ONE HOG FARM that has impressed us is the piggery of the Marulas Farm in Pandi, Bulacan, managed by a former professor from Araneta University, Alfredo Santiago.
NO FARROWING CRATES – The 11-hectare piggery has some 800 sows at this writing (July 1992), mostly of the Hypor breed. In most other modern hog farms we have visited, steel farrowing crates are standard farm equipment. But at the Marulas piggery, there is not a single farrowing crate. This means a lot of savings for the company. But that is not the only reason. It is their belief that pregnant sows should be free to walk around for some exercise. Sort of maternity walk.
The farrowing crate is supposed to protect the piglets from being crushed by their mother. So far, however, they really don’t find the need for farrowing crates. The piglets have been able so far to evade being crushed by their mothers.
SPECIAL ATTENTION – But that could also be due to the special attention being given by the caretakers. We were told that the workers receive a lot of incentives for attending to their duties conscientiously.
For instance, those who are attending to the newly born pigs are given an incentive (30 centavos per piglet for those on duty during daytime and 60 centavos per piglet for those on night duty) if nothing untoward happens to the piglets. Because they are taking care of hundreds of piglets, their bonus amounts to something substantial.
CONSCIENTIOUS WORKERS – Even those who are in charge of the breeding animals are conscientious about their jobs because they, too, receive incentives if the number of piglets per litter exceeds 10. For every piglet above 10 per litter, the workers are given P7. On the average, that means an additional income of P280 a month for a worker, according to Dr. Fernando Ermitaño, long-time farm veterinarian.
NO STRONG ODOR – The piggery is also free of strong odor usually found in most piggeries. This is because most of the daily waste is collected by the laborers before the rest is washed to the biogas digester. The waste is made into compost for use as fertilizer for various crops. Trichoderma is used to hasten the composting time to two weeks.
Although the gathering of the manure for composting is part of the regular work of the caretakers, they are also given additional incentives for the chore. They receive P5 for every 50-kilo bag of compost.
BIOGAS SYSTEM – What frees the piggery of the usual odor, however, is the biogas system. So far, they have guilt six digesters, the latest of which cost P350,000. Aside from helping keep down pollution, the biogas digesters are providing the farm with all the methane gas for cooking as well as for running the machinery on the farm These include two hammermills for grinding corn, one engine for the conveyor of grains to the hammermill, two feed mixers, one water pump that runs for 20 to 24 hours daily, and another water pump for pumping out water from one lagoon to another for pollution abatement.
SAVINGS ON ELECTRICITY – The biogas is also providing all the electricity for lighting. Emmanuel Bautista, assistant to the manager, estimates that the company must be saving about P50,000 monthly on electricity, thanks to biogas.
CATTLE FED WITH MANURE MIX – There is also something very practical that they are doing at the Marulas piggery. They are taking care of 84 head of cattle that largely depend on hog manure for their feed.
Actually, the manure that comes out from the pigs contains a lot of ingredients that are not totally digested, especially corn. When the pig pens are cleaned each day, the manure and unconsumed feed in the pen are washed and the washings pass through a cemented canal behind the pig pen leading to the biogas digester. Before the washings reach the digester, however, the undigested solids are retained in a deep portion at the end of the canal. Here the workers gather the solids which are still rich in nutrients.
The collected manure solids are mixed with fine rice bran. The rice bran is about 40 percent of the total mixture. Except for small quantities of grass gathered from the premises of the piggery, and a little rice straw, the cattle subsist on nothing else but the retrieved hog manure and the rice bran mixture. The animals are robust and healthy.
WELL PAID WORKERS – About 48 workers are employed on the farm. Most of them have very little schooling but they are efficient workers. Because of the many incentives they get, they actually make more than other workers in Manila. Many of them have been with the company for as long as 15 years.
Aside from the monetary incentives, they are encouraged to plant vegetables, corn, even rice, in the vacant spaces. And their harvest is all theirs.
KEEN IN GREENING – Management is also keen in greening the premises. There are lots of trees along the farm roads and in between hog houses. Not long before our visit, during the birthday of the founder, some 200 mahogany and narra trees were planted around the anti-pollution lagoons.