Seprod Limited, having strengthened its livestock division, is getting into the business of supplying sheep for butchering and impregnating heifers for sale.
At 5,000 head of cattle, Seprod says it has more than enough heifers to maintain its dairy business while breeding cows to be sold while 'in-calf'. The company added sheep to its farms last year initially, to graze its fruit orchards. But now, the flock is being bred for mutton.
"We have available now heifers that are ready for sale. If people want to buy pregnant heifers they can get it. If farmers want to go into business, they can buy some pregnant heifers," Byron Thompson, group managing director of Seprod, told Wednesday Business.
Seprod's core business is manufacturing and distribution of industrial products and consumerables. But it is also a big player in the dairy sector through subsidiary Serge Island Dairies Limited. Seprod's manufacturing segment, under which it counts its dairy business, has a turnover of J$9 billion annual, while distribution does J$3.7 billion worth of sales.
Serge Island Farms is the largest milk producer in Jamaica, outputting 5,119,263 litres of milk in 2010 to account for 41 per cent of national production, according to Seprod's 2010 annual report.
Thompson told Wednesday Business on the margins of the company's annual general meeting in Kingston on Monday that of the 5,000 heads of cattle, just about half of them are mature cows in milk, while the rest are young - ranging from day-old to mature non-milkers.
Seprod acquired the Serge Island dairy farms in 2005 with 2,000 heads of cattle.
Six years later: "We have multiplied the herd and retained the heifers for breeding, and replaced the older ones. This is what we did in the succession plan," Thompson said.
The cost of the pregnant cows will vary. Their selling point is the value-added calf to come, and a shorter turnaround time for the farmer/buyer to start reaping milk.
"I can't give a price now but it is a higher price than if they are not pregnant. We could estimate that one could go for roughly J$80,000, but remember that is a very rough estimate," Thompson said.
Sheep were introduced on Seprod's mango farms to munch on weed in an effort to reduce maintenance cost of the fields. But a rising demand for mutton has prompted the company to enter the business of supplying the meat.
Thompson said the male sheep are removed from the herd, castrated and then fattened up for sale.
Seprod manages a flock of 1,100 sheep, but only 40 to 50 males are now ready for sale.
"We have more in different maturity stages," Thompson said.