Tips on Carabao Fattening

Feedlot fattening of the carabao is one of the fastest ways to increase carabeef production. It is simply feeding the animal with locally available feeds but are of good quality and least cost. More so, feedlot fattening becomes especially useful in areas where farm by-products such as sugarcane tops, pineapple pulp, corn fodder, cover crops and the like are abundant available.

In the Philippines at present carabao feedlot fattening has a very limited scope. The majority of the carabao raisers are small farmers whose primary purpose for maintaining 1 to 3 carabaos is for draft. A secondary purpose is to cell them eventually for meat. The term of its service on the farm however, depends on its efficiency as a worker or when there is an exceptional price offered for it.

Both the cattle and carabao are usually fed and fattened on the available crop residues during the season. In certain barrios of Batangas, crop residues and weeds are supplemented with commercial starter mash at a rate of about 1.5 to 2 kilograms a day.

The following are the classes of carabaos fattened for the market:

1. Retired work animals on account of old age, and viciousness.

2. Feeder stock about 2-1/2 to 3 years of age, home grown or purchased in the market.

3. Carabaos below 3 years old but not suited for breeding or work purposes.

Advantages of Feedlot Fattening:

1. Fast turnover of capital. Fattening of carabaos may be attained in the reasonable length of time depending on management and nutrition.

2. The animals are less prone to disease because of limited time spent on the farm.

3. Profitable utilization of farm by-products generally going to waste.

4. Housing of feeder stock does not need a big area. In open lot confinement, the suggested floor space allowance is 4.0 to 4.7 sq. m. per mature feeder, 2.8 to 3.7 sq. m. for yearling and 1.8 to 2.8 sq. m for caracalves.

5. Management is relatively simple. For backyard fattening, the phases of management involve only feeding the fattener with any cheap by-products, forage or some concentrates available. When the animal is ready for marketing or if a lucrative price is offered for it, then the animal is sold. However, management under commercial scale is more intricate. Apart from the regular purchase of feeds and following of the feeding program, other practices involved are buying of stocks, medication and marketing of fattened animals.

Contrasting Disadvantages of Feedlot Fattening:

1. The need for large capital investment. This however holds true only for the commercial scheme of fattening where large amount of money is needed for the periodic purchase of feeds and stocks. Under backyard fattening, when only one or two carabaos are involved, the problem is not usually encountered. In fact, fattening becomes only incidental, that is when work animals are retired from the farm.

2. The need to have skills in buying and selling of stocks. This statement is true when feedlot fattening exists as a true business or in a commercial scale.

3. In the money in carabao feedlot fattening whether it is in a backyard or commercial scale. However, its success depends mainly on three factors:

There is money in carabao feedlot fattening whether it is in a backyard or commercial scale. However, its success depends mainly on three factors.

1. Feeds and feeding. The profit from feedlot fattening greatly depends on the feeds and labor costs to produce a kilogram weight gain. The labor cost may not be very significant in the backyard scale, but for commercial or semi-commercial scale, the length of the fattening period has a profound effect on the cost of production.

2. The feeder stocks should have that inherent capacity to fatten at a much shorter period of time. Retired animals may not compare with the young feeder stocks, but they are feedlot fattened in order to improve the market value.

3. Feedlot facilities. Under backyard conditions, the carabao may just be housed under a nipa shed, however, it should provide the necessary facilities for its protection and comfort. Floor, feeding and watering spaces should always be given important considerations regardless of the scheme (commercial or backyard).

A. In an open shed, the beam of the roofing should at least be 3.05 m high to allow adequate ventilation and cooling.

B. Fencing in an open lot should at least be 1.2 to 1.5 m high and strong enough to hold animals. For backyard raising, the animals may just be tethered securely to a post or in the field, but must have access to feeds and water.

C. Adequate watering and feeding trough. For caracalves weighing up to 200 kg the top of the feed bunk should be about 46 cm high. For older animals, the height of the feed bunk should be 61 to 76 cm or less. The depth of the bunk should be 25 cm to minimize feed losses and to make feeds readily available. Feeding space for calves should be about 46 cm per head and for older animals, 61 to 76 cm. Provide at least 30 cm of watering space for every 10 heads if the open tank is used.

Management Tips

1. Buy only properly registered animals.

2. When buying feeder stock, consider the animal’s potential to gain weight and ability to fatten at the shortest possible time.

3. Bigger animals will have higher dressing percentage (43 to 46% carcass yield) than smaller ones due to differences in the skeletal framework.

4. As feeder stock, fatten carabaos that are approximately 2-1/2 to 3 years old and weighing about 250 to 300 kg.

5. Fatten animals that are free from diseases and parasites. Thin animals are not necessarily unhealthy. Oftentimes they are just underfed especially during summer. Avoid buying animals with bloated bellies as they may be difficult to fatten.

6. Minimize animal shrinkage during transport from the market to the feedlot and vice-versa at market time. Truck beddings and dividers are a must. Animals that are lying down should be made to stand otherwise they will end up as downers.

7. For the newly purchased feeders, unload animals as quietly as possible. Allow the animals to rest and adjust to new surroundings. Water and feed should always be accessible.

8. Examine the health condition of the animal.

9. Group animals according to size, age and sex. Small animals will definitely be at a disadvantage when grouped with bigger ones especially at feeding time. Carabulls will breed caracows in heat; this will interfere with his fattening period. Buyers should not buy pregnant animals for slaughter.

10. Animals that are wild should be handled gently. Avoid undue excitement to prevent stress.

11. Deworm all newly purchased animals.

12. Administer vitamin A preparations every month if economically feasible to facilitate tissue build-up and feed efficiency.

13. Give 15 to 20 kg of fresh palatable forage per animal per day. This amount of feed (dry matter basis) is equivalent to about 2% of the animal’s liveweight. Concentrate ration consisting of copra-molasses-rice bran will constitute a good concentrate feedlot ration. Concentrate is usually given at a rate of about 2 to 3% of the ody weight.

14. Feed the animals at least twice a day rather than give them a whole day’s ration in one feeding. This system minimizes waste and spoilage of feeds and consequently, improves the animal’s efficiency.

15. Keep records. The following items should be properly recorded for efficient feedlot management.

a. feed costs
b. daily feed consumption
c. source of the animals, date of arrival, initial weights and market weights
d. health condition
e. labor inputs

16. Sell fattened animals on a weight basis. Survey the livestock market for the prevailing market price and prospective buyers.

17. Plan ahead. Preparation for the next crop should be done before selling the animals in the lot.

Source: Philippine Council for Agriculture and Resources Research (PCARR); photo courtesy of

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