University of the Philippines Los Baños

His work as research scientist and an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign would have been the launching pad for a successful career in the US. But the desire to help livestock farmers back home proved very difficult to resist, and soon, Dr. Rommel Sulabo was on a plane back to the Philippines.

Within just a year after his recruitment to the UP Balik PhD Program, he has already accomplished much as a teacher and as a researcher. His contributions to knowledge on livestock nutrition and production are affirmed by the 2014 Outstanding Young Scientist Award that he has just received from the National Academy of Science and Technology - Philippines.

 Through his research on applied monogastric nutrition, specifically on feed ingredient evaluation, feed processing and safety, animal growth modeling, and feed management, Dr. Sulabo has provided livestock producers with information on practices that will improve the management, profitability, and sustainability of small and large livestock operations. He has also written 26 articles that have been published in ISI-indexed journals, 20 research reports, 31 research abstracts, 4 book chapters, 13 technical modules, 11 conference proceedings, and over 50 popular articles.

He has especially been passionate about finding feed substitutes that are cheaper and can bring down the cost of livestock production. For instance, he has conducted studies to identify possible cheap substitutes for costly feed ingredients. “For Filipino farmers to be more competitive, they have to reduce their cost. Since feed is 60 to 80% of their total cost, we must exert a lot of efforts to bring down its cost,” he said.

One of the promising feed ingredients that could substitute for corn is cassava. “Cassava, a cheaper ingredient, can be used as a major component of animal feed. Both crops can provide energy, although cassava is not used as much as corn. We must strengthen researches that will show us the energy found in cassava and other local products in order to determine amounts to be used in animal feed. If feed cost would be reduced, the total production cost of meat would also be reduced,” Dr. Sulabo explained.

He believes that we must try to ensure that research information is applied and that work does not stop when the research is completed. “There is so much information from research that we should bring to the livestock producers to help them improve their production systems,” he pointed out.

To bridge the gap between farmers and researchers, he engages in extension work involving all sectors. He has collaborated extensively with stakeholders of the livestock industry to get producers to access the latest information that they can adopt to improve operation. He has given over 300 presentations, seminars, and training courses for livestock farmers, animal nutritionists, and farm personnel.

Dr. Sulabo aims to empower farmers to be open to new innovations. He said, “we are trying to engage the farmers themselves because we cannot do a lot of work and not let anybody know what we are doing. That is a failure of communicating what we do. We will then not have an impact.”

Dr. Sulabo’s desire to help improve the country’s livestock industry may have caused him to turn his back on a comfortable life in the US, but it has also propelled him to greater heights in his academic and scientific career here in the country. But his main source of fulfillment is knowing that he has been contributing much in developing the country’s livestock industry.