DAIRY cattle farming in the Cordillera highlands is old news.
A long time ago, we have heard experts say that the weather hereabouts is suited to dairying.
The proposition to make dairying a major industry in the Cordillera has yet to see the light of day.
Vegetable farming is the main source of living for most farmers in the highland provinces of Benguet and Mountain Province.
In some areas, cutflower and fruit production also generate income and employment for the rural folks.
Some farmers grow cattle (for meat), swine, and poultry to augment their income.
But in recent times, smallholder dairy farming has slowly gained importance in both provinces and the City of Baguio as a source of income and nutrition.
This came about as a result of the continuing interventions by the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera Administrative Region (DA-CAR), and the DA-National Dairy Authority (NDA).
It may take a research inquiry to analyze and describe the key features of highland dairy farming in the Cordillera looking into the livestock population and composition, feeds and feeding management, health management, and case studies, among others.
The results of the research can help farmers and policymakers further develop and improve highland dairy farming.
Meanwhile, I am informed by Dr. Leisley Deligen, DA-CAR Livestock Program Coordinator that the average milk production of dairy cattle at the Baguio Animal Breeding and Research Center (BABRC), is 16 liters per day. The national average remains at eight liters per day.
Overall, the Philippines produces less than one percent of its total annual dairy requirement and imports the balance.
As reported by the DA earlier this year, "the low Philippine milk production per animal is attributed to poor feed and management practices, compounded with high production costs and a lack of adequate dairy infrastructure."
According to Dr. Deligen, the dairy cattle being grown at BABRC are Holstein-Friesian breed.
They are fed with a total of 65 kilos of fresh feeds, silage, and concentrates per cow a day.
The dairy cattle raisers in the Cordillera highlands are currently found in Baguio City, Itogon, Tublay, and Kibungan, Benguet; and, Barlig, Bauko, and Bontoc, Mountain Province.
In a recent visit to a group of dairy cattle raisers in Tublay, Benguet, I saw that the group have problems in sourcing green feeds. They still need coaching or mentoring in managing their herd, including the marketing of their milk products.
To sustain their farming activities, they integrated their dairying (cut-and-carry dairy cattle farming) with chayote, coffee, cutflower, range chicken farming. They compost the cattle dung as fertilizer to their crops.
To really support our current dairy farmers, we need to understand the environment and conditions they are in. It is easy to let do fend for themselves. It is in the best interest of everybody to help them succeed.
But how should we help them? That is just the key to successful dairy cattle farming in the highlands.