Gov't boosts goat, sheep stock
Jamaica is making progress in boosting the country's stock of goat and sheep in order to meet local demand for mutton, reducing the import bill for the meat.
Annual import of mutton and chevon is estimated at more than US$15 million.
Under the Diversification of the Caribbean Livestock Sector through Production of Small Ruminants programme, focus is being placed on improving the production, productivity and quality of small ruminants.
This is through boosting breeding and dissemination of high-quality stock and providing training in animal processing and marketing
The project, which was launched in 2012, is funded by the Governments of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago; Common Fund for Commodities, which is a subcommittee within the Food and Agriculture Organization; Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, as well the Caribbean Development Bank.
The objective is to enhance the income and food security of goat and sheep farmers and meat processors.
Deputy research director for the Livestock Research and Improvement Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dwight Williams, said he was pleased with the progress of the project.
To date, under the programme, 200 sheep embryos from the Dorper and Kata breeds have been imported; 100 farmers trained in animal husbandry and cluster group formation; and 3,000 plants distributed to 33 farmers to improve fodder volume.
"I am heartened at the progress we have been making, and the responses from the farmers have always being good," he said.
"We have been seeing marked improvement in the quality of goats and sheep in the region, and this has resulted in improved pedigree of the animals," Williams pointed out.
The main breeding site and research station for the project is the Hounslow Goat and Sheep Demonstration and Training Centre in St Elizabeth.
The facility is equipped with necessary infrastructure to facilitate embryo transfer, semen collection and artificial insemination. It is also used to train trainers and farmers.
An abattoir at the Bodles Research Station in St Catherine has also been upgraded. At this facility, farmers are certified and licensed through collaboration with the HEART Trust/NTA on how to slaughter animals. Other institutions involved in training and serving as breeding sites for the project are the College of Agriculture, Science and Education in Portland, and the Knockalva and Dinthill Technical high schools in Hanover and St Catherine, respectively.
The animals are given to the institutions to be used in educational programmes and for farmers to purchase and distribute.
Williams explained that embryo transfer is one of the methods used to improve the breeding stock. He said embryos are imported from Canada and implanted into surrogate does and ewes.