A pilot project of tagging and providing a ‘passport’ for animals in the cattle industry, to prevent praedial larceny as well as diseases, has been progressing smoothly since its introduction in September 2005. Implemented under the Animal Identification System, plastic and metal tags have been affixed to the ear of each head of cattle, with numbers to indicate parish and farm holding. A ‘passport’ for each head of cattle has also been developed, and farmers will now have to register the birth of their calves to allow for the ‘trace-back’ of a cut of beef to a particular slaughterhouse or butchery.
Marsha Norman, Technical Officer of the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP), informed JIS News that with the risk of transmission of diseases increasing as a result of the efficiency and speed of transportation and the heavy volume of trade in animals and animal products, countries have had to institute regulatory measures, aimed at safeguarding human and animal health. “One such measure advocated by proponents of safe food is that of an animal identification system, which has traceability at its core,” she said. She informed that during the initial phase of the programme, cattle was tagged at farms in Claremont, St. Ann and Bodles Research Station in Old Harbour, St. Catherine. Miss Norman added that a second phase of the pilot programme is slated to begin tomorrow (February 1). “In this three-month phase, a total of 5,000 animals will be tagged and limited public education will be done by having farmers’ and butchers’ fora,” she noted. This pilot project will be the prototype for a more extensive islandwide programme, which will be conducted by the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Roger Clarke, Minister of Agriculture, speaking last year at a ceremony to launch the project, said one of the main benefits of the system was to address the issue of praedial larceny. This, he said, was in addition to the fact that such a system would put Jamaica “squarely on the international scene”. “If we are to be engaged in trading, there are exacting demands out there that we must also satisfy. …we will be able to stand up to all types of scrutiny,” the Minister stressed. Mr. Clarke said that the identification system would enable the tracing of every pound of beef that was on the shelf, back to the animal and the farm from which it came.