PCC IMPROVING NATIVE CARABAO BREED FOR GREATER PRODUCTIVITY
FOR CENTURIES, the Philippine carabao, which is a swamp-type water buffalo,has been the ideal companion and helpmate of farmers in their day-to-day chores. Its draft power abilities, and its being tractable and friendly, have given it the status of being so indispensable, local farmers often said they were less effective and efficient without the creatures. Times have changed, though. In the advent of farm mechanization, the carabao’s role has been diminished, and it is now underutilized, especially since the numbers of the riverine or dairy type carabaos, its cousin, are increasing.
But all is not lost for the Philippine carabao.
The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), upholding its mandate to conserve, propagate, and promote the carabao as a source of milk, meat, draft power, and hide to benefit rural farming families, is embarking on aprogram to improve the native carabao. It is now committed to establishing a gene pool for the Philippine carabao, and from this pool, the selection of its economically important traits will be done.These traits include growth, carcass quality, and reproductive abilities.
Foremost on the PCC’s list of things to do for this animalare: to improve its size, weight, and capabilities to yield more draft power, meat, milk, and other benefits that can be derived from it.
In the genetic improvement program (GIP) for the Philippine carabao, conservation efforts will underscore the maintenance of a viable herd and long term storage of germplasm in the form of frozen semen, and perhaps frozen embryos, and improving the animal’s growth rate, reproductive performance, and carcass traits via a breeding program that will emphasize selection for these traits.
“We are focusing on improving the meat production potential of the native or swamp buffaloes, increasing…its growth rate, and improving some of the specific muscle areas that are of high value,” said Dr. Ester B. Flores, PCC national GIP coordinator, adding that the breeding program is meant to increase the productivity of the Philippine carabaofor meat because it already has good structure and form for draft power. “If it will be sold for meat, then why not increase its dressing percentage?” she asked, emphasizing the importance of improving the productivity of the native carabao.
IMPROVING GROWTH POTENTIAL According to Dr. Flores, in terms of economic benefits, the changes in the potential growth rate of the native carabao can be translated into more economic value with fewerefforts, andwill only involve the use of swamp buffaloes with improved genetics. A faster growth rate, she said, would enable farmers to sell them to the market at a younger age with an average market weight of 400 kilograms (kg), and provide farmers with an additional source of income.
The document “Write-up on the Updates on Philippine Swamp Buffalo Gene Pool and Breeding Program” conducted by the team of Dr. Flores indicated that to date, there are 1,266 growth records available for analysis. In recent years, a general improvement in weight and ADG (average daily gain), especially among the younger calves was noted. This validates the selection of replacement bulls for breeding.
Tracking growth trends indicates linear growth in the calves up to 24 months of age. The ADG at 12months increased the most consistently, with a 153% increase in 2014 relative to 2004. This was followed by ADG at 18 months. This translatesinto slightly higher body weights at 12 and 18 months compared to 2004 prior to starting a breeding program.
The study also indicated thatthe Philippine carabao has the potential to increase its meat-type breed, with more formal genetic evaluation and selection program. Thus, genetic evaluation to estimate breeding values for growth rate, carcass, and maternal traits should be given more emphasis as well as genetic correlations among these traits.