Selected PCC staff attend national coop summit

Eleven staff from the Philippine Carabao Center attended the 12th National Cooperative Summit at Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, Cebu on October 16 to 18.

The event is a biennial convention of the country’s cooperatives’ leaders and a “show of force” to demonstrate that the local cooperative movement is alive and booming, according to Engr. Sylvia O. Paraguya, chairperson of the Philippine Cooperative Center (PCC), which served as a co-convenor of the summit along with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).

Some 5,000 cooperative leaders, advocates and supporters from Regions 1 to 13 as well as from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) attended the summit.

The event was hosted by VICTO National and the Philippine Cooperative Central Fund Federation, two of the country’s biggest cooperative federations.

The agency’s delegation to the summit comprised Dr. Peregrino G. Duran, Dr. Lester S. Verona, Dr. Cyril P. Baltazar, Ericsson N. Dela Cruz, Wilma T. Del Rosario, Mario M. Delizo, Reyner R. Tomas, Genaro Candelaria, Marilou A. Santos, Zadieshar Sanchez and Marilou A. Vallarta.

The theme of the three-day event, “Cooperatives 2020: Raising the Bar”, reflects current efforts to raise the competitiveness of 23,600 registered cooperatives to the international level by year 2020. The theme is also in line with the International Cooperative Alliance’s (ICA) blueprint for Cooperative Decade 2020, which is the basis for the global cooperative movement.

The adoption by local cooperatives of the ICA blueprint is expected to help cooperatives prepare for the challenges and opportunities under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015.

The summit featured, among others, presentations by various resource persons that included former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno and former NEDA secretary Cielito Habito.

According to Diokno, the Philippine cooperative movement, which presently involves 23,600 registered and operating cooperatives, contributes some five percent to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He also highlighted the contributions and participation of local cooperatives in job creation and enterprise development that reach even the far-flung areas of the country.

On the other hand, Habito cited the efforts of the cooperative movement benefitting 12.6 million members that correspond to almost 13 percent of the total Philippine population.

At present, the Philippine Carabao Center assists a number of dairy cooperatives that implement carabao-based dairy enterprises located in the agency’s national and regional impact zones located in various parts of the country.

PCC researchers honored in 51st PSAS scientific convention

Several researchers from the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) received awards during the 51st Scientific Seminar and Annual Convention of the Philippine Society of Animal Scientists (PSAS) held on October 21-25 in Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City.


Dr. Danilda H. Duran, Scientist I at PCC’s Reproductive Biotechnology Unit, was bestowed the “PSAS Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. Distinguished Researcher in Animal Science” award for her various works on livestock biotechnology development.


Two papers from the PCC also won the “Best Paper” award under separate categories.


Dr. Eric P. Palacpac’s study “To Milk or Not to Milk: Understanding Characteristics and Behavioral Intentions of Crossbred Buffalo Owners in San Agustin, Isabela” was chosen “Best Paper” under the socio-economic category.


On the other hand, the study “Genetic Screening of Scrotal Hernia in Domesticated Swine using PCR-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism” done by Jessica G. Manalaysay, researcher at the PCC Animal Health Unit (AHU), bagged the same award under the breeding and genetics category.


Meanwhile, the work of Ryan Bismark C. Padiernos, also from AHU, titled “Molecular Characterization of Gal-9 and TIM-3 Genes of Swamp-type and Riverine-type Water Buffaloes” was chosen as “Best Poster”.


The PSAS is a professional non-profit organization that comprises veterinarians, animal scientists and practitioners in related fields across the country conducting researches relative to the animal industry. Its annual scientific seminar and convention serve as venue for knowledge-sharing between and among its members through presentations on scientific papers and posters as well as plenary sessions tackling issues and challenges confronting the industry.


This year’s gathering revolved around the theme, “Equipping Veterinarians and Animal Scientists for ASEAN 2015.”


According to Dr. Rosalina M. Lapitan, incumbent PSAS president and officer-in-charge of PCC’s regional center at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB), the theme reflects the concerted efforts of its members in responding to the various challenges posed by the impending integration of member- countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) into one community.


The event featured paper and poster presentations under different disciplines as well as plenary sessions tackling the present and future challenges confronting the industry relative to the ASEAN integration.


A farmers’ forum regarding the issues faced by the stakeholders of the dairy industry in Mindanao was also spearheaded by the PCC’s regional center at the Central Mindanao University (PCC at CMU).


PCC, NMIS staff train in Korea on livestock products’ traceability

Seven technical staff from the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) and three from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) recently completed a two-week training on “Production and Distribution System of Animal Products.”

Sponsored by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the training was conducted by the Korea Institute for Animal Products Quality Evaluation (KAPE) on September 21-October 4 in Seongnam and Gunpo, South Korea.

Farm-to-table traceability of livestock products from is mandated under existing laws of the Korean government. The traceability system utilizes Korea’s available vast technical expertise and technological capabilities. The legislation emanated from the pilot project named Beef Traceability Program that started in May 2004 in response to the need for traceability. At present, QR (Quick Response) codes found on product packaging allow customers to access information, such as breed, meat quality, grade, slaughterhouse and ID number, using smartphones.

Those who completed the training were PCC national headquarters staff Alvin V. David, Excel Rio S. Maylem, Gilliane G. Gantioque and Lilian P. Villamor; PCC regional centers staff Armando G. Racho, Guindolino Bajenting and Laarni M. Parungao; and NMIS meat control officers Rolando M. Marquez, Jonathan V. Sabiniano and Vernadette S. Sanidad.

Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture, KAPE directors as well as university professors and directors of private companies served as resource persons during the training. Major topics discussed included Korea’s livestock policies, beef quality grading, pork quality evaluation and egg quality evaluation.

Aside from the lecture-discussions, the trainees made field visits to the slaughterhouse of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, Dairy Cattle Improvement Center (DCIC), Korea Food Research Institute and Charm (Real) Fresh Company. During the field visits, it was observed that the traceability and grading system puts consumer safety and satisfaction as priority concerns, which, in turn, translate into economic benefits for livestock producers in terms of highly competitive prices for premium quality livestock produce.

As their main output arising from the training, the participants were tasked to prepare an action plan with SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Strengths) analysis that will help the country establish its own traceability system. The PCC and NMIS will partner to spearhead a pilot project on livestock products’ traceability.

GenTri: Sustaining carabao development amid industrialization

As it approaches its 10th founding anniversary, the General Trias Dairy Raisers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (GTDRMPC) in General Trias, Cavite has already set the bar high in terms of carabao-based dairy production for other emerging dairy cooperatives.

Upon its establishment in 2005, the GTDRMPC rented a building to serve as its processing plant and marketing outlet with the help of the local government unit (LGU) of General Trias, popularly referred to as “GenTri”.

Five years later, the co-op transferred to a newly built processing plant funded by the GenTri LGU and the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (PCC at UPLB), one of the agency’s 13 regional centers.

Cultivating partnerships

Through the years, the co-op has been able to cultivate partnerships with various government agencies, parlaying such tie-ups into concrete forms of assistance. For instance, the GTDRMPC got a big boost when the Gentri LGU adopted carabao’s milk as its One Town, One Product (OTOP) under the promotional program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that seeks to highlight a locality’s product or service that shows competitive advantage.

The Department of Science and Technology through PCAARRD (Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development) and the DTI also provided the co-op with additional equipment for newly developed dairy products and cold storage facility. The DOST-PCAARRD likewise provided trainings on product development for the co-op staff.

Funding from the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and Department of Agriculture (DA) allowed the farmer-members of the co-op to undergo free trainings on proper carabao production and management.

The provincial government of Cavite and the Cooperative Union of Cavite also extended their support in terms of free capacity-building trainings for the co-op members.

Meanwhile, the co-op was able to link-up with several marketing partners who have brought the group’s dairy products beyond Cavite.

Steady success

As the GTDRMPC continues to flourish, many residents of the town have been given additional livelihood opportunities. Its membership has grown to almost 200 from 44 original members.

The co-op currently collects at least 250 liters of carabao milk daily from its members who have a combined animal holding of almost 250 head, of which close to 80 percent are crossbreds. The collected fresh milk are processed into various dairy items, nearly 50% of which are marketed by the co-op’s distributors while the rest are sold at the co-op’s products’ outlet under their own label, “GenTri’s Best”.

Already producing and selling nine products of different flavors, the co-op is set to launch yet another product: soft ice cream. It will be launched in the coming summer season, when the members’ milk production is expected to surge, according to Desiree G. Paras, the co-op’s plant manager.

The GTDRMPC’s performance has gained recognition, including the DA’s “Gawad Saka Award”, a testament to the co-op’s steady success.

Threat, opportunity

The co-op may have weathered the turbulence common to fledgling organizations, but as it nears a decade of existence, its sustainability is threatened by widespread industrialization in General Trias.

Touted by the provincial government of Cavite as one of the “new frontiers of growth and development among the CALABARZON area,” GenTri is fast becoming home to big industrial estates and commercial establishments.

“Land use conversion is very rapid in our municipality. Subdivisions are emerging everywhere,” Nerisa Marquez, GenTri municipal agriculturist of General Trias, Cavite, revealed.

According to the town’s website, there is indeed a “high incidence of land banking or purchasing of large tracts of cheap agricultural lands for the sole purpose of reclassifying them and developing them into other land uses.” This causes a decline of productive lands vital to the agricultural sector.

In the carabao industry, directly affected is the source of feed stuff for the buffaloes.

GTDRMPC chairman Samuel Potante affirmed that they are indeed feeling the effects of land use conversion. Most of them, he said, feed their carabaos through grazing in pasture areas and only a few practice the cut-and-carry system. Other forage areas are also decreasing, leading some co-op members to sell some of their stocks, he said.

“To cope with the situation, the co-op plans to rent land outside the municipality where we can plant forages for our animals,” Potante said.

At the LGU’s end, Marquez said they have launched a campaign among farmers not to sell their lands to developers.

“We are appealing to the Sangguniang Bayan of our town to legislate and allow the usage of all idle lands as pasture area for farmers since there are wide acres of land in the municipality that are left idle with no developments,” Marquez added.

Since the challenge is how to produce more on lesser land, Marquez is closely collaborating with PCC at UPLB for new technologies that will help maintain the level of production among the dairy farmers, especially in terms of feeding.

It also manifested how, despite the level of maturity the co-op has reached over the years, the LGU and PCC at UPLB have not totally weaned the co-op.

“The farmers need guidance in adopting technologies, such as other alternative feeds for the animals aside from rice straws and Napier grass. They also need assistance in seeking grants to avail of machineries, like rice straw bailers,” the municipal agriculturist shared.

But while industrialization may have negative effects on the production side of the carabao business, it may be favorable in terms of the marketing aspect.

“The market will expand and marketing will be accelerated,” Mariano Lumbre, a member of the co-op’s board of directors, enthusiastically said.

In fact, Potante said, the co-op plans to put up a coffee shop as another market venue for their milk produce.

Marquez also affirmed that the situation may pave the way for the development of another dairy-based industry.

“The LGU’s support for the dairy industry will continue. This time, a new association may be formed to capitalize on carabao’s milk as raw material,” she said.

From indications, there’s no stopping GenTri and its partners from vigorously pursuing carabao development, which augurs well for GTDRMPC and other groups following in its footsteps.

PCC holds consultation-workshop on animal nutrition concerns

The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) conducted a one-week consultation-workshop aimed at harnessing livestock extension services to enhance animal nutrition, forage production, conservation, and pasture development.


Initiated and funded by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), the consultation-workshop was conducted on October 5-11 at the PCC national headquarters in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija and organized by PCC’s animal nutrition unit.


Some 40 staff from the regional field units of the Department of Agriculture as well as other government and private entities involved in agriculture, agribusiness, animal husbandry or veterinary science participated in the worshop.


In his welcome remarks, Dr. Arnel del Barrio, acting PCC executive director, said that in his 30 years of work in the carabao industry, this was the first consultation-workshop focusing on feeding, forage conservation that he encountered.


“We will continue to train and disseminate different technologies related to feeding, forage and pasture so that our livestock productivity will increase. As an animal nutritionist, it is significant in light of our program here in Nueva Ecija, which is our National Impact Zone (NIZ), to scale-up our forage production by continuously providing appropriate feeding technologies to our farmers. Let’s be united in this training and after this, the most important thing is how you are going to transfer the knowledge, skills and right attitude to your clients,” Del Barrio declared.


For his part, DA Undersecretary for Livestock Jose Reaño, who served as the guest speaker, emphasized the purpose and importance of the workshop.


“The purpose of this workshop is the proper utilization of the resources available in your respective regions, how you are going to utilize and use them to your advantage and at the same time lower the cost of production of the livestock industry here in the Philippines,” Reaño stated.


Meanwhile, Dr. Rubina Cresencio, BAI executive director, declared in her inspirational message that the workshop “will be our starting point to work together and integrate all our efforts to harness all the feed resources available in the country and increase livestock productivity.”


The workshop covered three teaching-learning phases. The first phase covered best practices in animal management and extension strategies; second, practical animal nutrition management and technical service advisory; and third, experiential learning on forage and pasture development, conservation, and feed formulation.


As an integral component of the workshop, the participants went on a field visitation of existing development models and some developed pastures or forage stand in Pampanga and Bulacan.


The workshop’s resource persons included, among others, Dr. Daniel Aquino, animal nutrition unit head; Dr. Eric Palacpac, PCC national R&D coordinator; Dr. Edgar Orden, CLSU professor VI; Prof. Tsutomu Fujihara, PCC nutrition consultant; Prof. Francisco Gabunada, Visayas State University assistant professor; and Nomer Garcia, PCC senior science research specialist.


Karamihan sa mga nakilahok ay unang beses pa lang nilang naranasang gumawa ng urea-treated rice straw (UTRS) at pagbuburo ng damo noong praktikal sa ikalawang araw ng pagsasanay. Nakita namin ‘yong pananabik nilang matuto at malaman ‘yong paggawa noon (Most of the participants experienced doing urea-treated rice straws (UTRS) and silage for the first time during our practicum on the second day of workshop. We saw their eagerness to learn and know how to practically prepare and make UTRS and silage),” Aquino pointed out.


“They were also asked to write down their action plans after the workshop and they will be evaluated after 3-6 months for the post-training evaluation that will be conducted by BAI,” he added.


Dairy forum tackles challenges in dairy buffalo production

Dairy farmers in the National Impact Zone (NIZ) of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) need to enhance the milk production performance of their dairy buffaloes in order to further improve their income from their respective buffalo-based enterprises.


This was the focal point of the dairy forum conducted on September 30 by PCC’s Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) team at the NIZ at the PCC national headquarters in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.


Some 50 officials from the different PCC-assisted dairy cooperatives in Nueva Ecija, which is the NIZ of the PCC’s Carabao Development Program, participated in the one-day activity.


They interacted with the forum panel that comprised Dr. Arnel N. Del Barrio, acting executive director of PCC; Dr. Daniel Aquino and Dr. Tsutomo Fujihara, nutrition experts; Dr. Peregrino Duran, breeding expert, and Patricia Saturno, plant manager of PCC’s Central Milk Processing Plant.


“You may already be earning income from dairying now but we have yet to reach the optimized level of productivity of the dairy buffaloes. This may be due to some challenges that beset the different aspects of production and management,” Dr. Del Barrio said in his opening remarks.


“This forum is therefore an opportunity for us to identify these issues and analyze their root causes, discuss these and recommend solutions so that we can improve the present condition of our dairy enterprises,” he explained.


Data from DHI team show that as of August, 2014, there are about 3,000 purebred dairy buffaloes in the hands of small-hold dairy farmers in the NIZ. About 33% of these are cows, 32% of which are in the milking line. Of the more than 2,000 breedable females, 24% are pregnant.


As part of the activity, the participants identified the various gaps in the different aspects of carabao and milk production, such as breeding, health and nutrition, and milk handling that are inhibiting the buffaloes from attaining their full dairy potential.


Some of the issues that came up were low pregnancy rate among heifers and cows resulting in long calving intervals.  Problems related to milk production also surfaced.


On the health aspect of the animals, the farmers are confronted with incidence of diseases, such as parasitism and mastitis.


The participants were encouraged to share their insights and to suggest possible courses of action to address each of the issues.


“Over the past 20 years, PCC has developed various technologies on different areas of buffalo management which may help in increasing milk production. We are sharing them to you and we encourage you to adopt and apply them,” Del Barrio said.


The panelists stressed the importance of proper feeding management in relation to milk production.


“When you give the right amount of balanced food to your animals, they will give you back the desired amount of milk,” Aquino stressed.


He urged the participants to practice the “challenge feeding” technique.


“Immediately after the cow gives birth, add two kilos of dairy concentrate to the food of the cow daily. With every kilo of milk added to the milk production, add another half kilo on top of the two kilos of concentrate. The challenge lasts for 70-90 days from calving or until the cow has reached its production peak,” Aquino added.


Regarding buffalo health concerns, the panelists pointed out that the incidence of diseases may be avoided by proper care and management of the animals, such as the practice of cut-and-carry feeding scheme instead of grazing. This will minimize the chance of the buffalo to contract parasites that cause diseases, such as liverfluke.


For her part, Saturno emphasized the importance of proper milk handling in order to ensure the quality of milk.


In his closing remarks, Dr. Del Barrio urged the farmers to double their milk production by next year.


“I believe that we can achieve this when we work together. We already have the knowledge, we know the solution. All we need is action,” Dr. Del Barrio said.


San Agustin, Isabela: Carving a name of its own in carabao crossbreeding

Every place has its own marks or attributes which may catapult it to prominence. And such distinguishing features can become channels or pathways for progress and development.

Take the case of San Agustin in Isabela province. Its success in upgrading the carabao or the native swamp buffalo has earned for the municipality the distinction of being the frontrunner in the National Carabao Development Program being implemented by the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC).

Undeniably, the importance of the carabao, especially in the lives of farmers, including those in San Agustin, has become broader. This is mainly due to the fact that the carabao is their number one trusted ally in their farming activities that include, among others, land cultivation and hauling of harvested crops. No wonder that among the farmers, there is an accepted aphorism that says they are only half-farmers if they don’t own a carabao.

Moreover, the female carabaos now have added meaning for farmers: production of fresh milk that translates to much-needed daily cash. This is especially true for the dairy-type carabaos, like the Murrah buffaloes, Italian buffaloes, Brazilian buffaloes and the crossbreds, which provide milk yield substantially higher than that of the native buffaloes.

Crossbreeding introduced

Crossbreeding of the native-type to that of the milk-type of carabaos was introduced in the context of the Philippine Carabao Act of 1992. The result of this is the crossbred which, at its first generation, carries the 50% exotic blood and 50% Philippine carabao breed blood up until it reaches almost the purebred state after four generations of backcrossing.

According to studies, crossbred carabaos have the potentials for higher growth rate and milk production. It can produce an average of 4.14 liters of milk a day or better as their upgrading continues.

San Agustin town is a fourth-class municipality with 23 barangays (villages). It is situated at the crossroads of the provinces of Isabela, Quirino and Aurora that kisses the foot of the vast Sierra Madre Mountain range. The town’s topography consists mostly of rolling hills with a total land area of 16,973.23 hectares. These are mainly used for corn, cassava and banana production. Only a few patches are planted to rice.

The town has a big number of native carabaos which the farmers use in their farm works. Its mountainous terrain, which is rich in grasses, assures the farmers of abundance of needed forage. Its prevailing peace and order situation likewise guarantees that the animals can be left grazing the whole day in the open field and retrieved only the next morning for bathing.

In 1992, San Agustin was one of the areas identified, through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the then Philippine Carabao Research and Development Center (PCRDC) at Cagayan State University (now Philippine Carabao Center at CSU) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Region II (Cagayan Valley) for the conduct of the Carabao Crossbreeding Program.

Later, in 1995, Mayor Virgilio Padilla declared the Carabao Upgrading Program (CUP) in San Agustin as the town’s banner program. The farmers of the town, at first, hesitantly embraced the program to improve the breed of their carabaos.

However, Mayor Padilla, aware of the difficulty in making his constituents adopt the program, was undeterred. He was convinced the program would benefit his farmer-constituents and exerted all efforts to get them to actively participate in the undertaking.

His persistence paid off. At the helm of the program for ten years now, the CUP continues to gain strength. In fact, a believer of leadership by example, the mayor himself is engaged in raising crossbreds.

The town’s success in carabao upgrading is attested by its relatively large number of crossbreds. As of last count, San Agustin’s crossbred population now stands at 5,736 head. The challenge facing it now is how to maximize this big resource for providing more income for the farmers and improve their nutritional level as well as that of their families.

Changing mindsets

At present, only a limited volume of milk is currently collected daily from the crossbreds. Majority of the town’s farmers use their crossbreds for farming works and other related activities because of its draft ability.

“Our farmers here benefit a lot from their crossbreds in farm works because these are really good as source of draft power, especially in plowing the land. They are also good in “karyada”, which is the hauling of harvested banana, rice and corn. Their strides are longer than that of the native carabaos. As long as you provide them with the proper management, the crossbreds will surely perform well,” Mayor Padilla said.

His description of the regard of farmers for crossbreds jibed with the findings of a research study titled: “To Milk or Not to Milk: Understanding the Socio-Economic Characteristics and Behavioral Intentions of Crossbred Buffalo (CB) Owners in San Agustin, Isabela”. It was conducted by PCC researchers, namely, Dr. Eric Palacpac, Erwin Valiente, Rovina Jacang, Moses Gil Honorio, Honorato Baltazar, and Dr. Annabelle Sarabia. As of 2012, only half of the CB owners were milking their animals daily.

The study showed that the farmers raise the CBs primarily for draft, breeding and meat purposes. Utilizing the CBs for dairying is common only among those who have already experienced milking their CBs.

It was also found out that a good number of the farmer-owners of CBs are driven mainly by certain socio-economic factors on their decision “to milk” or “not to milk” their animals. They tend to milk only when the number of their CBs increases or when they set their mind in raising the animals for dairy purposes or when they are already adept in milking.

“Some farmers don’t want their calf to be interrupted from getting continuous nourishment from its mother in order for it to be strong enough. Their mind set is that the milk is only for the calf and the big carabao is for draft that’s why they also want the calf to be strong and big. This is the reason why dairying is only a secondary concern. We need to explain to them, that there is money out of the milk they get from the carabao,” Mayor Padilla said.

Empowering dairy enterprise

Mayor Padilla, in an effort to induce the full flowering of dairying in his town, appointed the retired Municipal Agriculture Officer (MAO), Julio Lamug, as a consultant, and gave orders to the acting MAO, Virginia Lamug (wife of the retired MAO), to convince, monitor and encourage the farmers and owners of carabaos to take the dairying program into serious consideration and make use of four milking barns put up using a Php5M assistance given by the provincial government of Isabela.

All three personalities have the “authority” to speak well of the beauty of the program as they themselves have their purebreds and crossbreds. The Lamugs have a total of 21 crossbreds while the mayor, 20 head. They have milking barns of their own. No doubt, they serve as models in carabao- raising and dairy enterprise development, a feat which they hope will serve as an inspiration for their farmer-townmates.

To conserve the number of crossbreds in the municipality, the local government unit (LGU) of San Agustin passed an ordinance regulating the sale and slaughter of crossbred buffaloes in November 2008.

“If given a chance, we will propagate crossbred carabaos here in the District 4 of Isabela. Our direction is still toward enterprise development, with the production of crossbreds as a continuing endeavor,” Mayor Padilla said.

In all his speaking engagements, he encourages people to go into dairyng. He always cites the benefits that carabao-owners can get out of their lactating dams.

Crossbreds at center stage

San Agustin town is also known for its assiduous celebration of its “Nuang Festival”. “Nuang” is an Ilocano term for carabao.

The annual event, which includes a competition featuring the carabaos, is a much-anticipated occasion for carabao-owners because their animals take center stage of the festival. It also recognizes their significant contribution in sustaining a program aimed at improving the carabao breed.

“Aside from the money they might get from winning in the contest, they also have an incentive of Php200 for every carabao that participates in the parade. So if you have five carabaos, you have a total incentive of Php1000 in an instant,” Virginia Lamug said.

The carabao entries vie for such titles as “Biggest Male”, “Biggest Dam”, “Most Beautiful Carabao”, “Best Milker”, among others.

Currently, the municipality has a total of 13 dairy associations and one dairy cooperative, which is the San Agustin Dairy Cooperative (SADACO).

Farmer-models in dairy enterprise

Amid the “psychological block” in the dairy aspect, there are farmer-models in San Agustin who are living examples of the advantages of dairying. They themselves proved how engaging in dairy enterprises helped them improve their lives.

Manrico Claro, SADACO head and chairman of the coop’s board, is one of the farmer-models in dairy enterprise development. Also the president of Santos Crossbred Carabao-Owners Dairy Association, he currently owns 14 carabaos, 11 of which are female and three are bulls. Among the 11 females, two are lactating and the rest are pregnant. He harvests an average of four liters of milk from his dams.

SADACO was registered as a cooperative in October 2012. Out of its 57 members, though, only a few are into the milking program. Claro himself continuously encourages his co-members to milk their lactating cows for them to savor all the benefits they can get from dairying.

“We can convince other members to milk their carabaos with the help of our former MAO and PCC consultant in the LGU. They will help me explain the program in dairying to the people and for sure, this barangay will progress when they engage in dairy enterprises,” Claro said.

The SADACO chairman attests to how dairying helps him and his family in meeting their daily expenses. He sends his children to school. He has constructed a structure needed for his vermicomposting venture to further increase his income. He uses carabao manure in the vermicomposting project and sells the product at Php250 per sack.

“I am really focused on dairying because of the income I derive from it,” he declared.
Five years from now, Claro envisions that their cooperative will have many dairy products’ outlets in the malls and other market places and that their members will grow in number. He also hopes that the members of all the dairy associations in their town will give their full support to the dairying program.

“To all carabao-owners, look at the advantages of dairying. In just 30 minutes you can finish milking your three lactating carabaos, and there is already money you can get per liter of milk harvested. If San Agustin as beccme the crossbred carabao capital of the Philippines, I hope that eventually it will also be proud for its achievement in dairying,” Claro said.

Another farmer-model is Loreto Barroga. The coop considers him as one of its consistent suppliers of milk. He provides the coop with six liters of milk daily. He has 12 crossbreds, five of which are dams, two are bulls and the rest are calves.

Barroga has two children. One has already earned a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) and the other is in college taking up the same course.

“Our crossbreds enabled us send to our children to school. If it wasn’t for our carabaos’ milk, my eldest could not have finished his studies,” he declared.

Barroga is also one of the dairy farmers in San Agustin who is very proud that after years of backcrossing, one of his crossbred carabaos is now almost purebred.

It is true that propagation of purebred dairy buffalo bloodline is not easy because it takes generations. It will need to have an average of four generations before it can reach a 97% purebred dairy carabao bloodline or about 20 years. But in San Agustin, many farmers are almost achieving that reality.

In Barangay Sinaoangan Sur, a place which topped the Green Revolution contest in the ‘70s, and where the most number of crossbreds are found, lives a dairy farmer who is considered as the top-seller of carabao milk. Arnel Cosilit owns 25 crossbreds, one of which is a bull. He harvests an average of 12 liters of milk daily from his five lactating dams.

Mayor Padilla, in his strong drive for carabao upgrading to continue gaining more ground in his town, sent several of his constituents to train with PCC at CSU as Village-Based Artificial Insemination Technicians (VBAITs). As such, they serve their respective barangays where they live.

Further, the PCC-trained VBAITS, along with technicians from the Department of Agriculture (DA), conduct massive AI activities at least once a month in the different barangays to ensure the sustainability of the Carabao Upgrading Program. Needed supplies, including those for vaccination and deworming, are provided by the LGU.

With the collaborative efforts of the LGU, PCC as well as other partners and supporters, the town of San Agustin hopes to be more invigorated in moving forward to achieve greater results, not only in carabao upgrading but also in dairy enterprise development.

“Here in San Agustin, as long as you have carabaos, especially crossbreds, the joy of being a carabao owner will carry you on,” Mayor Padilla proudly declares.