LOCAL manufacturer of animal feed, Nutramix, and the United States-based Gold Mine Boers International have received high praises for the recently concluded GOAT seminar at the Denbigh Showground in Clarendon.
About 50 small ruminant farmers, who specialise in goats and sheep, were in attendance for the interactive workshop that was held to help boost local production in the sector and educate farmers.
Among the goat farmers was 30-year-old Soren Fisher from St Catherine. Fisher, who has a keen interest in goats and artificial insemination (AI), said he was glad to attend to learn more about the industry.
“I learnt a lot about the AI process in-depth, especially in terms of where the [blood] lines are coming from,” said Fisher.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green also applauded the organisers of the seminar.
“I want to commend Nutramix for putting its hands up and leading this charge to ensure that they're partnering with us to drive the growth across our small ruminants sector,” said Green, who is on a drive to boost the local small ruminants industry while reducing the associated import bill and meeting the demand for the meat and other products such as goat milk.
Nutramix's senior manager of livestock support, Dr Gabrielle Young, and Samuel Golding — owner of Gold Mine Boers International — used the seminar to provide the audience of farmers, government officials, and industry stakeholders with presentations and question-and-answer opportunities on a range of related topics.
These included the three key must-haves for caring for ruminants: good animal genetics, nutrition and management.
The farmers were also treated to a thorough rundown of what it takes to start and maintain a goat farm that can earn the big bucks. In addition, the farmers were exposed to a wealth of information which would equip them to grow the industry.
President of the Small Ruminants Association of Jamaica, Trevor Bernard, expressed gratitude for the seminar on behalf of the association and the farmers it represents.
He said that events like these always teach him something new and that farmers stand to benefit from learning best practices, because “a lot of things are still being done wrong in this country.”
Bernard also indicated his willingness to support all the stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture and the private sector, in the bid to move the industry forward by increasing production and earnings.
“This industry has the potential to employ a lot more people,” declared Bernard.
Young expressed similar sentiments in her presentation on the cost of production.
Pointing to figures from 2014 of the country's J$1-billion mutton import bill, Young argued that local production can increase tremendously without any real competition among the farmers because the market is there for it. She noted that goat meat, which is not the same as mutton, is also heavily imported.
As for the means to boost the production and earnings in the sector, she explained to the attendees that it may be prudent for small farmers to focus on one or two areas, such as breeding and later selling weaner goats (kids) to other farmers or larger players like Nutramix who can provide security against issues like praedial larceny.
She pointed out that farmers also have the option of rearing their ruminants to full term for meat and milk production.
Young also detailed the benefits of using certain reproductive technologies, like AI, in the effort to boost production. AI is the introduction of semen into the female reproductive tract without the use of the male animal itself.
“AI is economical from a standpoint that you can have access to all these beautiful males (goats) at a fraction of the cost. Some of these males can cost about US$25,000 to US$50,000. Nobody is going to sell you that, and I wouldn't buy it because next thing you know he breaks his leg. But, guess what? You still have access to his semen at a fraction of the cost. His semen is him,” she said.
Before the end of the seminar, farmers watched as Golding demonstrated, with the use of live goats, what to look for in goat breeds.
Nutramix, through its animal genetics programme, partnered with Gold Mine Boers International to introduce new goat genetics into the local herd to reduce in-breeding and improve production and the quality of meat produced locally.