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Carabao milk: Isabela's white gold

Zuellen B. Reynoso

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Indigenous to the Philippines, the carabao has been part of the farming family's animals since time immemorial. Known as kalabaw in the country, adult carabaos, which can weigh up to 2,000 kilograms, are widely used not only for pulling the plow, but also for transporting the family and farm products to the market. Carabao milk is also popular as food as it is complete with essential vitamins and minerals, not to mention its protein, lactose, fat, and water contents that make carabao dairy products all the more enticing for consumers. And because there are various dairy products that can be easily processed from carabao milk, such as yogurt, pastillas de leche, kesong puti, pasteurized milk, going into this venture creates for higher profit even for individual homemakers.

The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) created way back in 1992, ensures that we are able to "conserve, propagate, and promote the carabao as source of milk, meat, draft power, and hide to benefit the rural farmers" (Hernandez, 2006). Through programs that focus on genetic conservation and utilization, social and enterprise development, and research and development, the PCC, together with the National Dairy Authority (NDA), has been able to expand, not only the knowledge on carabaos and its dairy produce, but also in the ways in which we are able to fulfill a national, and possibly, even an international market demand.

Dairy products in the Philippines

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Dairy products are foodstuffs that are produced by using milk primarily from cows or domestic buffalos and even sheep, goats, camels, and horses. Being the third largest market for dairy products around the world, milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt are just among the basic products that are of highest consumption in the country - especially in Metro Manila.

Demand for fresh milk from business (e.g., coffee shops and supermarkets) and consumer markets (e.g., households and schools) continues to increase. With basically around 13 dairy processors in the entire country in operation, supply becomes unmistakably lacking. With only a handful of dairy processors, and limited knowledge on proper feeding of carabaos, output of smallholder producers, cooperatives, government-related agencies, and commercial farms combined are unable to meet the ever increasing dairy needs of the country.

As demand for dairy products is constantly increasing, the potential profitability in this industry is practically endless. Further development of the dairy industry will not only generate employment and increase the income of local farmers, but will also aid in attaining food security and improve nutrition (through efforts such as the government's milk feeding program for children).

TechCom project for carabao milk products in San Pablo, Isabela

The second biggest province in the Philippines, Isabela is one of the first class provinces in the country in terms of income. Possessing a large area not only for pasture and agricultural development, but also includes fertile fishing ground, Isabela is abundant in food resources. However, although carabao milk production is available in this province, assistance on the commercial production of various dairy products is still required according to the San Pablo Livestock and Dairy Development Association. Appropriate training in animal husbandry, in the conversion of carabao milk into various dairy products, product marketing, and even management and development of entrepreneurial capabilities of the members, among others, are needed in order to further develop the dairy industry in San Pablo, Isabela. In order to make milk harvesting a profitable enterprise, it is not enough that the dairy farmer knows about the how-tos, but also the knowhow to ensure that they are able to harvest the highest quantity and quality of milk to create marketable dairy products.

Headed by the municipal local government unit of Cabagan, Isabela, the technology commercialization project that focuses on the processing of carabao milk to make dairy products, began in the second quarter of 2009 with a projected duration of two years. A collaboration between Isabela State University and the Department of Agriculture - Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR), the project titled, "Technology Commercialization: Processing of Carabao Milk into Dairy Products," aimed to enhance the development of the dairy industry through the processing of milk into dairy products that will enable the municipality to generate employment, increase income, provide food security, and improve the nutrition of the people of San Pablo, Isabela.

This BAR-funded project ensured that the health of the carabao population of the municipality was sustained at top health to meet the requirement for milk production-quality- and quantity-wise. The municipal local government unit (MLGU) provided trainings and seminars on proper carabao raising; processing of milk products such as pastillas, pasteurized milk, flavored milk, yogurt, and kesong puti, as well as good postprocessing practices; and product marketing. The program also promoted local dairy products via marketing through restaurants and other establishments within the municipality, as well as in Ilagan, Cauayan, and Tuguegarao city; and through trade fair participation for product exposure, networking and expansion. Apart from these, other training programs on proper milk handling-collection, processing, storing, and packaging-were continuously undertaken by the proponents and the association members throughout the duration of the project.

With collaborations such as this project, the dairy product industry in San Pablo, Isabela will have the opportunity to grow and contribute, not only for its own province but possibly aid in providing more employment and increased income for the farmers, as well as help assure food security and improved nutrition in the country.

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Reference
1. Ang, P.A. 2010. Philippines Dairy and Products Annual. GAIN Report. USCA Foreign Agricultural Service. Retrieved from http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Dairy%20and%20Products%20Annual_Manila_Philippines_10-7-2010.pdf
2. Hernandez, M.E.E. 2006. The Philippine Carabao Center…has gone a long way. BAR Digest, 8 (3, July-September). Retrieved from http://www.bar.gov.ph/bardigest/2006/julsep06_featinst.asp
3. Ramirez, M.A.R. 2004. More Pinoy Kids to Receive Milk Treat. Research and Development Institute, Department of Science and Technology. Retrieved from http://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=237