Carabao Development Program by CDP

“Towards better nutrition, higher levels of income and improved gene-ral well-being of the overwhelming sector, the rural farming families… through the conservation, propagation and promotion of water buffalo as important source of milk and meat, in addition to draft power and hide.”

This is the vision and mandate of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture. The program’s ultimate focus is the establishment of village buffalo-based enterprises. It promotes cooperative development to provide small-hold farmers access to resources, allows them to participate in decision-making and develops their potentials for business and viable enterprises.

What is the Carabao Development Program?

The Carabao Development Program (CDP) is a continuous and organized effort to increase the genetic potential of the native carabao for meat, milk and draft that would lead to the development of buffalo-based and related enterprises aimed at increasing income and nutritional status of farming communities. The CDP, therefore, is a very important socio-economic program that addresses the national concerns on:

  • poverty alleviation
  • nutrition improvement
  • income equity/distribution
  • people empowerment.

Who oversees the implementation of the CDP?

The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) is mandated to promote the development of the carabao as source of meat, milk, draft power and hide that will provide a direct and indirect means of improving the general well-being of the millions of rural farming families. PCC is an agency attached to the Department of Agriculture (DA). It was created by virtue of the Republic Act No. 7307 (otherwise known as the Philippine Carabao Act of 1992) and became operational in the second quarter of 1993. PCC has 13 centers throughout the country.

What are the activities of PCC?

PCC promotes carabao development by carrying out the following activities and services:

  1. Production of genetically superior buffalo germplasm for eventual distribution to breeding centers, farmer associations and cooperatives to carry out genetic improvement
  2. Conduct of training for technicians to carry out genetic improvement.
  3. Assistance for the development of carabao-based enterprise.
  4. Development of technologies and assistance in policy assessment and formulation leading to a more productive carabao industry.

Why invest on carabao development when farmers are shifting to farm mechanization?

Shifting from the use of draft carabao to small hand tractor is apparently common in irrigated rice-producing areas. Nonetheless, the reality remains that despite the introduction of hand tractors, the farmers cannot totally do away with the draft carabaos. If carabaos are no longer used for work, then the animals have to be improved from being a mere source of draft power to a producer of meat and milk.

The farmers need additional income to supplement what they earn from crops. This is the very reason why carabao development is needed. The carabao and Philippine agriculture will remain synonymous for many years to come because a large portion of our farm lands remain unirrigated. Moreover, land ownership of one hectare and below has significantly increased starting in 1981 to date. This could be due to the decreasing land area against the increasing number of farming families in the rural areas.

Unless the industrial sector absorbs this available labor, they will remain dependent on the produce of their decreasing size of land. Hence, the integration of crops and livestock is the best way to survive. Buffalo is, therefore, indispensable in this scenario.

Why promote carabao dairying when dairy cattle may be more efficient?

The temperate breed of dairy cattle such as Holstein Friesian is more efficient than buffalo in terms of milk production. However, under tropical condition like the Philippines’, the purebred Holstein cannot perform well. Thus, efforts have been instituted to introduce tropical breed into Holstein Friesian, e.g., Sahiwal, to produce Sahiwal-Holstein crosses. On the other hand, the dairy breed of buffalo, the Murrah, can produce 12 to 15 liters of milk, which has 7-8% milk fat, each day.

In fact, under low level of management typical in the villages, buffalo may be a more advantageous animal. Developing the carabao as potential source of milk and meat, than just draft, does not complete but rather complements the desired local dairy development. What is rather interesting is that our millions of farmers have about 3.2 million carabaos and that they have been used to raising these animals for a millennium. Genetically improving their animals constitute a minor change compared to replacing carabaos with cows as milk producer.

Why do we have to improve the carabaos as potential milk source when it may be cheaper to import milk?

Ninety-nine percent of our milk consumption comes from importation. In effect, we continue to subsidize foreign farmers to produce milk for us. This is one of the major reasons for the need to develop the local capability. If we can only provide our farmers with a more productive and competitive dairy production system, then the amount we spend for milk imports would be earned by them instead of the foreign farmers.

Why are riverine buffaloes needed in the carabao upgrading program?

The riverine buffalo is a dairy type of buffalo. One particular breed is the Murrah, which can produce an average 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 capability and increase their growth potential for meat and draft.

Why do we import breeding stocks of Murrah buffaloes?

The number of purebred Murrah buffaloes in the country available for massive upgrading activities is very limited. The national requirement for good breeding bulls is about 3,000 head. Our existing herd can only produce about 50 head per year of good quality bulls.

Carabao meat is perceived to be of lower quality than beef. Does it command lower price?

Yes. In our domestic market, carabao meat commands lower price because what is being sold are meat coming from old and retired work animals. However, with the enactment of Animal Welfare Act of 1998 (Republic Act 8485), younger carabaos can now be slaughtered. There are data which show that meat obtained from carabao slaughtered at age 2-3 years of age are passed on as beef. In reality, the meat from carabao is comparable with that from cattle, assuming that both are slaughtered at the same age. In fact, buffalo meat is considered “health” meat, having lower cholesterol than cattle beef and pork.

Can we promote raising carabaos for good quality meat in the presence of the slaughter ban?
The slaughter ban has been lifted through Republic Act 8485, a law that promotes animal welfare in the Philippines. Although silently or indirectly stated, Section 6 of the said law provides for the lifting of Executive Order No. 626 or the carabao slaughter ban, thereby permitting the slaughter of younger carabaos and to entice farmers to raise good quality carabaos for meat.

Is there a need for a water buffalo gene pool?

Yes. Gene pool is the source of best germplasm for the envisaged genetic improvement. It is not possible to talk of genetic improvement if there is no system of selecting the best and using the same to improve the ordinary stocks. Gene pool, therefore, is an essential component of genetic improvement. It ensures the sustained selection of good performing animals and mechanism by which these genetic materials are translated in terms of improvement in animal productivity.

Why a gene pool for the Philippine carabao? Is the gene pool for dairy breed (riverine type) not sufficient?

True, average success rate following the first AI service is lower than that of natural mating. However, given a very proficient AI technician and good quality semen, the success rate may be comparable. AI, however, is more than just impregnating the female. We use AI to introduce the semen from the best bulls. Since the use of best bulls is maximized by way of collecting their semen to serve as many females as possible, they are not normally available for natural mating. A semen donor can produce an average of about 5,000 doses of semen per year which can serve about 2,500-3,500 females. When used for natural mating, a bull can only serve a maximum of 50 females per year.

Why use artificial insemination (AI) when pregnancy rate through natural mating is higher?

True, average success rate following the first AI service is lower than that of natural mating. However, given a very proficient AI technician and good quality semen, the success rate may be comparable. AI, however, is more than just impregnating the female. We use AI to introduce the semen from the best bulls. Since the use of best bulls is maximized by way of collecting their semen to serve as many females as possible, they are not normally available for natural mating. A semen donor can produce an average of about 5,000 doses of semen per year which can serve about 2,500-3,500 females. When used for natural mating, a bull can only serve a maximum of 50 females per year.

Is there a need to apply biotechnologies to carabaos?

Yes, since there is a need to upgrade the animals’ ability as more than just a plain beast of burden. Improving the animals’ productivity improves the farmers’ capability to generate additional income. Creating highly productive carabaos is a relatively long process, unlike in chicken and hogs where generation interval is so short, coupled with the advantages of producing multiple offspring per calving. Getting into the 4th generation of continuous backcrossing to achieve a performance which is close to purebred will take at least 20 years. The use of the recently developed reproductive biotechnologies can reduce the time by 3 to 4 folds.

Not all Filipinos can own carabao. So what is the national carabao program for?

Well, not everybody can be involved in everything. Those involved in carabao raising, however, are the marginal farming families. They depend on carabaos for the tilling of their land to produce a good harvest and to provide them with cash in cases of emergency. Unlike the private sector groups who are involved in poultry and swine production, most of the small farmers are deprived of resources to carry out research and develop technologies. Government efforts, therefore, need to be in place. This is in consideration of the more than three million carabaos which equate to more than three million families or a total of about 10 million Filipinos who are directly linked with carabao raising.

Can the Philippine Carabao Center serve other countries with similar resources?

Why not? While we endeavor to help our Filipino farmers by providing them with the best option to improve their carabaos and ultimately develop carabao-based enterprises, we also see that these efforts can allow us to harness the potential source of genetic materials and technologies that may help fellow Asians. Through continuous build-up, we may become the center for buffalo development in the region. No other nation in Southeast Asia has put together such a development program.

How can farmers and interested parties avail of services from PCC?

They can visit or write any of the 13 PCC centers.

For more information, contact:

National Headquarters and Gene Pool
Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija
Fax Number: +63 44 4560730
Telephone Numbers: +63 44 456-0731 to 34
Web: www.pcc.da.gov.ph

Manila Liaison Office, 5F DCIEC Bldg.
NIA Complex EDSA, Quezon City, Metro Manila
Fax Number: +63 02 9213863
Telephone Number: +63 02 9267707

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *