The Carabao as a Commodity
As source of meat. The total number of carabaos slaughtered in abattoirs in 2010 was estimated at 221,776 (BAS, 2010). From 1996 to 2002, there was an increasing trend in the said parameter at an average of 5.42% a year but from 2003 to 2010, there was a steady decline at an annual average of 3.24%. The increasing trend in slaughter rate from 1996 to 2002, coupled with a significantly increasing trend in buffalo meat imports from 1999 to 2004, is reflective of the growing demand for carabao meat. This is essentially true as the growth in the meat processing sector, which consumes a great portion of the locally sourced buffalo meat and 100% of the imported buffalo meat, has been significant in the past several years. The high levels of buffalo meat importations from 2004 to 2008 at an annual average of 63,106 metric tons partly explains the decreasing trend in the slaughter of carabao that was experienced from 2003 to 2010.
As source of milk. Milk yield from native carabao is relatively small and milking of these animals is carried out only in selected communities, primarily for household use and for locally produced carabao milk products such as ‘pastillas de leche’ and white cheese or ‘kesong puti’. The increase in population of crossbreeds, resulting from a cross between the dairy buffalo and the native carabao, has provided farmers with added opportunities to increase milk production since these animals have an average milk yield of 4.5 liters a day. It is clear that the quantity of milk obtained from the crossbred can meet household requirements and also provide extra volume for sale. In many communities in Regions II, III and IV, there are emerging buffalo-based dairy enterprises which are largely using crossbred carabaos. Many farmers in these areas have organized groups (cooperatives) that facilitate collecting and marketing of their milk.
As source of draft. The role of carabao as a source of draft power remains very important, particularly in the rain-fed or upland areas. However, with the advent of mechanization, there is a significant displacement of carabao by hand tractors, particularly in irrigated, rice-producing areas in the country, ranging from 16% in Leyte to 60% in Pangasinan. In the upland areas, the use of carabao increases with an increase in farm size, except in Luzon, where many of the relatively large farms use hand tractors in land preparation. Generally, however, farmers all over the country continue to use carabao for draft, especially where farming is done in fragmented and small landholdings, and where carabao has been well integrated. Hand tractors are unlikely to compete economically in relatively small farm sizes, particularly in rainfed areas.