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VIDEO: Retirement looms for 'village ram'

Nutramix offers imported goat semen to improve local bloodline


Thursday, November 19, 2020

The celebrated “village ram” could soon be out of business if Jamaicans buy into a just introduced technology.

The village ram has been long revered by farmers who pay for his services to impregnate their does, but Newport Mills Limited, manufacturers of Nutramix animal feeds, is trying to improve Jamaica's small ruminant industry through the importation of new genetic bloodlines by means of goat semen and embryos.

Livestock support manager for Nutramix and one of the Caribbean's leading veterinarians specialising in small ruminants, Dr Garbielle Young, says the initiative was launched after consultation with the Small Ruminant Association of Jamaica in 2019.

“Prior to Nutramix importing new goat genetics in 2019, it had not been done for more than eight years. Since Jamaica has a closed animal population, there is increased demand for new genetics and bloodlines within the industry to stamp out and reduce in-breeding,” said Young.

Of the more than 3.3 million kilograms of goat and sheep consumed annually in Jamaica, less than 30 per cent is local meat.

Recognising the potential opportunities to grow the small ruminants industry, substitute imports, and create more jobs in agriculture, Nutramix has forged partnerships with leading US breeders and genetics suppliers.

Since October this year, new imported goat semen and embryos with strong lineages from South Africa and the United States have been available to Jamaican farmers.

According to Young, for too long Jamaican farmers have not had access to reliable quality breeding stock which increases the potential of in-breeding and limits the number of bloodlines available.

Young has argued that critical to the development of a sustainable livestock industry is superior animal genetics. However, the lack of variety available in Jamaica's small ruminant industry has been limited and has stifled the industry's advancement.

The veterinarian charged that this also affects the quality and production cost of the meat and milk which are then sold into the market.

Young said the new importation will “diversify the genetics available, and even add new breeds. The introduction of new bloodlines into a herd will benefit the farmers for many goat generations to come”.

Excellent Nubian and Boer bucks can cost between US$500 and US$25,000, and will likely not be allowed to be imported into Jamaica, while Jamaican farmers ask for between J$100,000 and J$250,000 for a buck.

“It's unlikely that farmers would be able to afford these bloodlines by importing live animals. However, the imported semen and embryos by Nutramix will be accessible for all farmers.

“Whether large or small, Jamaican farmers will now have access to superior goat genetics at an affordable cost of $13,500 per straw of semen, which has a proven conception success rate and produces an average of two to three offspring,” said Young.

The process of artificial insemination is, however, very technical, and must be performed by trained technicians.

“One of the biggest benefits to the farmer, apart from having access to the top-of-the-line bucks, is that they eliminate any chance of disease exposure to their livestock,” declared Young.

Once a farmer pays for the semen, the Nutramix Livestock Support Team will make several visits to the farm to begin evaluation and pre-checks.

This is often accompanied by nutritional and management advice and guidance on the selection of suitable genetic bloodlines. Subsequent visits are needed for the synchronisation and finally the insemination, which requires special equipment. The semen is transported in tanks filled with liquid nitrogen.

A last visit is done 42 days later to perform an ultrasound examination to confirm pregnancy.

Minister of Agriculture Floyd Green has lauded Nutramix on this move as he noted that the small ruminant industry represents an important part of the livestock landscape.

“The need to replenish and preserve the integrity of the stock is very important and what Nutramix is doing by introducing new genetics will only enhance and support this,” said Green.

“Less than 30 per cent of the goat meat consumed in Jamaica is produced locally; the remainder is substituted by imported mutton. This demonstrates an immense growth opportunity for the small ruminant industry,” added Green.