By Henrylito D. Tacio
Goats at the Mabandos farm in Mabunga.
ONE major reason why agriculture in the Philippines lags is because of malnutrition. "The members of most farm families in the country are either malnourished or undernourished and this is significantly reducing their productivity," deplores Steve Musen, the new director of the Davao-based Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC).
One possible solution to the malnutrition problem, he contends, is by drinking milk. "Milk," explains Musen, who has been in the country since the late 1990s, "is our most ideal food, meeting our nutritional needs better than any other single food item. It is rich in most of the nutrients needed by the human body. That is why newly-born babies can subsist solely on milk in the first few months of their lives."
Nutritionists claim milk is an excellent source of protein, calcium and vitamins A and B complex. As such, milk builds bones and teeth, muscles, and brain tissues.
Unfortunately, the Philippine dairy industry - although considered a vital component of the country's economic and nutritional development - has remained badly underdeveloped. In fact, the country reportedly imports P2 billion worth of milk and milk by-products annually to meet its domestic requirement.
"Importations account for 99 percent of the national consumption because local dairy production can provide a pitiful three drops of milk per Filipino daily," Musen says.
The words of a disgruntled housewife seem to summarize the sad state of the country's dairy industry: "Everytime I drink a glass of milk in a restaurant, I taste the stale, unpleasant flavor of powdered milk. I wonder what has happened to fresh milk in this grass-producing country.
Why can't we have a viable dairy industry and stop paying exorbitant prices for second-rate, tasteless imports?"
In the Philippines, the chief sources of milk are cows, carabaos, and goats. Of these three animals, the goat is the least expensive to raise because it is not as big as the two other animals. In fact, it earned the moniker "poor man's cow." In addition, goat milk is less likely to cause allergy in humans, especially in infants, than cow or carabaos milk.
This is the reason why MBRLC is busy promoting the raising of goats in the country. "Goat raising is one of the most simple, low-cost food production projects that a Filipino can get involved in. Because of the rising cost of commercial feeds these days, goats have become one of the most economical alternatives for meeting the protein needs of Filipino families," Musen says.
Goats thrive on grasses and field greens and are easy to care for. A person who raises goats will have a new good source of food and additional income. More importantly, goats are usually docile and can be raised by anyone.
There are several advantages in raising goats in the farm or backyard. To begin with, you need only a small starting capital to start a goat project.
Secondarily, more goats can be raised per hectare than cattle; they also multiply faster than cattle or carabaos.
The national goat herd is about 2.3 million heads, according to the records of the Department of Agriculture. Regions with the most goats are Central Visayas (348,000 heads), Southern Mindanao (291,200 heads), Central Mindanao (237,600), Western Visayas (259,300), and the Ilocos Region (227,900).
Research conducted at the MBRLC has shown that the volume of milk produced from a purebred milking doe is about 3-4 liters per day (including the milk fed to the kids), which is more than the national average production of 2 liters. Thus, by raising goats, the country can develop its own dairy industry.
"Popularizing goat milk consumption nationally would drastically cut huge amount of foreign exchange being spent by the country annually to fill domestic demand for milk and its by-products," Musen says.
Most of the goats raised at the MBRLC are Anglo-Nubians, either purebred or crossbreds. "We knew that of all foreign goat breeds introduced in the Philippines, the Anglo-Nubian, a meat-milk type, is the most adaptable to local conditions," Musen says. "At present, it is the most popular goat breed in the country."
The MBRLC has been raising goats since the early 1970s. It has already developed a sustainable goat raising method called Simple Agro-Livestock Technology (SALT 2), a modification of its internationally-known Sloping Agricultural Land Technology.
"SALT 2 is a half-hectare model of goat-based agroforestry with a land use of 40 percent for agriculture, 40 percent for livestock (specifically goats), and 20 percent for forestry," Musen explains.
The MBRLC is offering a 5-day training on goat raising at its center in Bansalan, Davao del Sur. For further details, write the center at this e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit its website: www2.mozcom.com/~mbrlc.
Demand for live goats or chevon (goat's meat) is highest during the months of December and January when the price is highest. For instance, most stall operators during peak months sell about 100-200 kilograms of chevon daily in Divisoria depending on the supply. Usually, goat meat is sold either as dressed chevon with skin (scalded) or without. Edible entrails are also sold at a much lower price.
A study showed that 80 percent of chevon buyers in Divisoria or elsewhere are restaurant owners or proprietors of beer gardens who offer "caldereta"
and "kilawen" to match with ice-cold beer. Other customers include housewives who buy one to two kilograms for home consumption.