These Farmers Prefer to Raise Dairy Carabaos
The province of Nueva Ecija is widely recognized as a rice granary, but some farmers now prefer to raise dairy carabaos rather than grow rice. Several farmers in Barangay Calabalabaan, Science City of Munoz, reason out that they derive more income from dairy farming than from rice production, as their farms are rainfed and rice is grown only once a year.
Take Marites, 31, and Danilo Avila, 39, who used to cultivate one hectare of rainfed farm for rice production. Although they don’t have any child, their income from growing rice was barely enough for both of them.
Marites even had to raise two swine fatteners every four months so that they would have cash to buy farm inputs. Her income from the fatteners, however, was very minimal because of the high cost of production. In addition to the cost of two piglets, P2,400, she also had to buy feeds. And yet she sold the pigs at only P4,000 each.
It’s better than nothing, one would say of what was left after deducting the cost of production.
Things changed somehow when the Angat Buhay Producers Cooperative, of which Marites was one of the original 16 members, obtained a dairy carabao module from the Philippine Carabao Center, also in the Science City of Munoz, which is headed by Dr. Libertado C. Cruz. A dairy carabao module consists of 25 purebred dairy Murrah buffalos from Bulgaria, which are given as loans to a co-op and distributed to 25 members who are interested to raise the animals after undergoing training. In the case of Calabalabaan, the first calf is given back to PCC as payment for the cow.
In October 1999, Marites got an ugly 18-month old heifer that had just arrived from Bulgaria. Indeed, it was so emaciated as a result of the long boat ride. It even ate newspaper sheets because it was hungry.
Danilo took upon himself to take care of the animal, which eventually multiplied. He gathers rice straw during the rice harvest season and piles it in a mandala so that the animals could be fed when they are not being tethered, especially during the rainy season when the fields are planted with rice. He also has to cut grasses in the field and brings them to the animal shed behind their house.
P34,000 from Milk
Almost two years later on September 21, 2001, the cow gave birth to a male calf, which the couple gave back to PCC as payment for the loan.
Marites said they gave back the first calf so that succeeding calves would be theirs already. Besides, the first calf was a male. If they retained the young animal, they would have to sell it later after being fattened.
“When the animal gave birth, my feeling was great because I could already start to collect milk,” Marites declared. True enough, she got P34,000 as payment for the milk she collected. The co-op sells the milk at P32 a liter and pays the producer P28. The remaining P4 is equally divided as income for the coop and payment for the tricycle that delivers the milk to PCC.
With this development, Marites and Danilo decided to concentrate on the dairy animal. They mortgaged their 1-ha farm and used the proceeds to buy a hand tractor and trailer, which they now use for ferrying rice straw from the farms during the harvest season to their backyard where it is piled into a mandala as well as cut grasses when these are abundant. The rice straw becomes handy as feed when the animals are confined in their shed during the wet season. In addition, Danilo also uses the hand tractor and trailer for custom hauling rice straw and newly harvested rice at P300 a load.
Actually, Danilo tethers the animal when there is available space after the wet season rice. However, he practices the cut-and-carry feeding system during the wet season when the fields are planted with rice.
The cow got pregnant two months after the first calving and gave birth to a female calf in October 2002, which is now also pregnant and will give birth in September. The couple collected in 12 months 1,554.5 liters of milk worth P42,584. The cow delivered its third calf, again a female, in April last year and gave the couple 1,624.75 liters of milk worth P45,493.
Right now, the couple already has four dairy carabaos, as they obtained in June 2003 a fourth cow through the family module, a sequel of the dairy carabao module. Under the family module, a family becomes the recipient and is expected to raise at least five dairy carabaos in the near future. The fourth cow is now pregnant and will deliver in July.
Within the year, therefore, Marites and Danilo will already have seven dairy carabaos if the three calves expected to be born in 2005 are all females.
“I owe the PCC a lot of gratitude because of the help extended to us and now we already have so many dairy animals in no time at all,” Marites said.
Cora and Dante de Guzman, 35 and 36, respectively, also mortgaged their rain-fed farm to be able to buy a hand tractor and trailer, which is now being used just like that of Marites and Danilo.
Their first dairy carabao arrived in October 1999 and gave birth in January 2002 to a female calf, which they gave as payment to PCC. However, they got the heifer again as a new loan. Although the couple collected only 788.5 liters of milk worth P22,078, that did not discourage them as it gave birth again in March 2003 to a male calf, which they would sell later. Because the cow got pregnant a few months after calving, they collected only 876.75 liters of milk worth P24,519.
The cow gave birth for the third time in April 2004, again a male calf. This time Cora and Dante collected 1,289.25 liters of milk worth P26,099.
The first female offspring also delivered a female calf, which was already dead when it came out, in November last year. Dante grieved and cried a lot because their hope for an additional source of milk was lost. The animal gave birth in the farm at night and no one was there to give assistance to her. It’s a good thing the cow survived and is pregnant again. The couple collected only 274.25 liters of milk because the cow dried up early as there was no calf to stimulate her in producing milk.
At present, they already have six buffalos – three cows and three males. This was brought about by the addition of another heifer in April 2003 through the family module. The heifer gave birth to a male calf last January, which will be given back to PCC as payment after 18 months.
Couple Wants 10
Although Lydia and husband Roman Lomboy cultivate 2.5 ha of rainfed rice farm, they would even want to raise at least 10 dairy carabaos. With this number of dairy animals, they said, they would be collecting milk from at least two cows everyday and, hence, be assured of a comfortable daily income.
They narrated that three months before the arrival of their first cow, they had to sell their native carabao so that they would be able to pay a loan incurred in rice production. They said they could harvest 250 cavans or 12,500 kilograms (kg) from the 2.5 ha during the wet season if they were lucky. Only 7,500 kg of dried grains would be left after deducting the cost of threshing and the share of the harvesters. However, the yield could go down to a total 60 ca-vans (3,000 kg) if the crop is infested by pests like the rice tungro virus disease. From 1.0 ha during the dry season, they harvest an average 6,750 kg of fresh grains.
With dairy carabaos, their income during the first lactation was a hefty P35,181 from 1,239.75 liters of milk. This income from only one cow already compares well with what they derive from 1.0 ha of ricefield.
Right now, husband and wife are milking two cows. Actually, they got an additional heifer in July 2003, which gave birth to a female calf on March 3, 2005. The original cow also gave birth to a female calf late last year.
They said they will convert one hectare of their farm into a little ranch once the animals have already increased. At the same time, they will plant Napier grass in a 3,000 sq. m. parcel behind their house so that they would be assured of feeds for the animals.
Offspring & Milk = Money
Eileen and husband Benito Hipolito, who now have 10 carabaos, said they would not part with any of their cows, as these have already become their daily sources of income since 2001. Actually, this couple has the highest daily milk collection.
At one time, someone from outside the barangay offered to buy their first cow at P70,000. Another buyer wanted to give them a jeepney in exchange for the cow. Another farmer also offered P30,000 for one of their heifers. However, they told them the animals were not for sale.
Eileen and Benito said they would be at the losing end if they sold their animals since they would derive more income from their offspring and milk.
Right now, they are milking three cows. Even with a conservative P500 a day, their gross income runs to P3,500 a week, which is much better than the salary of a school teacher. They said this amount already enables them to lead a comfortable life, as no one of their children is still in school.
Actually, Eileen got two heifers in 1999. Three members of their cooperative refused to accept the heifers that were intended for them and, hence, Eileen got one of them in addition to the one given to her.
Although one of the cows was milked for the first time in only seven months, they were able to collect 1,579.75 liters of milk worth P44,233. One of the cows had a miscarriage, while the other delivered a female calf.
Without any doubt, their income from 1.1 ha of rice land is much lower than that from dairy carabaos. Like the other members of the co-op, they would like to have more cows, as these would assure them of steady income.
Yumi Parugrug, the chair of the co-op who is more than happy to record the daily milk collection of the members, said the time is no longer far when their attention will be more focused on dairy carabao raising. Even at this point, the coop members have already found the Murrah dairy buffalo as an oasis flowing with milk, which they equate with income.
By Sosimo Ma. Pablico, Ph. D