To most Filipinos, the name of Rene Almeda may not ring a bell. But if one is engaged in raising goats, especially dairy goats, the name must be familiar. The fellow put up in 2005 what is now considered the most successful dairy goat farm in the country, the Alaminos Goat Farm in Laguna. In 2008 the farm made history for having the first FDA-approved fresh goat’s milk to enter the supermarket trade.
Rene (Valeriano is his first name) managed the goat farm in tandem with his two sons. Art for helping in the farm operation and Toti for marketing. It was only a few days ago that we learned of his passing last January 14 after a gallant bout with the Big C.
Rene was a very good friend and we have fond memories about his ideas on making dairy goat farming profitable. For one, we admired his persistence in promoting Indigofera zollingeriana as feed for goats and other livestock. In 2018, we remember him telling us that they consider as their most solid contribution to goat raising in the Philippines their pioneering work in creating awareness about Indigofera.
In his research, he found that Indigofera had a high protein content. It is a leguminous tree that is hardy and grows well under Philippine conditions. The country’s livestock experts at first ignored the tree as forage for livestock. In fact, Rene said, it was not included in the list of recommended green forage for goats by the then Philippine Council for Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD). The feedback that Rene got was that Indigofera was not palatable because it was too tough.
By a twist of good luck, however, Rene was able to prove that Indigofera is palatable after all and that goats love to eat the same. It happened that one day the goat farm was short of green feed for the confined animals. So to solve the problem, the farm worker harvested the young shoots. There and then it was observed that the goats really loved eating the young shoots. Eventually, the Almedas had established that the new growth of leaves that are harvested every 45 days are very palatable and perfect for feeding goats. Now Indigofera is well accepted by the livestock experts and the raisers themselves. It is now included in the PCAARRD list.
Because of Indigofera, AGF was and still is able to cut down feed costs leading to a profitable operation. Rene and his sons created the Alaminos Salad Garden which is planted largely to Indigofera and some other forage varieties. Every day, the day’s ration is cut and brought to the confined animals. Sixty percent of the daily ration of the goats consists of freshly cut green feed and 40 percent pelleted concentrates. Thirty percent of the pellets is Indigofera leaf meal.
Each dairy goat is fed 1.8 kilos of pellets and 1.2 kilos of green feed. The cost is less than P20 per day which is just a small fraction of the value of the two liters of milk collected from each doe daily. At farmgate, one liter sells currently at P140.
Of course, Indigofera is just one of the reasons why AGF is a profitable farm. There are other reasons that are just as important but then they are better discussed in another story.