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by Anselmo Roque
27-March-2009 Philippine Daily Inquirer
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SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija— Make way for the country’s super carabaos.

At the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) here, the male carabao (water buffalo) weighs 750 kilograms and counting, while the female carabao yields 17 to 20 liters of milk a day, according to Dr. Libertado Cruz, the center’s executive director.

These carabaos will be the center of attraction on Friday during the launching of three books on the carabao development program to celebrate the PCC’s 17th anniversary.

Although Cruz was reluctant to call them “super carabaos,” the water buffaloes at the gene pool here look hugely different from the native carabaos.

The native carabaos weigh an average of 350 kg, while the native dam gives a milk yield of an average of 1.5 liters a day.

“We want the public, particularly the farmers, to see our best performing animals in our gene pool,” Cruz said.

“As they appreciate them, we want to underscore that they, like many farmers now, can produce their own improved breed of carabaos and open opportunities for themselves to become entrepreneurs.”

Beyond draft power
Beyond their draft power, carabaos can help generate income and create jobs, Cruz said.

He said about 3.3 million native and crossbred carabaos in the country were used mainly for draft purposes in sugarcane plantations and rice and corn farms, and for hauling.

“The milk, meat, hide and horn businesses from carabaos are still not yet fully developed,” Cruz said.

Prospects for big business
For liquid milk alone, the potential market demand yearly is worth billions of pesos, according to the PCC executive director.

Records showed that in 2007, the country spent $652.45 million (about P30.66 billion) for the importation of 287.86 million kg of milk and milk products.

While the country’s milk production (from cows, carabaos and goats) increased from 12.79 million kg in 2006 to 13.23 million kg in 2007, the output in 2007 represented only 23 percent of the liquid milk supply.

The demand for meat, on the other hand, was equivalent to 400,000 head worth P4 billion, Cruz said.

“We can include the hide and horn of the carabaos as also potential sources of big business in the country. So there’s no doubt that farmers, entrepreneurs and the local economy can ride high on the prospects for business that the carabaos can bring,” he said.

Cruz also said carabao enterprises could provide jobs for caretakers, veterinarians and veterinary aides, milk processors, milk and delivery men, village-based technicians, and in the case of dairy cooperatives, bookkeepers and office workers.

The PCC, which was established with the passage of Republic Act No. 7307 in 1992, is tasked with conserving, propagating and promoting the carabao as a source of draft animal power, meat, milk and hide.

Carabao Act
It was the declining size, weight and population of the native carabaos that prompted then Sen. Joseph Estrada to author the Carabao Act of 1992.

“Broadly, our task is to pursue the genetic transformation of our native carabaos to produce improved breed for draft, milk, meat, hide and horn purposes,” Cruz said.

Through the PCC’s 13 stations across the country, technology transfer on the care and production of carabaos, and teaching and encouraging rural families to engage in carabao enterprises are also pursued.

The genetic transformation being done by the PCC, after conducting thorough research and development, is through the production of semen from imported bulls and its distribution for artificial insemination to native carabaos.

Test-tube technique
The center also uses reproductive biotechnology called embryo transfer technology, or the test-tube technique.

“It really takes a long time to produce quality animals from cross breeding. It takes three generations or 15 years to attain 87.5 percent genetic purity for the improved breed of native carabaos,” Cruz said.

He said the PCC would continue to select and infuse superior breed from abroad to further improve the breed of carabaos in the country.

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