October 1, 2015
From Vegetable Farming to Natural Hog Raising: The story of cooperative in Bulacan
Balaong Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative is a small scale community-type cooperative based in Balaong, San Miguel, Bulacan. It was first established in 2008 initially as an association of marginalized vegetables farmers in the area with the aim of improving their living status. It became a formal cooperative in 2009 but because of the lack of funds from its members, the cooperative remained inactive for the next two years.
In the last quarter of 2009, the Department of Agriculture implemented a project that gave subsidy to various vegetable farmers, farmers’ organizations, associations and cooperatives in the country. Its goal is to provide financial assistance to marginalized farmers by providing starting capital for their farming activities. This subsidy from the national government became the capital investment of Balaong Cooperative’s members to restore vitalities to their farming activities.
Among the cooperative’s major crops were palay, kalabasa, ampalaya, okra, and sitaw, producing around 2-3 MT of vegetables a day from a total of 108 hectares farm land of its members. Today the cooperative have 42 active members, expanding to two Barangays, the Balite and Biak-na-Bato.
The success of the cooperative is credited to its devoted members who don’t get tired working of in their farms and of course to the support and trust shown by each member, says Mr. Catalino Santiago, Chairman of the Balaong Cooperative.
From Vegetable Farming to Hog Raising:
Vegetable farming was not easy for the members. Revenue from vegetables was not enough to sustain the income and operations of the cooperative.The onset of unpredictable weather conditions was also a burden which sometimes resulted to lower revenues. These unfavourable situations forced the cooperative to find an alternative livelihood.
In year 2013, Balaong Cooperative began venturing into hog farming which they saw as a good potential livelihood project for the members because of its profitability and feasibility in any place, and because hog farming is less vulnerable to bad weather. Their interest in hog farming was also prompted after learning about Feedpro and natural hog farming through Ka Gerry’s television show, Ating Alamin.
Therefore after some studies and seminars with Feedpro personnel, the cooperative started to implement the project later that year, using a scheme wherein the coop provides its members the feeds through a loan process while the members shoulder the costs of their own piglets and pen, while technical services will come from Feedpro personnel. After one growing cycle, the pigs are marketed by the coop and the deducted amount from the total sale is set aside as payment for the member’s livestock loan while the excess will go to the hog raiser as profit.
Benefits of Hog Raising
The cooperative started to pilot test the project in 3 pens, each with 12-15 heads capacity using the Babuyang Walang Amoy technology. The pens served as demos for those members who lacked knowledge in piggery but wanted to engage in it.
In piggery, the coop members are able to earn about 1,500 to 2,000 pesos per head, considerably higher than vegetables farming. Currently there are about 10 members with Babuyang Walang Amoy pens, while other members have conventional concrete pens. The shortage of rice hull coerced some of them to used cemented flooring instead. However, the presence of wallowing pond in their conventional pen still minimized the usage of water and lessened the bad odor significantly.
The coop also raises a few native pigs (baboy ramo) which they reserve for themselves for special occasions until such time they find a regular buyer.
Currently they also have about 10 sows capable of producing up to 240 piglets in a year, enough to sustain the current needs of the members.
The cooperative’s involvement in piggery balances the revenue allocated to the members especially when vegetables harvest is not quite profitable. The piggery became as significant source of profit that compensated for the lesser gain in vegetable farming.
Hog Raising Going the Extra Mile
Despite not being very experienced in hog rising, the coop adapts new ways in order to be more profitable. These includes right breeding, optimum days of growing period, and market strategies. For example, the occasional shortage of piglets causes delays in stocking and growing the pigs. The previous practices of mating relative pigs are also found to be impractical ways and the offspring often manifest some abnormalities. The growing of pigs beyond optimal stocking period of 3.5 to 4 months also reduced their profits. These are just some issues that the coop learned and remedied while venturing in piggery.
Today, the cooperative is starting to upgrade the breeds of their livestock to ones with better characteristics. In their initial trials, they have found out that by improving the genetic quality of their pigs, they were also able to improve the growth rate and meat-to-fat quality of their produce. Recently the cooperative entered into a partnership with a meatshop that will serve as a possible regular market for their grow-out pigs, offering a premium price for the pigs. This way, the coop is able to avoid viyajeros that often purchase pigs at the lower range of market prices.
Aside in from their venture in natural hog raising, the cooperative is planning to grow free range chicken and goat as other possible sources of income. Another smaller project of Balaong Cooperative is the Balaong Barangay Food Terminal that serves as a sari-sari store that caters to the daily needs of their community.
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