Cattle in Jamaica – The way forward

  • Written by News Jamaica source - RADA
  • Published in RADA
Cattle production in Jamaica is on its way back, and RADA is encouraging farmers and other business persons  who have access to land to get into the business. While  there are other areas of agriculture that appear equally as promising, the cattle business may be the best place to get a start. 

The opportunity to make money in the cattle business has never been better. The potential net is a good income, probably better than most young professionals outside of agriculture earn.Jamaica’s thrust towards greater food security, demands that, as a nation we must become more self-sufficient in agricultural production.

This requires reducing the massive food import bill which threatens the economy,by growing what we eat, and eating what we grow. The Ministry of Agriculture, has taken a policy decision to immediately redevelop its beef cattle industry through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, RADA, thus reducing the volume of beef imports for both local consumption and the tourism industry.

Hence, if there are persons, particularly young people who want to get into  cattle, while other enterprises in agriculture look as promising, the cattle business is the best place to get a start.

The opportunity to make money in the cattle business has never been better. The cattle business, in particular, looks attractive, where a young person with ingenuity can get a start with a few cows and grow.

Jamaica’s beef industry had experienced a significant decline over the last 15 years. Prior to this, farmers were able to fulfill approximately 80% of the countries demand for beef. Consequently, importation had increased with 2013 figures showing a total of 10,363 metric tonness of beef, being imported compared to 6,690 metric tonness being produced locally.

































This decline has been attributed to a number of challenges facing the industry These include among others:

  1. Importation of cheaper beef especially as it relates to “Choice Cuts”
  2. The perceived negative health concerns (health concerns associated with mad cow disease in the past)
  3. High input costs (especially for commercial feed and medication)
  4. Lack of youth involvement
  5. Larceny of livestock

In order to overcome these negatives however, the Ministry of Agriculture throught RADA has put in place a programme to mitigate the damage of the past.

Breed Societies have assumed some responsibility, for the conservation of breeds through breeding, performance testing and commercial production. A number of private investors such as JUICI patties have also contributed to the commercial production of beef.  A holistic approach is being pursued to ensure the protection of our breeds and the competitive production of beef.

This year the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB) commissioned a survey of the cattle industry. The information obtained from this study, should be able to provide critical baseline data to support proper planning for the industry as we go forward.

A number of prior studies on the cattle sector, proposed actions as well as opportunities towards the revitalization of the industry, some of which are listed below


  1. Extension of loans to beef farmers at 5% interest rate from the JDDB ($5 million for individual farmers and $10 million for corporate entities)
  2. The development of the beef and dairy producers lobby groups
  3. Promulgation of “Breed Societies” to ensure conservation and continued performance testing of stock

Proposed actions

  • Extension of the JDDB Act to incorporate all livestock, which will result in funding becoming available to support expansion of the industry
  • Prioritization of research and development work, towards a production systems approach to growth.
  • Promote the transfer and adoption of the appropriate technologies for both breeders and producers
  • Cessation of discretionary waivers on Beef Trimmings
  • Establishment of a Nationally certified abattoir
  • Establish legislative framework for farmer/processor contracts
  • Establish concessionary cattle development fund to stimulate pasture improvement and technology upgrade

Opportunities for the industry

  • Sale of semen
  • Sale of live animals
  • Market expansion into hotels
  • Export potential with increased world demand for meat
  • Readily available market for beef (locally and within the region)
  • Jamaica’s geographic position to one of the largest importers of beef (USA)
  • Value added products (leather and craft industry)

The Ministry of Agriculture has given its commitment to work closely with all the stakeholders towards the development of a modern and competitive beef industry capable of responding to market demands.

Get Involved: Are you interested in cattle, sheep or goat production? You can find out more by contacting your nearest RADA office here.