Every now and then, we make life-changing decisions. Romeo Araña, 56, made one such decision and has since never looked back. In fact he looks to the future with a lot of optimism.
In 2006 he decided to try his hand at carabao dairying by first having his native albino carabao artificially inseminated with purebred Murrah dairy buffalo semen by a technician from the Philippine Carabao Center based at the West Visayas State University (PCC-WVSU) in Calinog, Iloilo.
Known as “Mang Roming” to fellow farmers and friends, Araña was all but resigned to being a rice farmer in the small village of Cabudian in Dueñas, Iloilo. And then he heard about the artificial insemination activities being undertaken by PCC at WVSU under the Carabao Development Program (CDP). He decided to present his animal for AI.
Luck smiled on Mang Roming. His native carabao gave birth to a female crossbred, which he named “Me”. When the crossbred became fully grown, he did not use it as a draft animal because of a belief that crossbreds were not reliable in the fields. He took good care of “Me”, which eventually gave birth and started producing milk in the latter part of 2011.
At first, Mang Roming was reluctant to regularly milk his crossbred because of another belief among farmers in his village that doing so was not good for the animal.
“I didn’t want to milk “Me” for fear that her body might suffer. But when it was explained to me by the PCC technician that that was not the case and that I could earn money by milking my crossbred on a regular basis, I finally agreed to do it,” Mang Roming recalled. At that time, he added, his son was in his last year in college, thereby requiring a lot of expenses.
Goodness of carabao milk
Mang Roming was elated when, for the first time, he finally received the payment of his milk produce. It was convincing proof, he said, that there indeed is money to be made from carabao’s milk.
During the first and second lactation of “Me”, he was able to earn Php39,130 and Php91,511 respectively. From his milk sales, he was able to provide the daily needs of his family.
“I was very happy because this greatly helped me, especially in supporting my child’s education. I didn’t have to borrow money anymore for his tuition and allowance,” Mang Roming said.
Dairying was now his added source of income, aside from his rice farming earnings, until his son finished college and eventually became a full-pledged teacher. He was also able to have their house repaired.
In March 2014, Mang Roming received what he considers as the start of his “fairy tale”, only that this was very real. As part of the observance of the 21st PCC founding anniversary, he was selected as “2014 Outstanding Dairy Buffalo Farmer” under the smallhold category in recognition of his dedication and efficiency in buffalo-based dairying.
From their small village in Iloilo, his world widened. He flew to Luzon to receive the award in ceremonies held at the PCC headquarters in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva. Barely two months later, he visited Mindanao to participate in a national congress of dairy farmers in the country during which he was one of the delegates. He was also recognized during a regional event attended by livestock raisers, scientists and government officials.
During these times, he was able to board a plane and a ship, both a first for him.
Hard work pays
Carabao dairying has indeed brought many blessings to Mang Roming and his family. It is a venture that he considers both challenging and rewarding.
He usually gets up at 3 a.m. to bring his animals to a grazing area. At 6 a.m., he brings them back to their pen to wash them and start milking. After this, riding a rented motorcycle, he brings his milk produce to PCC at WVSU office and sells it.
Mang Roming followed this routine during the 300 days that we was milking his carabao, not allowing any difficulty and sometimes bad weather to stop him.
Soon, Mang Roming will go through the same routine when “Me” gives birth again. His heifer is also ready for breeding.
He is aware of the hard work that lies ahead but he relishes it because he knows that he will receive as much as he will give.