OPERATIONS AT the farm in Goodwill, Trelawny, where 32 one- and two-year-old heifers were stolen on the night before Christmas Eve, have been significantly scaled back, with only a skeleton staff in place.
This is in keeping with the hard-line stance taken by management in a bid to hit back at the cattle thieves and their cronies.
Of the original 22 workers, only about six who are employed in key positions have retained their jobs, with the others laid off pending resolution of the $4-million rustling operation, which the management is committed to resolve.
"Everybody on the farm is under investigation. No work has started back, they lay off everybody while they are being investigated," a source revealed.
Farm manager Hyacinth Dawson-Whitter confirmed, telling The Gleaner: "They are not putting anybody back to work until they find out what happened because they are satisfied that it's partially internal."
The farm manager and the management team responded to a report from a worker on Monday, December 24, indicating that a number of heifers were missing, and an audit that day by the farm's management confirmed that 32 heifers bearing the brand mark AK followed by two digit combination were missing. The herd was comprised mainly of Jamaica Red Poll, with a few Jamaica Black Polls and Jamaica Brahman.
She said it is unlikely that strangers could have walked on to the farm at night and herded the cattle into a pen and then get them into trucks, with the apparent ease the thieves did. It is theorised that the animals were penned in advanced.
This is the first time the farm has suffered a loss of this magnitude and the owners are determined to ensure that there is no repeat. Given the serious financial fallout, they are determined that even if the cattle are never recovered, the culprits are arrested, that will send the important message - such action will not be tolerated.
Dawson-Whitter explained that experience has shown that if the thieves are not stopped in their tracks they will keep preying on the victims. For this reason, the management has urged the police to be thorough in their investigation, with the aim of ensuring they have an airtight case.
"We have asked them not to do anything prematurely, to make sure that they complete their investigation thoroughly because we don't want them to make a wrong move and lose the whole momentum and then you might lose the entire case," Dawson shared with The Gleaner.
With all 32 animals bearing prominent identification brands on the left rear hip, the managers are puzzled as to how the thieves could offload them legally, without raising the suspicion of a butcher or other buyer. In addition, the age and breed of the cattle should raise eyebrows, since it is unlikely that anyone who has invested in any of the three breeds would butcher them at such a tender age. It could not make economic or other sense, since this would in all likelihood have to be a long-term investment.
The public is being asked to be on the lookout for these brand-marked animals.