Small ruminant (sheep and goat) production in Jamaica is considered to be a rewarding business, given the high demand for both chevon (goat meat) and mutton. In 2005, over five million kilograms were imported; however this has decreased to approximately three million kilograms in 2013.
The decrease observed could be attributed to other meats being substituted as another source of protein. During the same period (2005-2013) local production only saw a 20% increase with a total of 987,056 kg being produced in 2013.
Curried chevon is preferred by local consumers to curried mutton in most restaurant settings. However, the price and availability of local goat meat has necessitated the higher importation of mutton to make up for the shortfall in local chevon production.
Local sheep producers are therefore being encouraged to target the lamb market as that market has proven to be more profitable.
Over the years, new breeds have been introduced with the aim of improving the quality and size of the native goats and sheep to fulfill local demand.
Larger breeds that were introduced included the Nubian and Boer goats and the Dorper and Katahdin sheep.
This mixing has resulted in increased carcass size of the local breeds and offsprings that are better acclimatized to the local environmental conditions compared to the imported breeds.
Although several initiatives have been implemented through projects and programmes, Jamaica continues to satisfy a majority of the demand for mutton through importation due to limitations within the industry.
Given the need for the country to reduce its food import bill and the importance of the nation’s food security, there is now a renewed effort to coordinate activities towards a successful small ruminant industry. Through consultations and studies a number of proposed strategies are being examined.
The role of RADA in providing extension services to farmers remains top priority for the sustainability of the small ruminant industry. Livestock Officers appointed to RADA have been trained in various areas of small ruminant production and have continued to provide services to farmers in the development of their enterprises.
RADA has facilitated the capacity building of farmers in Good Agricultural Practices and the general management of their enterprise. Through projects and programmes initiated by RADA (doe revolving and buck rental programme) farmers can now easily access quality genetics for the upgrading of their herd to take advantage of a growing market.
The development of value added products have also been encouraged through exposure of farmers in the various uses of milk in making cheese and cosmetic products and the skin for leather craft.
Innovative approaches by farmers are also encouraged by RADA and the injection of women and youth in small ruminant production supported.
RADA continues to foster collaborative efforts among all stakeholders in addressing industry constraints to ensure Jamaica’s continued stride towards a competitive and productive small ruminant sector.
Get Involved: Are you interested in cattle, sheep or goat production? You can find out more by contacting your nearest RADA office here.