SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ – Ranged against its many other significant achievements, the Philippine Carabao Center’s (PCC) “Philippine Dairy Carabao” breed ranks as its “monumental feat”.
Only about ten countries in the world have developed their own dairy carabao breed., some of which were imported by the Philippine government for stock infusion. Now, the country will no longer use its important dollar reserves for another importation of this mammal to boost the carabao-based industry in the country.
Four carabaos, including its registry, are to be presented to the public by the PCC officials led by executive director Dr. Arnel del Barrio on March 26 which is the eve of the celebration of the agency’s 25 founding anniversary. They will be launched as the “Philippine Dairy Carabao”.
On March 27, the PCC founding anniversary, they will be presented to the guests of honor that include ex-president and now Manila mayor Joseph Estrada who, while sitting as senator, sponsored the “Philippine Carabao Act of 1992.” Other guests are Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the committee on agriculture and food; and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol along with the stakeholders in the country’s Carabao Development Program (CDP).
The launching of the “Philippine Dairy Carabao” caps the presentation of the milestones scored by the PCC in its years of existence.
Del Barrio said the development of the “Philippine Dairy Carabao” is the result of years of the challenging and meticulous research and development works of the animal scientists of PCC.
“It did not happen with a wink of an eye. It took years of crossbreeding (of the native carabao with the riverine type of buffalo) and of series of backcrossing,” he said.“It involves further development of each filial generation,” he added.
To the uninitiated, the domesticated water buffalo is divided into two main groups or types: the river buffalo and the swamp buffalo. The former is mainly dairy type but its meat is also of good quality, too. The swamp buffalo, on the other hand, is principally used as work animal or utilization of its draft power.
It was the swamp-type that was brought to the country in earlier times. It earned its distinct name as “carabao” and has been described as the “mainstay of Philippine agriculture” and a “friendly, docile and tractable ally of the farmers in their works on the farm, in valleys, hills, mountains and even on concrete pavements”.
Over time, the breed of the carabao deteriorated and its size and weight declined. Their importance on farm works was somewhat diminished due to the introduction of farm mechanization. But, R&D efforts gave impetus for the “saving” of this important animal that eventually led to the enactment of a law which, among other things, authorized the creation of PCC “to propagate and promote the Philippine carabao and for other purposes”.
Although of different chromosomal endowment, the swamp-type and the riverine- type buffaloes were fit for crossbreeding.
As explained by Dr. Esther Flores, national coordinator of the PCC genetic improvement program, at the start, the process used was inter-se mating (among or between themselves) or the F1 females are mated with F1 males of the same breed. The result of this process, she said, is a crossbred buffalo with 50 percent riverine blood and 50 percent swamp blood or first filial generation.
The series of backcrossing was done wherein in the first stage the crossbreds is mated with the riverine bull whose off spring (F2) has 25 percent swamp blood and 75 percent riverine blood. Subsequent backcrossing, which is up to the development of F4, results in the development of off spring with 93.75 riverine and 6.25 swamp blood, which is almost purebred, according to Flores.
She also said that parallel to this undertaking, was the development of “full blood” Philippine dairy buffalo.
She said this entailed the genetic improvement of the imported stocks. From among the selected best performing animals the next generation breeders were produced. Genetic evaluation was then put in place to be able to determine the genetic merit of the animal which is expressed in “estimated breeding value”.
Flores said both the “Full Blood Philippine Dairy Buffalo” and the “Purebred Philippine Dairy Buffalo” are very adaptable to hot and humid tropical conditions.
In an interview, Del Barrio said over the years, there was not much contribution of the carabao in terms of dairying and in the supply of carabao’s milk. But since the full throttle implementation of the PCC programs that saw the increase in number of dairy carabaos (the purebreds and crossbreds) in the hands of the farmers, there is a tremendous increase in carabao’s milk yield as well as in the supply of meat in the market.
Reports said that the country spend billions of pesos in importing milk as well as meat to meet the demand in the country. Happily, with the efforts on improving the breed of the native carabao and in knowledge transfer to farmers on carabao raising, dairying, and enterprise development, there’s a dent in volume of milk and meat imported as well as bringing about “changed lives” for the farmers.
“We have many success stories on the ground. Look around and you will see that several farmers are now benefitting financially and socially from the carabao-based industry,” del Barrio said.
On the Philippine-bred carabao, he said, this breed is “resilient to climate change and is adapted to the country’s weather conditions.
He said it is expected that by 2020, all the frozen semen to be distributed for artificial insemination in the country will come from the “Philippine Dairy Carabao” breed.