Goat and sheep farmers unveil plans to grow the sector
As part of the growth plan for the goat and sheep industries, the Small Ruminants Association of Jamaica (SRAJ) is seeking to work with local farmers to produce high quality meat animals, while exploring the potential of increasing goat milk production for value-added products such as goat cheese, yoghurt and soaps for the local market.
In addition, given the negative effect of climate change on the availability of fodder, the SRAJ is looking to lease government land to grow hay to supply its members at a reduced price. Currently, goat farmers pay between $600 and $900 per bale for hay.
Speaking at the annual general meeting of the association recently, the Association President Trevor Bernard, indicated that there were great opportunities for goat farmers to supply the market with more than meat, especially the speciality restaurants who use the value-added products.
Dayne Patterson (left) Business Development Manager for Hi-Pro makes a point to Trevor Bernard (right), President of the Small Ruminants Association (SRAJ), while Derrick Dunn (centre), 1st Vice President of the Small Ruminants Association look on. They were at the SRAJ’s Annual General Meeting held at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries’ Bodles Research Centre, Old Harbour.
However, he said the current native and cross-breed goats on the island are grown primarily for meat and do not yield high volumes of milk for the value-added products.
“So we will be seeking the support of the Ministry of Agriculture to carry out research on our behalf in order to decide on the best dairy goat suitable for Jamaica that we can import, either through semen, embryos or a live animal. This has become necessary if we are to expand the small ruminant stock,” Bernard told the AGM held at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries’ Bodles Research Centre in Old Harbour, St Catherine.
The SRAJ president noted that the demand locally for goat milk and other value-added products that are being produced on a limited scale is outstripping supply. “In fact, we have found that the main purchasers of the goat milk and other goat products are persons who are allergic to cow’s milk,” Bernard noted.
“For instance, there is a goat farmer in Trelawny who cannot produce enough goat milk, goat cheese and yoghurt, while there are two other farmers who have got a great response to the soaps they have produced using goat milk,” he noted.
In addition, we are working with Hi-Pro, a subsidiary of the Jamaica Broilers Group, to identify farmers who are serious about building their capacity with best practices to increase goat and sheep production.
Bernard said there were a number of achievements during 2018. Among them was the hosting of an inaugural Farm Yard Expo in December last year at the 4H Club, Hope Road, where there were demonstrations on how to carve special cuts of sheep meat and the steps to take to prepare lotions and soaps from goat milk.
During last year also, the SRAJ launched its website and Facebook page. In addition, the Small Ruminants Association of Jamaica was registered in 2018 to meet international standards. It was formerly the Goat & Sheep Association of Jamaica.
Bernard said the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries has provided office space for the Association at its Bodles Research Centre, which has been furnished. “We will be seeking funding to employ a secretary,” Bernard said.
But the SRAJ President said one of the major achievements for 2018 has been the collaboration with the Agro Investment Cooperation (AIC) to set up a registry of all the goats and sheep in Jamaica, together with details of their bloodline, similar to what is taking place in the local cattle industry.