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Introducing Dairying: The Southern Mindanao Experience

One of the important projects of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) at the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) has been theĀ  introduction and promotion of dairying, but this was never an easy task as this farm enterprise was new to the intended recipients.

However, the Center’s director John Benjamin Basilio said that the project increasingly became a challenge as the center approached it from two prongs: institutional dairy production and the farmers’ dairy module.

Actually, institutional dairy production started much ahead of the dairy module. Since the center was programmed to get 80 head of imported Bulgarian Murrah buffalos in late 1997, two staff were sent for training at the PCC at Central Mindanao University in April that year.
Basilio said institutional dairy production started in 1998 with 11 buffalos on the milk line and Dr. Virgilio V. Lopez as the designated livestock production head. The center hired three contractual workers to milk the animals and process the milk into pasteurized milk and choco milk.

The center initially produced an average of 1,153 liters of milk a month, which gradually increased in the succeeding years. At present, it has tremendously increased to 3,067 liters with more than 20 buffalos on the milk line.

For a while, dairy products were being processed in a room adjacent to the office. Soon the volume of milk produced by the center started to increase and the room was barely enough to accommodate everything. Thus, a dairy processing building was constructed in 2001 using the revolving fund generated from the sale of dairy products.

The center processed pasteurized milk and choco milk for a start. The array of products processed in the dairy processing building now include lacto juice, pastillas de leche, kesong puti, milk-o jel, and ice cream.

Soon the center tried to introduce its dairy products in the market but it was not easy. For one thing, dairying was new in Cotabato and marketing was done only at the center with few daily deliveries to school canteens in the municipality of Kabacan. For another, since the center is located within USM, only a few students were familiar with the products.

Basilio said product promotion was done through free taste, house to house peddling, caravan selling, even chasing and convincing students to buy the products. To further promote the products, a dairy sales outlet was established in 2002 in an area of the USM campus along the Davao-Cotabato national highway. This sales and display outlet caters to commuters and, hence, promotes the local consumption of milk.

The sale of milk products eventually increased with the operation of the sales outlet . Two marketing personnel were hired to sell and take charge of daily deliveries, which already reached nearby municipalities and Cotabato City. Later in 2007, the dairy processing building was renovated and expanded to comply with some requirements in securing a BFAD permit.

With funds from the Depaitinent of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and local government units, a milk feeding program was implemented in coordination with the provincial and municipal nutrition offices and DSWD in North and South Cotabato. A total of 7,320, 25,042, and 96,282 packs of choco milk were distributed for the milk feeding program in 2005, 2006 and mid-2007, respectively.

From the initial sales of P438,121.75 in 1998, the annual sales have tremendously increased to P1,022,395.00 in 2006 and is expected to reach P1.5 M in 2007. Marketing of dairy products is no longer a problem because people in the locality are now patronizing the dairy products. Regular customers and walk-in buyers come to the center just to buy the products, while some make their orders for delivery through the phone.

To promote dairy further, the PCC at USM started in 1998 to organize 10 cooperatives to become recipients of the 25 cow dairy heifer module. Prior to animal loan dispersal, PCC staff intensively conducted community organizing to socially prepare the prospective beneficiaries.

The 25 dairy heifer module of the 10 cooperatives continued to exist for a few years. Within that span of time, however, the cooperatives had numerous problems and, hence, only a few gainfullyy enjoyed the benefits from the program. Basilio said the declining trend of farmers’ interest was aggravated by the following:

- Inherent physiological limits within the buffalo species itself such as long gestation period and long calving interval, thereby hindering farmers from enjoying more opportunities in dairying.

- Fully exhausted cooperative build-up capital, thereby causing the co-ops to stop in the procurement of concentrates, biologics, milk processing equipment, and payment of hired caretakers.

- No substantial interest of some LGUs in providing support to cooperatives so as to realize their objectives and encourage them to shift to large ruminant animals.

- Dependence on LGU financial assistance or grants from other sources to sustain feed requirements, biologics, processing equipments, and other amenities needed.

- Request for a module by a barangay chairman was politically motivated.
However, the animals were not given to some prospective beneficiaries when he lost in the barangay election.

- Poor body scores of some buffalos due to the’ absence of or limited improved pastures and poor source of water during dry spell months.

- Some animals were assigned to one caretaker without a definite wage/salary, resulting in poor body score of the animals and death of some due to poor feeding practices.

- Unknown to the knowledge of PCC. some beneficiaries sold the original stocks to meat vendors soon after giving back an offspring as payment to the center.

The PCC management seriously attended to these problems. As soon as co-op members signified their intentions to end their involvement in the project, distressed buffalos with poor body score were retrieved and brought back to the center to save their genetic potential for breeding purposes. In some cases, a buy-back scheme was followed for recipients who were no longer interested in the program and have cleared their obligations to PCC.

To date, only two of the 10 cooperatives have remained. These are the San Isidro Multi-Purpose Cooperative in North Cotabato and Baliki MultiPurpose Cooperative in Midsayap.

The San Isidro Multi-Purpose Cooperative in North Cotabato has sustained its economic growth. Milk processing and packaging are among its major activities that complement the milk feeding program in five North Cotabato municipalities. The co-op is also linked with other cooperatives for the marketing of raw milk with optimum market price.

On the other hand, the Baliki MultiPurpose Cooperative in Midsayap has suffered tremendous problems with fasciola, which is rampant in the area, but has continued its milking activities with a remaining stock of 14 buffalos. The beneficiaries said that their profit from selling buffalo milk has sustained the daily allowances of their children in going to school. They were also able to buy household appliances on installment basis. Moreover, their income from buffalo milk sustained them in times of scarcity and failure of crops like rice, corn and vegetables during long dry spell and rat infestations.

The cooperative has been making pasteurized milk and processed it into ice candy. Moreover, rice, corn and vegetables growers use the raw milk as a spray on their crops for the control of insect pests. However, they could not give an explanation about this.

While trends in the economy suggest that the country should industrialize to survive in the next millennium, Barangay San Isidro in Bunawan District, Davao City suggests otherwise.

Miguel Uttang, San Isidro Labrador Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative chair.
Barangay San Isidro is embraced by the promise of industrialization but the residents continue to plow their lands and raise large animals like the Carabao.

In introducing dairy in Brgy. San Isidro, the first step of PCC at USM was to make farmers understand what the buffalo dairy program is about. It was realized that human resources, acceptance of responsibilities and teamwork are vital in starting a dairy program and, hence, a local or barangay livestock raisers association had to be organized.

Thus, the San Isidro Livestock Raisers Association (SILRA) was organized in 2003 by~the Davao City Veterinary Office. The initial members were bonafide farmers with some experiences in cattle and carabao raising. Eventually, SILRA became a recipient of the 25 cow heifer dairy buffalo module on April 4, 2003.

Registered at the Cooperative Development Authority, SILRA now has 34 members with at least one female Bulgarian Murrah buffalo each.

Located about 26 km from downtown Davao, Brgy. San Isidro is part of the city’s industrial zone and is home to around 3,000 residents (about 600 households). With a total land area of about 754 ha, the land is best suited for growing agricultural crops like coconut, banana, mango, durian and other fruit trees, and vegetables such as string beans, pechay, and corn.

The land is also suitable for establishing pasture and forage as well. Feeding livestock with its native pasture grasses by tethering was never a problem in this community. However, the cooperative members established their own forage and pasture areas in order to attain optimum efficiency. Before that, PCC and the City Veterinary Office conducted seminars on areas of feeds and feeding, identification of pasture and forage grasses, pasture establishment, hay, silage and salt block making.

Earlier, the DA and LGUs already dispersed some carabaos in Brgy. San Isidro before the dairy buffalo module but the dispersal program was a dismal failure.

For a start, SILRA, which later became the San Isidro Livestock Raisers MultiPurpose Cooperative; was a recipient of the 25-heifer dairy buffalo module. Later, an additional 15 buffalos were dispersed to the other members.

After two years, 20 buffalos were already pregnant. Thus, by early 2005, the cooperative was already producing buffalo milk even as the initial production was only 16 to 20 liters a day.

Fortunately, HOLCIM Philippines, Inc., which is located near San Isidro, has adopted the barangay as its assisted community, realizing the potentials of SILRA Co-op in providing additional income to its members. HOLCIM put up a milking station for the cooperative and allocated funds for the purchase of its fresh milk for a milk feeding program in six communities in coordination with the Department of Education, Barangay Council and the City Nutrition Council through its barangay nutrition scholars.

To strengthen the technical capability of the members, PCC also trained them on milk handling and processing of dairy products like fresh milk, pastillas de leche, chocomilk, ice cream, and white cheese, as well as on carabao production and management systems.