Modern dairy operations for some schools - GreenTuesday, July 27, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, has committed to helping select high schools and universities across the island to get into the dairy business, as a strategy for Jamaica to meet its domestic dairy demand.
“We are dedicated, through the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB), to engage our schools to set up modern-type dairy operations,” Green said. “We are not just doing this to teach, but we are doing this for the schools to also make money, because we are not fulfilling our demand for milk. We’re going to be providing the technical support and grant support to these schools to ensure that they get back into dairy farming.”
The minister was speaking at the Island Dairies facility in Goshen, St Elizabeth on Friday, July 23, for Island Dairies' handing over of silage (cut, fermented grass stored in airtight packaging for future cattle feeding) to the farmers of the St Elizabeth Dairy Development Cooperative.
Green noted that the schools earmarked for dairy production are the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland, Ebony Park HEART Academy in Clarendon, Dinthill Technical High in St Catherine, Knockalva Polytechnic College in Hanover, the Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, and St Elizabeth-based Munro College and Sydney Pagon Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy.
The South West St Elizabeth member of parliament underscored the value of hands-on experience in shaping how the next generation views agriculture.
“Nothing beats practical experience,” he emphasised, using his personal experience of learning to milk cows while attending Munro College as an example. “It makes you think completely differently about the importance of the sector.”
Green noted that, despite the pandemic, the ministry of agriculture, through the JDDB, rehabilitated about 78.7 acres of pastures, and established 106 acres of fodder banks last year. Through its fodder conservation programme, the ministry also produced 224 tonnes of silage, trained 28 farmers, and redistributed 350 heifers to farmers in need.
Prior to the presentation at Island Dairies, Green and other key stakeholders in the dairy industry toured the operations at Bogue Hill Dairies in the same parish, where some of the latest innovations in dairy farming were on show, including a forage harvester, Total Mix Ration (TMR) formulation and feeding, and the first herd of Girolando F1 calves in Jamaica.
Girolandos were first bred in Jamaica in August 2019 when Bogue Hill Dairies owner Aubrey Taylor partnered with Hi-Pro senior veterinarian Dr Michael Motta – a bovine fertility specialist – to inseminate his Holstein heifers with imported semen from Gir bulls, resulting in the highly productive and heat resistant breed.
“It is vital that we continue to invest in our local farmers, so that they can become more productive and help our dairy industry to recover,” explained Dr Motta. “Through our support and partnership with Bogue Hill Dairies on the rearing of the Girolando breed, we are helping our local farmers to respond to climate change, as these cows are more resilient and productive in warm weather than the other breeds that we have here now. We are honoured to be playing a role in this game changing moment for the region’s food security.” he said.
This kind of innovation in cattle breeding must go hand in hand with advancements in other areas of dairy farming, such as fodder availability, noted CASE president and JDDB Board chairman Dr Derrick Deslandes.
“One of the interesting parts of the business is the provision of animal feed. Not grains, but silage or forage (grass),” he highlighted. “Farmers will put in 100 acres of grass, to sell to other farmers. It’s a very lucrative business and we are encouraging farmers to do it. We lose too many cows annually, and too many times our cows are hungry.”
Deslandes commended Island Dairies, which has so far developed over 250 of its newly acquired 400-acre Goshen facility for dairy farming, for retrofitting and expanding their operations. He also applauded small cattle farmers who have taken a keen interest in using technology to boost their productivity and ensure food security for their animals.
Everod Nam, managing director of the host property for the ceremony, said his team aims to make Island Dairies into a model for future dairy farms. The new facility also features dormitory facilities for its workers.
Nam hopes to make a serious dent in the local dairy shortage by having at least 500 milking cows on his property at any given time and partnering with small farmers to help them in sourcing new heifers, breeding, and marketing their products.
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