By Rey Anthony Chiu, PIA-Bohol | 10:52 AM June 06, 2021
An ordinary day in these layered rice fields at the foot of the southeastern ridge of Labawan Peak in Mabini would start at about 5:00 AM.
Clad in sleeved shirts and pants that protect them from the sharp stinging grasses and the late dawn dew, teen-agers take to the trails, carabaos in tow for their daily pasture.
Yesterday, pasture was on an abandoned dried rice paddy where young green grasses grew in between the scythed clumps of harvested rice. Today, the green gasses below the shades of the gmelina would be enough for an hour of pasture before they head back to the carabao shed where the milking starts.
Then before the pandemic, it was not strange when these teen-aged youth of San Vicente in Ubay also carry with them to their pasturelands some notebooks or books where they finish an assignment amidst the mesmerizing crunch of grasses the carabao idly chews.
After finishing with their home work under the trees, a sack has to be filled with newly cut grasses for the carabao to chew on its cud while it is resting under the shades after milking.
By 7:00, the students would have to walk the 2 kilometers to San Vicente Elementary School, or to the nearby secondary school: Biabas Trade School about 3 kilometers to the highway.
“A mature carabao has to eat 1/3 of its body weight. Grasses act as their rice, they would still be needing supplement, which would be their viand, for a complete nutrition,” explains Philippine Carabao Center director Dr. Dinah Loculan, using a familiar analogy.
By viand, she means high nutrients found in nutritionally complete homegrown forages, if one is intent on getting the most milk from a milking water buffaloes or the riverine carabao.
Barangay San Vicente in Ubay is one of Bohol’s densest buffalo dairy production site, with almost 20 families engaged in milking their carabaos in response to the challenge of producing the dairy requirements for Bohol’s supplementary feeding program.
Here, the PCC has dispersed crossbreds and purebred milking buffaloes, seeing that rice production in these rain-fed paddies is unreliable especially with the unpredictable climate.
“For a native carabao, other than the milk the calf needs, a family can still get at least a liter of milk, which they sell at P50 a liter.
For families with crossbreeds, the average milk yield is between 3 to 5 liters a day, and for the purebreds, the average yield is between 5 to 8 liters a day,” adds Geronima Abayabay, another PCC official PCC at Ubay Stock Farm.
The yield would also depend on what the animals eat, a well-fed animal can give as much milk, PCC said.
In the fields of San Vicente, the grasses are greenest during rainy season, but in the heat of summer, the grasses wilt and that is when the dairy production drips to nearly at halt.
That also presents the possibility of silage production, Loculan shared.
It was in July 15, 2020, when we had an organizational meeting with the youth here, PCC community organizer and senior agriculturist Gaudioso Calibugan recalled.
The group, which would later be called Ubay Northeastern Dairy Breeders Association 4H Club was soon organized with 18 youth members aged 12 to 23, according to Melvin Sastrillas, 23 and chairman of the group.
Composed of mostly children of dairy adaptor families, the group ventured into a partnership with Bohol Dairy Cooperative, who had in need of high nutritional value silage for the lean days.
Silage is a type of fodder made from green foliage crops which have been preserved by acidification, achieved through fermentation. It can be fed to ruminants like goats, cattle and carabao.
The process of silage making includes cutting fresh (green) fodder, chopping them, compacting them, storing and fermenting under controlled conditions like packing them in a vacuum pack sacks, where air is sucked out of the cut grass.
Each member helps in planting napier in the family’s backyard, or corn or any high nutrition value forage grass like the indigofera in the common farm.
This includes helping in the land preparation, seeding and weeding to get the best growth, shares 20 year old communications student at Trinidad Municipal College Anamarie Dupalco, who sits with Sastrillas as office shared that late afternoon when the online classes were ending a semester.
With corn having a high nutritional value, the decided to grow it for silage production, according to Jovel Dupalco, 17 years old student at the nearby Biabas Trade High School.
75 days later, when the corn starts to silk and the tassels are in bloom, it is harvest time, Nova Sastrillas, 17 and a student taking up the general academic strand at the Biabas Trade Senior high school continued.
The cut corn are then chopped and placed inside sealed sacks for vacuum packing, intones 18 years old Junie Dupalco, automotive student at Biabas Trade Senior High School.
PCC senior agriculturist and community organizer Calibugan said they guided the kids and trained them on the technology, lent to the organization key equipment like mechanical chopper and industrial vacuum to let them get hands on training.
After about a week of work in between answering modules and continuing in helping pasture and milk the carabaos, we were able to gather some 10,990 kilograms of silage, which we sold to BODACO and to the PCC at 7:00 per kilo, narrates16 years old Reno Sastrillas, during the PIA visit to their work area.
The PIA chanced upon the youth during a meeting to update members of their financial status, one they piously do after every major silage production.
The group earned P76, 900 during their first venture.
From there, they divided the income, leaving P2,550 as members capital build up (CBU).
For a complete week work without absences and with a time keeper to keep track of everyone’s work, a member still received P1,198.00, which is not bad earning for a student after a week’s work.
A few weeks later, the group decided to invest by buying out a corn farm in La Hacienda, the corn would be another batch of silage.
They bought the entire cropping at P14,000.00 which elated the corn farmer, realizing that a hectare of corn farm, when allowed to mature still entails hard work in harvesting, separating the kernels, sun-drying and milling. The corn farmer knew that he has never earned P14,000.00 in the farm in the past, recalled Calibugan.
The good thing is that, for some of these kids, the income they earned went to build the family’s comfort room, he added.
In fact, the Sastrillas family has already constructed a new house to replace its old bamboo hut.
With over a hundred thousand in the bank now, the group of 30 members embark on to their next forage cropping in the next weeks in Ubay, one of the few shining places where farmer parents and the government need not convince their children to go serious into farming.
A decade from now, we see ourselves with our own production shed, a large volume mechanical chopper, industrial vacuums and vacuum sacks. Then, we would have acquired a truck, because by then, we would have planted hectares upon hectares of forage grass, while milking about ten buffaloes, the group’s president dreamed aloud.
At a time when food security presents as a huge problem of countries, in Bohol, the youth of San Vicente stand proud in front of their forage silage business, young agri-preneurs who wanted to share their story to all the youth to convince them, there is money in farming. (rahchiu/PIA-7/Bohol)