International training course on reproductive biotechnologies held at PCC

Reproductive technologies are helpful tools in improving and multiplying the dairy herd.

This was stressed by Dr. Eufrocina Atabay, head of the Reproductive Biotechnology and Physiology Unit of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), as 17 participants from 10 countries completed an “International Training Course on Dairy Herd Improvement by the Use of Reproductive Biotechnology” held at PCC on July 13-22.

The training course was organized by the PCC in collaboration with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research Development (PCAARRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC) of Taiwan.

The participants were from the Cambodia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The resource persons included former PCC executive director Dr. Libertado C. Cruz, Dr. Rangsun Parnpai from Thailand; Dr. Ming-che Wu and Dr. Takashi Nagai, from Taiwan; Dr. Bui Xuan Nguyen from Vietnam; Dr. Satoko Matoba and Dr. Kei Imai from Japan; and Dr. Atabay.

Dr. Cruz discussed the topic on “The role of reproductive biotechnologies in addressing food sufficiency and climate change” on the first day of the training.

The other experts, on the other hand, discussed five major topics, namely, Ovum Pick-Up, In-vitro maturation and In-vitro fertilization (IVM and IVF); Vitrification, Multiple Ovulation and Embryo Transfer (MOET) and Pregnancy Diagnosis through Ultrasonography.

Ovum-pick-up is a technique wherein oocytes (egg cells) are collected from live animals in vivo (a procedure done inside a live animal) with the aid of an ultrasound-guided needle. In this technique, oocytes are collected from the follicles in the ovaries by aspiration or sucking, then matured in the laboratory for 24 hours, and fertilized and cultured for six to seven days before being transferred to prepared recipients or frozen for use at a later date. In the training, the OPU was highlighted as the most important technology that can be used in dairy animals.

On the other hand, the IVM is a process wherein the eggs are removed from ovaries when they are still immature while the IVF follows the same process but involves the use of mature eggs. After collection, the eggs are usually matured in the laboratory before being fertilized.

Vitrification, meanwhile, is a technique in cryopreservation which means freezing of the object to sub-zero temperature. This technique prevents damage in the cells caused by crystal formation. It uses cryo-protectants that form a glass-like solution at low temperature without crystallizing.

The MOET is a technology that is performed on a female donor buffalo selected for superior pedigree or genetic traits. The animal is super-ovulated using hormones to induce production of eggs followed by artificial insemination (AI). Embryo collection is performed six to seven days after AI. The quality embryo is transferred to a surrogate dam whose estrous cycle (the period in which the female buffalo is “in heat” or sexually receptive) is at the right stage.

The Pregnancy Diagnosis via Ultrasonography, as presented, is a process that is usually done to determine early pregnancy. It is performed through the use of ultrasound machine and rectal probe. In this process, ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, provides high-frequency sound waves that are transmitted from the probe through the gel into the body. The transducer collects the sounds that bounce back and a computer then uses those sound waves to create an image. In the training, this technology was performed on buffaloes at 30, 45 and 60 days after breeding.

In their presentations, the speakers also provided step-by-step procedures and techniques in conducting these reproductive biotechnologies. They also guided the participants during hands-on sessions.

“This training essentially served as a venue for exchange of ideas, techniques and knowledge, and to enhance the technical capabilities in the field of reproductive biotechniques in water buffaloes,” Dr. Atabay, one of PCC’s scientists, said.

She emphasized that the training was important because the technologies used in reproduction are crucial in dairy herd improvement.

In his welcome remarks, Dr. Arnel N. Del Barrio, PCC acting executive director, assured the participants that PCC continues to share its expertise to those who may require or wish to avail of it.

Dr. Nagai, FFTC deputy director, in his message said that the training was a chance for them to learn various technologies used in reproduction. He also emphasized the role of science in addressing certain problems.

“Dairy milking cows are no longer as productive as they used to be. It might be because of heat stress which is somehow due to global warming. This has affected many of the milking cows’ ability to conceive, resulting in low milk production,” he said.

“Genomics, ovum pick-up (OPU) from live cows, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer (ET) and a combination of technologies has been proven helpful in taking cows to the next level of genetic improvement.” he added.

Dr. Reynaldo Ebora, PCAARRD-DOST acting executive director, said that the training highlights the urgency of addressing potential problems in dairy production. He said that the training is a venue for the researchers and scientist to share their expertise, strategies and approaches in the technologies used in reproduction.

Dr. Edwin Villar, head of PCAARD’s livestock research division, noted that training is the third time for the FFTC to be involved in the conduct of the training. He added that the PCC is a reliable partner in sharing its resources for the realization of international trainings in the country.

The others who assisted in the training were Dr. Edwin Atabay, Dr. Lerma C. Ocampo, Dr. Flocerfida Aquino, Dr. Marlon B. Ocampo, Excel Rio S. Maylem, Joselito Del Rosario, Rodante V. De Vera, Roseline Tadeo, Dr. Synan S. Baguio and Ronald Mangubat.

One of the participants, Luis Santiago Reyes Pilamunga of Ecuador, commented: “This training taught us to use reproductive biotechnologies in a better way. It equipped us with new techniques, and personally, I learned a lot from this. I think that I can apply and relay all my learnings here to our country”.


PCC, other stakeholders take close look at Thai dairy industry

A tripartite delegation led by Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) Acting Executive Director Dr. Arnel N. Del Barrio and PCC at Ubay Stock Farm Center Director Caro B. Salces took a close look at the dairy industry of Thailand on July 3-10.

Thai Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Thanatip Upatising  joined the group in their week-long visit, which was sponsored by the Royal Thai Embassy in Manila.

The activity was aimed at enhancing stronger PH-Thai technical cooperation in the dairy industry.

Aside from the PCC officers, other delegates came from the National Dairy Authority (NDA) and Dairy Confederation of the Philippines (DairyConPhil).

The Thailand visit featured briefings and discussions about recent developments and progress in dairy-related research and development, dairy farm operations, milk collection, feed processing and Thai buffalo conservation efforts. Visits were made to dairy farms and facilities as well as government institutions involved in dairy industry development.

At the Pak Thong Chai Dairy Farm, which has 700 milking cows, the delegation was briefed on frozen semen production, feed production, processing of manure for fertilizer, and steady supply of freshwater for use in the farm.

The group also visited the Kham Thale So Dairy Cooperative to observe its operations. The co-op collects 14 tons of milk per day from its 95 members.

According to Dr. Del Barrio, Ambassador Thanatip informed them that his country focuses on three important considerations in dairy industry development, namely, commitment to their dairy industry, both by the government and the stakeholders; the participation of the private sector in the industry; and guaranteed market for the farmers’ milk produce through a milk feeding program.

The ambassador also mentioned that based on a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),  his country has 4.5M dairy cattle, of which 1.5 million head are in Pak Chong province, producing 1M tons of fresh per year. The total milk production meets about 66% of the demand in the Thai market.

In that area, 60 to70 dairy cooperatives are operating with 60% of the dairy farmers, or about 20,000 are coop members. Dairying, in that province, has become a profitable business and is treated as a family enterprise, ensuring steady income for the family members.

At the Nakhon Ratchasima Animal Nutrition Research and Development Center and the TMR production facility, presentations were made on the use of Napier grass in beef production, dairy production and biogas for energy.

The Philippine delegation were also able to visit the C.P. Meiji in Nong Khae, Saraburi , which has demonstrated successful milk processing business; the B.P. Animal Feed Company for the animal feed business; a  buffalo village where a Thai buffalo conservation center is located;  a Murrah buffalo farm for small-scale buffalo farm and business in which its store heralds the tagline “It is not only homemade, it is farm made”; and the Royal Projects at Chitralada Palace in Bangkok.

“In the palace, Dr. Utta Jamikorn, assistant professor of Chulalongkorn University, briefed us about the existence of the first cloned swamp buffalo in Thailand. The ear tissue was used to produce the clone, which is now about four years old and it is exactly the same as the origin of the tissue sample,” Del Barrio said.

Upon his return home, the PCC head re-echoed the group’s experiences and learnings to all the employees at the agency’s national headquarters.

“I witnessed the robustness of their dairy industry. They started like us, but now they are producing more than 60% of their local requirements. The objective of the Thai Embassy is food security, saying that if milk production is not increased, in the future, we might face food scarcity,” Dr. Del Barrio stated.

PCC’s CBED translates to additional income for farmers, new jobs

Farming families, who see the color of money only at the end of every harvest season, now have access to daily cash from milk sales, thanks to the carabao-based enterprise development (CBED) program of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC).

The continuing efforts of PCC in upgrading the breed of native buffaloes by transforming them from being mere inputs in farming activities into major sources of income has opened the windows of more livelihood opportunities for farmers and their families.

The CBED is one of the major components of the PCC’s carabao development program (CDP). It showcases dairy carabao-based livelihood opportunities designed to address the continuing concerns of poverty alleviation, nutritional improvement and farmers’ empowerment.

Furthermore, it is a program implemented to promote the economic benefits that the carabaos offer: earnings from milk, meat and hide. The milk, particularly, contributes significantly to the improvement of the nutritional status of the farming families and at the same time creates ready market for the growth of carabao-based dairy enterprises.

CBED program

According to Ericson Dela Cruz, national CBED coordinator, the CDP is aimed at helping participating carabao owners, farmers’ cooperatives, and their federation in creating additional sources of income to ensure at least a 25% increase in farm income per year; and helping mobilize or building up a critical mass of Philippine carabaos, crossbreds, and murrah buffaloes for commercial-scale carabao-based enterprises in communities within identified dairy zones in the country.

It also establishes or helps put up appropriate CBED models; spearheads formation of development partnerships among small-hold carabao owners, support service providers, technology holders, processors, marketers, and consumers; and provides or facilitates provision of support services for capacity development of primary stakeholders, including development “conduits” relative to effective implementation.

Key actors involved in program implementation include individual partner-farmers, farmers’ cooperatives and associations, PCC’s 13 regional centers, partner-local government units and non-government organizations.

Dela Cruz added that when a farmers’ cooperative or association applies for the program, it has to undergo screening and meet certain qualifications or requirements. They must fully understand and appreciate the program’s vision, mission, goal and objectives; must have the ability to function actively as stipulated in its cooperation document and by-laws; and be able to come up with a coop-level carabao-based enterprise (CBE).

Moreover, the farmers’ cooperative or association is expected to collect from the members the agreed membership dues for the coop’s Herd Build-Up Trust Fund and deposit the collection in a bank, with the PCC as co-signatory; be able to collect, consolidate, and submit the members’ monthly record of their respective CBEs to the PCC; participate in monitoring and evaluating the members of the CBEs; ensure that all required counterpart contribution from farmer-members are in place or secured; collect milk produce of its members and sell (through the Federation) as raw milk or as processed milk products, and be a member of good standing of a federation, if there is any.

The small-hold farmers are encouraged to join or establish an accredited cooperative, association and federation to strengthen their position in a complex market system.

When everything has been put in place, they are assured of enjoying greater benefits as they already understand the essentials for quality products, competitive prices, good packaging, efficient distribution system, and capitalizing on the highly urbanized areas populated by high-income families.

Similarly, support for the establishment of processing facilities for production and marketing of quality competitive products is a crucial factor. Thus, enterprise development models are established in impact zones to showcase production, postharvest, processing, and marketing and distribution of various products.

Enterprise models

The PCC, in its 21 years of service, has now gained wider ground as it already has a number of enterprise development models.

A dairy buffalo farmer cooperative in Sibut, San Jose City named Eastern Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative (EPMPC) has gained recognition for its endeavors in dairy enterprise development. The group became a cooperator for the 25-Cow Dairy Module Program of PCC in 2000.

In 2001, the EPMPC started to produce milk and eventually became the major supplier of carabao’s milk in San Jose City starting in 2004 and up to the present time. It also supplies the milk requirement of the “Alay sa Bata” feeding program of the local government unit in areas with malnutrition incidence.

Currently, the EPMPC has a total herd of more than 200 dairy carabaos and counts a membership of 48 active farmer-trustees. As of 2012, it had a total accumulated share capital of P255,413.50, total assets of P2,295,782.04 and an animal mortuary (guarantee) fund amounting to P349,680. Its total milk production amounted to 332,515.9 liters from 2002 to 2014, with corresponding sales value of P15,155,777.04. In 2013, it was considered as the top milk- producing cooperative in Nueva Ecija as it registered 176 liters of daily milk production. In 2014, it had a total gross sale of P256,628.5 in processed milk while P4,993,450.66 in raw milk, breaking the record of its previous years’ gross sales.

The EPMPC has its own milk collection center and micro processing plant with facilities that enable it to process its daily milk produce into different dairy products that are sold in San Jose City. Based on audited financial statements, this coop was able to generate a cumulative total of P748,086.92 from 2000 to 2013. The earnings were used in the operation of its micro processing plant.

In view of its unwavering efforts to promote the local dairy industry and its achievements in carabao-based dairying, the cooperative was given recognition as the best dairy buffalo farmers’ cooperative in the country during the PCC’s 21st founding anniversary.

Like EPMPC, the General Trias Dairy Raisers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (GTDRMPC) in General Trias, Cavite is also considered as one of the cooperative-based enterprise development models. Supervised by the PCC at University of the Los Banos, Laguna, the co-op has already set a high bar in terms of carabao-based dairy production for other emerging dairy cooperatives.

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

The co-op currently collects at least 250 liters of carabao’s milk daily from its members who have a combined animal holding of almost 250 head, of which close to 80% are crossbreds. The collected fresh milk is processed into various dairy products.

The GTDRMPC’s laudable performance has gained several recognitions and awards, one of which is the Department of Agriculture’s “Gawad Saka Award”.

Just as there are top coop-based enterprise models like the EPMPC and GTDRMPC, there also exist dairy farmers who are considered models for their noteworthy achievements. Three dairy farmers from different categories were recognized as best dairy buffalo farmers during PCC’s 21st founding anniversary in March 2014.

Arnold Cunanan of Simula ng Panibagong Bukas Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Barangay Porais, San Jose City was cited as the best dairy buffalo farmer under the family module category. He has been a partner of PCC on buffalo dairying since 2009. Cunanan has exhibited his ability in taking good care of his dairy buffaloes. He converted his piggery farm into a carabao-based enterprise venture. His wife and children help him in the delivery of milk. They also assist him in record-keeping, feeding the buffaloes and cleaning the barns. Cunanan is one of the growing numbers of farmers who have an increasing carabao herd size through the adoption of new applicable technologies. Needless to say, he serves as a model dairy buffalo farmer to others.

Romeo Araña, a farmer-partner of PCC at Western Visayas State University in Iloilo, was chosen as the best dairy buffalo farmer under the small-hold category. He started backyard dairying in 2012 with a crossbred carabao, a cross between an albino carabao and a riverine buffalo.

Araña began milking his carabao after realizing there’s money to be made from milk production. The income from milk sales from the first lactation of his crossbred afforded him to renovate his house. On the second lactation of his animal, he was earning more than what he earned before delving into dairying, which afforded him to support his son’s annual tuition fees and weekly allowances. He likewise was able to reconstruct his house’s roofing.

In the semi-commercial category, Carlito Alfonso of the Eastern Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative in San Jose City nailed the top award. His growing herd of 15 dairy buffaloes provide him with substantial earnings from milk sales and the sale of male calves. Aside from being a productive dairy farmer, he is also keen in adopting technologies promoted by PCC.

Strategic shift

One of the novel approaches of PCC in CBED is the dairy buffalo multiplier farm (DBMF).

The town of Javier in Leyte province holds the distinction of having the country’s first ever DBMF. It is supervised and monitored by PCC at Visayas State University, which covers Region 8 or the Eastern Visayas region.

The PCC’s DBMF program is aimed at improving efficiency in the multiplication and propagation of good quality dairy buffalo genetics that can be utilized in establishing a viable commercial buffalo-based dairy farm. In this manner, buffalo genetic sources can be widely spread and not limited to PCC.

“What does this multiplier farm mean to the town? It means we will have milk, so we will have income. We will have organic fertilizers from their manure. We will benefit a lot. I will prove, in front of everybody here, that it is not impossible to make farmers rich and we will achieve that,” Mayor Leonardo Javier Jr. emphatically said in his remarks during the awarding rites for the DBMF module held in November 2014 at Sitio Mapula, Zone II of the municipality.

The CBED program of PCC continues to gain ground in terms of providing livelihood opportunities to partner-farmers and in showing the way to the aspiring ones who want to share in the bounty offered by the program. In addition, the CBED contributes to the job creation efforts of the government.

“Employment generation during the period (2014) was broad-based, led by services and agriculture,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

In agriculture, Balisacan said, the problem has to do with the quality of employment, which is both seasonal and low-paying. He said this can be addressed by introducing non-farm employment opportunities during the off-season, such as value-adding activities, community-based employment program. The PCC’s CBED program is consistent with this pronouncement.