IN THE Philippines, the total cattle inventory as of January 2013 is only 2.497 million, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.
The country's cattle holding provinces are Ilocos Region, 292,545 heads; Central Visayas (Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor), 272,307 heads; Northern Mindanao (Bukidnon, Camiguin, and Misamis), 271,700 heads; Western Visayas (Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental), 254,573 heads; and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), 253,376.
Cattle raising in the country is predominantly a backyard endeavor. About 93 percent (2.32 million) of the current population of cattle are raised in backyard farms; only seven percent (174,547) are from commercial farms.
"The Philippine beef cattle industry is predominantly of the smallhold or backyard type and traditionally led by the private sector," the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Fishery, and Natural Resources Research and Development (Pcarrd) noted.
Pccarrd said the commercial feedlot fattening operation emerged and proliferated on account of the huge demand for meat and meat products. On an average, Filipinos consume two kilograms of beef per year as the country's cattle supply drops continuously.
The cattle are recognized as contributing to rural income and the efficient use of the available resources in the rural sector. Along with carabao and goats, cattle are basic livestock occupying important role in the subsistence of rural families.
“Most small farms usually keep one or two head of cattle mainly for draught, and these are sold when there is need for cash,” FAO notes.
There are three things that accounted for the great demand of cattle meat and meat products in the country: the ever increasing human population, changing eating habits of the Filipinos, and import liberalization. Among the popular foods made from beef are kaldereta, nilagang bulalo, tapa, corned beef, and mechado.
Unfortunately, the cattle industry is heavily dependent on the importation of feeder stocks coming mostly from Australia. Statistics from 1990 to 1999 showed that feeder cattle importation totaled to 1,290,633 head as against that of breeder cattle importation of only 54,560 head.
Since cattle are raised in the backyards, the animals are usually maintained on a low to medium plane of nutrition. One livestock specialist commented, "The most common limiting factor in backyard cattle production is the poor quality, of feed and or inadequate feed. Grasslands and native pastures only provide fodder for the maintenance of animals and not for improved reproduction or performance."
Most cattle in the Philippines are either stall-fed or tethered along roadsides and backyards with whatever available grasses growing and given farm by-products like straw, corn stover, and cane tops, among others. Concentrate feeding is minimal and inputs for health maintenance are generally lacking.
There are several cattle breeds raised in the Philippines. The choice of breeds depends on the intended purpose (for meat, milk, or draft). Several breeds were introduced to improve the quality of existing stock.
In July this year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) imported Braunvieh cattle semen from Switzerland to produce “dual purpose” calves both for beef and dairy. “The importation of semen will enable crossbreeding of the Braunvieh Swiss breed with locally available cattle breeds. It will bring down the cost of producing offspring of superior breeds,” said a statement released by DA.
"We have the capability for breeding this Swiss animals with the cows and other resources we have," said Rene G. Abad, president of Tarlac's Camiling Cattle Association, the direct beneficiaries of the program. "We never had a vision to develop cattle both for beef and for dairy production. We followed a model that is not appropriate to our situation."