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A Dairy Herd Recording Programme has been launched, which will better assist farmers to select the best milk-producing cattle in their herds and to boost milk production in Jamaica.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, who launched the programme yesterday (May 27) at the Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine, said that since 1978, there has been no recording of milk production in Jamaica and this has coincided with a loss of productivity in the national herd.
The recording programme, he said, will help to increase milk production in Jamaica by allowing for the collection and processing of production data to register peaks, consistency, changes and trends that influence herd efficiency, which will guide farmers in selecting the best milk producers.

Minister Of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (left) peruses a Cattle Producers Reference Manual, while newly appointed Livestock Officers, who will provide assistance to farmers under the National Dairy Herd Recording Programme, look on. Occasion was the launch of the programme yesterday (May 27) at the Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine.

Minister Tufton said that data will also allow for early disease detection, intervention and protection, and help farmers to detect reproductive trends, to assess milk quality and isolate problems, so that they may be addressed early.
He noted that the data collected will also better enable farmers to make timely switches to beef production. “Overall, farmers will be better able to maintain herds of happy cows to drive increased levels of local food production in the interest of the health of our people and reduced dependence on imports,” the Minister stated.
To support the Herd Recording Programme, an initial two-year agreement has been procured with the North Carolina State University in the United States for online access to their dairy records management system; the processing of data collected locally; and generating of a monthly report to create a local database and guide farmers.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (right), speaking with dairy farmer, Raymond Brooks (left), while other farmers look on. Occasion was the launch of the National Dairy Herd Recording Programme yesterday (May 27) at the Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine. The programme will allow farmers to collect milk production data to select the best milk producing cows for increased herd efficiency.

At the launch, computers and milk metres were distributed to farmers to begin the data collection process.
The Dairy Herd Recording Programme is among several initiatives undertaken by the Ministry over the past year to revitalise the dairy sector. A total of 14 livestock officers have been employed to assist farmers with animal husbandry and animal health and they will also assist with data collection for the Herd Recording Programme.
A Cattle Producers Reference Manual was recently produced to guide the work of farmers and a mastitis surveillance scheme, which can improve herd health, resulting in a 10 to15 per cent increase in production.
Added to those, the Minister said, is the purchase of an embryo freezer to support embryo transfer and help to address local and overseas demands for embryos from top breeds like the Jamaica Hope.
Dr. Tufton informed that $50 million in concessionary loans had been disbursed to the sector over the past year and another $35 million will be made available this year. In addition $4 million had been spent on farmer training.
Negotiations are advanced for divestment of the Goshen and Wallens farms for the establishment of vertically integrated milk production and marketing operations through equity-based small farmer participation.
Fiona Black, a dairy equipment and services supplier, who was present at the launch said that the Herd Collection Recording Programme is not only welcome but long overdue, as the sector had been working without this valuable data for too long.