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Chemist leaves high-paying job in Clark to engage in odd carabao feed production

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(Chemist Isagani Cajucom, left, leads his workers in making silage for the carabaos out of his corn crop in his farm in Lupao, Nueva Ecija. Photo by Anselmo Roque)

LUPAO, Nueva Ecija – He has a high-paying job then in a private company at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga but he opted to leave it in exchange for carabao feed production which is a rare business venture.

It happened that he chanced upon a seminar under the project “Commercialization of Grass/Forage Corn Silage for Dairy Buffaloes through Technomart.” The project was launched here by the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) in cooperation with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources and Development (PCAAARD.

Isagani Cajucom, in his mid-40s, saw a big opportunity in the production of quality silage as more and more farmers and individuals engaging in commercial raising of dairy carabaos have a need for it.

“I knew then that the carabao raisers will surely need ready-to-acquire animal feed,” Cajucom said. “The venture on it will certainly flourish,” he added confidently.

He didn’t hesitate in leaving his job. He concentrated in growing napier grass in his one-hectare land. He became an elected leader of a 14-man group in his place in Bbarangay Parista here that started in 2010 their respective ventures in silage production.

A few years after, he attested he was correct in the decision that he made for a livelihood that is much better in terms of returns compared to his former job.

Silage-making

In silage-making, the material produced is through fermentation, under anaerobic conditions, of the chopped crop residues or forages with high moisture contents.

It is fermented and stored in a process called ensilage, ensiling or silaging. In Tagalog it is called burong pakain sa kalabaw.

Among the materials that can be used for ensiling are grass crops, including maize, sorghum or other cereals, using the entire green plant including the grains.

Silage is made through any of the following methods: placing the cut green vegetation in a silo or pit; piling the vegetation in a large heap and compressing it down so as to purge as much oxygen as possible, then covering it with a plastic sheet; or by wrapping large round bales tightly in plastic film.

For grass, the moisture content ideal for ensiling is about 55 percent to 60 percent depending on the means of storage, the degree of compression, and the amount of water that will be lost in storage, but not exceeding 75 percent.

After harvesting, the grass or the crop is shredded to pieces to about 0.5 inches to 1.3 centimeter long. The material is spread in uniform layers over the floor of the silo, and closely packed. In the silo the pressure of the material, when chaff ed, excludes air from all but the top layer. Excessive heat, however, is prevented by applying extra pressure.

Among the ideal matters rich in energy that can be turned into animal feed thru silage production are napier grass, para grass, Guinea grass, corn, sorghum, rice straw or hay, and sugar cane bagasse, The other plants which are rich in protein include legumes, ipil-ipil leaves, malunggay, mani-manihan, Centosema, Rensoni, Stylo and others.

The ensilage matter can be harvested after three weeks.

Maize silage is made out of whole ensiled maize plants. It is one of the most valuable forages for ruminant livestock and it is used wherever maize can grow, from temperate regions to the tropics.

The popularity of maize silage is due to several factors. It is a consistent source of palatable and high-energy forage for all classes of ruminants. It is one of the most high-yielding forage crops, requires less labor (since it is harvested in a single operation) and is generally less costly to produce it than other forage crops size.

Nutrient and energy content of the grass silage is: dry matter: 30 – 45 percent; crude protein: less than 17 percent; crude fiber: 22 – 25 percent; and net energy for lactation: 6.0 – 6.4 megajoules (unit of energy) per kilogram dry matter.

Corn ensiling

In 2013, Cajucom embarked on planting corn and napier grass. He sold his harvest to PCC and earned P13,000 for his napier grass silage and P20,000 for his corn silage.

In his second cycle of panting and ensiling of corn, he harvested 34,000 tons which was sold at P1.84 per kilogram (kg). That was a cool P62,560 for his one-hectare farm.

He observed that if it is very hot and the standing crops are not irrigated, the harvest is only 23,000 kg. But if is irrigated, the harvest could reach 38,000 kg.

He observed that the appropriate age of forage corn to harvest it is between 75 and 80 days or when the ear’s seeds has about two-thirds milk-line or the distinct horizontal line that appears near the end of the corn’s kernel.

The ears of the corn plants are very good materials because of the high soluble carbohydrates and high-buffering capacity or their ability to neutralize the acid content with little change in pH.

The corn stem and leaves serve as the “rice,” while the ears serve as the “viand.”

The chopped corn plants including the ears are stored in a polyethylene sack with a capacity of 20-30 kg, for about three weeks before marketing or feeding to animals.

Cajucom, has proven the potential of corn silage production in the market. During one cycle of planting and harvesting, he produced 54,729 kg of corn silage in his two-hectare lot, sold at P191,551,50.

He gained a total net income of P66, 661.60 after deducting the cost for labor, planting materials, pesticide and herbicide application, irrigation, materials for chopping, and transportation, among others.

In a span of two years, Cajucom has earned a total of P582,475.80 from four cycles of planting and harvesting.

The main advantages of corn silage production, he said, are: it is not season-dependent as it can be done any time when there is forage abundance; it does not require sophisticated equipment, the shelf-life and quality of silage remain stable under longer storage time, and it can be prepared easily under small or commercial scale.

Cajucom, through his continuous experimentation and knowledge acquisition from the Technomart, has perfected his corn growing and ensiling. Harvesting his corn crop at 75 to 80 days and placing it in silo bags, he waits for 21 days to complete his ensilaging process.

With the help of his hired helps, he is now capable of producing an average of 100 tons per cycle. On peak days of selling his product, he disposes off at most 380 tons of silage that goes as far as Batangas for his usual client there.

He sells now his product at P3.50 per kg which has to be picked up by the buyer from his place.

“Silage is in demand now at any time and clime as the dairy carabaos being tended needed to be fed,” Cajucom said. “I am committed to this undertaking now,” he added.

As regards, his former work as a chemist in a corporation engaged in environmental concerns, he said he harbors no regrets in leaving it and plunging into a rarely heard of business venture.

Why should he regret about it? His gains in silage-making are multiple when computed.

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