Vermicomposting: New business venture of dairy farmers in Catalanacan, Muñoz

In a business venture, the entrepreneur is said to be efficient if he manages to make his business grow and prosper. It goes without saying that the real gauge of a successful enterprise is profitability as shown by regular earnings net of expenses.

This is kind of scenario that Leoncio Callo and his fellow dairy farmers always keep in mind as they go about their daily activities.

Callo is the chairman of the Catalanacan Multi-Purpose Cooperative (CAMPCI) in Catalanacan, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. The group is one of the cooperatives being assisted by the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) in the province, which is PCC’s National Impact Zone (NIZ) under the Carabao Development Program (CDP).

He and his colleagues are in the business of raising dairy carabao for milk production and are earning regular income from such undertaking.

Of late, they’ve gone into a new business venture that, from indications, offers the promise of regular additional income for their group.

“Who would have thought that aside from milk sales, there’s also money to be made out of carabao’s manure?,” Callo wondered aloud.

In 1999, CAMPCI became a beneficiary of the Philippine Carabao Center’s 25-cow module program. Callo earns at least Php1000 daily from milk sales, courtesy of his dairy buffalo herd.

He started with only one loaned buffalo, which has since then grew to 30 animals. He harvests almost 30 liters of milk a day from his lactating dams. There was even a time when his harvested milk reached as much as 46 liters daily.

At present, he has six lactating dams. He sells his milk produce at Php40 per liter to the Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabao Cooperatives (NEFEDCCO), a group comprised of PCC-assisted primary dairy coops in the NIZ.

According to Callo, in their cooperative, they collect 4,000 liters of carabao milk monthly. It has 87 active members, 34 of whom have carabaos. To date, these carabao raisers have been able to increase their animal holding to a total of 133 animals.

“I can say that there is really money in carabao-raising and I can assure the bright future of my family through this venture,” Callo declared.

A brighter future is in store for Callo and his fellow carabao raisers now that they’re into a new venture: vermicomposting.

Last January, Engr. Ryan Balunhagi of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), proposed and explained to the members of CAMPCI an effective way of making organic fertilizer using carabao manure as substrate. He even encouraged them to participate in a farmers’ field day at Llanera town for them to thoroughly understand and know the proper way of vermicomposting.

Twenty eight out of 34 members of CAMPCI participated in a two-day training on vermcomposting.

“We were taught the proper way of vermicomposting during our training in Llanera. We then made plans on how we can have a budget for this undertaking because there are costs involved,” Callo stated.

The cooperative’s plan to meet the needed budget to start their new business is to lend Php5,000 to Php10,000 to each interested member. This amount will be spent in making vermi-beds and buying African night crawlers or worms.

The interest-free loan, he said, must be fully paid within six months.

“All the products of the cooperative are sold only to members. No outside deals, just straight contract with members. Twenty-four among us got interested,” Callo explained.

A sack of 50kg of harvested organic fertilizer is sold at Php250 to every member. On the other hand, at least 40 sacks of vermicast have already sold by members to the cooperative at Php200 per sack.

CAMPCI’s vermicompost business is mutually beneficial. The coop members patronize the vermicompost that they themselves produce.

“The use of vermicompost lessens farming costs, helps maintain good soil condition and improves harvest,” Callo said.

He said they intend to commercialize their product, but this will depend on the result of laboratory test that has already been done.

“When already commercialized, the packaging title will be ‘CAMPCI vermicast’. We need to include in the package important information such as product contents or elements beneficial to plants. For example, the percentage of phosphorus in the vermicompost will be stated,” Callo revealed.

“Then, as part of our marketing strategy, we will decide on a competitive price for our product. This is very important and will have to be studied carefully. Good sales will result in profits for the cooperative, which, in turn, will mean added income for the members,” he explained.

They sell a 50 kg-sack of carabao manure at Php5, but if it is processed into organic fertilizer, they sell it at Php5 per kilogram.

It’s been 10 years since Callo started using manure from his carabaos as fertilizer for his crops. According to him, even if it’s not processed, he gets good harvests.

Presently, CAMPCI reserved an order of 40 sacks of vermicompost from the members who will soon harvest their vermicompost.

“What is good in this business is that members help each other and strengthens the bond among us. We are aiming for one goal and that is to maximize the potentials of our cooperative to earn additional income. We, as members, will benefit soon from the fruits of our hardships and perseverance,” Callo proudly declares.