Most Asians are lactose intolerant, and Filipinos are no exception. We put our local dairy industry at a disadvantage since generally, we are not milk drinkers, and the country’s dependence on milk imports even puts the milk industry in a dire situation. I, for one, can only take in limited amount and a lot more can churn disaster on my tummy.
My conversation with Andre Paulo Paraguya revealed a young dairy farmer bent in changing the scenario by providing quality, tasty, and affordable milk and other milk-based products in his neighborhood---one bottle at a time.
Dairy farm establishment
Located in Barangay Poblacion, Impasugong, Bukidnon, Spring Dairy Farm was established in 2015 as an auxiliary farm to the existing ranch of Paulo’s grandfather. It first started with Brahman heads for meat purposes.
His grandfather owns a ranch with 80 Brahman cows and initially thought of as their family’s source of meat products. It became the family’s communal ranch in Dumalaguing since it went well as the years go by. It was when the family decided to venture in producing dairy products, having been into producing cow’s meat for five years.
As for Paulo, he started off with five cows ideal for milking which are crossed between Holstein and Sahiwal. Paulo shared that Holsteins thrive in temperate climate while Sahiwals like tropical countries and that they adapt easily. The National Dairy Authority (NDA) was responsible for the first five cows of Paulo and still manages to extend the giving away of vitamins and purge them on a regular basis. Adding more cows to the brood is not his priority right now since he admitted that he is needs more grazing area should there be a new batch of dairy cows added in his burgeoning ranch soon.
Paulo as an Information Technology (IT) graduate in San Carlos University in Cebu took the chance in handling the dairy production with no knowledge about it. Although he got an IT degree under his belt which he obtained from the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, his calling as a dairy farmer took precedence over.
His first challenge was when their napier-grown area for grazing was struck by El Niño. Paulo got no choice but to buy and gather napier grass from other farms in order to feed his cows since as per NDA, one hectare of greenery is needed for six cows to graze on.
At the moment, his pressing issue is the health of his cows since two of his dairy cows have already succumbed to tick fever. Paulo makes sure that his grazing area is clean, well-inspected, and tick-free.
Quality milk assured
Part of Paulo’s humble beginnings was he sold and supplied raw milk at the already established Highland Fresh in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental.
According to Paulo, the buying price of his milk is P30 per liter. Admittedly, he said it cannot help cover his farm inputs so he resorted to learn how to value add and come up with other milk-based products such as yoghurt, cheese, pure milk and choco-milk and invested on quality glass bottles.
Later, he started to do some research and decided to do value-adding of his milk. What made Paulo’s milk tasty is that he makes sure that his cows are always grass-fed. He believes in the freshness of the milk if his cows also are fed with freshly-cut grass.
“The taste and quality of our milk really depends on what the cows are feeding on such as mulato, setaria grass, mombasa, and super napier. It is a requirement to let our cows graze, then if the weather is not good, we do the cut-and-carry. We rarely feed our cows with bran, grains or pulp since we consider those as supplements”, Paulo said.
The processing of his dairy products intensified his drive to come up with high quality milk. Paulo even resorted to trials and errors, researching online, watching how-to’s in YouTube, and later asking technical assistance from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
“Considering that most offices are flooded with workloads, I didn’t bother asking for their expertise at first but rather struck out on my own just by Googling it or watching other farmers share their proven technologies online as posted in YouTube”, Paulo shared.
The dairy association where he is a member, supplies Highland Fresh in huge milk cans which can contain 40 liters. As for Dairy Spring Farm, Paulo’s bovine friends can produce daily milk in the morning and in the afternoon, given that there is a continuous supply of napier grass around. At its peak, the everyday yield according to Paulo have resulted to 16 liters from a single milking cow.
Highland Fresh, which is located in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental, is owned and managed by the Northern Mindanao Dairy Cooperative. Their milk volume comes from the different dairy farms and cooperatives in Region 10 namely: Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental. Following the strict standards of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Health (DOH), they process around 4,000 liters of milk per month and sold in different groceries and pasalubong centers in the region as well as in different national food exhibits and expos.
When delivering bottles of milk to neighboring patrons, Andre Paulo is quick to admit that he took inspiration from the yesteryears when rations of milk were delivered fresh and tightly sealed in a bottle.
In the days of yore, homes didn’t have refrigerators and milk was perishable. Daily milk delivery meant that the milk wouldn’t spoil before people could drink it.
Paolo started using plastic containers first for his milk rations, but he later found out that glass bottles are way better since using glass bottles hastens the chilling of the milk, prolongs shelf life, and the milk actually tastes better.
Today, kids (and kids-at-heart) exclaim "naa na si Fresh Milk maaa" at the mere sight of him with bottles of milk at hand. Paolo now knows each family’s pace per milk consumption. His door-to-door delivery paid off since aside from keeping track of the glass bottles, he records which family are into drinking fresh milk.
Expect Paulo to always deliver the healthiest and creamiest milk and other dairy products from his dairy farm. At age 25, he is now a regular supplier of El Salvador's Highland Fresh and is an active member of the Northern Mindanao Federation of Dairy Cooperatives (NMFDC).
As of writing, Paulo’s recent purchase was a double bucket milker used for pasteurizing his milk, since the volume of demand went up.
Another farm favorite
Aside from the fresh milk and flavored-milk products, yoghurt is also getting attention from patrons.
Yoghurt is a popular dairy product which is made by the bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria used to make yoghurt are called “yoghurt cultures,” which ferment lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. This process produces lactic acid, a substance that causes milk proteins to curdle, giving yoghurt its unique flavor and texture.
Yoghurt can be made from all types of milk. Varieties made from skim milk are considered fat-free, whereas those made from whole milk are considered full-fat. Plain yoghurt without added colorants is a white, thick liquid with a tangy flavor. Unfortunately, most commercial brands contain added ingredients, such as sugar and artificial flavors. On the other hand, plain, unsweetened yogurt offers many health benefits.
During my first visit at the Paraguya farm house along with Ms. Dayana Padilla and Alfred Pasco of the Municipal Agricultural Office of Impasugong, we were served with healthy and mouthwatering food by the family’s farm matriarch Sylvia Paraguya with yoghurt with wild honey, hot toast with salted butter and artisan farm cheese with rosemary and chili. The dainty spread served on a cheeseboard was downed later with chilled Adlai wine. Tasting their lightly sweet Adlai wine for the first time reminded me of an expensive white wine I have tried before.
Judging from the spread served before us, it was the yoghurt with honey that left a lasting impression on my taste buds.
Bright prospects ahead
Now with 15 heads of dairy cows, Paolo learned from first-hand experience that his milk is best sold in high quality standard and with the help of cooperatives.
Bright prospects give new hope for the dairy industry, among them: the increasing demand for high quality fresh milk and milk products in Metro Manila and other areas; the emergence of innovative, small dairy farmers; and the availability of genetically improved dairy animals in the tropics.
Given the right government policy environment, the country’s dairy farmers would increase milk production in response to price and other incentives, or reduce the country's dependence on milk imports.
Bright prospect indeed for Paulo since his fresh milks are sold at P75 per bottle while the chocolate-flavored is priced at P85 per bottle. He also purveys fresh milk in various trade fairs and agri-expos during Kaamulan Festivals in Malaybalay City and even in Cagayan de Oro City.
Binhi ng Pag-Asa
Paulo is a product of the ATI’s Binhi ng Pag-Asa as well as the fifth batch graduate of the Kapatid Mentor Micro Enterprise Program, a coaching and mentoring approach where large corporations teach MSEs on different aspects of business operations.
Binhi ng Pag-asa is a program intended to empower the country’s young Filipino farmers on sustainable agriculture through new age agricultural technologies and methods. The program also intends to develop young farmers to become agripreneurs.
Agri-technician Dayana Padilla even once considered Paulo for a recommendation as Outstanding Young Farmer for Livestock in the Municipal Agricultural Office of Impasugong. The said recommendation is for Paulo’s contribution to the development of local dairy products to consumers.
Another advocacy Paulo is espousing is the immersion of other young farmer groups in his dairy farm to show and highlight farming activities. The demos are highlighted so that they can learn the ways of farming at an early age.
“Personally, I can’t imagine myself working in an enclosed space with air conditioning. I love the outdoors and I love sweating out there in the open. Pero kung buot huna-hunaon, gaka-underestimate ang farming ug dili gyud sikat ang farming sa mga batan-on karon, pero makita man sad nga naay asenso kung maayo ang farmers. Basta kabalo lang gyud sila.” Paulo affirmed with a warm and confident smile.