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Windalco hard-hit by cattle thieves - again

Published:Monday | February 19, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/ Gleaner Writer
One of the Jamaica Hope calves stolen from West Indies Alumina Company.

Thieves continue to undermine the economic viability of the West Indies Alumina Company's (Windalco) livestock operations, with seven Jamaica Hope calves valued at $84,000 discovered missing on Monday, February 12.

The dairy calves - three bulls, four cows aged about one month old - were valued at about $12,000 each an were stolen from the company's JJ Gagnon Dairy pasture in Manchester. They have identification numbers tattooed in each ear.

On Friday, Windalco placed a press advertisement offering a reward of $20,000 for the return of each calf and/or $120,000 for information leading to the arrest and charge of the perpetrator(s).

Despite this, the company is not optimistic about recovering the animals because 14 heads of cattle were stolen from its Manchester division and 23 from its Alderton, St Ann, Windalco division last year. Since the start of this year, 10 animals, including the seven calves, have been stolen.

"Over the last seven years the company has lost in excess of 300 heads of cattle valued at approximately $15 million, coupled with security expenditure of about $13 million per year to secure the farms. This level of expenditure has had a crippling effect on the profitability of the agriculture operation," Monique Grange, information and public affairs officer told The Gleaner.

The company's livestock operation spreads across two parishes - Manchester and St Ann - with a total of 3,300 heads of cattle. Total milk output for 2017 was 2.2 million litres, which placed the company as the second-largest milk producer in the country.

"The company has been implementing innovative measures to increase the productivity of the cows, however, the high incidence of theft is a threat to the growth and viability of the company's agricultural operation," Grange admitted.