Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
CORN PIECE, Clarendon: HAVING ACQUIRED a graded Nubian ram in 1996, the Robinson family of Corn Piece, Clarendon, was determined to add a Boer to its stock, but at $40,000 the price tag was a major deterrent. Oral, who was still in school, took it upon himself to pack lunch each day and save the money he was given for this purpose. At the end of a year, he had saved enough to buy the prized acquisition and by 2001 started showing at the annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show that for the next four years would be an exasperating experience with second and third places being their best finishes.
During this time, however, the family was focusing on proper breeding techniques, which since 2006 has been paying off in a very big way.
It's all about genetics. Once you breed properly, you will always be successful," Oral said during a recent tour of the farm. "Record keeping is very important in maintaining separate and accurate bloodlines," he stressed. "The workers know as much as me because they are in it with us so they try to do exactly as we tell them."
In addition, he pointed out that even with good conformation of the animal, poor handling could cost an animal at a show. It is imperative that the person who will handle the animal at the event invest the time in getting it to parade its assets in a way that best showcases them for the trained eye of the livestock judge.
The Robinsons boast five bloodlines of pure-bred Boer rams and everyone on the farm understands the importance of proper and detailed record keeping in maintaining the purity of these lines. From pen and paper, the system has evolved to computer documentation dedicated to this purpose.
No stud services
Dedicated to preserving the integrity of their breeds, the Robinsons have stayed away from offering stud services, for fear of contamination by disease, lice or viruses. With some of the prize animals easily valuing well in excess of $100,000, the potential earnings from such income-earning activities is not worth the risk, according to Oral.
Feeding their flock of more than 100 ruminants spread over two locations is an expensive undertaken, even with very little of the sustenance coming from grains. Hay purchased from a farmer at Toll Gate in the parish and citrus pulp bought from the facility in Bog Walk, St Catherine, operated by the Jamaica Citrus Growers Limited. This is supplemented by cutting of a little grass from around the area, which hardly impacts the overall bill At $20,000 per truckload, including transportation cost. For the Robinsons, goat farming is very serious business.
Recognition of their sustained efforts in this area has come from the Food and Agriculture Organization and the European Union which have included them in a pilot project and used their farm for hosting training sessions. To this end, the farm was selected for a vermi-composting project which will see the goat droppings being transformed into manure.
In addition, at least two manufacturers of cheese, soap and cosmetics have contacted them about supplying goat's milk as raw material. Still, most of the goat goes to the supply the high local demand for goat meat or chevon.
While for most of the shows Oral is the face associated with the Robinson farm, he is quick to point out that it is an ongoing team effort, with all workers integrally involved. He also acknowledge the efforts of his brother Alwyn who, despite holding down a full-time job, still makes time to be a part of the team, while he credits their mom, Henrietta, who was a cane farmer, with being the inspiration behind their success.