Pilot production of organic pigs by 10 farmer-cooperators to build up lechon as a distinct Filipino dish

A pilot production of organic pigs by 10 farmer-cooperators in Southern Luzon will build up marketing of ‘lechon’ as a distinct Filipino dish, preserve indigenous pig species, and give livelihood to farflung areas.

The breeding and production of native pigs by 10 initial farmer-cooperators in Southern Luzon will bolster the Philippines’ unique culture of serving lechon in special occasions.

It can consequently carve a niche for the Philippines that can make lechon, a roasted pig deemed as a delicacy, internationally-renowned, according to Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar, executive director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) which funds the program.

The “Conservation, Evaluation and Commercialization of the Philippine Native Pigs” covers three provinces– Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon.  But the 10 initial farmer-cooperators are found in Quezon and Laguna.

The program uses an organic material from pigs endemic to the country.  It has started propping up hog production of some countryside farmers, according to Dr. Rene C. Santiago, National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center (NSPRDC) chief.

“Upon seeing the advantage of raising pigs which gives big savings in the cost of feeds and materials for housing, farmers who are growing commercial hogs have started adding native pigs to their herd,” Santiago said.

Government will also promote the use of native pigs in commercial farms as a product differentiation strategy that has a market among organic and health buffs.

The organic pigs, while carrying lower feed costs, command a higher price in the market owing to its healthful, organic nature and quality meat.  Compared to the farm gate price of only P95 per kilo of live weight for commercial hogs, organic pigs are priced P100 to P180 per kilo.

Even native pigs’ heads can have a high average price of P100 per kilo at farm gate since bulk buying can average P1,000 for 10 kilos.

The Philippines has a one-of-a-kind opportunity to market native pigs for lechon.

“The United States has turkey for Thanksgiving.  The Chinese have the Peking Duck, and we have lechon that without it, your feast is not complete.  Genetically, our native pig is suitable for lechon which is why we see a lot of economic potential in it,” said Santiago.

The government is also encouraging production of native pigs not only to have a continuous supply of native pigs to local market but also to aid in cutting pork import which reduces employment opportunities for farmers. Pork import reached to 172,626 metric tons (MT) in 2010, up by 54 percent from 114,365 MT in 2009.

Native pigs can be organically grown—raised without the use of antibiotics and using naturally-available feeds— since they are highly-adaptable to the environment. They can tolerate heat and cold better than imports. Their small size—30 to 50 kilos for mature weight— and a 10 to 30 kgs of grower stocks makes them ideal for lechon.  The alternating layers of fat and meat in native pigs make for its delicious taste, said Santiago.

A type of feed developed by NSPRDC costs only P11.40 per kilo, just about 50 percent of the cost of commercial feeds at P20 to P22 per kilo.  This consists of corn, rice bran, copra meal, molasses, salt, and limestone.

Without this BAR-NSPRDC breeding project, Philippine native pigs—known for their black, black spotted, or black with white belly color, are feared to soon become extinct.

“BAR has initiated funding this project because we need continuous R&D (research and development) so we won’t lose our native breeds,” said Eleazar.

There are herbs used as medicine for native hogs.

These are chili for treating respiratory problems and as appetite stimulant and dewormer; oregano for diarrhea and anticoccidial; black pepper against fowl pox; antibacterial ginger and onion; anti-diarrheal guava leaves, star apple, and banana; and dewormer ipil-ipil, beetle nut, and kakawate.

Government aims to train farmers on how to select superior breeds to be used for reproduction of better offspring.  Among the preferred traits are good litter size of eight piglets and up, fast growth rate, thick body, strong legs, at least five to six pairs of teat, and good mothering ability.

NSPRDC has already come up with a standard feeding practice.  This is 1-1.5 kilos of low-cost breeder mash per day with ad-libitum (at one’s pleasure) feeding of other feeds source such as from forages, kitchen left over, and root crops.  For suckling piglets, feed is hog starter mash from one to six weeks old while for weaner grower, its feed is 0.5 to one kilo of low cost grower mash with ad-libitum feeding of other feeds.

Farmers can opt to feed the animals with indigenously grown crops.  Among these are the rootcrop Gabing San Fernando and Madre de Agua which is easy to propagate and has high protein and calcium content while also palatable to pigs.

NSPRDC also trains farmers on maintaining a healthy herd.  This is through quarantine of an animal for one month upon arrival in the farm so that it can be checked up for any disease, keeping animals from stress, and preventive medicine and good nutrition and housing.

The pigs may also be vaccinated for hog cholera at 45 days old and every six months.  However, NSPRDC stressed farmers should not claim their animals organically grown when treated with antibiotics.

Aside from lechon, native pigs are ideally used for other Filipino specialties like longanisa, etag, and bagnet.

“I think our original longaniza came from native pigs because the delicious longaniza has a good amount of fat,” said Santiago.

With government support, there are already emerging small and medium enterprises that are going into commercial native pig production.  Among them is Mr. Elmer Rivero of Nasugbo, Batangas.

Under the training program, each farmer was provided with a set of five female and one male native pigs as breeder stocks.  BAR gave a grant of P10,000 for a one-time housing and P1,000 worth of feeds for each farmer.

Recommended housing materials are available in rural areas including coconut coir dust, saw dust, and rice hull for beddings; nipa, cogon, and anahaw for roofing; and bamboo, and coconut husks for walling; and hog wire and coconut husks for range fences.

“The good thing about using rice hull, saw dust, coir dust, and other biodegradable materials for bedding is you have a beddings that after 1 to 2 years of using you have organic fertilizer for plants and replace it with new one. This kind of bedding type pig pen use no water to bath the animals.   And these do not emit four air,” Santiago said.

To demonstrate housing for organic pigs, NSPRDC constructed its own housing model for native pigs using steel, concrete, and other locally-available materials including coconut husk, bamboo, nipa, coconut lumber, and rice straw.

The farmer-cooperators of the native pig program in Quezon are Dionesio Samiano and Virginia Bautista from Dolores; Renato Macalendro and Dexter Nase, both from Tagkawayan; Teresita Saniano from Tiaong; and Aristotle Ilao from Sariaya.

From Laguna, the farmers are Edmer Valencia, Jun Alacasid, and Sister Rosalie.  Dr. Rene C. Santiago, Chief, National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center (NSPRDC)


Author: tuklasinnatin

A Journalist and served government for 20 years. A community organizer who rose from a clan of artists and novelists.

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