By Zac B. Sarian

A new machine that can make rice farmers more competitive has been introduced in the country. This can harvest rice, can thresh the grains and can bale the straw at the same time in one operation, thus saving a lot on labor cost. This is a very timely development because farm labor continues to become more and more expensive in the Philippines.

The new machine was conceptualized by engineers of Agri Component Manufacturing Company based in Isabela which endorsed it for fabrication to a manufacturer in China a couple of years ago. With further innovations, the machine has become a reality, the first of its kind in the world, according to Eugene Gabriel of Agricomp. The first unit is now in operation in Isabela.

Aside from rice, the machine can also harvest corn, and at the same time, can bale the stovers. Incidentally, the machine will be demonstrated at the Corn Derby event that will be held at the experiment station of the Department of Agriculture in Ilagan City in Isabela on August 13-14, 2019.

The baled rice straw can become a valuable animal feed by making it into silage and then further converting the same into an easily digested high-nutrient feed called TMR or Total Mix Ration. This is done by adding fermented solutions and enzymes plus other natural sources of proteins and minerals. Agricomp has been collaborating with Novatech Food Industries in making the improved animal feed. TMR promotes the growth and productivity of livestock and poultry that are fed with it. The beauty about this is that the highly digestible TMR that is loaded with nutrients is much cheaper than the commercial feeds in the market today.

The TMR produced by Novatech and Agricomp does not contain any antibiotics so that it is considered an organic animal feed. It can be used to produce organic meat and eggs. Oh yes, the TMR can also be fed to chickens, especially the free-range fowls. In fact, Gabriel has a free-range poultry project for the production of organic eggs which he sells at P10 per egg. He also hatches some of the eggs to produce day-old chicks that fetch P40 apiece.

Silage production utilizing rice straw, corn stover, napier and other biomass available in local farms can boost animal production in the country, especially backyard raising of cattle. In the past years up to now, ordinary farmers take care of only one or two head of cattle because they don’t have affordable feed to feed their animals during the summer months. With silage at affordable prices, the farmers can take care of several animals instead of just one or two head.

The dairy cattle industry will also benefit from the availability of affordable silage. The cost of milk production can be reduced. Even the goat industry could be boosted with massive production of silage. Goats also relish silage because it is palatable and digestible.