It takes private initiative to come up with a viable system of dairy goat production in the tropics through a scientific approach that involves close observation and experimentation.
The guys who now believe that dairy goat production under the tropical conditions of the Philippines are Rene Almeda and his two sons Art and Toti of the Alaminos Goat Farm. For eight years now, they have been raising dairy goats and are succeeding very well.
GENETICS – The father and sons team now believes three important factors are needed in order to succeed in producing goat’s milk commercially under local conditions. Very important is genetics. This means that the herd must have superior bloodlines, no matter the high cost. The Almedas, for instance, did not mind importing a pedigreed Saanen buck from the US that cost more than $4,000 to bring to the Philippines. The high cost is now more than recovered, thanks to the orders for the progenies of the champion buck.
RECORD KEEPING – Another very important factor is strict recording of performance of the animals. This is very important in developing a database for so-called “families” of dairy goats. Record keeping can tell you which animals to breed with one another to avoid inbreeding. Record keeping will also reveal the performance of crosses that possess hybrid vigor compared to purebreds. Record keeping is cumbersome but that is really very important.
GOOD NUTRITION – Equally as important as genetics and strict record-keeping is proper nutrition that is affordable. The Almedas’ so-called Salad Garden for goats has proven to be highly effective in cutting feed costs. The salad garden consists of forage crops like indigofera, pakchong 1 napier, Mulato II grass, Mombasa (another grass), malunggay, mulberry and others.
After studying their records, the Almedas have concluded that 40 percent pelletized feeds and 60 percent green forage is best for their herd. The milking goats are given 1.2 kilos of pellets and 1.8 kilos of green forage daily. The cost is less than P20 per day. The goats give usually two kilos of milk or more per day, so the cost of feed is easily recovered.
The main ingredient of the pellets, which the Almedas also make, is the indigofera, a leguminous tree that is very hardy. Every 45 days, the leafy twigs are harvested either for fresh feeding or for making into leaf meal for pelletizing. By the way, the Almedas consider as their solid contribution to goat raising in the Philippines their pioneering work in creating awareness about indigofera. This small leguminous tree is a good source of protein and energy for small ruminants. And Rene is very happy that indigofera has gained wide acceptance from goat raisers all over the Philippines.
By the way, Rene Almeda also believes that the good nutrition they have been giving their animals have resulted in multiple kidding of their breeders that include triplets.
HYBRID VIGOR – After observing the performance of their goat herd, Rene strongly believes in the hybrid vigor of crosses which perform much better than the purebreds under the tropical conditions of the Philippines.
What is very important, however, is that the purebred parent stocks of both male and female lines must be of superior genetics. They had that in mind when they imported a hundred Saanen dairy goats from Tasmania and Anglo Nubians from Queensland, both in Australia. Saanen is the most preferred dairy goat while the Anglo Nubians are both for meat and milk.
Constant selection of the high-performing animals in the herd has been their main objective. In time, they have come up with local born animals that adapt well to the local conditions. To further boost the quality of the progenies of their breeders, they imported the $4,000 –buck from the United States.
The Almedas launched early a selection of Anglo Nubians for their so-called Alaminos Anglo Dairy Line (AALDL). These are used as the female line for crossing with selected Saanen bucks. The results are high-yielding and highly adapted Anglo-Saanen crosses.
Rene Almeda admits that doing dairy breed improvement takes a lot of time, patience and investment. He has no regrets, however, because their efforts have started to pay off not just in monetary terms but in enhanced know-how of the business of raising dairy goats in the tropics.