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March 02, 2011

BY ANNA PATRICIA G. VALERIO Special Features Writer

Milk over matter

The idea for a goat farm came to Art Almeda while he was drafting a study on cattle feedlot fattening in 2004. A requirement for his Business Management course in San Beda Alabang, the project grew into a real venture after his father, Rene Almeda, who imported feedlot cattle from Australia in the 1990s, offered his own farm for Mr. Almeda to use as his business model.


Art Almeda (right) and AGF farm manager Felino Serdan (left) with Top Mitra Line doelings

The 16-hectare Alaminos Goat Farm (AGF) which has both Mt. Makiling and Mt. Banahaw for its backdrop, instantly appealed to Mr. Almeda. “When I saw it I just fell in love with it,” he says. “It was so close to nature typical of the beautiful countryside of tropical Philippines.” Teeming with napier grass, ipil-ipil, and centrosema, the property also proved to be a good location for goat-raising: Aside from its abundant forage grass and existing feedlot facilities, the farm came with a feedmill and dedicated workers from his father’s former feedlot business.

The older Mr. Almeda assisted his son in raising capital for the enterprise, but also plunged his own hands into the startup. “I didn’t have any prior experience in farming although I’ve always enjoyed taking care of animals from the time I was a kid,” says the younger Mr. Almeda. “[But] I was lucky because my father had experience raising cattle in the past. It is beneficial because when you talk about animal husbandry, there are basic principles that apply to all kinds of animals whether it’s a goat, a cow, or a pig.”

These lessons proved useful when he, along with his father and brother, opened AGF and started breeding 100 native goats using the Boer bucks they imported from Australia in 2006. “Boers are meat-type goats,” says Mr. Almeda. “In terms of physical appearance, they are better-looking and bigger than the native goats.”

They spent the first two years investing in purebred genetic materials and nurturing their stock. One of the early hurdles they faced was the long gestation period of Boer goats, which ranges from 149 to 155 days. Raising the farm animal in the country’s tropical climate also proved to be a challenge. “Being shipped from a temperate country to the Philippines was quite stressful for them,” says Mr. Almeda.

In 2007, AGF shipped 100 Saanen dairy goats from Australia to jumpstart its dairy operations. Recent studies it conducted along with the National Dairy Authority (NDA) and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) have shown that even in the tropics, Saanen dairy goats can be milked for 305 days so long as they have good nutrition and are cared for using proper animal husbandry practices. “I learned the virtue of patience in breeding,” says Mr. Almeda. In 2008, the firm began supplying Alaminos Milk Star Fresh Goat’s Milk to supermarkets in Metro Manila. “Lactose-intolerant individuals prefer goat’s milk,” says Mr. Almeda.

AGF milks its goats daily and keeps tabs on the farm’s performance, but for Mr. Almeda, the secret to goat-raising lies largely in one factor: proper nutrition. “The first thing we tell interested goat-raisers is to plant different grasses and legumes before even purchasing a goat,” he says. “If they’re are well fed, they reproduce more efficiently and grow faster.”

The one year-old Alaminos Salad Garden has proven to be a cost-efficient way to sustain their goats: the garden took care of much of the forage requirement of AGF’s Boer breeders and was also able to feed all their dairy goats last year. “With indigofera as the main tree legumes, we have seen a big improvement in the performance of the dairy goats in our farm,” says Mr. Almeda.

Today, AGF has roughly 900 goats, making it one of the biggest producers of purebred goats in the country. “This year and the years ahead, we want to successfully produce our island-born Mitra Line and Alaminos Mitra Saanen cross in commercial numbers,” he says. “We believe this will make a big impact in helping develop goat dairying in the Philippines.”

For details and inquiries, email Art Almeda at alaminos_goatfarm@yahoo.com


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