Minard show makes big comeback
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
AFTER A two-year absence, the annual Minard Livestock and Beef Festival returns to the Minard Estate in Brown's Town, St Ann, on November 13 with a bang.
The agriculture ministry will officially launch its long promised Animal Identification System which is being promoted as a major component of its long-term strategy to stem the growing scourge of livestock theft.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry, on Sunday confirmed that the entire cattle herd at Minard will be tagged first, with the service extended to private farms thereafter.
"Our public relations team will then start to crank up, in terms of telling people where to go and how to access the service," he disclosed, adding that it would be free for the time being.
"Right now there is no cost, but every cow now that is going to be born, you would have to buy the tag. I think it's about US$0.50 per animal, but the first round is free," he advised.
The annual show is a major showcase for beef and dairy cattle with all the cattle breed societies, as well as government farms parading their best animals. A lot of students usually turn out for the event, which is well supported by schools across the island through their 4-H clubs. The calf scramble is particularly popular as students try to lasso the young animals which they can claim on behalf of their schools.
Minard is the repository for the Jamaica Brahman and Jamaica Black herds, the latter, which livestock geneticist Dr Karl Wellington said, is under serious threat of extinction. Pressed for a response, Stanberry was cautious in answering.
Mad cow disease
"What I know is that the numbers are down considerably, but I don't think we have reached the point beyond the critical threshold," he said, pointing to the declining returns on beef and cattle investment in recent years, for which he blamed the significant fallout in beef consumption on the mad cow disease scare.
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in cattle that affects adult animals at a peak age onset of four to five years, all breeds being equally susceptible. The disease may be transmitted to human beings by eating food contaminated with the brain, spinal cord or digestive tract of infected carcass.
Stanberry recalls the impact of the disease, which by 2009 and had killed at least 177 persons in the United Kingdom where it almost devastated the cattle industry, the impact of which was also felt in Jamaica.
"Remember when mad cow (disease) came around, a man would sell you a head of cow for a thousand dollars and tell you to take the rope. That is what contributed to it; that was a big factor. There were times in the 1990s when people were literally abandoning their herds because there were no markets for beef."