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To breed or not to breed?

By Claude Wilson, Freelance Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

NINETY GRADED Polled Brahman beef cattle were recently appraised at the Montpellier Agriculture Research Station in St. James. A decision is to be taken to either continue the breed development programme or to consider the cattle for registration in the Jamaican Brahman herd book.

To date there are over 17,000 Jamaican Brahmans registered in the Herd Book.

The aim of the exercise, according to livestock geneticist and chief appraiser Dr. Karl Wellington, was, firstly, to clear the registration backlog of animals born between 1996 and 1999 and, secondly, to evaluate and select young heifers born in 2000 for the continuation of the Polled Brahman breeding programme.

The panel of appraisers, consisting of Edwin Gayle, chief livestock officer at Alcan Jamaica, Alanzo Brown, livestock development officer in Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Headley Edwards, veterinary service division officer, Jasmin Holness, animal geneticist, and Loren Gayle, farmer and prominent Red Poll breeder, approved 32 registered Polled Brahman cows for breeding purposes and 15 heifers over 2 years old and 8 heifers under 2 years old for further evaluation and registration in the national herd book.

Dr. Wellington in lauding the efforts of the Montpellier farm management team for reviving pedigree breeding at the livestock pointed to the poor condition of the animals.

'The size of the animals indicates that they have been through hard times of severe periods of poor nutrition hence the animals of 1996 and 1997, for instance, have not yet calved and so did not get a favourable consideration by the judges". He remarked to livestock officers, and teachers and students of Knockcalva Agricultural Training School.

"In a normal herd these animals would have borne at least one calf. Such poor productive animals are a severe financial drain and are not making any contribution to the genetic progress of the breed which is what the effort of appraising animals is trying to do".

According to retired livestock development officer, Charlie Harris, the polled (having no horn) strain of the Jamaica Brahman breed of beef cattle started years ago by Major Basil Burke at the Montpellier Estate, as the development of the breed started in 1949.

The criteria for judging and selection include size for age, confirmation (body structure), and certain points that the breed discriminates against such as white on the nose and tail. Animals falling below the rigidly maintained standard are rejected.

Dr. Karl Wellington, who is chairman of the Jamaica Livestock Association Beef Committee and chairman of the Jamaica Red Poll breed, closed the proceedings in the hope that "in the years ahead, a new page will be turned in the breeding work at the Montpellier Station".

He implored the observing students of Cambridge and Rusea's High Schools and especially those from the nearby Knockcalva Agricultural Institution, to put themselves in a position to take over management responsibility at the station. He hoped that by then there would have been in place a herd [of quality] of which the nation can be proud, so that we will be able to show that the Polled Brahman has a place in Jamaica.

Earlier it was alluded to that Content Beef, a major local producer of beef products, has not favoured the Brahman cattle in their meats operation.

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