Reshaping Min­danao’s cat­tle in­dus­try

Agriculture - - Contents -

DE­SCRIBED as a “mes­tizo,” Arob has a face that is un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally white, while his buck­skin or­ange body is grow­ing fast. And with his good-look­ing mus­cu­lar frame, he seems to be adapt­ing well to his en­vi­ron­ment.

Born in Oc­to­ber 2014, Arob is among the 17 cat­tle con­ceived through artificial in­sem­i­na­tion con­ducted at the Min­danao Cat­tle Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Project (MCRDP) in Bago Oshiro, Min­tal, Davao City.

“Arob” is ac­tu­ally the acro­nym for the name of Dr. An­to­nio Ob­sioma, the MCRDP’s re­search leader. Dr. Ob­sioma said the project aims to trans­form the lo­cal cat­tle in­dus­try through the cross­breed­ing of Min­danao na­tive cat­tle with su­pe­rior cat­tle breeds from the USA. “UP (Univer­sity of the Philip­pines) alum­nus and US-DA (United States Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture) re­tiree Dr. Ce­cilio Felix in­tro­duced the idea of im­prov­ing our na­tive cat­tle by try­ing to cross-breed it with a Here­ford minia­ture breed from the US,” he said.

Dr. Ob­sioma, who is also the UP Min­danao vice chan­cel­lor, said that while our na­tive cat­tle breeds have adapted to the coun­try’s warm cli­mate and can tol­er­ate ad­verse con­di­tions, they are not as good as the breeds from tem­per­ate coun­tries when it comes to pro­duc­ing more milk and meat. “But the good thing with them (na­tive cat­tle) [is that] even un­der ad­verse con­di­tions, they can re­pro­duce,” he said, ex­plain­ing that if the good char­ac­ter­is­tics of our lo­cal breeds are com­bined with those of su­pe­rior breeds, bet­ter off­spring can be pro­duced.

GE­NETIC IM­PROVE­MENT

The idea then paved the way for the es­tab­lish­ment of MCRDP, whose man­date is to con­duct re­search on the ge­netic im­prove­ment of the na­tive cat­tle breeds through cross breed­ing with minia­ture Here­ford bulls. Us­ing artificial in­sem­i­na­tion, the project aims to de­velop a foun­da­tion herd of minia­ture cat­tle crosses. Dr. Ob­sioma said, “In de­vel­op­ing our lo­cal breeds, we can at­tain ge­netic in­de­pen­dence to sus­tain beef and dairy pro­duc­tion, and like­wise in­crease [the in­comes] of small­holder live­stock farm­ers.”

In 2013, the MCRDP was launched through a Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment signed be­tween the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture in Re­gion XI (DA-XI) and UP Min­danao.

The DA, through its live­stock ban­ner pro­gram, pro­vided R1.5 mil­lion in as­sis­tance to help de­velop the MCRDP live­stock

sta­tion lo­cated within the 200-hectare com­pound of UP Min­danao. “The said amount went to the con­struc­tion of the build­ing, pur­chase of na­tive cat­tle, and op­er­a­tional [costs] such as feeds and wages for care­tak­ers,” said DA live­stock pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor Marie Ann Con­stantino.

The se­men from a Here­ford bull and seeds for the pas­ture grass were pro­vided for free by Dr. Felix. Here­ford cat­tle are a beef cat­tle breed widely raised in var­i­ous cli­mates pri­mar­ily for beef pro­duc­tion.

As a joint un­der­tak­ing of the DA-XI’s live­stock pro­gram and UP Min­danao, with sup­port from pri­vate sec­tor, the breed­ing project has al­ready pro­duced minia­ture Min­danao beef cat­tle with im­proved char­ac­ter­is­tics ob­tained from su­pe­rior breeds.

“Since it would be ex­pen­sive to trans­port live an­i­mals from US, we just shipped the se­men of Here­ford cat­tle and [did] the cross-breed­ing through artificial in­sem­i­na­tion,” said Dr. Rafael Mer­cado.

Dr. Mer­cado, who is also the DA-XI as­sis­tant direc­tor, said the cat­tle breed­ing project is in line with the agency’s man­date to en­sure the na­tion’s food se­cu­rity against the back­drop of dwin­dling pas­ture­lands across the coun­try. “Ten years ago, we [had] about 200,000 hectares in­tended for graz­ing, but now it is only close to 100,000 hectares. This means we have to find ways to cope with the in­creas­ing de­mand for beef cat­tle while at the same time [max­i­miz­ing] our ex­ist­ing pas­ture lands.”

PROMIS­ING RE­SULTS In just a span of al­most four years, the MCRDP has pro­duced 17 cross­bred off­spring of the na­tive and Here­ford breeds. Nine are male (in­clud­ing Arob) and eight are fe­males. “We have pro­duced fast-grow­ing and good-look­ing an­i­mals. We have not ob­served them hav­ing the dif­fi­culty ad­just­ing to our lo­cal [con­di­tions]. They also look fer­tile and within the next few months, some of the an­i­mals [will be] ready for breed­ing,” said Dr. Ob­sioma.

He also ob­served that the an­i­mals are docile and easy to man­age. Al­though they are smaller com­pared to other breeds, they are ‘meaty’ in ap­pear­ance. “They do not re­quire too much space and look ef­fi­cient since they grow fast,” he added. Based on the data gath­ered by the MCRDP, the minia­ture cat­tle grow be­tween about four feet high and weigh from 227300 ki­los, at­tain­ing ma­tu­rity in 14-20 months. Since it grows faster than the na­tive breed, it is ex­pected to pro­duce more meat as well as milk.

“This type of cat­tle de­vel­oped by [the] MCRDP can be grazed even in back­yards. One farmer who owns a hectare of land can raise up to four cat­tle with an av­er­age weight of 500 pounds each. If you mul­ti­ply that [by four], that’s about 2,000 pounds of cat­tle be­ing grazed in a small par­cel of land,” said Dr. Mer­cado, who added that women will not have a prob­lem rais­ing the an­i­mal due to its small size and docil­ity.

While get­ting bullish on the promis­ing re­sults of the re­search

project, Dr. Ob­sioma and Dr. Mer­cado ad­mit that much still needs to be done be­fore the cross­breeds can be com­mer­cial­ized. “As of the mo­ment, we can­not talk of com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion just yet. Our in­ten­tion for now is to es­tab­lish in­for­ma­tion about these cross­breeds and how they per­form,” noted Dr. Ob­sioma, adding that the re­search is pri­mar­ily in­tended to help small an­i­mal rais­ers.

“If [the] pri­vate sec­tor [wants these cross­breeds to be] com­mer­cial­ized, we al­ready have the tech­nol­ogy,” he added. As the breed­ing project moves for­ward, Dr. Ob­sioma said it needs ad­di­tional se­men, not only from the Here­ford breed but also from the Jersey breed. He added that more in­sti­tu­tional col­lab­o­ra­tors are needed to help with the project’s up­com­ing mas­sive artificial in­sem­i­na­tion cam­paign.

Dr. Mer­cado hopes their pro­posal for ex­pand­ing the project will be ap­proved soon “…so we can reach out to other ar­eas and tap more stake­hold­ers in de­vel­op­ing our lo­cal cat­tle in­dus­try not only here in Davao but in Min­danao and even the en­tire coun­try.”

Dr. Ob­sioma also hopes the DA will con­tinue to carry out these types of in­no­va­tive re­search projects. Cit­ing the suc­cess­ful ex­pe­ri­ence of the Philip­pine Carabao Cen­ter, he en­vi­sions that na­tive cat­tle breed­ing will be even­tu­ally in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized.

As DA Sec­re­tary Em­manuel Piñol aims to in­crease farm­ers’ in­come and make food avail­able and af­ford­able for all, it’s about time to in­crease Arob’s tribe to of­fer the chance at a higher in­come to farm­ers and en­sure an ad­e­quate sup­ply of qual­ity meat to con­sumers.

Dr. An­to­nio Ob­sioma (right) and Dr. Rafael Mer­cado show off Arob, the 21-month old cat­tle pro­duced by a pro­gram de­vel­oped by the Min­danao Cat­tle Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Project (MCRDP) at UP Min­danao cam­pus. Arob is a cross be­tween na­tive cat­tle and the Here­ford breed.

Some of the 17 cat­tle de­vel­oped by MCRDP.

The typ­i­cal na­tive cat­tle (left) and the cross­bred cat­tle (right) de­vel­oped through artificial in­sem­i­na­tion by the MCRDP; the lat­ter has a white face and buck­skin or­ange body. (Pho­tos by Che Pal­icte)

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