Carabao’s Milk : The Most Complete Food
It’s richer, creamier and contains protein, fat, lactose, vitamins and minerals, and water. But there’s more!
During the height of the milk crisis caused by melamine contamination of dairy products from China, the sales of carabao’s milk from the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) at the Science City of Munoz soared.
“The melamine scare could be one of the reasons for the increased demand for our milk and milk products,” said Mina Padilla-Abella, in-charge of the PCC’s milk processing unit located at the Central Luzon State University.
What most Filipinos don’t know is that carabao’s milk is touted to be the “most complete food.” The reason: it contains protein, fat, lactose, vitamins and minerals, and water. In addition, carabao’s milk is richer and creamier compared to cow’s and goat’s milk due to its high percentage of milk fat which is a good source of energy.
There’s more to carabao’s milk. Nutritionists claim it contains riboflavin or vitamin B2 needed for normal growth, the agent against skin swelling, inflammation of the lining of mouth and tongue, and dizziness. Its vitamin A content is good for clearing eyesight while the vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus are valuable for strong teeth and bones.
Like most fresh milk, carabao’s milk also spoils easily. As such, the PCC recommends three steps to maintain the freshness of carabao’s milk. The first thing to do is to store the fresh milk inside an ice box or refrigerator immediately after milking. Then, the fresh milk must be pasteurized or cooked to kill the microbes and for it to be safe to drink. Finally, it must be stored properly. If not consumed completely, fresh milk must be stored in an ice box or refrigerator to control the spread of microbes that are not killed during the pasteurization process.
Carabao’s milk can also be processed into chocolate-flavored milk, pastilles de leche (milk candy), kesong puti (white cheese), milk-o-jel, condensed milk, cheese spread, ice cream, mozzarella, or rennet (coagulated milk).
Unknowingly, carabao’s milk could be the solution to the malnutrition problem among Filipino children. The Senate Economic Planning Office estimates there were 3.67 million children, five years and below, who were underweight, and another 3.07 million, six to 10 years old, who are underweight, for a total of 6.68 million. That was in 2001. Today, the number of underweight children due to malnutrition could easily be more than 7.56 million.
Former president Joseph Estrada recalls that during the 1960s and 1970s, public school pupils were given milk free, courtesy of the United States government. These days, however, poor children lag behind dismally in terms of nutrition and mental development, compared with rich children. His simple solution: Make the poor kids drink carabao’s milk.
“The carabao’s milk can be of great help in eradicating malnutrition,” said the PCC in a statement. “Nutrient-wise, it is better compared with the array of cola and other commercial drinks in the market. In drinking carabao’s milk, we are not only getting the needed nutrients for our bodies but we are also supporting our local dairy industry.”
Presently, the Philippines imports 98% of its milk and other dairy products requirements. “We pay foreign dairy farmers millions of dollars each year,” the PCC deplored. “During the period 2002-2007, the Philippines spent an average of over US$46o million to cover the cost for an average volume of 1.8 billion liters of milk imports annually. Powdered milk accounts for some 86% of the imports.”
While the production of local dairy farmers has been steadily increasing, the average annual local production is only about 12,000 metric tons or some 12 million liters. On the other hand, the national requirement based on actual consumption during the period 2002-2007 was 1,550 metric tons or about 1.55 billion liters.
“If we are to compute the national milk requirement based on the recommended dietary allowance of 19 kilograms per year, we would need an average supply of about 2,50o thousand metric tons of 2.5 billion liters each year,” the PCC claimed.
That is why the PCC is busy improving the carabao – also known as buffalo – as potential milk source. It has identified the Murrah as the kind of breed that would help enhance Philippine carabao. The Indian breed has been found to produce an aver-age of 8 liters of milk a day for more than 300 days. “We need to harness the potential of this breed to genetically upgrade our native carabao to improve their milk production and increase their growth potential for meat and draft,” explained Dr. Libertado C. Cruz, PCC’s executive director.
One of the country’s science innovators, Dr. Cruz has been on the forefront on reproductive biotechnology. Under his leadership, he has intensively spread the use of artificial insemination (AI). Semen used in AI comes from superior bulls of the Murrah.
Using AI for wide-scale upgrading is the more logical approach, according to Dr. Cruz. However, to produce animals with blood composition of at least 87.5% dairy breed, it will take three generations of back-crossing. The first generation results in 50:50, second generation backcross 75:25, and third generation backcross is 87.5:12.5.
“Each generation requires five years, so essentially, it will require at least 15 years to produce animals with production ability closer to the purebred,” said Dr. Cruz. This is why other reproductive techniques are also being employed, including the use of embryo transfer. Both technologies complement rather than compete with each other.
Latest reports say the PCC has produced genetically superior water buffaloes. The male carabao weighs 750 kilograms and counting, while the female carabao yields 17 to 20 liters of milk a day. In comparison, the native carabaos weigh an average of 35o kilograms, while the native dam gives a milk yield of an average of 1.5 liters a day.
The PCC started its operation in 1993 and has now 13 centers all over the country. “We are now recognized as one of the leading institutions in buffalo development in the world,” said Dr. Cruz. “Our institution has a very clear program and direction which are being utilized by many countries now as a model in developing their buffalo program.”
Beyond their draft power, carabaos can help generate income and create jobs. Dr. Cruz reported that about 3.3 million native and crossbred carabaos in the country were used mainly for draft purposes in sugarcane plantations and rice and corn farms, and for hauling. “The milk, meat, hide and horn businesses from carabaos are still not yet fully developed,” Cruz said.
Fresh milk production by farmers is a significant hedge of poor farmers against the globalfinancial crisis. They may not be exporting, but they’re generating income for themselves and are giving good value for money for their neighbors who no longer have to buy lower-quality imported milk.
The carabao also offers big opportunities for the meat industry. In South American countries like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, the demand for “carabeef” (carabao meat) is growing. This current demand of carabeef is due to the recent studies which show that buffaloes are the better source of quality meat than cattle.
Based on data released by the United States Department of Agriculture, carabeef has 41% less cholesterol, 92% less fat and 56% fewer calories than beef. Recent studies regarding the chemical composition of carabeef show that fresh carabeef obtained higher crude protein than pork and beef.
Unlike those in other countries, carabao meat commands lower price in the country because what is being sold are meat coming from old and retired work animals. But with the enactment of the Animal Welfare Act of 1988, however, younger carabaos can now be slaughtered.
Carabao is equally important for its hide. Filipinos consume a lot of chicharon made of carabao hide, kare-kare, which is partly skin of the animal, and a favorite pulutan, softened thin slices of hide spiced heavily with ginger, onion and red pepper.
Carabao manure is also of economic importance. It’s a good organic fertilizer, containing 18.5% nitrogen, 43.7% phosphoric acid, and 9.6% potash. It’s also a good source of fuel either as dried dung, or in generating biogas or methane. When mixed with clay, the dung serves as building material or as plaster on the ground where palay is threshed.
Although there is still no law that decrees the carabao to be a national symbol in the country, it is generally considered by most Filipinos to be their national animal. In the late 1980s, a Philippine-made contemporary carabao puppet character, named Kardong Kalabaw, became popular. This beloved character came to symbolize the Filipino people’s hard working attitude and sense of industry.
By Henrylito D. Tacio