Sire verification paves way for genetic improvement

The genetic merit of a buffalo can be accurately measured given that its parentage is correct. Misidentification of parents may result in inaccurate estimated breeding value of an animal.

A study titled “Microsatellite-Based Parentage Verification of Cattle and Buffalo Breeds in the Philippines” by Melinda Reyes, Noriel Esteban, and Dr. Ester Flores of the Philippine Carabao Center’s (PCC) Molecular Genetics Laboratory, Animal Breeding and Genomics Section, was conducted to “establish a set of microsatellite (MS) markers that can be used for routine parentage verification on the said animals.

“We want to develop a kit or technology that can be used in both cattle and buffalo industries,’ Melinda Reyes, PCC Science Research Specialist II, said.

Microsatellite marker is a type of DNA marker used internationally to various livestock species for parentage testing.

Reyes noted that the locally developed parentage verification kit can be used in both buffaloes and cattle to ascertain the correctness of reported parents.

The locally developed parentage kit consists of 15 MS markers to be use in a two-stage process. The first stage used the first 12 markers.  If no inconsistency is observed in the result and if correct parentage is assigned in the process, there is no need to go to the second stage.The second stage utilizes the last 3

MS markers to ascertain parentage assignment. In this way, the test also becomes less expensive because the cost of testing increases as the number of MS marker increases.

“We tested known families and those otherwise to ensure that it works,” Dr. Ester Flores, head of Animal Breeding and Genomics Section, said.

The animals were selected from various PCC institutional herds (involving four buffalo breeds) and from few cattle farms (involving six cattle breeds).

According to Reyes, they hope that in the future they can commercialize the kit as something that can be used in both cattle and buffalo industries.

For now, there is a need to further explore its reliability by testing it outside of PCC.

PCC@DMMMSU awards dairy buffaloes to association of dairy farmers in Agoo

The Philippine Carabao Center at Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (PCC@DMMMSU) awarded 12 dairy buffaloes to Agoo Dairy Raisers and Farmers Association (ADRFA) last October 15, as part of its “paiwi” program.

In an awarding ceremony held at the Agoo Civic Center, in Agoo, La Union, the activity was made possible through the partnership of PCC and local government of Agoo and through the initiative of Hon. Sandra Eriguel, congresswoman for the 2nd District of La Union.

According to PCC@DMMMSU Center Director Gloria Dela Cruz, Cong. Eriguel took heed of the potential of the program on carabao dairying, thus, she formally requested PCC for assistance to develop such project in her District for the benefit of her constituents.

As a response, PCC provided a budget of Php1,000,000 for the procurement of dairy buffaloes, which will be awarded to farmers in barangay Nazareno, Agoo, La Union.

Dir. Dela Cruz added that PCC already awarded five dairy buffaloes to the said association last December 2018. Hence, a total of 17 buffaloes were distributed to farmers.

Through the help of village-based artificial insemination technicians, assisted by PCC@DMMMSU, the PCC was able to select and procure good quality animals owned by farmers–the animals are crossbred buffaloes (75%-85%) with the age ranging from 2 ½ to 4 years old.

Meanwhile, PCC Executive Director Dr. Arnel del Barrio mentioned in his message during the awarding ceremony that the dispersal was in preparation for the national feeding program, which created a higher demand for locally produced milk; and in support of the DA’s twin objectives of abundant harvest and higher income among farmers.

Currently, some of the buffaloes distributed to the farmers are already lactating and pregnant, thus, the beneficiaries are expected to milk them to experience the benefits that can be derived from dairy buffaloes.

PCC among qualifiers in the 31st NRS basic research category

The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) bagged an “AFMA R&D Paper Award” during the 31st National Research Symposium (NRS) held last October 16, 2019 at the Sulo Riviera Hotel, Diliman, Quezon City.

The AFMA (Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act) research award is given to researchers in recognition of their works that led to “new technologies, information, processes, or systems that are papers were evaluated and 80 made it through the competition.

The study entitled “Genetic Diversity of the Philippine Carabao Using mtDNA(COI) and Microsatellite Markersn (FAO STRs)’ was spearheaded by Lilian Villamor, PCC Senior Science Research Specialist, thru a financial grant from the DA Biotech. This was selected as of the four paper qualifiers in the Basic/Upstream research category.

This year’s symposium theme is “Gearing up the Agriculture Fishery Sectors through Holistic Research and Development towards Regenerative Development.” The Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA–BAR) spearheaded the conduct of the

event. DA Assistant Secretary for Special Affairs and DA-BAR Director Nicomedes Eleazar noted that NRS is a major event where outstanding researches, researchers, and scientists are given due recognition.

“Our research findings elucidated one of the longest standing questions if there is really genetic diversity  Philippine Carabaos sub-populations. This award re-confirms our worthy contribution in livestock researcg,” Villamor said.

The PCC’s study was anchored on the determination of the presence of genetic diversity of Philippine Carabao across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. About 941 animals were analyzed as per “molecular and morphological characteristics.”

Two distinct clusters emerged. It was found that “Swamp 1 in Luzon” have bigger neck, head, and horns, heftier, and is bigger compared to “Swamp 2 in Visayas”. This is crucial since genetic diversity should be deemed for strategic conservation and management.

Other authors of the research are Dr. Ester Flores, Aivhie Jhoy Escuadro, Alexander Paraguas, and Therese Patricka Cailipan from the PCC’s Research and Development Division.

Annually, the symposium serves as an avenue to showcase noteworthy outputs of local scientist and researchers of DA units and attached agencies, universities, and other government instituitions in the field of agriculture and fishery.

PAGs in milk, an indicator of early pregnancy

Less stressful means of detecting early pregnancy in buffaloes is now possible through the determination of Pregnancy-Associated Glycoproteins (PAGs) in milk. PAG is a protein secreted by a buffalo during pregnancy, however, it is often overlooked by the raiser.

This is depicted in the study titled “Early Pregnancy Diagnosis in Buffaloes through Detection of PAGs in Milk Using Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay” that was conducted by the Philippine Carabao Center’s (PCC) researchers.

“The process is evasive so the animal is less tensed as compared to determining PAGs in blood where you use a needle,” Dr. Edwin Atabay, PCC scientist and one of the researchers said.

It was also found in the study that there is an increase in the accuracy of determining pregnancy via PAGs in milk than ultrasound at 26 days post-insemination.

More importantly, the calving interval may be shortened. From the usual conduct of rectal palpation in 3-4 months after breeding, PAGs in milk can be detected in about 26 days after breeding. In this way, the farmer also avoids incurring expenditures without financial gain during the time that a buffalo doesn’t produce milk or isn’t carrying a calf that can be sold later on.

A total of 37 female buffaloes that were being reared at the PCC Gene Pool underwent Fixed Time Artificial Insemination (FTAI). FTAI is a means of breeding wherein the animals are artificially inseminated at a determined time instead of the traditional method of mating using bulls.

Eight of the buffaloes that became pregnant and eight others who aren’t were chosen. About 5 ml of milk was collected as needed from each of the buffaloes. At the same time, blood collection was done.

The milk samples were brought to the laboratory for analysis using the IDEXX Milk Pregnancy Test. The said test uses “monocolonal antibodies” against PAGs and is placed in a microplate where PAGs in milk can be shown.

The researchers also used ultrasound and blood samples analysis to see if the three have relationship with each other.

“There is a certain level of PAGs in milk that needs to be satisfied before pregnancy can be detected in buffaloes,” Dr. Atabay stated.

During pregnancy, starting at day 26 through 40 the level of PAGs increases gradually every day. However, slightly decrease of PAG was observed at day 60.

According to Dr. Atabay, in the future, they want to develop a kit for buffaloes similar to a person’s pregnancy test kit that is portable and easy to use.

The research was done by Dr. Edwin Atabay, Danica Dematera Matias, Dr. Eufrocina Atabay, Dr. Annabelle Sarabia, Roseline Tadeo, Zeshalyn Fajardo, Jessica Gay Ortiz,  and John Paul Apolinario.

PCC IP efforts gear towards better protected research, management, commercialization of innovation and technology

Another milestone was set as the Philippine Carabao Center’s (PCC) Intellectual Property and Technology Business Management (IPTBM) office started its full operation in 2019 as per the unveiling of IP-TBM marker last March 27, coinciding with PCC’s 26th Anniversary.

IP is deemed as “any creation of the mind” that is produced from writing to tangible or intangible asset. Without protection, an IP can be stolen or be used without consideration of the creators and owners.

The said initiative is under the project aimed towards the establishment of IP-TBM in PCC. It is a joint partnership between PCC and the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD).

“Protection of IP is important because you don’t only establish ownership of technologies by agency but also give due credit and incentives to the researchers while upholding the benefits of the general public,” Dr. Eufrocina Atabay, PCC IP Technology

Transfer and Commercialization focal person, and scientist, said. PCC was among the 16 consortia member agencies that is implementing IP management program through DOSTPCAARRD funded projects.

The project where PCC is involved, commenced on July 16, 2018 and will end in 2020 but PCC’s IP-TBM office will be sustained as part of the agency’s “Science and Technology Protocols.”

On IP protection

The Philippine Transfer Act of 2009 or RA 10005 stated that incentives and exclusive rights of inventors and creators to their inventions and its utilization should be considered. This is possible through IP protection.

IP protection is classified as patent, trademark, copyright, utility model, geographical indications, and industrial design.

“Patent” is a “technical solution to a problem that involves an inventive step, and is industrially applicable.” It is valid in the span of 20 years.

Subsequent to patent is the “Utility model” which protects “innovations that are not sufficiently inventive but is industrial applicable”, and valid for 7 years.

A “Trademark” or service mark is an expression or art that represents services. It has 10 years’ validity.

Any expressive art can be protected through a “Copyright”. This involves music, architecture, motion pictures, both original intellectual and artistic expressions’ protection against usage for financial gain without permission from the copyright owner for lifetime.

“Geographic Indications” involves usage of sign or image on products, which depicts certain qualities of its place of origin.

Lastly, “Industrial Design” protects a maker’s unique creation and its qualities such as its qualities such as patterns as well as shapes from being copied.

PCC IP Technology Transfer officers Charity Castillo and Kristine Prades joined the IP master class of DOST-PCAARRD’s Technology Commercialization Seminar from July to December 2018. Meanwhile, Dr. Atabay and Jan Czarina Salas of PCC became IP Technology Commercialization officers upon finishing the “DOST –PCAARRD Technology Commercialization Mentorship Series” held from January to May 2019.

To cascade IP learnings from said IP-related activities, an “Echo seminar on IP protection and Application” was conducted. A technical lecture on Technology Transfer Act of 2009 was done by Attorney Lucieden Raz last July.

As of November 2019, PCC has six applications to the Intellectual Property of the Philippines and another four applications being assisted by DOST Technology

Application and Promotion Institute. One was granted “utility model” while the others are still on process.

An IP Policy and Technology transfer protocol had been approved by PCC Executive Director Arnel Del Barrio last November 16, which provides the legal basis for the implementation of the IP Management Program of PCC.

Carabao Family in Kananga, Leyte showcases goodwill for a noble cause

Hers is a genuine gesture of empathy, goodwill, and desire to help a marginalized community in a foreign land.

Chieko Takemi, 80, a Japanese national, first visited Leyte in 1987 as a journalist who researched on the potential pollution hazard of a local copper refinery. Japan had experienced early on an environmental disaster due to copper mining, and Chieko, a staunch environmentalist, did not want the same thing to happen in the Philippines.

During her visit, she also saw the difficult situation of tenant-farmers in Leyte, i.e., they did not have their own resources to farm e.g., land, planting materials, other inputs, and draft (work) carabaos. As a rule, the landowners deduct the costs related to the use of these resources from the share of the tenants. Thus, the tenant-farmers only earn a meager income.

Forming the Carabao Family

Chieko wanted to help the impoverished farmers in Leyte, a personal calling, which she also alluded to as a moral obligation to Filipinos by the Japanese people because of what happened during World War II. Thus, she and a Japanese pastor-friend consulted the locals in Leyte on the possible assistance that they could give.

“I accompanied Chieko and her pastor-friend in asking some residents of Burauen, Leyte what they needed, and they said they wanted carabaos”, recalled Cosmiana Lopez, 82, a former pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), who became Chieko’s trusted friend in Leyte.

Thereafter, Chieko and colleagues formed a group composed of ten officers together with members of UCCP. As requested by the locals, they planned on donating carabaos, being the traditional ally of Filipino farmers for farm works, for carrying heavy loads, and even for carrying sick persons to the hospital, as road conditions were poor and other means of transport were not available in those times.

The newly formed group held meetings in the villages to promote the carabao dispersal program and interviewed possible recipients of carabaos. The poorest of the poor were prioritized.

The group eventually registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2003, as an association called “Leyte Carabao Family”, which was later renamed as “Leyte Carabao Family Center for Rural Development”. Today, the group is simply called “Carabao Family”, which has a logo of a farmer and his son riding a carabao. To the group, the carabao symbolizes power, understanding, and caring for the people.

Fundraising and Distribution of Carabaos

Chieko went back to Japan and invited other Japanese friends to join the Carabao Family by way of donating 200 yen (Php94) a month or 2,400 yen (Php1,100) a year, as a membership fee for each individual. It is said to be equivalent to saving one cup of coffee a month in Japan. Accumulated membership fees were used to purchase carabaos and ploughs for farmer-beneficiaries in Leyte. The only responsibility expected of the beneficiaries was to show that the carabaos were still alive and used for farming each time Chieko visits Leyte, which is once or twice a year.

“We have a simple rule in carabao dispersal, that is, a qualified group of 15-16 farmer-members in a selected barangay receives four head of carabaos, which means, one carabao for every four beneficiaries”, Cosmiana said. Ten pure native female carabaos were initially dispersed in Burauen, Ormoc, and Palo. If the donated carabao gives birth, then the recipient would give the calf to another farmer-group (“passing it on” policy). Carabao dispersal of this arrangement, which started in eastern Leyte, soon proliferated all over the province. For the past 30 years, the Carabao Family has already donated over 100 carabaos in various parts of Leyte.

“Upon SEC registration, we attempted to contact the beneficiaries because our plan was to monitor the carabaos, provide further assistance when needed, and find out if the lives of the beneficiaries really improved”, Timothy “Tim” Lopez, Cosmiana’s son, said. They wanted to prepare a report for the appreciation of carabao donors in Japan but they could not trace and contact anymore some of the recipients. Nonetheless, a few would send photos of themselves and the carabaos, which are good indications.

A Haven for Carabao Family

It was in 2002 when Chieko and her colleagues bought a 6-ha farm land in Kananga, Leyte, where they built a house, which also serves as a center for the Carabao Family. This is where they gather neighbors and friends during meetings and other events and build relationship with them. One of the outcomes of these gatherings was the planting of 100 mango trees in the area through a sponsorship program, again with the assistance of Chieko’s friends in Japan. Tim, serves as farm manager and supervised the establishment and upkeep of the mango plantation.

Typhoon Yolanda

It was in 2013 when super typhoon Yolanda devastated Leyte. As a result, many farmer-beneficiaries of the Carabao Family fled the province. Sadly, some recipients and donated carabaos were among the casualties. The whereabouts of any surviving donated carabaos are unknown following the typhoon and exodus of many beneficiaries. Likewise, the mango plantation was almost wiped out by the typhoon. Only one mango tree survived the calamity and is now bearing fruits. In such trying times, Chieko and her colleagues were not disheartened. Instead, they relied on valued relationships with Japanese and local partners. Together, they always find a new resolve to pursue their vision for the Carabao Family.

Current Situation and Future Plans

As an aftermath of typhoon Yolanda and partly because of farm mechanization and decreasing number of supporters in Japan (many of which have become too old or have already passed away), the number of carabaos being donated by the Carabao Family has now declined. Nonetheless, local partners in Kananga have endeavored to maintain the 6-ha farm land. Meanwhile, Chieko has continued doing publicity campaign in Japan to raise fund for a planned community center and shelter in Kananga, which she called “Project KAIBIGAN”.

According to a Japanese architect who designed the envisaged structure, it will be made of an underground concrete shelter for storage and evacuation and an upper or roof part, which is made of native or traditional materials, where farmers and children gather together to talk and learn from each other, particularly about traditional or organic agriculture.

Chieko is more inclined on growing high value crops like mango, papaya, and pineapple in the area. Meanwhile, she sees the important role of carabaos as work animals during land cultivation and hauling of produce.

Engagement with PCC

Chieko has heard of PCC many years ago when she visited Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay, Leyte. However, she was not interested that time in carabao crossbreeding or carabao dairying. Instead, she is more into conserving and utilizing the native carabaos as work animals for traditional agriculture and food production. To her, farm mechanization is not sustainable and has brought serious problems in Japan, as big companies have now monopolized its food supply. She does not like similar fate to happen at least in Leyte.

Nonetheless, upon recent meeting with Dr. Ivy Lopez, OIC-Center Director of PCC at VSU, Chieko and her group are now open to possible collaboration with PCC along the area of crossbreeding and, later, enterprise development.

From all indications, the Carabao Family is on track in pursuing yet bigger and nobler purpose in the future. It has subsisted for three decades, thanks to Chieko’s vision and network of committed enablers and participants, which she endears as a “family”.

PCC opts for more tender, lean carabaos’ meat

Meat is one of the marketable products that can be derived from carabaos. However, without good genes, the potential of carabaos for meat cannot be fully maximized.

“We want to develop a breed of carabaos for meat to produce higher meat quality,” this is what Dr. Kristine Joy Prades said when asked on what she and her co-researchers envision in the future.

Dr. Prades is Philippine Carabao Center’s (PCC) senior science research specialist and one of the researchers spearheading two PCC researches that are anchored towards the production of carabao’s meat.

The first research was entitled “RealTime Ultrasonographic Evaluation PCC opts for more tender, lean carabaos’ meat of Carcass Traits: A Potential Tool for Improving Meat Quality Traits in Buffaloes,” by Dr. Prades, Emmanuel Bacual, and Dr. Ester Flores. Its primary objective is to “establish an accurate measurement method for identifying economically important buffalo meat traits and to establish ultrasound information to determine the value and merit of the carcass while the animal is still alive.”

The use of real time ultrasound scanning (RTUS) allows evaluation and identification of breeder animals with superior meat quality at a young age of 12 months. This allows progeny testing for carcass traits in a shorter period of time as compared to its previously slow and expensive process. Since age is crucial in the tenderness of meat, PCC’s use of RTUS in carabaos also avoids production of meat with poor quality that is sold for a low price.

“PCC ranks its bulls based on its breeding value on milk, those that fall behind are commonly intended for slaughter. We want to put them into better use and so we started our efforts in meat,” Dr. Prades said.

Dr. Prades noted that the parents’ genetics play a very significant role in the selection. Since carabaos carries 50/50 of the genes of their parents, having good genes meant that the potential of having quality meat is high.

While RTUS enables identification of carabaos that are ideal for meat, the coinciding research “Association of bovine genetic markers with marbling and tenderness in cattle and buffaloes” focuses on the improvement of meat through the establishment of genetic markers. This is being conducted by Dr. Prades, Dr. Flores, Melinda Reyes, Niña Alyssa Barroga, and Paulene Pineda.

On good meat characteristics and consumer preference

“A carabao’s meat can be considered as good quality based on its back fat, the size of its loin eye, marbling, and nutritional value,” Dr. Prades said. Marbling refers to the white flecks of intramuscular fat in the meat.

According to her, compared to cattle meat (beef), carabao’s meat has less cholesterol, less calories, more protein, and more mineral. Meanwhile, PCC researchers found that the Brazillan buffalo breed has a good potential for meat production because it has a big loin eye area.

Based on the predicted growth curve, the development of a carabao’s loin eye reaches a plateau at 27 months. Hence, before or until after two months upon reaching the said month, is a suitable time to do fattening. In this way, the raiser can avoid incurring more expenditures in rearing a carabao for slaughter.

During the PCC’s 26th Anniversary Farmer’s Field Day, meat products such as carabao’s beef or “carabeef”, tapa and sausage were showcased. The products were subjected to tasting to gauge its marketability in terms of the acceptance of the stakeholders involved in the said event.

Future efforts

As per PCC’s research efforts in meat, an average of 48% yield or 240 kg. of meat can be obtained from a carabao with a live weight of 500 kg. However, there is a tendency to get more than 51% when the animal was fattened.

To further PCC’s initiatives on meat production, Dr. Prades stated that there is a need to also develop a specific feeding protocol for carabaos. This is in consideration of good nutrition and health, which is vital in the successful rearing of carabaos.

According to her, a market study may be conducted to assess potential supply and demand of carabao’s meat. Furthermore, they plan to utilize native buffaloes, crossbreeds, and other breed of carabaos that may lead to the emergence of a distinct type of breed for meat production.

Thru the eyes of love springs community development

The rich resource that is building up within the Sta. Catalina Farm in Botolan is gradually translating to become a hub of development in this local town in Zambales.

A culture of love and cooperation has spread in the community as opportunities sprung for the townsfolk.

“Love and compassion not just for the animals but more for the people in our community—this is what makes up our humble yet meaningful farm venture,” Mayme Ong, the farm’s operations manager, said.

The farm is heavily dependent on the hardworking Aetas for their day-to-day operations. Ong said these indigenous people’s lives have changed for the better since the introduction of dairy buffaloes. Previously, she said, the Aetas relied on corn and rice farming, which gave them seasonal income.

When the indigenous farmers began to raise carabaos, they realized that time, efforts, and resources could maximize theirs by engaging in a sustainable enterprise. They began to earn income and meet their needs because they were able to secure a regular market for their milk produce.

Out of the 10 milking buffaloes, 55 liters of fresh milk (40 liters in the morning and 15 liters in the afternoon) is collected twice daily. While working to secure a permit for their processing facility, the farm is already supplying milk for pastillas making in Palauig.

Aside from milk production, farmers are also earning from silage making as feedstuff for the buffaloes and vermicomposting from buffalo manure.

The dairy buffaloes and the hardworking Aetas are considered farm assets in Sta. Catalina farm. Currently, it has 11 regular employees, one of which is an AI technician trained at PCC at Central Luzon State University.

From this pool of employees, four compose a “carabao group” whose major function is to tend to the wellbeing of the buffaloes.

“Whatever is allotted for the workers are surely for them. It has been a good practice that everyone here knows how to be a team player and practice the culture of unity,” Ong said.

Beginnings

Considered as the only “carabao farm” in Zambales, the Sta. Catalina farm was started in 2016. In 2018, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) accredited the farm as a learning site for agriculture (LSA) for its adequate facility, various livestock animals, crops and agricultural technologies.

For three consecutive years, it has been accepting on-the-job trainees from the Ramon Magsaysay Technological University (RMTU). Students are exposed in various farm practices to enhance their knowledge, skills, and attitude.

As an LSA, the Sta. Catalina farm provides various learning activities for visitors. It also offers immersion to guests that will lend them firsthand experience on dairy buffalo management practices like bathing, feeding and actual milking. It has a camp site and pavilion that serve as resting place after strenuous activities such as hiking in the famous Mt. Pinatubo. Soon, the farm will also feature a swimming pool atop the hill.

The Sta. Catalina farm is sprawling on a 32-hectare mountainous area in Zambales. This farm is into livestock production, which includes free-range poultry, piggery, goats and rabbits.

Additionally, the farm is particularly focused on buffalo production. Starting with just one bull named “Bruno” from PCC@CLSU, the herd has now grown to 22 purebred female dairy buffaloes, which they call “caraballa”, 13 calves and one female native carabao.

Future plans

Aligned with herd build-up as one objective of the Sta. Catalina farm, it is also aiming to produce 100 liters of milk from the dairy buffaloes. The farm is looking forward to develop various dairy products using this volume of raw milk to entice more tourists to come by.

Roger Mactal, the farm owner, recognizes the importance of appreciating and trusting his workers by giving them opportunities that will enhance their capabilities in the aspects of farm operations.

Mactal is a business course graduate but he embraces his passion for agriculture, which gives him the drive to operate the farm and contribute to food security through integrated farming with livestock and crops as primary commodities.

“Our indigenous workers remain to be my motivation. I am delighted that I’m able to help them while they are also helping me pursue my passion in farming,” he said.

Mactal said he is planning to bring other animals into the farm but the buffalo will remain to be its focus now that they are planning to establish an organic farm adjacent to Sta. Catalina. He also emphasized that buffalo production and management is far convenient in many ways compared to the other farm animals.

“I’m glad that we developed a culture of teamwork and compassion in this farm because I myself was a product of kindness from a priest who raised me as his own and who was instrument for meeting my wife. I always look at Sta. Catalina farm in the context of love,” Mactal said.

CPG Native Carabao Conservation: Current status and way forward

Over the past nine years, local farmers together with the Local Government Unit (LGU) officials established a sanctuary of native carabaos in the municipality of Presidente Carlos P. Garcia Island (CPG) in the province of Bohol.

The signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with PCC at Ubay Stock Farm (USF), spearheaded by then Center Director Dr. Caro Salces, gave the implementation of the conservation program a go-ahead.

CPG Mayor Fernando B. Estavilla explicitly declared that the signed agreement with PCC covers conservation, improvement, and utilization of the native carabao as a source of genetics for natural and artificial reproduction.

Extension services to animals such as deworming, administration of vitamins, and screening of blood samples for infectious disease complement the continuing technical support provided to the native carabao farmers in the island. The PCC@USF team headed by Pat Granada ensures that these services directly benefit farmers.

Researchers from the PCC national headquarters headed by Lilian Villamor together with Dr. Ester Flores, Therese Patricka Cailipan, Aivhie Jhoy Escuadro, and Alexander Paraguas benchmarked on establishing DNA profiles and body morphometrics from native carabaos in CPG in order to determine the current status of the population as pure native carabao breed.

Through molecular analysis, the DNA profiles of these animals revealed that native carabaos in CPG were kept as a pure-type swamp breed, with high bloodline or affinity to the swamp buffalo ancestry.  This simply reflects the commitment of the local farmers and support of LGUs to the conservation program which strictly prohibits the introduction of exotic buffalo breeds in the carabao sanctuary through a local ordinance.

Said activity was part of a three-year study on genetic diversity of the Philippine Carabao across the country with a financial grant from the Department of Agriculture Biotech Program and PCC as the implementing agency.

CPG was chosen as a carabao sanctuary in the Visayas for two reasons: to honor the late President Carlos P. Garcia and for its topographical location.  CPG features a physical barrier that protects the conservation site from the entry of exotic breeds of buffaloes.

Previously, the island was hardly accessible because it can only be reached through a 15-minute boat ride from the port of Ubay, Bohol. But with the operation of the LGU-run ferry “LCT Isla de Pitogo”, the island is ready to take in more development interventions.  From mainland Bohol, a regular ferry schedule is from 5:30 am to 8:00 pm daily.

In the advent of modernization in agriculture, native carabao conservation is facing both challenges and opportunities.

The high rate of animal extraction due to market demand poses a threat to the population of native carabaos.

“The pool of native carabao genes is in danger of extinction due to slaughtering. People no longer see the importance of carabao in agriculture due to the advent of farm machinery and other modern farm implements,” Estavilla said.

While the ease of transportation to and fro CPG has opened opportunities for the island, it could also mean entry of other animals into the island which may imperil the ongoing conservation efforts.

Against this conflict, PCC@USF officer-in-charge Dr. Glenn Bajenting, sees an opportunity that PCC and the LGU might resolve to agree on to address this. He proposes the crafting of a policy that would strengthen the implementation of the conservation program in CPG such as making it into an “official” carabao sanctuary.

Meanwhile, efforts toward improving the native carabao sanctuary while extending assistance to local farmers will continue.

“PCC can continue to assist carabao farmers in partnership with other sectors through the collaborative technical and logistical support to facilitate the development of a comprehensive development plan and other related activities for the livestock industry,” Estavilla said.

Looking forward, Estavilla envisions a bright future for CPG island as an agri-tourism site in Bohol.

“Five years from now, the town will be a breeding area for native carabao, and our carabao farmers will be self-sufficient entrepreneurs for native carabao by-products such as milk and meat. By then, we will be the haven of a ‘dairy type’ improved breed of native carabao. It will be our contribution to the agri-tourism of Bohol,” he said.

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