By JAMES TABABA
Recognizing the crucial role of agriculture in sustaining communities amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic, Juven Dela Cruz and his family focused their attention towards this sector, particularly in dairy farming. Juven, a former OFW in the field of IT, is now the co-owner and general manager of DeLove-R Dairy Goat Farm.
The potential of dairy goat farming
“Agriculture plays a vital role during the pandemic; it helps us survive literally,” Juven said as he recognized the importance of this sector. Because of this, he made a conscious decision to engage in agriculture, with a specific emphasis on dairy farming. The farm’s establishment began in April 2021, marked by the construction of goat housing and the planting of forage crops. By May 2022, DeLove-R Farm was fully operational and is now raising milking goats and producing milk.
“Our local production of milk is less than 1%; to be exact it is 0.8%,” Juven reveals, citing the current figures from the Dairy Confederation of the Philippines. Acknowledging the opportunity to make a difference, Juven envisions a future where dairy farmers unite to increase production.
“Imagine if all the dairy farmers will help and contribute. Let’s say we increase production by 2%, it will be a big help to the agriculture sector and government. That will somehow lessen the importation of so-called ‘fresh milk.’ This is also why we decided to be dairy farmers,” he said.
Juven initially planned to venture into goat farming for meat production. However, after attending seminars and exploring possibilities, he discovered the untapped potential of dairy goat farming. The Anglo-Nubian breed, whose milk is known for its high butterfat content, caught his attention. Apart from their milk production capabilities, these versatile goats could also be utilized for their meat, making them an ideal choice to raise.
Understanding the importance of proper nutrition and shelter for the goats, Juven took the necessary steps to ensure their well-being. Prior to operating the farm, he visited several well-known breeder farms in the country to reserve their goat stocks. By the time the farm started its operations, it already had a steady supply of food for its goats.
“That is why I encourage aspiring goat raisers to prioritize the food and housing first of the goats because there are a lot of sources of goats, but the food and housing are more difficult to obtain. So, we focus more on that aspect,” he said.
The choice of Anglo-Nubian goats
Juven opted for Anglo-Nubian goats over the smaller Philippine native goats due to their superior qualities. The Anglo-Nubian breed’s size, combined with their excellent milk production and dual-purpose nature, made them the perfect fit for the farm’s objectives. With 18 goats on their farm, three of them male, Juven is optimistic about an increase in milk production, as some of the goats are already pregnant.
To ensure the quality and reliability of the farm’s dairy goat breeds, Juven is a member of the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA). This affiliation guarantees that the goats in his care possess pedigrees and records, serving as a testament to their lineage and milk-producing capabilities. Though the Anglo-Nubian goats may come with a higher price tag due to their delicate nature and importation costs, their contribution to the farm’s success is immeasurable.
Contrary to popular belief, goat farming requires careful attention and planning, extending beyond simply allowing the goats to graze. Juven explains the importance of housing design and elevating the housing structure to prevent health issues caused by ammonia buildup from goat urine. Regarding nutrition, Juven practices the cut-and-carry feeding method, harvesting grasses and legumes left to dry for a day before feeding them to the goats. Their diet primarily consists of 70% Napier grass and maramais, supplemented with 30% other forage crops such as Indigofera and mulberry.
The advantages of dairy goat farming
The decision to focus on dairy goat farming stems from the numerous advantages it offers. According to Juven, goat’s milk is clinically proven to be second only to human mothers’ milk. Goats also have a shorter gestation period of just five months compared to cows. With goats able to give birth three times within a span of two years, the potential for increasing the goat population and milk production is significantly higher. Furthermore, goats present a lower investment risk compared to cows, making them an appealing choice for aspiring farmers.
In addition to milk, goat farming offers multiple value-added products such as soap, cosmetics, and ice cream. The farm’s current goal is to increase the number of female goats to boost milk production. Male goats born on the farm will be sold since they cannot produce milk and would require additional resources if they were to be raised.
Exploring value-added products
Fresh milk is the primary product the farm offers, and they plan to supply their goats’ milk to a nearby coffee shop and restaurant. While milk production remains their primary focus, Juven aspires to expand his operations and explore other value-added products. Their vision goes beyond the farm, aiming to support and enhance the local community’s involvement in dairy agriculture. With numerous pregnant goats and newly born kids, Juven anticipates a significant increase in milk production this year to meet the growing demand.
Juven sees potential in the dog breeding market as a potentially large consumer of goat milk. Dog breeders often require milk as a supplement when mother dogs cannot produce enough for their puppies. Goat milk can serve as a suitable milk replacer in such cases.
Seeking government assistance
Like any farming business, Juven encountered various challenges along the way. One notable hurdle was accessing government assistance. He encountered challenges in accessing government assistance, as most programs cater to cooperatives, leaving individual small farmers like him with limited support.
“Currently, our government has projects for goat raisers but they mostly cater to cooperatives. You have to be a member of a cooperative to be able to receive their assistance,” Juven said. He believes that the government needs to pay attention to individual small goat farmers, especially those located in remote areas without available cooperatives to support their needs.
Sense of fulfillment
For Juven, farming is more than a business—it is a passion and a labor of love. “Our motivation is our passion and love for farming, if these are not present, it will not work. You need to have passion and love in everything that you do, even if it is not farming,” he said. Their goals extend beyond increasing milk production; they also aspire to inspire and empower aspiring dairy farmers.
Through their journey, Juven met other dairy goat farmers, learning from their success stories and best practices. This knowledge exchange motivates them to strive further and apply what they have learned to their farm.
Milking the goats is a fulfilling experience for Juven and his family. Although their current milk production is still far from their goal, they take pride in contributing to the agricultural industry and their local community.
Juven’s advice to all aspiring goat farmers is to cultivate patience and wholeheartedly embrace their passion and love for farming. He emphasizes that the journey may be challenging and require significant hard work, but it is important to remember that every effort and sacrifice made is part of the preparation for something truly amazing that awaits them in the end.
While Juven acknowledges the initial challenges faced by small-scale goat farmers, he remains optimistic about the impact they can make on the local community and the broader agricultural sector. He concludes by urging everyone to recognize the vital role of agriculture and to support local farmers.
“I believe even small-scale farmers will have a signific impact on our locality by sharing our experience and knowledge to promote sustainable practices in dairy production and collaborating within the sector. In the long run, not only the local community, but the whole agriculture sector will benefit if all dairy small farmers collaborate to increase milk production in the country,” he said.
Photo courtesy of DeLove-R Farm