Graduation ceremony celebrates success of agricultural extension workers in artificial insemination training

In celebration of skill and knowledge, the graduation ceremony for the “Basic Training Course on Artificial Insemination and Pregnancy Diagnosis in Large Ruminants” took place on September 29, 2023, at the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Institute-Regional Training Center 02 (DA-ATI-RTC02), Cabagan, Isabela. This milestone marks the culmination of a collaborative effort between the DA-ATI-RTC02, the DA-Regional Field Office 02 (DA-RFO2), and the DA-Philippine Carabao Center (DA-PCC). The training course, which ran from September 4 to September 29, 2023, saw 20 agricultural extension workers from various municipalities in Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino, and Batanes Provinces successfully completing the program.

The objective of the training was clear: to equip these dedicated agricultural extension workers with essential skills and knowledge in artificial insemination, enabling them to provide vital extension services in large ruminants within their respective regions. This effort is seen as a significant complement to existing programs of the DA-PCC, such as the DA-National Livestock Program (DA-NLP) and the Carabao Development Program. These initiatives collectively aim to enhance breed quality and boost the population of carabaos and cattle, ultimately contributing to the food security of the Philippines.

Gracing the ceremony with their words of encouragement were prominent figures in the agricultural sector, including Dr. Roberto C. Busania, Regional Technical Director for Operations of the DA-RFO2; Claris M. Alaska, DPA, Assistant Center Director of the DA-ATI-RTC02; and Dr. Rovina R. Piñera, OIC Center Director of the DA-PCC at Cagayan State University.
“The government spent a lot of money on this training; do not let the learnings and talents that you have acquired from this training go to waste,” Dr. Busania said.

Moreover, Dr. Busania announced that the DA is committed to providing A.I. equipment to deserving municipalities to enhance the nutrition and production of carabaos and cattle in Region 2. He also challenged the trainees to contribute to the food sufficiency of the country through the provision of A.I. services.

On the other hand, Alaska uplifted the morale of the trainees by emphasizing their role in knowledge and technology transfer.
“Stretch out your services to the agricultural industry. Ituring niyo ito bilang bagong simula ng pagpapalaganap ng A.I. sa inyong mga nasasakupan. Kayo ang inaasahan ng DA-PCC na magdadala ng mga makabagong pamamaraan at teknolohiya sa mga minamahal nating magsasaka,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rovina R. Piñera commended the successful collaboration of DA-RFO2, DA-ATI-RTC02, and DA-PCC.

“Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much. Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is a success,” said Dr. Piñera.

The participants themselves shared their gratitude and enthusiasm for the training. John Dave D. Salvador from Basco, Batanes, highlighted how this training was long-awaited in his province and expressed his commitment to bringing these valuable skills back to his community.

Gabby M. Zamora from Diffun, Quirino, shared his excitement about using his newfound knowledge to benefit local farmers and their livestock.
“Nadagdagan pa ang aking kaalaman sa pag-aalaga at pagpaparami ng mga alagang kalabaw. Sabik na akong maibahagi ang aking mga natutunan sa mga magsasaka sa aming bayan upang malaman din nila ang mga bagong teknolohiya sa pagpaparami ng kanilang mga alaga,” Zamora said.
Ian Paul V. Septimo from Gonzaga, Cagayan, was overwhelmed by the quality of training provided by DA-ATI and expressed gratitude for the equipment received to support their continued efforts in artificial insemination.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa DA-ATI, DA-RFO2, at DA-PCC sa pamamahagi ng mga equipment upang masigurong hindi masasayang ang aming natutunan sa training na ito at upang maipagpatuloy namin ang A.I. sa aming mga lugar,” Septimo added.

This graduation ceremony represents a significant step forward in enhancing the livestock industry in Region 2 and demonstrates the potential for collaborative efforts to bring positive change to agriculture and food security in the Philippines.

Twin calves in Tarlac

Artificial insemination (AI) technology recently played a pivotal role in the birth of twin male and female calves in Barangay Laoang, Tarlac City, Tarlac.

This remarkable achievement can be attributed to Jaime Bacsa Jr., a dairy farmer who, in addition to his previous career as a cook, currently serves as the Councilor of the barangay.

On September 16, 2023, the barangay witnessed the birth of its first set of twin calves, a historic moment made possible through AI. Bacsa’s journey in the world of farming traces back to the 1980s and 1990s when carabaos were primarily valued for their draft power. During that time, he sustained his livelihood by buying and selling carabaos, a venture that allowed him to support his children through college and witness them earning professional degrees. Upon retiring from his cooking profession, he returned to caring for carabaos, finding happiness and a source of income in these magnificent creatures.

Bacsa’s elation and pride are immeasurable as Dr. Noel Soliman, the city veterinarian, introduces his first set of twin calves, which are yet to be named. They were produced through AI by the DA-PCC at CLSU. Prior to the birth of these twins, Bacsa had already experienced success with AI when a female calf was born through the same method.

Last year, when the DA-PCC at CLSU AI team visited the barangay to promote the AI program, Bacsa eagerly embraced the opportunity, despite some of his neighbors preferring natural mating for their animals. Initially, only a few farmers joined the program. However, months later, those who participated saw positive results as their buffaloes successfully conceived through AI, with Bacsa’s twins being a prime example.

This experience solidified Bacsa’s belief in the saying “seeing is believing.” He expressed his sincere gratitude to the DA-PCC at CLSU AI team, particularly to Francis “Anchet” Adriano, the AI technician responsible for the birth of his twin calves.

Research has shown that calves can be categorized as either monozygous or dizygous, and they may share the same sex or have different sexes. In cases where twins of opposite sexes are born, a condition known as freemartinism occurs in 90 to 97% of pregnancies, leading to sterility in the female calf.

Understanding the advantages and challenges of having twin calves of opposite sexes, Bacsa remains undeterred and committed to supporting and promoting the AI program. He has ambitious plans to expand his carabao population and embark on milk production in the near future, further contributing to the development of his community.

Government crossbreeding program boosts population of dairy carabaos in Region 2

The government’s crossbreeding program has significantly boosted the population of dairy carabaos in Region 2. San Agustin, a town in Isabela province, stands out as the “Crossbred Carabao Capital of the Philippines” due to its remarkable achievements in carabao crossbreeding.

The municipality actively collaborates with the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Carabao Center (DA-PCC) to train Village-Based Artificial Insemination (AI) Technicians (VBAITs), aiming to increase the population of crossbred carabaos.

This endeavor has yielded impressive results, with the municipal agriculture office reporting 2,854 crossbred carabaos in June 2023 in San Agustin.

The success in San Agustin can be attributed to the local government’s commitment to harnessing AI for breed improvement. Initiatives like the Carabao-based Business Improvement Network (CBIN) project and the DA-PCC’s carabao upgrading program are also expanding the carabao population in neighboring Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya through processing and marketing facilities.

San Agustin is known for its “Nuang Festival,” celebrating the achievements of carabao owners who have actively participated in the program to improve the native carabao breed.

During the 13th Nuang Festival in 2018, three farmers received buffalo bulls with 93.75% riverine blood, introduced as the “Philippine Dairy Carabao” breed during the DA-PCC’s 25th anniversary celebration.

The Philippine Dairy Carabao is a product of a continuous backcrossing method conducted by researchers at DA-PCC at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (DA-PCC at UPLB) under the guidance of Dr. Ester Flores, National Genetic Improvement Program Coordinator and geneticist of DA-PCC.

This breeding approach involves mating purebred riverine buffaloes with native swamp buffaloes (carabaos). The resulting offspring—crossbred carabaos—are bigger, meatier, and produce more milk than native carabaos, which can only provide an average of one to two liters of milk a day.

The development of the Philippine Dairy Carabaos did not stop at the production of the first cross—the 50:50 bloodline. Subsequent generations of purebred riverine bulls that are the product of careful selection and mating are used for continuous mating (backcrossing) of the subsequent generations of crossbred cows with an increasing riverine bloodline until the fourth generation.

At this point, the crossbreds are no different from purebred riverine but have the distinct advantage of better tolerance or adaptability to the Philippine climate.

“These bulls [entrusted to farmers] are products of continuous backcrossing and selection of cows that are really good milk producers. Their daughters will be included in the genetic evaluation, the process that purebred cows undergo, having their own estimated breeding values,” Dr. Flores said. “With all the rigorous processes done to come up with these bulls, they are ready to be used for breeding,” she added.

San Agustin, through LGU collaboration with DA-PCC and other partners, aspires to excel in carabao upgrading and dairy enterprise development. The production of more “Philippine Dairy Carabaos” positions the Philippines among countries that have successfully bred their dairy buffalo, potentially boosting the dairy carabao population nationwide.

DA-PCC launches Feed and Forage Development Project in Mindanao

The DA-Philippine Carabao Center (DA-PCC) has initiated the implementation of the Feed and Forage Development Project Technology Roll-out in Mindanao. This endeavor commenced with the ceremonial turnover of forage choppers at D&L Dairy Farm in M’lang, North Cotabato, on September 28.

The project’s primary objective is to ensure a consistent supply of feed for the growing carabao population in the country. It aims to promote sustainable carabao-based farming by encouraging the adoption of PCC technologies.

Director Benjamin Basilio of DA-PCC at USM stated, “Apart from introducing our farmers to innovative approaches in carabao-based farming through technology adoption, I am confident that this initiative will address the issue of low carabao productivity caused by inadequate feeding management.”

During the turnover ceremony, farmers from cooperatives supported by DA-PCC at Mindanao Livestock Production Complex (DA-PCC at MLPC), DA-PCC at Central Mindanao University (DA-PCC at CMU), and DA-PCC at the University of Southern Mindanao (DA-PCC at USM) actively participated in hands-on demonstrations on ensiling with Buro BoosterTM, enhanced rice straw (e-Rs) processing, and BlockMateTM production.

Ernesto Buco, a farmer-participant from Baclay Multipurpose Cooperative in Zamboanga, emphasized that the project mechanizes the production of silages suitable for animal feed. This development ensures farmers’ preparedness during climate phenomena like El Niño.

This project, funded through PL 480, aims to empower approximately 200 carapreneurs across the nation. Its key components include organizing learning events, such as technical training on forage and feeding practices, mentor-mentee mentorship programs, and the provision of forage choppers to selected carapreneurs.

In the mentor-mentee mentorship program, DA-PCC is expected to impart knowledge, techniques, and skills to mentees, covering aspects such as the establishment and management of forage areas with improved and cultivated grass species, pasture rehabilitation through enhanced soil management, forage/feed conservation (ensiling process), and demonstrations on the application of feed conservation technologies such as Buro BoosterTM and e-Rs. Additionally, starter kits containing planting materials and BlockMateTM are provided.

Basilio emphasized, “To ensure proper animal nutrition, participants must fully comprehend and apply the training and feeding management procedures.”

100 carabaos star in San Agustin, Isabela’s ‘Nuang’ Fest

Dubbed the ‘Home of Nuang Festival,’ the town of San Agustin in Isabela province preserved the spirit of its long-standing tradition as 100 of its finest crossbred carabaos paraded its streets on September 27, 2023.

The parade was one of the highlights of San Agustin’s twin celebrations, the “18th Nuang Festival” and the “74th Araw ng San Agustin” (Foundation Day).
‘Nuang’ is an Ilocano term for carabao. Cesar Mondala, municipal mayor of San Agustin, compared the hard-working trait of carabao to the people of the town.

“If we imitate the buffalo’s positive traits, our community will continue to prosper,” Mayor Mondala said.
The increasing number of crossbred carabaos in San Agustin has been made possible through the continuous effort of the town’s local government unit to harness artificial insemination (A.I.) as a strategy to steadily build up its base of improved carabao breed.

Thousands of the town’s carabao owners partnered with the DA-PCC and various agencies and entities for the government-led crossbreeding program.

Engr. Blas Lamug, retired municipal agriculturist of San Agustin and now serving as the chairperson of the SADACO Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SMPC) expressed his gratitude to the town leaders and to DA-PCC for the unfailing support in improving the dairy industry in San Agustin.
With the implementation of the Carabao-based Business Improvement Network (CBIN) program, funded by the Office of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, and the continuous carabao upgrading program of the DA-PCC, a significant increase in carabao population in nearby Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya is seen manifested by the establishment of two processing and marketing facilities as development support for the dairy farmers.

The community has a tradition of holding competitions every year, recognizing the “best” among the animals in the following categories: Best Milking Cow, Best Cara-cao (inahin), Best Draft (male), Best Talent, and Best Dressed (female).

On the other hand, a cooking contest using carabao’s milk or meat as the main ingredient also took place at the town’s auditorium.

The owners of the winning carabao crossbreds and winning recipe received cash prizes. The farmers who participated in the parade, likewise, were given PHP500 each as an incentive.

DA-PCC officials also took part in the event. They were Ma. Theresa Sawit, national coordinator of Carabao-based Enterprise Development Program (CBED); Romulo Salas, CBED coordinator of DA-PCC at Cagayan State University (DA-PCC at CSU); Prof. Franklin Rellin and Edelina Rellin, former Center Director and former Senior Science Research Specialist of DA-PCC at CSU, respectively.

ALAB Karbawan yields positive outcomes

The Accelerating Livelihood and Assets Buildup (ALAB) Karbawan projects not only offer business opportunities for carapreneurs but also play a crucial role in bolstering the local dairy industry. Recent achievements of the ALAB Karbawan development project across the country, currently spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Carabao Center (DA-PCC), affirm this.

ALAB Karbawan serves as the umbrella program and popularized name for two province-wide Carabao-based Enterprise Development implementation projects: Carabao-based Business Improvement Network (CBIN) and Coconut-Carabao Development Project (CCDP). These initiatives were launched and funded by the Office of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, chaired by Senator Cynthia Villar.

Initiated in 2019, the program’s primary goal is to establish robust carabao-based enterprises in recipient provinces, thereby generating livelihood opportunities for farmers. Implementation commenced in 2020 across 17 sites nationwide, empowering farmers to raise dairy carabaos. Meanwhile, cooperatives assumed responsibility for milk consolidation and processing.

The introduction of the Dairy Box facilitated the promotion of locally sourced carabao-based products and streamlined milk distribution, particularly in support of school-based feeding programs.

This proactive initiative significantly elevated the income and livelihoods of dairy farmers, prompting Senator Villar to expand funding to cover a total of 81 sites nationwide. This expansion has broadened livelihood opportunities and ensured the availability of nutritious milk for millions of Filipino schoolchildren. Additionally, retort milk facilities were strategically established to guarantee milk accessibility, even in remote regions.

ALAB Karbawan aligns with the government’s core objective of increasing the country’s milk production. To this end, Senator Villar allocated a total budget of PHP795 million for the implementation of CBIN (PHP295M for FY2019 and FY2020; PHP110M for FY2021; PHP250M for FY2022) and CCDP (PHP140M). This budget is being employed to invest in various aspects of the dairy value chain, ranging from buffalo stocks and breeding services to milk collection, processing, and marketing facilities, all managed through the cooperative conduit scheme.

In June 2023, a dairy population survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported a remarkable 10.1% increase in the dairy carabao population, now estimated at 30,151, representing 32.1% of the total 93,930 dairy animals in the country.

The ALAB Karbawan program played a pivotal role in stimulating the growth of the dairy carabao sector. Complemented by other program components such as Genetic Improvement and Dairy Herd Buildup (DHB), this growth is poised to be sustained, making a significant contribution to the country’s economy.

The Dairy Herd Buildup (DHB) project, initially funded in 2023 with a total budget of PHP698 million, focuses on local crossbred buffalo procurement to build the local dairy herd through continuous backcrossing, ultimately producing the Philippine Dairy Buffalo herd. Other components, including infrastructure development, health and feed development, and reproduction services, will also be implemented.

As of the latest updates, dated September 15, 2023:

• 35 cooperatives are actively engaged in the milk feeding program.
• Since its inception in 2019, a total of 36 operational value chains have been established under the ALAB Karbawan project, encompassing all segments of the Carabao-based Enterprise (CBE) value chain, including milk production, processing, and product marketing.
• The CBIN and CCDP projects have entrusted a total of 3,995 buffaloes, with 462 calves born, benefiting 1,800 farmer recipients.
• The number of conduit farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) involved in CBEs has steadily increased since the project’s launch in 2019, with 74 conduit cooperatives and 17 SCFOs (Small Coconut Farmers Organizations) now actively engaged.
• The total volume of milk produced has reached 1,149,664.32 liters.
• A total of 37 processing and marketing infrastructures, branded as Dairy Box, were established, with 36 of them currently operational, and an additional 42 are in the pipeline for construction.

With all these positive outcomes of accelerating livelihood opportunities and building cooperatives assets, the Senate Committee on Agriculture intends to finance the DHB for the next three years to fortify the foundation of the dairy buffalo sector.

DA-PCC and DA-RFO V ink partnership project for the implementation of Carabao Development Program in Bicol

The DA-Philippine Carabao Center (DA-PCC) and the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office Region V (DA-RFO V) have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for their joint partnership in conserving, propagating, and promoting the carabao as a source of milk, meat, draft power, and hide to benefit rural farming communities in the Bicol region. This signing took place on September 25, 2023, at Constitution Hills, Quezon City.

The partnership aims to promote agricultural development by providing policy frameworks, public investments, support services for agricultural business enterprises, and technical assistance to livestock clients. The main components of the project include the DA-PCC Bicol Satellite Office and the supplementation of liquid nitrogen within the region. Liquid nitrogen is used to cryopreserve livestock germplasm for genetic improvement and upgrading.

This initiative is funded through the PL480 project, with the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) serving as the fund manager.

The MOA was signed by DA-PCC OIC-Executive Director Dr. Caro B. Salces, DA RFO V Regional Executive Director Rodel Tornilla, witnessed by DA-PCC at UPLB Center Director Dr. Thelma A. Saludes, and DA-RFO V Regional Livestock & Poultry Program Coordinator Dr. Marissa E. Guillermo.

PCAF OIC Executive Director Julieta Opulencia and DA-PCC Deputy Executive Director and PL480 Project Leader Dr. Claro N. Mingala were also in attendance during the signing.

Food safety takes center stage in BizTalk series

The DA-PCC conducts a series of Business Talk on Food Safety for dairy buffalo supply chain players nationwide with a resounding emphasis on “Sa Quality Food Safety ang Priority”, signifying a collective commitment to achieving higher standards of food safety.

The activity aims to enhance the DA-PCC food safety system by imparting essential knowledge to dairy suppliers participating in the milk feeding program about fundamental practices related to dairy safety across production, processing, and marketing.

“We also aim to model the identified smallholder farmers who will be attending this activity in the registration and acquisition of the license to operate from the NDA and FDA as part of the quality assurance of milk from our suppliers,” Dr. Randolph Tolentino, DA-PCC food safety focal person, said.

The training program centers on the enhancement of food safety practices, offering lectures and hands-on exercises that cover a wide range of topics in food safety. It also tackles fundamental principles of food safety, covering areas such as food hazards, safety practices within the dairy buffalo supply chain, good manufacturing practices, and applied 7S in dairy production and processing.

One of the key highlights of the activity is the extensive discussion on milk quality and safety within the dairy buffalo supply chain, along with crucial insights into dairy safety practices, milk testing, environmental sanitation for dairy buffalo enterprises, solid waste management, and wastewater management for farms and milk processing centers.

Food safety refers to the conditions and actions undertaken to maintain the quality of food, thereby preventing contamination and foodborne diseases. The fundamental aim of food safety is to protect consumers from illnesses caused by the consumption of unsafe food. Foodborne diseases pose a significant concern to the food industry, affecting people worldwide due to inadequate food safety measures.

DA-PCC personnel from the Carabao Enterprise Development Section (CEDS) including Patrizia Camille Saturno, Science Research Specialist II; Teresita Baltazar, Science Research Specialist I; Dan Lowie Dacanay, quality assurance specialist; and Dr. Tolentino will serve as the resource persons for the series.

The training program, funded through the PL480 project with the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries as fund manager, and DA-PCC and the National Dairy Authority as implementing agencies, comprised four sessions. The initial session took place in Bacolod from September 11-15 and was attended by 76 DA-PCC-assisted cooperative members from the Visayas region. The second session is scheduled for September 25-29 in North Luzon, while the third and fourth sessions are planned for November in South Luzon and Mindanao, respectively.

The training is facilitated by the DA-PCC through the Monitoring and Business Planning Support Section (MBPSS), headed by Pauline Maramag.
More than 300 participants including dairy farmers, processors, and dairy outlet staff from assisted cooperatives and regional centers are expected to attend the training.

DSWD VI partners with DA-PCC for the 13th cycle of School Feeding Program

The Department of Social Welfare and Development-Regional Field Office VI (DSWD-RFO VI) once again partnered with DA-PCC at West Visayas State University (DA-PCC at WVSU) for the 13th cycle implementation of the Supplementary Feeding Program.

This program, spanning 120 feeding days, began on September 11 and 13, and will continue until the first week of November, implementing a double feeding scheme.

Calinog Farmers Agriculture Cooperative will cater to 1,322 beneficiaries for MSWDO Dumarao, Capiz and is expected to deliver 158,640 pouches of pasteurized milk. Meanwhile, the Hamtic Multi-Purpose Cooperative has taken on the responsibility of serving 1,497 beneficiaries of MSWDO Sibalom in Antique, with a commitment to provide 179,640 bottles of pasteurized milk.

Janice H. Cuaresma, CBED Coordinator of DA-PCC at WVSU, expressed her heartfelt appreciation to DSWD VI for their unwavering partnership that has been in place since the 10th cycle of the program. She emphasized the importance of DSWD’s consistent commitment to utilizing local products in the program’s implementation.

“DSWD has been our steadfast partner since we initiated the Supplementary Feeding Program here in Panay Island. This feeding initiative will undoubtedly contribute to the growth and development of our daycare pupils in the identified municipalities,” she said.

Cuaresma added, “It is our joy that our local dairy farmers also benefit from this program. It gives them consistent opportunities as well as increases their families’ income. As the CBED Coordinator, I am further motivated to progressively develop locally produced milk in each project area, ensuring a steady supply for the Milk Feeding Program, funded by our partner agencies.”

Meanwhile, MSWDO Valderrama, Antique, is set to receive its milk supply on September 25, benefiting 718 beneficiaries. The Pandan Multi-Purpose Cooperative, a recipient under the Carabao-based Business Inmprovement Network(CBIN) project, is expected to deliver 86,160 bottles throughout the implementation phase.

Since the implementation of the 10th cycle in January 2021, DA-PCC at WVSU and its assisted co-ops have made a significant impact by serving a total of 12,562 beneficiaries. Their outreach has extended to the lone district of Iloilo City and various municipalities in Iloilo province, including Bingawan, Batad, Barotac Viejo, Banate, and Balasan. Furthermore, the program has also reached the Province of Antique, specifically benefiting the municipalities of Bugasong, Tobias Fornier, Barbaza, and Sebaste.