- Farmers across western Jamaica, particularly in St. Elizabeth, are optimistic that the US$5-million Hounslow Animal Research facility in the parish will go a far way in improving both the quality and quantity of the nation’s small-ruminant stock.
- Another farmer, Seaton Pence, from the neighbouring parish of Westmoreland, says the research centre will also improve animal health, and support the traceability system that has been implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture.
- It is estimated that approximately five million kilogrammes of chevon (goat meat) and just over two million kilogrammes of mutton (sheep meat) are consumed in Jamaica each year.
Farmers across western Jamaica, particularly in St. Elizabeth, are optimistic that the US$5-million Hounslow Animal Research facility in the parish will go a far way in improving both the quality and quantity of the nation’s small-ruminant stock.
The facility, which was officially opened in 2016, offers artificial insemination and embryo transfer services to farmers who are involved in goat and sheep rearing.
It was built jointly by the Agriculture Ministries of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, with support from Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), through funding from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Government of New Zealand, which also funded similar projects in six other Caribbean countries – St. Lucia, Guyana, Belize, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Grenada.
In interviews with JIS News, the farmers said the centre is providing a vital service to the agricultural sector by adding new bloodlines to the goat and sheep industry, while rebuilding the animal stock.
Paul Walker, a goat farmer from Southfield, St. Elizabeth, says it will improve not only the quality of the stock but the numbers.
“As farmers we are always on the hunt for new bloodlines and species of goats and sheep as we seek to satisfy the growing demand for meat. We have heard that over 10,000 new hotel rooms are coming on stream in Jamaica within a short time, and I know that they will be needing goat and sheep meat to feed the guests. It is left up to us, the livestock farmers, and particularly those of us who are involved in the small ruminant sector, to satisfy the demand,” he adds.
Female farmer, Judith Grant, who hails from Accompong Town in St. Elizabeth, and who operates a farm with more than 30 heads of goat, tells JIS News that the research centre will literally breathe new blood and life into the small-ruminant sector.
Ms. Grant says although she is yet to benefit from the goat-revolving scheme, she is supportive of the centre, as farmers now have a source through which they can get much-needed support.
“The farmers have been silently calling for this kind of support, and now that it has materialised, their farm stock will improve leaps and bounds. I hope they are open to the training and guidance that they will receive, and once that is done, the prospects for the goat industry will surpass everyone’s dream,” she argues.
Another farmer, Seaton Pence, from the neighbouring parish of Westmoreland, says the research centre will also improve animal health, and support the traceability system that has been implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We will now be placed in a better position to trace our animals from the time of birth to the time the meat shows up on someone’s plate. We will now be producing animals that are of the highest quality, and with the traceability programme in place, we will be able to know where the animals came from in terms of their bloodline. I am very happy for the establishment of this facility and will make use of it myself, while encouraging other farmers to join the happy band,” he tells JIS News.
Meanwhile, the Hounslow Animal Research Centre is expected to play a major role in the education of agricultural science students in western Jamaica. A programme is already being worked out to include students from the nearby Newell High School, where the Ministry of Investment, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries adopted the institution’s agricultural science department.
Manager of the Hounslow centre, Audley Facey, who is also the Chief Livestock Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, notes that more than 120 goats and 60 sheep have been distributed to farmers under a livestock distribution project at the facility.
Mr. Facey says the research centre will also assist farmers in not only developing new bloodlines of goat and sheep, but in controlling diseases.
He points out that the facility is equipped to do testing of samples taken from animals in order for the proper treatment to be recommended and given.
Mr. Facey notes that farmers are also being educated at the centre in areas such as animal husbandry, and, so far, more that 80 farmers have been trained.
It is estimated that approximately five million kilogrammes of chevon (goat meat) and just over two million kilogrammes of mutton (sheep meat) are consumed in Jamaica each year.