Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon Derrick Kellier visited the Hounslow project on Thursday, November 25, 2015 and expressed pleasure at the progress being made.
The lab will enable artificial insemination and embryo transfer to significantly increase and diversify the production of small ruminants. It will also provide technical service to farmers who have concerns about animal diseases. This is being complemented by the construction of a dormitory and lecture hall and classroom in partnership with the Common Fund for Commodity (CFC).
The Hounslow project which is sited on some 50 hectares of flat grazing fields currently has 122 goats and 157 sheep and is already making an impact in making animals available to farmers. Technical Manager at Hounslow, Audley Gary informed Minister Kellier that “since the beginning of the year, we have distributed to farmers 115 goats and sheep under this project.”
Minister Kellier welcomed the fertility laboratory as “an important addition to the product as we try to service the farming sector, particularly those persons involved in the rearing of small ruminants.” Expressing confidence that the lab would make a tremendous difference for farmers in the region, he said “what is happening here is that we are sowing a seed that will germinate into a mighty big tree.”
He was particularly pleased at the services that will be available to, noting, “Animal health is something that the ministry is very concerned about and the process that is going to be in train here will ensure that we produce animals that are of proper quality so that when we decided to go the route of traceability we will be able to know where animals came from and what that chain was like.”
He said this would also ensure that if any problem developed along the chain it would be identified; “so from insemination stage until it reaches the stage to get on the table we will be able to track it.”
Minister Kellier said the Hounslow project “was all part of the development in technological advancement in agriculture and the whole business of research and development, and I am really pleased that we have joined with other partners. The ministry has made its contribution to make sure that the project succeeds.”
In-house training has already been given to a number of veterinary assistants who attended for one week.
Mr. Kellier was cognizant that over the years livestock production has suffered from a number of setbacks, including praedial larceny taking stock out of the system before they reach the stage where they could be culled hence the lab would be serving the dual purpose of improving stock quality stock while increasing the numbers.
He noted that “this type of agriculture is something that young people particularly are more interested in and it is one of the goods things we are doing to appeal to them because it will help the food chain.”
Already a partnership a been forged with the Newell High School which Minister Keller would allow students there to be interact with the project and learn much more to enable them to become part of the team and learn about the process to be able to pass on the information to others.
“It’s the right way to go: Get the young people involved from early so they can understand the practices and the technology involved in the development of the small ruminant industry,” said Mr. Kellier.
The partnership with the high school also has a forestry component and a week ago Hounslow established a forest at Newell High with 100 mulberry plants which are regarded as high protein fodder and is good for feed, thereby allowing farmers to cut back on concentrate.
The minister reiterated that “We are importing far too much meat into the country so we have to build our own capacity. We expect 10,000 hotel rooms here (in Jamaica) in the next couple of years so we have to prepare and set the groundwork to allow us to be sustainable in these matters.”