On average, a female carabao lactates for 10 months, followed by two months when she is dry.
And for Leoncio Callo, 49, the drought came at a crucial time. "Five of my cows simultaneously stopped producing milk, so my son was forced to quit college this semester for the time being, for lack of money," he says. "He’s helping with farm work now."
"We had money for tuition but not for his daily transportation and allowance," he adds. "I’ve been milking cows continuously for five years each and every day, and this is the first time that they went dry all at the same time."
This time, the only calf in the farm is too young to sell.
He started dairy farming in 1999 with one carabao from the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC). Today, he has 12 carabaos and one cow and in between he has sold 10 calves in the 10 years since.
Each of his carabao produces about 8 liters of milk a day, all of which are sold to the Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Cooperatives (Nefedco).
A former rice farmer, Callo devotes nearly one hectare of his land in Barangay Gabaldon to raising carabaos and forage; about half a hectare is planted to rice solely for family consumption.
"Carabao raising is better than rice farming, it gives me a higher income," says Callo who is the only carabao raiser in a neighborhood of five households. "As they say, each to his own business."
Other people, he says, finds it a tedious job as they see him carrying forage day in and day out, back and forth from the field to the carabao shed. "It is the hardest part of the job," he says, "but it’s OK."
"It is not that difficult. It is hard only when there is no forage, otherwise for me it is easy. But for some, it might not be," he says. "Rice farming is over for me, dairy is now our business."
Work starts at 4 am when the carabaos are brought to a 3-by-4-meter "swimming pool" where they are washed before milking.
Callo believes he is the only one in the province with the swimming pool; that is because his farm is about a kilometer from a water source. Other carabao raisers use piped water to wash livestock, or else bring the carabaos to the river.
Washing is required before milking, which Callo does manually in 1.5 hours for five carabaos; he plans to buy a P58,000 milking machine this year. The milk, stored in plastic containers, is picked up by a delivery man and brought to Nefedco.
The service costs P2 per liter. At an average 30 liters of milk a day, that means P60 going to the delivery man. But Callo is grateful for the extra service.
One service he will avail soon is artificial insemination which costs P500. He deposits P100 and pays the balance when the carabao gives birth. Otherwise, the process is repeated again and again until insemination is successful; that’s the only time when the balance is paid.
He also plans to acquire a bull from the PCC on "credit"; after 25 calves are produced, he will own the bull. This will take at least three years.
Nueva Ecija is a National Impact Zone for buffalo dairy production, a development model established by PCC in 1999 that includes massive crossbreeding supported by the training of village-based artificial insemination technicians, and provision of genetically superior semen, bull loans, milk production and processing and a province-wide milk collection system.
The 25-Cow Dairy Buffalo Module, for example, is an animal loan scheme developed by PCC in which purebred dairy buffaloes are lent out to members of Nefedco. It is repaid in kind over a five-year period.
Nefedco collects and produces an average of 1,400 liters of milk daily. The federation processes the raw milk into pastry products that are sold in Central Luzon, Baguio and Metro Manila.
Carabao milk is the One-Town, One-Product (OTOP) commodity of Nueva Ecija’s Muñoz, Guimba, Llanera, Talavera and San Jose City.
Source: Business Insight , by Paul Icamina