Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Karl Wellington recognised for work in animal genetics

Published:Monday | October 20, 2014 | 10:00 AM
Dr Wellington (left) had the full support of the late Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Roger Clarke (right), for his groundbreaking work. Looking on is his daughter, Ruth.
Dr Karl Wellington speaks about his life work which has integrally been involved in improving the quality of cattle.
Dr Wellington shows off some of the champion polled Brahman sires from his farm.
Jimmy Lewis handles Treason, a Brahman bull from Dr Karl Wellington's farm, which was adjudged overall Supreme Champion at the annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show earlier this year. Photos by Christopher Serju
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Karl Everard Wellington, PhD, is among the eight persons who today will be conferred with the Order of Jamaica during the annual National Honours and Awards Ceremony at King's House, during which 189 persons will be recognised for their contribution to Jamaica in their respective fields.

This will mark the latest recognition for someone whose expertise, knowledge and reputation as academic, scientist and cattleman is well-known in far flung places such as India, Australia, England, North America, Mauritius, South Africa, New Zealand and Panama, where his name is legend.

"I see myself as one who is committed to doing a job and doing it well and from my boyhood days I was interested in agriculture and I've continued to be involved in doing things which I enjoy, one of which is working in animal genetics, which began long before my time," Dr Wellington told The Gleaner recently.

However, even a cursory look at his life's work would reveal that self-assessment to be grossly inadequate and an oversimplification of the global impact of his outstanding and ongoing contribution to animal genetics and particularly cattle.

Silver Musgrave Medal

In 1993, he received the Order of Distinction Commander Class, the same year he was awarded the Silver Musgrave Medal for Animal Science. In 2013 the International Biography Centre in Cambridge England conferred Wellington with the Honorary Doctorate of Letters and at this year's annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, the Jamaica Agricultural Society honoured him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2000, the American Biographical Institute made this distinguished Jamaican a Member of the Order of International Ambassadors, three years after recognising his contribution to agricultural and rural development. It was in 1998 that he received the University of the West Indies Plaque of Honour for Long and Distinguished National Service, with the Jamaica School of Agriculture in 2001 paying tribute with its Old Students Association Award for Excellence in Animal Science. These are but some of the honours/awards bestowed on this native of Hanover who was born to Nathaniel Phillip Wellington and Iris Viola Scott Wellington in 1936.

After 25 years working with the Government of Jamaica, he spent the next 14 years at Alcan with the past 16 years dedicated to his own business the YS Farms in St Elizabeth, from where he continues to be actively involved in cattle breeding.

trailblazer from youth

A humble man whose advice is frequently sought and never denied, Wellington has been a trailblazer from youth, and was recognised as far back as 1953 when he entered the Knockalva Practical Training Centre in Hanover, Jamaica, on a three-year full scholarship. After the first year he sought and was granted a transfer to the Jamaica School of Agriculture, and despite having to give up the scholarship, he continued to impress, graduating at the top of his class in 1957, being head boy and valedictorian on the way to graduating with a First Class Honours Diploma.

In 1962, he received the first Jamaica Independence Scholarship to read for the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus in Trinidad, and the Jamaican was on a roll. Wellington was given the option in 1965, based on the quality of his scholarship during the undergraduate years, to bypass the Masters and read for a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in animal genetics. So it was that in 1968 he completed the first PhD in Livestock Science to be awarded by UWI.

It was from this academic platform that Wellington would distinguish himself as the animal geneticist and livestock development researcher largely responsible for the development, maintenance and conservation of Jamaica's four cattle breed - Jamaica Red Poll, Jamaica Brahman, Jamaica Hope and Jamaica Black Poll.

During the quarter century of service with the Ministry of Agriculture and particularly from 1965-68, he spearheaded the preparation and display of cattle from the Bodles and Grove Place research stations at the annual agriculture shows, serving on the livestock show's committee for many years. The cattle he selected from the research stations and the Agricultural Development Corporation set the benchmark for quality, with his record of showing the Supreme Champion Beef Bull from Grove Place for seven consecutive years still unmatched.

dominated the annual livestock section

Displaying Jamaica Red Polls and Polled Jamaican Brahman from his YS farms since 1988, Wellington has dominated the annual livestock section of the annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, with many awards and taking the 2013 Champion Livestock Award. In fact, he attributes winning the Ivomec Trophy on 13 occasions (12 consecutive years) to the emphasis on quality of cattle flesh over quantity, and lamenting the seeming lack of competition.

Reflecting on his work as a livestock geneticist over the decades, Wellington is convinced that in order to maintain and build on the gains achieved, much more work still needs to be done.

Wellington explained: "In animal genetics, especially dealing with large animals like cattle, the maxim is that one generation stands on the shoulders of another. The lifespan of the animal or generational intervals are such that no one person could carry the whole process to a conclusion. There is always something more to be done and for example with the Jamaica Red Poll breed, the 17 years that I spent as chairman of the breed society and as animal geneticist, I am pleased to see that we've been able to maintain the genetic base, but I'm unhappy about the total female population that we now have. Because we've got about 140 bulls working, belonging to 18 bloodlines - male lines but only 2,200 females."

The veteran cattle breeder continued: "So I'm saying that there are some things that I'm pleased with, such as the fact that we've been able to maintain these 18 blood lines but not happy that the number of breeding females are as small as they are."