PH Carabao Center tackles dwindling milk supply

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‘Assisted reproduction may boost herds, milk output’

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For a country that is 99 percent dependent on imported milk and other dairy products to meet domestic demand, the best way to go is via assisted reproduction to increase its carabao herds and boost milk production, the Philippine Carabao Center of the Department of Agriculture said.

Carabao farmers in San Agustin, Isabela enjoy a little recreation with their animals. The Philippine Carabao Center is pursuing an assisted reproduction program aimed at improving and increasing the country’s carabao population to boost dairy production. PHOTO: PHILIPPINE CARABAO CENTER

Dr. Eufrocina DP. Atabay of the PCC expressed concern that the Philippines is only one percent sufficient in milk production, with 99 percent of the country’s dairy product needs being supplied by imports.

Atabay made her remarks during her presentation, “The Role of Assisted Reproduction in Dairy Industry Development” at the S&T (Science and Technology) Agri-Biotech Forum hosted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) earlier this month.

Atabay said this presents a major challenge to health and nutrition programs such as the DA’s milk feeding program. “But where will we get this if we are only one percent sufficient?” she asked.

Of the milk volume produced in the Philippines, 64 percent is provided by dairy cattle, while carabaos produce about 34 percent and goats produce a small amount.

“What aggravates this situation is that there is a low number of dairy herd population both in buffalo and cattle.
Another problem is that the animals are being left unproductive for a long time and this will result in low reproduction efficiency and economic loss,” explained Atabay, who specializes in reproductive biotechnology.

The need for the development of the dairy industry is obvious, and is primarily a matter of increasing the size of the country’s dairy stock to keep pace with human population growth, she added.

To help address the problem, the PCC has developed an assisted reproduction program to increase carabao herd numbers as well as improve the genetic quality of the animals.

Artificial insemination (AI) is the main technology used by Atabay and her team. The process of simulated
reproduction involves extracting sperm from a quality male buffalo and injecting the sperm into the reproductive tract of a female buffalo, she explained.

AI is used to breed animals with higher productivity for both milk and meat by harnessing select animals’ genetic traits.

PCC’s AI services are done nationwide by trained private village-based AI technicians as well as technicians employed by local government units.

After the AI procedure, the team checks for the presence of a healthy fetus in the impregnated female.

“This allows us to detect non-pregnancy at the soonest time possible,” Atabay said. This prevents animals that could be productive from being unproductive for too long, which would be costly for farmers and breeders, she explained.

In addition to AI, the PCC team also uses embryo transfer as another way to improve genetic characteristics. Similar methods as the artificial insemination are used in this process, Atabay said.

The PCC team also does in vitro fertilization, or the incubation of the sperm and egg in a petri dish. After this, they do further culture and then perform embryo transfer. With some animals, the team also induces the production of more eggs to build up a stock of embryos.

“As we employ these technologies, we are ensuring the sustainability of the production of our local dairy animals so we can avoid the importation of live animals, avoid the importation of some diseases, for a sustainable and globally competitive dairy industry,” Atabay concluded.

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