By raising goats following a system developed by a non-government organization based in Davao, Filipino farmers can help augment milk production and lessen the erosion problem which beset most upland areas in the country.
The Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) in Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur has come up with a system called Simple Agro-Livestock Technology (SALT 2), a modification of its internationally-known Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT).
In the SALT scheme, two hedgerows of nitrogen-fixing shrubs are planted in between the areas planted to crops. The sturdy trunks of two hedgerows help protect the soil from erosion while the cuttings are used as fertilizer for the crops and as mulching materials.
“The thin layer of earth we call topsoil is essential to land’s fertility,” explains Roy C. Alimoane, the director of MBRLC. “Not to many people know that topsoil is a rich medium containing organic matter, minerals, nutrients, insects, microbes, worms and other elements needed to provide a nurturing environment for plants.”
Oftentimes, topsoil are being washed or blown away. “If the soil on which all agriculture and all human life depend is wasted away, then the battle to free mankind from want cannot be won,” Lord John Boyd Orr once said.
“Soil is made by God and put here for man to use, not for one generation but forever,” said Rev. Harold R. Watson, former MBRLC director. “It takes thousands of years to build one inch of topsoil but only good strong rain to remove one inch from unprotected soil on the slopes of mountains.”
SALT is one possible solution to the problem. In fact, by promoting the system around the world, Watson got a Ramon Magsaysay Award for peace and international understanding in 1985.
Alimoane, who succeeded Watson as director, said that the problem of soil erosion and milk production can be solved simultaneously by raising livestock in the uplands. SALT 2 is that system.
Under the SALT 2 scheme, 40 percent of the farm’s land is devoted to agricultural crops (like citrus, black pepper, beans, and corn), 40 percent to livestock (particularly goats), and 20 percent to forestry (mostly fruit trees and various nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs).
“Our model farm is only one-half hectare,” says Alimoane. Instead of raising cattle, which requires a land area of one hectare per animal, MBRLC recommends goats. “Although a goat is small, she can produce as much as four liters of milk every day if she is purebred and is given a ration to meet all of her nutritional requirements,” he says.
In SALT 2, 12 does and one buck are raised. The buck is separated from the does so that when it is time to milk the does, the milk won’t “catch” the “goaty smell” of the buck. During breeding, a doe is brought to the cottage of the buck. The manure is utilized as fertilizer for the forage and the crops.
As it follows the original SALT system, hedgerows of various nitrogen fixing trees are planted all over the farm. At the lower portion, more forage crops are planted. The forages and hedgerows are cut every now and then and the cuttings are used as feed for goats.
The goat manure is utilized as fertilizer for the forages and agricultural crops (which are planted at the upper portion of the farm). Studies have shown that goat manure contains 1.5 percent of nitrogen, 1.2 percent of potassium, and 0.5 percent of phosphorus.
Raising goats can also help ease milk importation. A report released by the National Dairy Authority (NDA) showed that imports on milk and dairy products decreased by around 6% — from 319.17 million kilograms in 2010 to 300.68 million kilograms in 2011. But the country’s total daily import bill rose from US$729.03 million in 2010 to US$847.68 million in 2011.
“I think the contribution of goats in the country’s milk production will greatly improve if farmers will include raising goats into their system of farming now,” says Alimoane, a livestock specialist.
Text and photos by Henrylito Tacio