Spare the 'she' goats!
Jamaica imported goat meat valued at just over $213 million last year as local farmers failed to meet the demand for a key component of one of the favourite dishes for parties and sessions, curried goat.
However, this reflected an improvement on 2012 when goat meat valued at $411 million was imported and was well below the import bill for lamb and sheep meat which totalled $656 million last year and $544 million in 2012.
The failure of Jamaican farmers to meet the local demand for goat meat and mutton is being blamed on a number of reasons, including losses to praedial larceny and attacks by stray dogs.
However, local goat farmers are also hurting their business by the wide-scale indiscriminate slaughter of productive does, commonly referred to in Jamaica as 'she goats'.
"If you were to visit any slaughterhouse in Jamaica and look at them slaughtering goats, to every one ram that is slaughtered you are going find 15-20 does. Now, this is setting back the effort to grow the numbers in any real way and we need to save these animals from the slaughterhouse," said Kenneth King, president of the Jamaica Goat and Sheep Farmers Association.
King explained that with the premium on rams, only a few of these ever get into the public food chain.
"The males hardly reach the slaughterhouse because they are special prized animals. You getting married nobody no want no female goat, is a ram goat. Whether it's a domino session, burial or holiday season like now, everybody wants a ram goat because the people they are catering for demand it. So for a good-sized animal the farmer is able to command a good price, with the sale very likely locked up well in advance of the occasion for which it is needed."
With that kind of demand, King noted that there is usually an increase in the number of ram goats stolen at this time of the year, with farmers having to put in extra measures to guard against theft, the elements and losses to stray dogs.