attacks and climate change.

In the livestock sector, feed costs represent about 70% of total production costs at the farming stage. Hence, any increase in animal feed cost will immensely impact smallholders’ profitability.

The surge in animal feed prices is felt globally, particularly due to the supply disruption of raw materials such as corn and wheat from the Russia-Ukraine war. Consequently, poultry smallholders in Malaysia are greatly affected due to high reliance on imported feed and the ceiling price imposed on the retail price. Such pricing mechanism limits the ability of smallholders to pass through the higher costs to consumers.

Key Challenges for Livestock Sector

High increase in costs of imported feed

From the survey, 87% of smallholders reported high increase in animal feed prices as a key challenge

Source: CEIC, Department of Statistics Malaysia

Percentage of smallholders that are impacted by changes in temperature, rainfall and climate disasters

Based on the number of respondents in each region

Changes in rainfall and temperature affect livestock output

~64% of livestock smallholders surveyed experience lower production due to changes in rainfall.

This could be due to the higher rainfall and increase in humidity that encourages the spread of diseases, leading to low production [1]. For example, smallholders in Lundu, Sarawak, an unexpected rainy season resulted in chickens dying overnight.

Besides that, smallholders represent that heat stroke causes livestock to lose appetite, eat less, and tire quickly.

As a result, the growth of chickens becomes slower, and most of them will be considered underweight chickens by the end of a normal cycle. Underweight chickens may be sold at a lower price or rejected by buyers entirely.


[1] Dana Impak Food Roundtable with Industry Players, 10 May 2022

Pest attacks and risk of disease pose a great challenge to livestock smallholders

The threat of disease and infections is not uncommon for smallholders, with 35% of them experiencing this as one of their key challenges. Aside from the highly deadly bird flu, which spread across multiple regions in 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2017, livestock is also easily infected by common bacteria such as Escherichia (E.) coli and Mycoplasma (M.) gallisepticum.

On top of that, smallholders lamented that their livestock is vulnerable to wild animal attacks, such as wild dogs, crocodiles, and snakes.


[1] Kamaruzaman INA et. al, ‘Complex chronic respiratory disease concurrent with coccidiosis in broiler chickens in Malaysia: A case report’. J Adv Vet Anim Res. 2021 Nov 1, accessed on 26 June 2023.

[2] World Organisation for Animal Health

Better farming technologies are out of livestock smallholders’ reach

Most smallholders own rudimentary technologies such as vehicles and smartphones, as well as have access to the internet.

Only less than 20% of surveyed smallholders have adopted other technologies such as marketing tools, conservation methods, and “better” farming practices in their daily operations.

Technology owned by smallholders


Saya juga berharap industri kecil ini akan berkembang menjadi industri yang besar dan dapat mengurangkan import daging, melalui pengeluaran makanan kita sendiri. Untuk keterjaminan makanan kita dan peningkatan keluaran kita.”

I hope that this small industry will expand to a point that we can reduce our meat imports and produce our own food. For our food security, our food, our production.


Goat farmer, Perak

Saya amat menghargai dan berharap sangat anak muda ni untuk menceburi bidang ini. Jangan malu untuk dikenali sebagai penternak ayam.”

I really appreciate and hope that young people get involve in this industry. Don’t be embarrassed to be known as a chicken farmer.


Chicken farmer, Selangor

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