By Khrizie Evert M. Padre

There’s more to carabaos than just being a source of draft power. Their potential for use in the meat industry is big; an increase in the slaughtering rate of carabaos for meat or carabeef is an indicator of the growing market demand for it.

In light of this, a production system for this animal is now seen as a very profitable venture. The system is called ‘carabao feedlot fattening’. This is an intensive carabao raising practice which is one of the fastest ways to increase carabeef production.

The practice is more beneficial in areas where there is an abundance of farm byproducts such as corn stover, fresh corn stalks, sugarcane tops, cover crops, pineapple pulp, rice straws, and banana leaves and trunks. The system requires feedlot facilities and simple animal management.

Crossbred for Meat Production

The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) initiated the crossbreeding program of the native carabaos in compliance with the
Philippine Carabao Act of 1992, which is aimed at increasing production of milk and meat.

Crossbreeding involves impregnating female native carabaos (with frozen-thawed semen collected from superior sires) through artificial insemination. The first offspring of crossbreeding is a crossbred with 50% purebred blood and 50% native blood. The purebred bloodline of the crossbred increases as it undergoes backcrossing.

The crossbred has the potential for better milk production. It also has a larger body size and when slaughtered, provides more meat than the native type. According to researchers, male crossbred carabaos have more potential in the meat processing enterprise owing to its higher dressing percentage.

Studies have shown that carabao meat—particularly from the crossbreds raised and properly fed using the same good management practices used for cattle—is comparable to beef in terms of its physiochemical, nutritional, and palatability characteristics.

In a comparative study conducted by the PCC at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) on the meat characteristics of cattle and carabao, it was noted that “crossbred carabao can grow as fast as cattle and can be raised economically under an intensive production system at 90 days fattening period.”

“With feedlot fattening, two to three production cycles a year are possible,” said Dr. Rosalina L. Lapitan, then Supervising Science Research Specialist of the PCC at UPLB.

The center started its institutional feedlot fattening in 2007. The male crossbred buffaloes and animals that were no longer productive were used for fattening. “The animals were fed with high energy feeds consisting of legumes, grasses, and concentrates. We saw to it that the animals [reached] an average daily gain of 0.5 [kilograms] to ensure the desired market weight of 400 kilograms at 18 to 20 months of age,” Dr. Lapitan said.

Since the production cycle is relatively shorter, a quick return of investment can be attained. She added that animal management in the feedlot fattening system is very simple. “If you are into backyard fattening, the animal management involves only feeding the fattener with available farm byproducts within the community or available concentrates.”

The PCC at UPLB used the carabeef produced to make gourmet sausages branded as “Carabest Premium Carabeef Sausages.” These included cervelat, salametti, Italian sausage, beerwurst, bratwurst, schublig, kielbasa, mortadella, kabanosy, summer sausage, batutay, and Hungarian sausage, their bestseller. The Animal Products Development Center (APDC) of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) in Marulas, Valenzuela City was commissioned by the PCC to
process these products.

Commercial Feedlot Operation

The PCC at UPLB is currently pursuing a one-year joint project titled “Fattening and Finishing of Riverine Buffaloes under a commercial feedlot operation” with Martin Gomez, a private farm owner from Canlubang, Laguna as a cooperator.

The joint undertaking aims to demonstrate the viability of feedlot fattening of purebred riverine buffaloes. Specifically, the project implementers aimed to compare the growth performance of cattle and riverine buffaloes under commercial feedlot operation; determine the slaughter, carcass, and lean-fat bone yield of cattle and buffaloes; evaluate the sensory traits, chemical composition, and processing characteristics of meat from cattle and buffaloes under
intensive system of operation; and determine the economic viability of raising male riverine buffaloes for feedlot fattening.

Under the agreement, PCC provides the test buffaloes for fattening, conducts the laboratory tests to determine the meat quality and sensory evaluation from the meat produced by the test buffaloes, and provides assistance in data gathering. The test buffaloes are male riverine buffaloes not suitable for breeding purposes.

Gomez, on the other hand, provided transport or trucking services for the hauling of the animals from the PCC site to the feedlot, established the feedlot facilities, and provides feed resources and animal management.

The net proceeds from the project, which will come from the sale per kilogram of the body weight less the cost of feeds and other inputs, will be shared between the two parties. These inputs include the purchase cost of the buffaloes for fattening per kilogram of the body weight based on the prevailing market price. The data gathered and results of the laboratory testing will be made available to both parties.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2016 issue.