+In Memoriam of Veteran Breeder Otic Geroso
Married couples celebrate wedding anniversaries—many make it to their Ruby anniversary, some get to their Golden anniversary, while there are a few who do make it to their Diamond year.
But for famed veteran breeder Renato “Otic” Geroso of Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, it is more than 60 years of breeding, rearing, conditioning, and pitting game birds in derbies. It is not just a hobby or a business venture. The breeding of game fowls has become part and parcel of his whole life.
The Geroso family hails from the southern Negros Occidental city of Kabankalan. Otic’s father was a dentist and sometimes, the family gets some roosters as a token of gratitude for the dental services rendered. Otic remembers that he was in Grade 4 at that time and he would take care of the chickens given to them. He was about 10 years old. But he revealed to this writer that he first laid his eye on horses. Since they were so expensive to acquire and so much more expensive to take care of, Otic shifted his interest in the rearing of game fowls. After all, he had some livestock to tinker with.
Since his childhood, Otic’s involvement with game fowls may as well be considered on and off, as he had to move to Bacolod City during his college years. While he studied at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos, he played in the basketball varsity and had little time to maintain his breeding. But he did keep some chickens.
So much had happened since he finished college. Otic eventually decided to go into breeding full-time and to support his family through this endeavor. While his wife worked, he bred and sold fighting cocks and joined derbies. And he successfully did so. They have three children—two girls and one boy—with the latter now getting involved in his father’s farm.
KEEPING HIMSELF BUSY
Otic is now 71 years old. He keeps his days busy by managing his entire game farm. He handles the breeding as well as the conditioning of his entries. Sometimes, he is also the one handling his roosters in the pit. He joins derbies in Bacolod City, Cebu, Davao, Manila, and Pangasinan all year round. Usually he brings in a couple of entries each time.
Every day, Otic goes to his farm that he named Kabutungan Gamefarm. During peak months, he even sleeps at his farm house. Although he has eight trusted farm hands, he still personally sees to the daily operations and is hands on in most activities. He believes that managing his farm keeps him fit and healthy as he gets to walk around many hours in the day and to breathe in fresh air. As he builds his chickens’ endurance, he does so himself. He also makes sure that as he checks his farm, he has a water jug with him so that he can continually hydrate himself. He does this so that his kidney problem in the past will not recur.
BREEDING FOR PLEASURE
While Otic had been really active in the derby circuit and commercial breeding in the past decades, his breeding now is merely for pleasure. Whereas he used to produce 1,500 heads, now he is only maintaining 500 heads per breeding season.
These, he says, are now for his personal entries in derbies. If there are friends who would want to buy, they can. But he cannot really sell a lot because of the limited number of birds that he is producing.
Otic has maintained the breeding system that has worked for him for several decades. His chickens are hen-hatched and hen-brood. At a day old, the chicks are ranged and allowed to grow in the wild their mothers. At about a month and a half, the hens are removed from the range and the young fowls are weaned. The birds are then corded at six months and readied for stag derbies everywhere. He keeps quite an expansive range area at his farm in Brgy. Alangilan, Bacolod City.
In Bacolod City, Otic had been a director of the Negros Gamefowl Breeders Association (NGBA) and a former president of the Game Fowl Breeders Association of Negros (GF-BAN). But he has now opted to leave the leadership position to younger breeders. But he does join regular derby promotions of the two organizations, as these are requirements for members.
One of the reasons why Otic has slowed down in breeding in recent years is because of his involvement with managing the Negros Coliseum, a cockpit here in Bacolod, for six years (from 2003 to 2009).
Among his latest wins are co-championships at the 16th Annual 5-Cock Chinese New Year Derby last February 2008 at the Dauin Cockpit and Sports Center (Negros Oriental) and another co-championship in a 5-Cock Derby in Mandaue City, Cebu last May 2008. Otic’s entries got perfect scores in both events.
KEEPING HIS SEED FOWL
Otic is known for his Lemon Duke Hulsey, a breed that he has acquired from a friend way back in 1968. He does infuse and experiment with the bloodlines in order to come up with better battle crosses, but Otic says that he has maintained the seed fowl.
He explains that in every stock, one should know the pedigree of the lineage that they have. And if you have a pure bloodline, you have to maintain its integrity. These are called certified seeds. Otic does this by continually reproducing the seed fowls and properly recording the production apart from the battle crosses. He has a big farm and so rigid recording and checking are needed.
Up until now, Otic imports brood stock from famed breeders in the United States. He usually gets a couple of trios every year. While he used to travel himself back then, now he gets his imported stock from a friend who does the importation.
Otic is currently busy, as he is leaving the 14-hectare leased land that had been home to his game farm for the last 14 years. At the same time he is setting up his five-hectare farm in Mambukal, Murcia, just beside the famous mountain resort. By next year, all his breeding operations will already be in Mambucal.
He no longer has plans for expanding his operations but he aims to just maintain his production at 500 heads. This is the ideal number, he says, because if he produces less than that, his efforts and all other operational expenses would not be worth it.
Eventually, all these things will be passed on to his son, JP, who has also become busy getting himself involved in his father’s business. This is his second year in breeding.
Otic says that he will keep breeding as his health allows, after all, he believes that he draws strength and energy from doing this very thing that he loves. It is no longer work or business, as I enjoy what I am doing, he acknowledges.
GAME FOWL BREEDING TIPS FROM THE CHAMP
In order to protect the health of his flock, Otic has beefed up bio-security in his farms. He says that in order to prevent diseases from hurting the entire game fowl population in the farm, sometimes it will only take a simple step, such as putting on quarantine the birds that were exposed in the cockpits and other public places. “Chickens easily catch disease and spread them in the farm. So keeping them away from the farm for awhile after an event will drastically reduce the incidence of disease,” Otic reveals.
Otic has successfully stayed in the business for several decades. He has produced quality fighting cocks that have made a name for him. And he continues to enjoy the fruits of his labor up to a ripe age of 71. The veteran breeder reveals that he keeps himself healthy by eating right, getting some exercise through walking, and by getting regular check ups. He does drink with his buddies but considers himself a social drinker. He has quit smoking in 1990, a habit that he kicked in a day after he decided to stop. He said that he was a chain smoker who consumed seven packs of cigarette a day. But he managed to quit in a single day because he believed he can do it.
Additionally, Otic keeps his breeding operations and his derby stints pressure free. He wants to be able to enjoy the game without having to feel bad for losing. “I don’t gamble and I spend just enough for me to have a great time,” he says.
Otic has always loved game fowls and he has spent his entire life with them. Aside from his family, his breeding keeps him happy and healthy and will do so the rest of his days.
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