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Published:Thursday | December 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM
These three bulls, prime specimen of Jamaica Red Poll beef cattle, went at it following the recent appraisal which took place at Dr Karl Wellington's YS Farm in St Elizabeth. - Photos by Christopher Serju
Livestock geneticist Dr Karl Wellington has the undivided attention of his daughter Ruth and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke at his home in Manchester, following the recent appraisal of Jamaica Red Poll and Jamaica Brahman cattle at the YS Farms in St Elizabeth.

Appraisers impressed with the high quality of Jamaica's beef stock

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

THE HIGH quality of Jamaica's beef stock was apparent recently and appraisers from Jamaica Red Poll Cattle Breeders and Jamaica Brahman Breeders societies were very impressed with the animals presented by Dr Karl Wellington at the YS Farms in St Elizabeth.

"Seldom has the Brahman herd shown (as) impressive. The first set of heifers is remarkable. We commend you on the number of bulls shown," they reported. The comments about the Jamaica Red Polls also noted that the herd had exceeded their wildest hopes with the females of 2010 particularly well-grown and impressive, with the bulls, representing nine blood lines, being an impressive display.

This appraisal is the latest of three recent appraisals by the breeders societies. The others in St Thomas and Portland also attested to the extremely high quality of the local stock, even as the numbers have declined significantly over the past 20 years.

Production peaked

Beef production peaked at 18.4 million kilogrammes in 1992 but fell by 41 per cent to 1.75 kilogrammes in 2004, due to the massive scale of importation and other policy measures which continue to negatively impact the industry.

Veteran cattle breeder and appraiser Robin Crum Ewing noted the importance of maintaining quality stock as the foundation for any serious effort at rebuilding, since it is much more than picking pretty animals.

He told The Gleaner: "We are now selecting heavily on production, performance, weight gains and so on. That's what has to be done because it has to be an economic business. Otherwise, just love of animals is not going to hit it."

According to Crum Ewing, much more work will need to be done to arrest the declining numbers but there is hope: "We must feel some degree of elation that (as) bad as things are, we really have a product here that we have to protect and have to find a way in these difficult times for the breeders societies to remain feasible and entities that can be financially viable.

"It's up to us in the area of managing these herds now to protect the work that has gone before us - Dr Lecky, Teddy Redshaw and numerous others. It would be most unfortunate if we were to reach a stage where we lose 65 years of breeding in the Brahman and 60 years in the Reds and the Blacks which are in demand but are small (in) numbers."

The appraisal exercise, judging from the impressive quality of animals presented - bulls, heifers, cows and calves - from both breeds, was definitely an improvement over previous assessments.