Innovative approaches enhance productivity on carabao-based dairy farms

Photo by StockSnap from Pixabay

By Abigail F. Gueco

Current local milk production has reached 18.45 million liters (L). This represents a growth of 12% from 2011. Is that remarkable? Not when you realize that local milk production addresses just 1% of our dairy requirements, and that dairy products are the country’s second largest agricultural import after wheat. Clearly, there will be a long and tough fight to reduce our dependence on imports and for local production to meet the demand for dairy products.

With almost 37% of our local milk production supplied by buffaloes, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) and the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) have partnered with local government units (LGUs), dairy farmers’ associations, and milk dealers to increase local milk production. This public-private partnership involves seven technology transfer projects across Regions 3, 4, 7, and 8 through the Science and Technology Community Based Farm (STCBF) and TechnoMart (TM) modalities. These projects have a combined budget of P23.9 million, of which 70% or P16.7 million is from PCAARRD and the rest is contributed by the PCC, LGUs, and dairy farmers’ cooperatives.

The STCBF and TM are two innovative approaches under the Pinoy Science and Technology (S&T) Services for Farmers and Entrepreneurs (PSF) Program. These modalities are PCAARRD’s transition platform from technology demonstration to technology commercialization. STCBF advocates the wider adoption of S&T interventions to improve productivity and capacitate farmers in a particular community. It also aims to achieve a reliable supply of raw materials in support of the TM enterprise. This is the bridge for pushing agro-based products from the communities to the market.

The STCBF projects involve community adoption of proven dairy technologies leading to one goal: increasing average milk yield per animal. At present, the average milk yield is about 3 L per animal per day. These projects, with the application of S&T interventions, are aimed at achieving a target of 5 L of milk per animal per day in 2016. To support the goal of increased milk production, the TM projects handle the processing of dairy products, adopting proper milk handling procedures through training sessions, and the use of appropriate milk handling facilities.

Dairy technologies for community adoption include the use of Urea-Treated Rice Straw (UTRS) as fodder in Llanera, Nueva, Ecija; commercial production of grass/corn silage in Lupao, Nueva Ecija; flushing and use of milk replacer and Moringa supplementation in Magdalena, Laguna; cassava foliage feeding in Bohol; and flushing and feeds supplementation in Leyte.

Rice straw alone is poor quality roughage, but when treated with the right amount of urea solution, its crude protein content increases from 4% to 7%, and digestibility and palatability are enhanced. When buffaloes receive proper nutrition, a high milk yield of good quality can be expected.

Grass or corn silage is another enriched forage that can address problems with nutrition and forage deficiencies during lean months. The technology of silage making can be easily adopted by farmers for farm use or on a commercial scale because the equipment required, such as forage choppers, is simple, and input costs are low.

The flushing of newly calved buffaloes and the use of milk replacer for calves was found to be profitable. An increase in milk yields from 3.5 L to 4.6 L was realized based on the recently concluded STCBF implemented by PCC at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos (UPLB). Flushing postpartum cows with 4-5 kilograms (kg) of concentrate supplement for 90 days also increased conception rates, from 30% to 45%, and shortened service periods and calving intervals from 22 months to 16-18 months.

Milk replacer is a powdered milk which, when mixed with water, is similar in nutritional composition to cow’s milk. If farmers use milk replacer for their calves and sell their raw
carabao milk, they stand to gain an additional income of R30/L. A liter of milk replacer only costs R20 while raw carabao milk costs R50/L. Calves usually require about 4 L of milk everyday. Meanwhile, the use of moringa as livestock feed has been explored due to its high nutritive value, dry matter yield, beta carotene, iron, and potassium levels, and 17-26% protein content. Because it is galactogenic (promotes milk flow), it stimulates milk production. The S&T interventions will cover the establishment of moringa pastures for forage production, processing of moringa leaf meal (MLM), and its utilization as fresh forage or leaf meal.

Cassava foliage (CSF) has been proven to be a quality feed for buffaloes, as its protein content is over 20%, it has 67% dry matter digestibility, and has been observed to have the potential to cause an average daily weight gain of 1 kg in growing animals. The benefits of feeding CSF when it comes to increasing milk yield has been showcased in an STBF project in Bohol where, with proper feeding management, milk yield increased from an average of 2 L/day to 5.62 L/day.

The TM of dairy products is located in Magdalena, Laguna, and Rosario, Batangas. These projects aim to improve the quality of the milk produced by the community-based farms through the application of selected S&T interventions. Project activities include the establishment of a community cluster milk collection system; pre- and post-collection quality testing; product enhancement, packaging, certification; and enhanced marketing promotion. The dairy farmers/entrepreneurs are hoping to promote their towns as prime sources of quality carabao’s milk dairy products.

More than the modalities, the partnership and commitment of cooperators are two important success factors for these technology transfer projects. These multi-region STCBF and TM projects are aimed at contributing to shrinking the gap between supply and demand for dairy products.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2014 issue. 

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