By JAMES TABABA
Adonis Reyes, a 27-year-old farmer from Camiling, Tarlac, currently works as an elementary teacher at Mariano Ponce Elementary. Despite enjoying teaching, he questioned whether it would be his lifelong profession. When the pandemic struck, he found himself staying in his province and reflecting on his upbringing, which involved raising animals.
Growing up in a province where animal raising was ingrained in daily life, Adonis had experience taking care of sheep and native ducks. In fact, selling the native duck eggs provided him with an allowance during his younger years, as his teachers appreciated their large size, affordability, and appealing yolk color. Throughout high school until his graduation, selling duck eggs became a reliable source of income.
Starting the goat farming business
During the pandemic, while browsing through YouTube, Adonis stumbled upon a video about agricultural livelihood ideas, specifically goat raising. The video highlighted the high demand for goats in the Philippines and the insufficient local supply. Although his family already had goats, which were primarily used for personal consumption during special occasions, Adonis saw the untapped business potential in goat farming.
Realizing that goats required low maintenance and only consumed grass, Adonis saw an opportunity to generate profit from the available land in his province. In 2021, with teaching taking up only a few hours online, he decided to dedicate time to caring for his goats. Understanding the importance of crossbreeding, Adonis purchased four Boer goats to upgrade his existing native goat herd. Within a year, his goat population increased to 50, allowing him to sell a portion of his stock. Currently, he maintains 30 goats, which multiply rapidly and are easy to manage by grazing them in the afternoons.
Adonis learned through a YouTube video about the importance of introducing other goat breeds to upgrade his herd. While native goats are hardier and more resistant to local weather conditions compared to other breeds, they typically have smaller bodies, weighing around 25-35 kilograms at maturity. Adonis thoroughly studied different breeds and sought goats with legitimate pedigrees. He discovered that many goat sellers falsely claimed their goats were F1 or island-born Boers, prompting him to travel to Batangas to purchase four genuine Boer goats. Considering the significant investment made, the loss of one of them deeply saddened Adonis, leading to tears.
Establishing a chicken farm
Inspired by his success in goat farming, Adonis ventured into chicken production. Attending seminars on chicken production, he invested from his savings to start a flock of layer chickens. During this time, he came across the Young Farmer’s Challenge organized by the Department of Agriculture on Facebook. Intrigued by the opportunity, he decided to participate and unexpectedly won at the provincial level. With the additional funds, combined with his savings, he invested a total of 300,000 pesos to purchase 500 Brown Dekalb chickens and construct suitable housing for them.
After a year, Adonis is pleased that his chickens are still laying eggs, and their production has reached its peak. The demand for eggs remains high, with orders pouring in, particularly from the Metro Manila market. Adonis travels back to his province weekly to collect the eggs and distribute them in Manila. His eggs, known for being naturally grown, are popular among his school community, offices, and schools where he sells them.
“The eggs that I produce are not even enough to supply the demand. In [the] Manila market alone, there are a lot of orders,” he said.
Within a year of investing in chicken farming, Adonis has nearly recovered his initial investment due to the consistent laying of eggs and the high return on investment. His entrepreneurial journey in agriculture continues to thrive, driven by his passion, perseverance, and a growing demand for his products.
In the early stages of raising chickens, Adonis Reyes provided them with commercial feed. However, when the chickens reached four months old, he gradually introduced a modified diet that included natural sources of food such as chopped vegetables, corn bran, and rice. Dr. Maria Asuncion Beltran from Tarlac Agricultural University advised Adonis that all fruits and vegetables can be fed to chickens.
To acquire these fruits and vegetables, Adonis took advantage of the discarded produce at the Camiling public market. He collected and washed them, utilizing them as feed for his chickens. Additionally, he supplemented their diet with malunggay, kangkong, and bamboo leaves. The chickens were free-range, allowing them to roam the area and feed on grass and insects.
Adonis also tried his hand at hog raising, but it was goat and chicken egg farming that truly worked for him. He began to contemplate retiring from teaching, as his love for agriculture grew deeper. Recognizing the vast opportunities in the agricultural sector, he was surprised to find that it was not widely embraced in his locality. Many people hesitated to venture into farming due to perceptions of its arduous nature—long hours of work under the scorching sun.
Positive Impact on the community
Adonis saw this as an opportunity to reintroduce livestock farming in their agricultural area. He was the first to establish a chicken farm in the vicinity, and he was pleasantly surprised to see others imitating his success in goat farming. What thrilled him most was his ability to assist others. When local farmers needed stud services for their native goats, Adonis offered them for free.
With the establishment of his chicken farm, Adonis had an even greater chance to support his community by creating job opportunities for his neighbors. “Even if my chicken business is still in its early stages, my two caretakers are given an opportunity to have a means of livelihood,” he said. Adonis found fulfillment in not only helping himself but also assisting others.
His motivation extended beyond financial gain. He derived satisfaction from being able to aid those around him. He aspired for his business to grow in the coming years, enabling him to help even more people. As word spread about Adonis’ success in the farming industry, many individuals approached him, expressing their interest in investing in his goat and chicken businesses.
Recognizing opportunities in local fruit production
Moreover, as Adonis engaged in livestock and poultry farming, he discovered additional opportunities in the local fruit market. Taking advantage of the abundance of fruits in their locality, he started selling them from Tarlac to Manila. For instance, chico fruit, which sold for 150 pesos per kilo in Manila, would be completely sold out within three days. This demonstrated the demand for local fruits, as urban consumers were eager to explore unique products not readily available in their markets. Because of this, he started planting dragonfruit. He chose the palora variety of dragonfruit, known for its exceptional sweetness.
Given the ample space available, Adonis utilized it for grazing both his chickens and goats. He observed that the quality of the eggs improved when the chickens were not under stress. Adonis firmly believed that the treatment of animals directly affects their productivity. Customers often provided positive feedback, mentioning that the eggs were large and had a native taste. Adonis regularly sought reviews from customers when selling his products, aiming to identify any potential issues or areas for improvement.
Research has shown that chickens are healthier when they have the freedom to graze, stretch their bodies, and take sand baths. Adonis noticed that his chickens enjoyed being outdoors and exhibited the ability to return to their coop. In contrast, caged chickens often evoked pity, particularly during the hot season.
Struggles in farming
When Adonis Reyes acquired his first batch of 100 chickens, half of them became infected with a disease. With no assistance available, Adonis took it upon himself to research how to treat the chickens. He dedicated long hours, starting at 6 in the morning and finishing late at night, to individually treat each chicken.
It was an arduous task, leading him to question “If starting the chicken business would be this hard and I cannot do this, how much more if I started to scale up this business?” Despite the sacrifices he made during that month, Adonis was relieved when all the chickens eventually recovered, providing him with the confidence to continue his venture into chicken farming.
One of the unforeseen challenges in livestock and poultry care is the impact of weather. Weather and climate play a significant role, especially for chickens. Fluctuations between hot and rainy conditions can cause chickens to catch colds, making respiratory diseases difficult to treat. To address this, Adonis always ensures he has medicines on hand as it is impossible to control the weather. He has developed his own effective remedy, a mixture of ginger, calamansi, and chili pepper, which he blends and adds to their water.
As for the goats, Adonis experienced heartbreak when his first caretaker accidentally harmed one of his goats. He was deeply saddened and even entered a state of depression. Despite his efforts to save the injured goat, named Goliath after the biblical character, the extent of its injury was severe. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, the goat succumbed to its injuries, leaving Adonis devastated. These goats held significant sentimental value for Adonis, as they were the first ones he invested his time and money in.
Adonis Reyes acknowledges the challenges brought by the rainy season, particularly the issue of worm infestation. He emphasizes the importance of deworming and advises against feeding the goats wet grass, as it should be dried first.
Unlike others who may view these animals purely as livestock or a source of income, Adonis considers both his goats and chickens as pets. The loss of any animal is particularly difficult for him, and when his caretakers are ready to sell them, they only inform him, as he cannot bear to witness the process.
Finding fulfillment and peace in farming
Coming home to his goats and chickens serves as a stress reliever for Adonis. He eagerly looks forward to returning home, knowing that they are eagerly waiting for him. The goats and chickens are remarkably tame, and visitors often express wonder at their friendliness and lack of fear towards people.
Personally, Adonis finds agriculture to be one of his passions in life. The stressful environment of working in Manila contrasts with the energizing effect he experiences when returning to his farm. The peaceful and calming way of life as a farmer resonates with him, as he has always enjoyed caring for animals since his childhood.
Furthermore, Adonis derives great satisfaction from being able to help others, which he describes as a euphoric feeling. Improving people’s lives, similar to his passion for teaching, is fulfilling to him. Just as witnessing students’ learning is rewarding, engaging in agriculture and animal care brings about a sense of fulfillment.
Considering his deep affection for farming, Adonis contemplates retiring from teaching in the near future. The tranquility, serenity, and joy he finds in farming motivate this decision. He now holds the necessary permits, such as DTI and mayor’s permit, to operate his agricultural business legitimately.
Adonis reflects on the stark contrast between his previous notion of advanced and luxurious city living and the genuine happiness and contentment he has found in simple farming. Comparing his experiences, he cherishes farming and agriculture more than the bustling city life in Manila.
“There are many opportunities in agriculture that are often overlooked and not given proper attention and opportunities to further develop people’s abilities in farming,” he said.
He emphasizes that farming extends beyond tilling the soil and feeding the animals, “Farming requires your effort, time, your passion. Farming is the backbone of our country. If there are no farmers, there will be no food for the people,” Adonis said.
Adonis encourages those who have the ability and land resources to consider farming. “But farming is not limited by space, it can be done here in the city, urban farming. Farming is not limited to rural areas, you only need creativity and resourcefulness. Just like me, they could also watch videos about farming,” he said.
Adonis expresses gratitude and has no regrets about his farming journey, as it has yielded returns not only in financial investments but also in gaining experience and the ability to assist others. Through sharing his experiences, he hopes to motivate others to fearlessly pursue their passions. For those with available time and a desire to earn, he sees farming as a tremendous opportunity.
In the upcoming article, Adonis will generously share his valuable insights and practical tips based on his personal journey in starting a goat and chicken farming business.
Photo courtesy of Adonis Reyes