This was how Allan, a cattle raiser in Bukidnon, described his experience when he received an imported breed of cattle from the government.
“It’s really a big blessing for us to receive imported breeds. I think it was in 1997 when we last imported live animals,” Allan S. Bernales told the BusinessMirror.
“In fact, with the distribution of imported live animals, we already shortcut the breeding process, as we can already input the semen of choice to these heifers. You can choose to have hybrid animals or Brahman pure, depending on what you want.”
Bernales’s organization, the Federation of Cattle Raisers Association of the Philippines Inc. (Fcrap), received a total of 760 heads of purebred commercial Brahman heifer from the Bureau of Animal Industry’s Expanded Beef Cattle Lease Ownership Program (E-Bclop) this year.
Fcrap, which is comprised of 200-strong cattle raisers, allotted a maximum of five heads for each of their raiser-member, said Bernales, the group’s president.
He explained they cannot distribute more than five heads to each FCRAP member. Bernales said this is to meet the group’s goal of spreading the genetic lineage of these animals across the Philippines.
“And not all [Fcrap members] received the imported breed, because some didn’t qualify, such as those who have insufficient capacity to handle these breeds,” he said, adding that about 150 FCRAP members received the imported breed.
Bernales said he didn’t allot some for himself, even though he is capable of growing such so that he would not appear biased to other members.
ASIDE from the outright animal repayment intended for the second-line farmer recipients, the Fcrap member-beneficiaries are expected to submit to the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) the performance records of each animal’s progeny weights at birth, on its 200th, 400th and 600th days.
The data will be incorporated in the database of the National Ruminant Registry of the Central Data Management Unit for generation of estimated breeding values and continuing genetic-improvement agenda of the Department of Agriculture.
Latest government data show there are about 2.56 million head of cattle in the country. Of the figure, 93.58 percent are raised in backyard farms, or those who own a maximum of three cows, while the remaining cattle population is found in commercial farms.
To meet the growing demand of Filipinos for protein-sources, such as the meat of ruminant animals (cattle, goat and sheep), the Department of Agriculture (DA) started a series of importation program in a bid to develop local ruminant-animal industries in the Philippines eight years ago.
One of those programs was the locally funded E-Bclop, which benefited
BERNALES knows that with blessing comes some burden afterward. He pointed out that not all cattle raisers in the Philippines are capable of handling imported breeds, such as the Brahman heifers.
“It’s really difficult to handle these animals, especially when it comes to food and nutrition. We lack quality feeds in the country,” Bernales said.
He explained that, in terms of nutrition, imported cattle need maximum patience as their body requires high amount of nutrition in order not to stunt their growth or grow sickly.
But Bernales said there are already various types of tropical grasses available in the Philippine market—such as Mulato, Mombasa, Guinea and Star—that can compete against imported grass from the US and Australia.
“As much as possible, you feed them with grasses alone, but sometimes raisers combine some legumes, because they are cheaper,” Bernales said. “And you might, as well, think of adding some nutrition supplement of sort to enhance their body, because you’re just giving rice straw to your cattle, then that’s really not enough to raise them well.”
ASIDE from dietary-nutrition problems, Bernales said cattle raisers in the Philippines face the challenge of shrinking land areas allocated for ruminant-animal raisers like them.
“Unlike before when native cattle has the luxury of wide areas, today land for cattle raising has become compact,” he told the BusinessMirror. “There has been a lot of competition in the agriculture sector, such as the entry of multinational companies that convert agricultural land. I think, before in the 1960s, there’s about 3 million hectares of land for cattle raising, but now there’s only around 100,000 hectares devoted to cattle.”
Bernales said the need to improve the land comes as the population of cattle in the Philippines continues to grow.
“We have to improve the land area, as the current area for cattle raising is not capable enough to supply the nutrition needed of the animals,” Bernales said, adding that the ideal land to cattle ratio is 1 hectare to one cattle (1:1).
LIKE the blessing they received, Bernales and his group accepted the fact with arms wide open the DA’s decision to halt the importation programs of live ruminant animals.
“We understand their decision because maybe they [DA] saw the whole trend of the agriculture, and they have different priorities for it,” Bernales said. “But we hope that the government pushes through other genetic-development programs, such as artificial insemination [AI] or the proposed embryo-transfer [ET] breeding. What matters most is that we continue the genetic improvement of cattle and other ruminant animals in the country.”
Still, Diosamia M. Sevilla, Agip assistant project manager, said they considered their importation programs successful, as it stirred awareness of ruminant animal raising among the Filipino livestock growers in the country.
“I would say that programs were effective, as there are still some Filipino livestock raisers requesting for certain breeds of ruminant animals when they learned about the programs,” Sevilla said. “They thought the importation was unlimited. Usually, our response to them is that the programs are already in phase two, where they can apply as recipients for the redistribution of collected offspring repayment.”
TO date, there are three more other importation programs that were all clustered under the so-called Animal Genetic Infusion Projects (Agip), the BAI’s flagship program on genetic importation.
One component is the Accelerating the Genetic Resource Improvement Program for Beef Cattle and Small Ruminants (Agripbes). Another is the Goat Production Project for an Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program (GPP-AHMP). Both of these are US-funded importation programs. The third component, which is locally funded, is called the Mutton Development Project (MDP).
It was the importation of sheep that Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol halted. Piñol told the BusinessMirror he didn’t give the go signal for the importation of 3,4069 head of sheep under the MDP, because the cost of each sheep was overpriced.
“It was really overpriced and besides, we already have a lot of sheep in the country,” Piñol said. “Go to Mindanao, and you will see a lot of sheep there. Let’s just focus on growing and multiplying the current sheep population.”
Data from the BAI show that, as of April 2010, the country’s sheep population reached 49,747. About 56.12 percent, or 27,919, were raised by backyard raisers.
DIOSAMIA M. Sevilla, Agip assistant project manager, said they still considered their importation programs successful, as it stirred awareness of ruminant animal raising among the Filipino livestock growers in the country.
“I would say the programs were effective, as there are still some Filipino livestock raisers requesting for certain breeds of ruminant animals when they learned about the programs,” Sevilla said. “They thought the importation was unlimited. Usually, our response to them is that the programs are already in Phase 2, where they can apply as recipients for the redistribution of collected offspring repayment.”
And since Piñol has no official marching order yet on the status of the Agip, Limson and Sevilla said they are just going to focus on the collection and distribution of repayment animals and monitoring of the growth of the offspring of the imported breeds.
“For now, we are just going to focus on the island-borne ones,” Sevilla said.
“It’s up to the government to evaluate the cattle raiser, given that there is least number of people interested and enthusiastic in terms of cattle raising and even goat raising in the Philippines,” Bernales said.
He just hopes the government continues to improve the genetics of cattle in
LIMSON said Filipino cattle raisers and ruminant animal growers should really embrace various technologies in the breeding process particularly AI.
“Filipino raisers and growers have this mentality where they are just going to duplicate what has been successful and effective from their neighbors,” Limson said. “Unlike them, foreigners would study a certain technology or breeding process, and then they will risk their money.”
Limson said Filipino ruminant animal raisers prefer live animal breeding, as this is way easier than the AI process. Besides, Limson notes, most of these Filipino raisers are just “weekend farmers”.
“They just put a cow there, for example, just on their land. They are not serious in terms of raising cattle as an enterprise or business,” Limson said. “And for those who take this enterprise seriously, they prefer the live breeding, because you don’t have anything to do, as long as you feed the bull, then they will mate. But they have to remember that time will come the bull will grow old, and in-breeding with its daughter cannot be avoided.”
Limson said that through AI, the raisers could easily choose a good breed for the offspring and would do away of the struggles of raising an imported breed.
“The technique in AI is that the raiser should have the patience in understanding the ‘heat’ or estrus of their animal,” Limson said. “It still boils down to the farmers’ skill. Because if the farmer doesn’t know how to read signs of heat of the animal, then
nothing good is going to happen.”
For the more than 97-percent backyard farmers in the Philippines, the BAI offers subsidized artificial-insemination program, wherein interested raisers will only have to pay for the service rendered by their AI technicians, which costs around P500 to P1,000 only, Limson said. Limson added there are about 1,700 registered and qualified AI technicians around the country.
PIÑOL is aware of the shortage of cattle in the Philippines.
“And for a country of 105 million Filipinos, we only have 2.5 million [head of] cattle,” Piñol said in front of a Filipino community in Las Vegas during his trip there in early November.
In a statement that he posted on Facebook, Piñol said the local cattle industry will be receiving a “massive” support starting 2018.
“I have directed Assistant Secretary for Livestock [Enrico Garzon] to draft a 10-year Philippine Cattle Development Program,” Piñol’s post said. “The program aims to increase the Philippine cattle population to at least 10 million by 2028.”
The DA chief is keen on introducing the ET technology in the local cattle industry, after he visited a biotechnology laboratory in south of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
“Tauron Biotech officials [are] interested in helping the Philippines to increase its cattle population by using the embryo- transfer technology,” Piñol said. “Tauron and its scientists have the capability of producing sexed embryos from the Brangus strain, actually a cross-breed of Brahman and Angus, which then could be introduced to healthy heifers in the Philippines.”
THE DA secretary added that the technology has a 99-percent accuracy of producing a female calf, the cost of which is less than $100 per embryo and a success rate of between 35 percent and 50 percent in calving.
“I have directed ASec Garzon to start the program with about 10,000 heifers next year as part of the trial period,” Piñol said. “If it is proven successful, as it was in Brazil, then we will launch a massive cattle production program starting 2018.”
“By 2018, I will allocate sufficient funds to undertake the embryo transfer on 100,000 heifers, which after two years would be ready to be recipients of another round of embryos of Brangus from Argentina.”
Piñol hopes to hit a 10 million cattle population in the Philippines by 2028.
There are about 2.56 million head of cattle in the country. Of the figure, 93.58 percent are raised in backyard farms or those who own a maximum of three cows. The remaining cattle population is found in commercial farms.
“Why am I making a 10-year plan for cattle development to end in 2028 when my term as agriculture secretary will end in 2022?” he said. “I believe that agricultural programs should be sustained, and these should not be tied with the political term of the President or the number of years of service by the agriculture secretary.”