Dairy production hampered by dry season

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 September) – There is a huge demand for fresh milk that dairy producers can explore and anchor business ventures on, but the dry season has made it difficult for production to meet such demand, an industry leader said Monday.

Isidro V. Albano, Mindanao Alliance of Dairy Industry Stakeholders Association (MADIS) president, said at the Davao Press Club’s Kapehan sa Dabaw that local producers can only meet five percent of the whole demand for milk in the country. The rest comes from imports by big brands.

This means that only one in three glasses of milk are produced locally, he said.

Albano also made it clear that these imports are not exactly “fresh milk.” These are what he refers to as “fortified milk” or milk that went through extreme heat process.

Mindanao-based dairy farms contribute about 20-25 percent of the national demand.

In Davao City, the demand for milk runs up to 6000 to 7000 liters daily but only 1500 to 1800 liters are produced, Albano said.

In Cagayan de Oro City, he said, the demand ranges from 8000 to 9000 liters. Cities in northern Mindanao produce the highest amount of milk at 3000 liters per day.

Even with the low numbers, he said production is spurred by cooperatives, dairy multiplier farms, and dairy zones (small farms with at least 300 cows) in Calinan in Davao City, Compostela Valley, General Santos City, Kidapawan, Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, and Lanao.

However, drastic changes in weather like drought have posed some risks like effects on the growth of cows, Albano said.

In Davao City, he said daily production only amounts to 1500 to 1800 liters. “But the actual requirement is 6000 in the region for fresh milk,” he said. Ideally, a cow should be able to produce 15-18 liters of milk per day; producing 25-30 liters is considered as exceptional.

As the dry season is nearing, he is looking into integrated farming mechanisms where fruits, coconut trees, and healthy grass can grow together with cows. He said this can be done with technology coming from a dairy development program from New Zealand that will allow quality grass to grow under the shade.

Aside from the potential scarcity of rain and irrigation for growing grass, Albano said the dry season also poses a challenge to maintaining proper nutrition of the dairy cows.

He said that unlike regular cattle growing for purposes other than producing dairy, fresh milk production requires farmers to closely monitor their cows, in particular what they eat, so they can produce quality milk.

An imported cow, he said, has an appraised value of about P145,000; island-born counterparts are roughly valued at half of that. Another way to increase average daily production, he said, is to build herd: to increase number of cows with good genetics.

The amount of resources that a farmer puts into a cow for dairy production, he said, depends on the nutritional requirements that a cow needs.

In times of drought, he said a mix of “raw materials” take the place of the usual green grass that can be fed to the cow. Grass is difficult to grow during drought.

This is why, he said, the farmers in their organization would opt for a cheaper form of sustenance for lactating dairy cows: total mix ration.

Albano said this hodgepodge can easily be formulated using raw materials often discarded by other farmers like pineapple pulp, cacao pads, and rice straw. These materials are then mixed with corn and copra meal to create an equally viable nourishment for cows.

Negotiations with the National Dairy Authority and the Department of Agriculture are underway to source these from other farmers.

Albano also said that the participation of the local dairy industry, through MADIS and its 21 members, in the Davao Agri Trade Expo 2015 later this month could also encourage other farmers to look into dairy production as a possible profitable venture that has daily returns.

The dairy industry will likewise be represented by the National Dairy Authority and a goat and sheep raisers association in the region.