PCC vets, researchers get hands-on training on RTUS for buffaloes

“We can now avoid slaughtering potential breeder animals by evaluating their carcass trait through real-time ultrasound scanning,” Dr. Ester B. Flores, national genetic improvement program (GIP) coordinator and head of the Genomics and Bioinformatics Unit of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), announced this novel technology at the PCC GIP during a training on “Real-Time Ultrasound Scanning (RTUS) of Carcass Traits on Live Cattle and Buffaloes” held January 25-29 at the PCC National Headquarters and Gene Pool in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

In the Philippines, breeding values for carcass trait cannot be directly estimated because the animal has to be slaughtered first before the “eye” muscle area can be determined. Therefore, for meat-type animals, breeding values are estimated based on growth traits of its half sibs and progenies which is a long and extractive process, according to Dr. Flores.

In other countries such as North and South America, Europe, Australia, Japan, and Korea, the RTUS has already been used routinely and extensively on beef cattle. Only this time and the first in the Philippines that this technology will be used on buffaloes.

Six PCC veterinarians and two research staff whose works are related to breeding and genetic improvement comprised the participants of this training.

“The select participants came from PC centers with the large herds that are most likely to do research on meat quality traits,” Dr. Flores said.

The training, organized by the Genomics and Bioinformatics Unit of PCC, aims to inform and familiarize participants on how to use the RTUS and analyze resulting data to determine potential breeder animals for growth, fertility, and carcass traits.

Dr. Flores said, this is another innovation in the selection of carabaos to increase productivity and improve the genetic potential of Philippine water buffaloes. She added that this is also an intervention to improve the quality of meat and milk.

“The increase in meat production efficiency and quality would hopefully translate to better incomes for thousands of buffalo raisers in the country,” Dr. Flores stated. She further said that only male buffaloes are scanned for fattening purposes while female buffaloes will only be scanned strictly for research and breeding purposes.

The training provided hands-on exercises on live animal ultrasound scanning of the eye muscle area, and pregnancy diagnosis.

Dr. Matthew Lee Wolcott, a visiting scientist at PCC from the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit of the University of New England and performance beef breeders of Australia accredited ultrasound scanner, served as the resource person for the training. He provided a series of lectures on ultrasound scanning and actual demonstrations on scanning bovine species for carcass traits.

In the five-day training, Dr. Wolcott specifically discussed topics on scanned traits and trait definitions, RTUS measurement landmarks, accuracy of bovine body composition scanning, carcass yield estimation from live measurements, RTUS proficiency testing, breedplan and breedplan traits, breeding program design, necessity or appropriation of breedplan accreditation, and genetic evaluation of carcass traits in the Philippines.

During the hands-on exercises, the participants were grouped into three. Each group performed RTUS on more than 70 buffaloes using the breedplan RTU measurements on carcass traits such as P8 fat depth, P8 fat depth + hide, rib fat depth, rib fat depth + hide, and eye muscle area.

“This exercise aims to determine which bull grows faster and has more meat because some animals might grow very fast but might not necessarily have more carcass yield,” Dr. Flores explained.

The participants were evaluated based on the repeatability and accuracy of their scan results compared to the results obtained by Dr. Wolcott in the same procedure.

Native carabao figures well in niche market

Although the upgrading of the native or Philippine carabao aimed at improving its milk and meat production potentials is widespread and scoring well, there are still farmers who don’t submit their animals for the purpose. Their reason: they want to sustain the niche market in their areas which prefer milk from the native carabaos.

In the province of Bohol, the “Progreso Women and Workers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PWWMPC)” sees to it that they continuously raise female native carabaos. They want to have a continuous flow of native carabao’s “special milk” to satisfy the demand for making “milky bread” products.

With the implementation of the Dairy Enterprise Program being supervised by the Philippine Carabao Center at Ubay Stock Farm (PCC at USF) and the local government units of Alicia in partnership with the Provincial Government of Bohol, the PWWMPC, with its 150 members, was encouraged to go on with its avowed mission as it is seen to be of help to the marginalized farmers.

This cooperative, which is a big buyer of the raw milk produced by the dairy farmers, is engaged in the production of choco milk, choco milkbar and other milk-based delicacies aside from selling processed raw milk. One of its bestsellers is “milky bread”.

According to Vicente Duetes, dairy technician and milk collector of the coop, although he collects the milk harvest of the members from their native carabaos and crossbreds, he sees to it that the native carabao’s milk is placed in separate containers. He knows fully well that a big number of consumers prefer it for their processed raw milk and milk products.

For their milky bread, the milk is mixed with the flour instead of water and processed into 10 different kinds of breads. These products include enseymada, cheese breads, Spanish bread and pan de coco, which he said sell like the proverbial “hot cakes”.

Duertes said the coop members raising native carabaos produce an average of 1.5 liters of milk a day. The coop buys the milk for P45 per liter and pays the farmers for the accumulated total value of their turned in milk every 15th and 30th day of the month.

As the coop is also engaged in food catering, it makes sure that their “best selling” milk products are included among the food served.

“We are certainly getting higher income than before,” he said.

As of March 2014, the gross income of the PWWMPC for their dairy business is P43,327.10, of which, the income revenue from their bakery was P32,401 (75%). The coop is also doing well in their other business engagements.

Two coop-members of PWWMPC narrated their story behind their dairying venture.

Wilfredo Miflores of La Hacienda, Sitio Dagohoy, Alicia, in Bohol started milking his native carabaos in December 2014. He currently has six native carabaos, two of which are lactating, three are calves and the other is a bull which he uses for draft purposes.

He is collecting an average of three liters from his lactating carabaos, turning over an average earning of P3,000 a month.

“The income from my lactating native carabaos helps me provide some of the needs of my family,” Miflores said.

For Imelda Acaso of Putlongcam, Alicia, Bohol, she considers milking as a family bonding activity. Imelda, together with her husband, Felix, and son, Johnfel, are joining forces in milking their two native carabaos every six in the morning. They collect an average of one liter per carabao.

They underwent proper management and proper milking training conducted by PCC at USF.

The family, however, doesn’t own the native carabaos. They only serve as caretakers of the carabaos owned by their cousin who provided them a sharing scheme of 75%-25% from the milk sales. They get 75% from milk sales.

According to Floriano Bernales, an agricultural technician of the PCC at USF, they have model dairy farmers for each of the municipalities in their area to encourage people in dairying, whether it is for native, purebred or crossbred carabao dairying.

“We make sure that the farmers know first how to milk properly their native carabaos before we lend them purebred dairy buffaloes,” Bernales said.

He said the farmers’ family consumption of milk has been noted to be increasing as indicated by the number of liters sold. The average consumption is now 28 liters of milk of native and crossbred buffaloes per day from five municipalities of Bohol, which was a big leap from the total volume before.

“We know that the farmers here are earning more than P2,000 from the sales of milk of their native carabaos alone,” he added.

PCC at USF ties-up with DSWD

As a big boost to the dairy enterprise in Bohol, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) transferred a P10-million starter kit training fund to PCC at USF for the development of a Pilot Dairy Commodity Cluster Model Project. It is carried out under the DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).

The DSWD provides the fund intended for the starter kit training on dairying for 600 beneficiaries in Bohol. Aside from the fund, DSWD is also responsible in the validation on the eligibility of the SLP beneficiaries. On the other hand, PCC is responsible for the procurement of 600 native carabaos as the basic resource for the starter kit training, validation on the compliance of the recipients to dairying requirements, and the provision of technical assistance and forage development.

“The beneficiaries should have area for milking and forage, interest in raising carabao, and animal shed. We will procure native carabaos for crossbreeding either through artificial insemination service or the bull loan program. We will distribute the carabaos in six municipalities and hopes that each will get 100 carabaos,” Bernales explained.

Aside from the DSWD fund, the Bohol provincial government, headed by Gov. Edgar M. Chatto, has provided a counterpart fund of P916,500 for the one-year insurance of the animals.

“We recently had a meeting with Usec. Emerson U. Palad and it was agreed that the government will provide funds for the milk feeding program here, which is expected to be implemented this year. A budget of P13 per child was allotted,” Bernales said.

“Under the plan, each child will be provided with 150mg of milk costing Php10, he said. The remaining Php3 is for the milky bread to be given also to the child,” he added.

He also emphasized that later on, the center will organize cooperatives with pure stock of native carabaos in CPG Bohol for the Native Carabao Development Program.

Keseo production

In Gandara, Samar, the farmers are milking their native carabaos to sustain the needs of the niche market for “keseo”, a kind of cheese.

The newly-established Keseo Processing Center in Gandara makes sure that there is always an available supply of the much sought-after “keseo” (also known as Queseo) by “Samarnons” (folks from Samar province). This kind of cheese has a big following in the area.

Under the administration of Gandara Mayor Eufemio S. Oliva, with help from partners and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the processing center for Keseo was established to cope with the increasing demand for this local cheese.

Keseo is described as a soft, unaged, homemade white cheese made from whole carabao’s milk, salt, and rennet. It has a soft close texture and slight salty taste. Some commercial versions are slightly sour due to the use of vinegar in place of rennet as a coagulant. Its production has long been a livelihood undertaking of the many residents and can be considered as one of the oldest home-based industries that made Gandara popular.

In the country, the white cheese is a popular breakfast fare eaten with the freshly baked local bread called “pan de sal”.

Operated by the Gandara Keseo Producers Association (GKPA), the processing center, situated in Barangay Natimonan has at least 45 members.

Municipal Agriculture Officer (MAO) Adelfa U. Gabejan said that the center is expected to further develop and upgrade the keseo industry in the area in terms of processing, packaging, promotion and marketing of the product.

Nilo Armamento, 49, a member of GKPA, has been engaged in dairying for five years now. He is not selling his harvested milk but instead his family processes it into keseo.

He has five carabaos, three female natives, one crossbred and one bull. He collects two liters from his lactating carabao. His wife, Joven, processes it into keseo, which is 63 mm in diameter.

“We are earning at least P300 every day from the sales of 50 keseo that we produce. We have already regular buyers for our product,” Joven said.

”Keseo” is also a much-liked delicacy in the Poblacion of Compostela in Cebu. The Compostela Market Vendors Multi-Purpose Cooperative serves as the market outlet for dairy products from the PCC at USF.

One of the suppliers of queseo and carabao’s milk to the town is Nenito Perales, 72, who has been into carabao raising and dairying for 50 years. He is collecting 1.5 liters from each of his native carabaos.

Milk candy

In San Antonio, Lalo Cagayan, one of the delicacies produced and sold in the market is the milk candy made from the native carabao’s milk.

According to Jinnifer C. Puerco, chairman of the San Antonio Dairy Carabao Raisers Association, the PCC at Cagayan State University encouraged them to try their luck in dairying.

“Some PCC staff visited and encouraged us to form an association and then helped us organized and make it operational. They provided us trainings on social preparation, basic leadership, forage production, dairy, and proper milking,” he said.

Their association was established in November 2013 with 27 active members.

Since starting raising carabaos in 2005, Jinnifer now owns eight native carabaos.

“The native carabao’s milk used for the production of milk candies in our town, is coming only here in San Antonio,” he added.

Romeo Conseha, 62, milk collector and delivery man since 2002, said he buys the milk at Php13.50 per bottle of gin (333ml) from 23 farmers and sells them, to the town’s market. Other entrepreneurs in the market also produce milk candies out of it.

The association gets a share of 50 centavos per bottle from the milk collected and accumulates an average earning of Php2,000 quarterly. Its current capital is more than Php30,000.

Bienbenido Conseha, 55, is one of the members of the association who provides milk to Romeo. He is collecting 2 liters from his two lactating carabaos which is equivalent to nine bottles of gin. His milking activities start at five in the morning. He is currently raising eight native carabaos, five of which are females, two are calves and one is a bull.

“I can’t imagine living my life without my carabao. My life almost revolves in raising carabaos,” he said.

According to Conrado Dupaya, barangay captain, there are more than 200 native carabaos in their place. He averred that “life in their place becomes ‘lighter’ because of these animals”

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Certainly, as attested through the testimonies of the farmers and entrepreneurs, the native or Philippine carabaos have beneficial roles among rural farming communities. It is because their products are sought-after in their own niche markets.

Carabeef gastronomic delights
A list of must-try carabeef dishes from Luzon to Visayas

With more and more Filipinos discovering a whole new world of gastronomic delights using carabeef as their prime ingredient to a dish, the water buffalo meat is now gaining attention in the local markets and in many Filipino restaurants.

The current demand for carabeef is due to recent studies, which showed that buffaloes are better source of quality meat than cattle due to its high palatability, physiochemical, and nutritional characteristics.

Carabeef is a hit among health-conscious individuals, experts said, because it contains 40% less cholesterol and 55% less calories while it has 11% more protein and 10% more mineral compared to beef.

If you are on the search for some carabeef dishes to eat, here are some popular Filipino dishes made from carabeef to try and where to find them:

Farmers associations in South Cotabato receive dairy buffalo modules from PCC

Two dairy farmers associations in South Cotabato recently received dairy buffalo modules from the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) valued at Php9 million.

The Philippine Carabao Center at University of Southern Mindanao (PCC-USM) awarded 14 Italian buffaloes to Canahay Dairy Farmers Association in Surallah and 15 Italian buffaloes to Sto. Niño Dairy Farmers Association in Sto. Niño; both towns are in South Cotabato. The separate turn-over ceremonies were conducted last December 14.

Both occasions were highlighted with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between PCC and the respective local government units (LGUs).

A total of 29 farmer-recipients signed a contract under the “Modified Paiwi Scheme” 25-dairy buffalo module where farmer-recipients can have full ownership of the animals after fulfillment of obligations stipulated therein.

Specified in the contract is PCC’s counterpart in terms of technical support provision in the areas of health management, breeding, dairy production, record keeping, product development and marketing for a sustainable Carabao-based Enterprise Development (CBED). The Provincial Veterinary Office will complement this role in terms of providing other animal health-related services.

The LGUs, on the other hand, expressed their full support to the dairy associations and committed to fund the needed infrastructure and purchase of milking machine. This commitment is expected to boost the envisioned goal of the dairy enterprise such as to produce fresh milk and milk-based products and make these available in the two municipalities and nearby areas, consequently increasing incomes for the families and their respective communities.

Among those who attended the occasion were: South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance Fuentes of South Cotabato Province, Surallah Mayor Antonio O. Bendita, Sto. Niño Mayor Antonio F. Damandaman, 2nd District Congressman Fedinand L. Hernandez, Board Member Agustin Demaala, Provincial Veterinary Officer Dr. Flora D. Bigot, Municipal Agriculturists Hernie S. Labordo (Surallah) and Ofelia P. Duco (Sto. Niño), DA-RFO XII representative Engr. Norberto Leysa, National CBED Coordinator Ericson N. dela Cruz, PCC-USM Center Director Benjamin John C. Basilio, and Dr. Jeoffrey Atok of the University of Southern Mindanao. Sangguniang Bayan members, barangay captains, officers and members of the two recipient dairy associations, and staff members from DA-LGU and PCC-USM also witnessed the ceremony.