There’s more to carabaos than just as sources of milk and draft power. They offer big potential too for the meat industry as an increase in the slaughter rate of carabaos for meat or “carabeef” is an indicator of its growing market demand.
A study conducted by the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños LB) shows that carabao feedlot fattening can be a very profitable venture that involves an intensive carabao-raising practice, which is one of the fastest ways to increase carabeef production.
The practice is more beneficial in areas where there are abundant farm by-products, such as corn stovers, fresh corn stalks, sugarcane tops, cover crops, pineapple pulp, rice straws as well as banana leaves and trunks.
The system requires feedlot facilities and simple animal management.
Crossbreds for meat production
The PCC initiated the crossbreeding program of the native carabaos within the framework of the Philippine Carabao Act of 1992, which is aimed at improving the genetic potential of the native buffalo for production of milk and meat.
Crossbreeding involves impregnating female native carabaos with thawed frozen semen collected from superior sires through artificial insemination. The first offspring of crossbreeding is a crossbred with 50% purebred blood and 50% native blood. The purebred bloodline of the crossbred increases as it undergoes backcrossing.
The crossbred has the potential for better milk production. It also has larger body size and, therefore, when slaughtered, provides more meat than that of the native type.
According to researchers, male crossbred carabaos have more potential in the meat processing enterprise owing to its higher dressing percentage.
Studies have shown that carabao’s meat, particularly from the crossbreds raised and properly fed the same way as that for cattle, is comparable to beef in terms of its physio-chemical, nutritional and palatability characteristics.
In a comparative study conducted by the PCC at UPLB on the meat characteristics of cattle and carabao, it was noted that “crossbred carabao can grow as fast as cattle and can be raised economically under an intensive production system at 90 days fattening period.”
“With feedlot fattening, two to three production cycles a year are possible”, said Dr. Rosalina L. Lapitan, then Supervising Science Research Specialist at PCC-UPLB.
The center started its institutional feedlot fattening in 2007. The male crossbred buffaloes and animals that are no longer productive were used for fattening.
“The animals were fed with high energy feeds consisting of legumes, grasses and concentrates. We saw to it that the animals reached an average daily gain of 0.5 kilogram to ensure the desired market weight of 400 kilograms at 18 to 20 months of age,” Lapitan said.
“Since the production cycle is relatively shorter, a quick return of investment can be attained,” she added.
Lapitan said the animal management in feedlot fattening system is quite simple.
“If you are into backyard fattening, the animal management involves only feeding the fattener with farm by-products or concentrates available within the community,” she pointed out.
The PCC at UPLB used the carabeef produced to make gourmet sausages labeled as “Carabest Premium Carabeef Sausages”. Among these are cervelat, salametti, Italian sausage, beerwurst, bratwurst, schublig, kielbasa, mortadella, kabanosy, summer sausage, batutay and Hungarian sausage.
The latter is the best-selling item.
The PCC commissioned the Animal Products Development Center (APDC) of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) in Marulas, Valenzuela City to process these products.
Commercial feedlot operation
The PCC at UPLB is currently pursuing a one-year joint project titled “Fattening and Finishing of Riverine Buffaloes under a commercial feedlot operation” with Martin Gomez, a private farm owner from Canlubang, Laguna, as a cooperator.
The joint undertaking seeks to demonstrate the viability of feedlot fattening of purebred riverine buffaloes. Specifically, the project implementers aims to compare the growth performance of cattle and riverine buffaloes under commercial feedlot operation; to determine the slaughter, carcass and lean-fat bone yield of cattle and buffaloes; to evaluate the sensory traits, chemical composition and processing characteristics of meat from cattle and buffaloes under intensive system of operation, and determine the economic viability of raising male riverine buffaloes for feedlot fattening.
Under the agreement, PCC provides the test buffaloes for fattening, conducts the laboratory tests to determine the meat quality and sensory evaluation from the meat produced by the test buffaloes, and provides assistance in data-gathering. The test buffaloes are male riverine buffaloes identified as not suitable for breeding purposes.
Gomez, on the other hand, provides transport or trucking service for the hauling of animals from PCC site to the feedlot, establishes the feedlot facilities, and provides feed resources and animal management.
The net proceeds from the project, which will come from the sale per kilogram of the body weight less the cost of feeds and other inputs, will be shared between the two parties. These inputs include the purchase cost of the buffaloes for fattening per kilogram of the body weight based on the prevailing market price. The data gathered and results of the laboratory testing will be made available to both parties.