Quezon farmers revive ‘lechon’ industry thru organic pig farming

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By Anna Valmero

SARIAYA, QUEZON – Farmers in Quezon and Laguna have piloted a project that focuses on organic farming of native pigs with a goal of exporting delectable yet healthy lechon or roast pig.

The local government will promote the use of native pigs in commercial farms as a “product differentiation” strategy that has a market among organic and health buffs, said Dr. Rene C. Santiago, chief of the National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center (NSPRDC).

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 95 pesos per kilo of live weight for commercial hogs, organic pigs are priced at 100 to 180 pesos per kilo.

Native pigs can be organically grown using naturally-available feeds or raised without the use of antibiotics since they can tolerate heat and cold better than imported stocks.

Their small size of about 30 to 50 kilos for mature weight, as well as ten to 30 kilos of grower stocks make them ideal for lechon. “The alternating layers of fat and meat makes for its delicious taste,” Santiago said.

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

“Upon seeing the advantage of raising native 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.

Genetically, the Philippine native pig is suitable for lechon, “which is why we see a lot of economic potential in it,” added Santiago.

Encouraging production of native pigs has two-fold benefits: to meet local demand and to cut back on pork imports which reduces farmers’ employment. Up to 172,626 metric tons of pork was imported in 2010, up by 54 percent from 114,365 metric tons in 2009.

A type of feed, consisting of corn, rice bran, copra meal, molasses, salt, and limestone, was developed by NSPRDC and only cost P11.40 per kilo or half the cost of commercial feeds at P20 to P22 per kilo.

The project is also eyed to save the Philippine native pigs, known for their black, black spotted, or black with white belly color, from extinction, said Dr. Nicomedes Eleazar, executive director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), which funds the program.

In Quezon, farmers that joined the native pig program are based in the towns of Dolores, Tagkawayan, Tiaong and Sariaya.

Elmer Rivero, a farmer from Nasugbu, Batangas, and nine others were provided with a set of five female and one male native pigs as breeder stocks. He also received a grant of 10,000  pesos for a one-time housing and 1,000 pesos worth of feeds from BAR. Rivero is one of the pilot commercial farmers of native pigs.

To select superior breeds for reproduction, Rivero and other farmers were taught to look for these preferred traits: good litter size of eight piglets and above, fast growth rate, thick body, strong legs, at least five to six pairs of teat, and good mothering ability.

NSPRDC said the standard feeding practice should be one to 1.5 kilos of low-cost breeder mash per day with ad-libitum (at one’s pleasure) feeding of other feeds source such as forages, kitchen leftover and root crops.

For suckling piglets, feeds should consist of hog starter mash from one- to six-weeks old while for weaner grower, feed is half to one kilo of low cost grower mash with ad-libitum feeding of other feeds.

Root crop that can be fed to native pigs include gabing San Fernando and madre de agua, which are both easy to propagate and has high protein and calcium content.

To maintain a healthy herd, farmers should quarantine an animal for one month upon arrival in the farm to check any disease. The pigs may also be vaccinated for hog cholera at 45-days old and every six months.

Farmers should not claim their animals organically grown when treated with antibiotics. As a rule of thumb, native pigs are more adaptable to the local climate and can be treated with herbs.

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

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