Organic pigs are more profitable
Many hog raisers in the country are complaining that piggery is no longer a profitable business because of the high cost of feeds.
One fellow, however, is not complaining. He produces his own fermented feeds at a low cost and says there is big profit in hog raising – if you raise them the organic way.
The fellow is Jess Domingo who runs the Domingo Ranch in Alfonso Lista, Ifugao. Jess opted to retire in 2004 from a corporate giant as a financial officer after reaching the age of 50 so he can indulge in his passion for farming and culinary art.
FERMENTED FEEDS IN PLASTIC DRUMS – Jess Domingo shows to visitors from the Ifugao Provincial Agriculture Office his feeds that are fermented inside tightly covered plastic drums for 15 days before feeding to the pigs. Jess has 50 of these blue plastic drums for his own operation. He has been teaching farmers how to grow organic pigs. To make it easier for the farmers, he plans to produce fermented feeds in big volume so the farmers can access their feed requirement from him.
IN PURSUIT OF HIS PASSION – At first he put up a culinary school in Metro Manila and at the same time operated the Domingo Ranch stocked with high-grade Brahmans. His culinary school was profitable but it required a lot of time so that he did not have enough time to attend to his cattle.
And while he was making money in his culinary school, the owner of the place was asking for a raise in rent every time. It was time he had to give up the culinary school and devote his full time to farming.
TURNING POINT – In 2011, he decided to attend a seminar on organic farming offered by Ronald Costales who has a prize-winning organic farm in Majayjay, Laguna. His main intention then was to look for a good forage crop for his cattle.
After attending the seminar, he was no longer as interested in a good forage crop. He was more interested in the idea of organic farming and set aside a five-hectare area for organic farming in his farm.
Sharp as he is in business, he knew his product could not be the same as that of Costales who specializes in salad greens. Alfonso Lista is too far from the Metro Manila market for salad greens that are delicate to transport. So he decided to raise pigs the organic way that he learned from Costales.
RIGHT PROJECT – Raising organic pigs is the right project for him for one very good reason. Pork is expensive in Isabela, his target market, which is just right across the border. At the time of our interview (April 6), he said the going price was P125 per kilo liveweight. And as he has actually found out, producing pork the organic way is very profitable even if there is no premium for such pork in his target market.
(Actually, earlier in 2002 while he was still a corporate executive, he tried to raise pigs the conventional way in his ranch but gave that up because he lost money due to the high cost of feeds.)
THE ACTUAL COST – In his own experience, he can fatten a piglet to 90 kilos liveweight using his own feed formulation at a cost of feeds totaling P3,500. His other costs are the cost of the piglet, labor, water and utilities. Because he produces his own weanlings, the cost per head is only P675 compared to P2,500 when sourced from outside farms.
Jess places the total cost of producing a 90-kilo fattened hog in a period of 5.5-6 months at P5,375. This is broken down to P3,500 for feeds, P675 for the weanling, P500 for labor and P700 for water and electricity.
He currently sells his 90-kilo hog at P125 per kilo, which means P11,250. That means a profit of P5,875 per head. That’s more than the cost of production.
CHEAP FEEDS – How come his feeds cost only P9.50 per kilo while the conventional commercial feed in the market is P28 per kilo? He has very cheap ingredients. In one batch of feeds for his fatteners, he uses 50 kilos of D1 (fine) rice bran that costs P9 per kilo; 5 kg soya at P32 per kilo; 7 kg copra at P12 per kilo; 15 kg water hyacinth (better known here as water lily) which he collects from his own pond; 0.5 kg salt and 0.5 kg lime. To these he adds plant extracts (sambong and lagundi). The mixture is then fermented inside tightly covered plastic drums for 15 days before feeding. The cost per kilo comes out to be P9.50.
NO FOUL ODOR – Jess Domingo’s piggery does not have the usual foul odor found in conventional piggeries. Instead of cemented flooring, the flooring in Domingo’s piggery is one-meter deep rice hull. The pigs are not bathed at all but they are clean. The piggery does not have foul smell because it is regularly sprayed with EM activated solution which is cheap.
TRAINING FARMERS – Through the prodding of the provincial agriculturist in Ifugao, Jess has been conducting seminars on organic pig production for farmers and entrepreneurs. The problem of most farmers is that they don’t have access to some of the ingredients in formulating their own feeds.
Jess thinks that if the farmers can have access to ready-mixed fermented feeds, more would go into organic pork production. And that is the reason why he is thinking of putting up a feed mill for the same. Costales has a model for that which he can copy.
FREE-RANGE CHICKEN – Jess also has free-range chickens. At first, he raised chickens for meat. However, market was a problem for broilers in his place. There is however a market for organic eggs and that is why he is concentrating on that now.
He has enclosed his 40 calamansi trees for the chickens. They don’t only provide eggs for Jess to sell at P8 to P10 per piece. They also make the calamansi trees healthy and fruitful because of their manure.
COSTALES TO HELP IN MARKETING – Ronald Costales who has established a growing clientele for organic farm produce is encouraging Jess to produce more organic pork and eggs. He said he could market his pork and eggs in Manila.
Another product that one of Ronald’s customers is looking for is grass-fed beef. Maybe, that could be another project for Jess to undertake.