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Jamaica imports 50 goats under Small Ruminant Development Programme

Jamaica, on Monday received 50 goats - the first batch of animals under the Government’s Small Ruminant Development Programme.

The goats, including the Boer, Nubian and Kiko breeds, arrived at Norman Manley International Airport in Kington. 

Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr., was on hand for the arrival of the animals and he told journalists there that the goats’ "genetic superiority" is intended to “change the prospect of small ruminants for our country”.

He said the 50 goats are the first set from an initial batch of 200 being brought in, with a total of 6,000 animals to be imported over the next three years.

“So, this is an enormous positive for agriculture and several benefits to our farmers, particularly the farmers who, for long, have been yearning for us to have the higher quality, the genetics that will allow for the goats to breed faster, to have greater yield in meat [and] greater yield in milk,” he added.

According to the Agriculture Minister, “a number of problems” will be solved through the importation of the goats, noting that the animals will eat local materials and reduce the “difficulty of having to import feed into Jamaica”.

The goats will be housed at the Ministry’s Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine where a semen bank (collection of semen from imported animals with superior genetics) will also be established from the males.

The Minister said the goats’ off-springs will be sold to farmers to increase their stock and ensure that the animals are mixed with those in the country to provide the best quality possible.

He disclosed that there was special provision for guarding against praedial larceny, with all the imported goats having already been tagged and therefore more easily traceable. 

Orville Palmer, Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, led a team that travelled to Texas to investigate and examine the animals.

Mr. Palmer said small ruminants are among the safest and quickest options to substantively provide animal protein for the domestic market.

“A large part of producing protein for human consumption is the feed conversion cost. So [in] utilising these hybrid animals… we will be able to have an animal which utilises our local raw material to convert that into protein in a very efficient way. So that will ultimately serve to broaden and enhance our food security aspect of our nation,” he stated.

The national small ruminant development programme, which was launched in 2021, is geared towards rapidly increasing the population of primarily goat and sheep.

This is in order to increase local production, productivity and quality of small-ruminant meat and milk.