Goat farmer wants to improve local meat production

November 26, 2020
Trevor Bernard with some of the livestock on his farm.
Trevor Bernard with some of the livestock on his farm.

It may have been fate, but Trevor Bernard believes he was destined to be a farmer. Bernard grew up tending to his family's herd of goats and sheep daily, a chore he admitted that he disliked.

But today he proudly operates his own goat and sheep farm, on less than a quarter acre of land in Kingston.

He said he is the voice for ruminants, like goats, sheep and even rabbits, a lesser explored sector in agriculture. He said there is a revolution happening in farming of small ruminants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Where does most of our food come from? We import all of it. If Jamaica is not producing enough food to supply itself, then we are going to be in trouble. We need to stop thinking about concrete jungle and taking the agricultural lands and turning them into buildings. People can't eat that," Bernard said.

It takes a lot of time

For more than 10 years, he has tended to his herd of 80 goats and sheep. "It takes a lot of time. You have to provide proper nutrition, proper housing facilities and proper care for the animals. I make sure that I look after them properly, medically as well," he said.

Bernard said he is passionate about goat and sheep rearing and is hoping that Jamaicans will make a decision to import less sheep meat.

A staple meat in the Jamaican Christmas dinner is curried mutton. Bernard said it may be difficult to find the delicacy for this year's dinner, given the issues with the COVID-19 and the recent heavy rains. "The demand is not easily available and that's why we import so much. It's very difficult to find them and come December, a lot of parties going be in problem. Usually you have your curried goat and mannish water and that won't happen this Christmas," he said.

In 2018, Jamaica spent US$13.3 million to import mutton/goat meat. He said if more land becomes available for farming, local cost for mutton and goat would become cheaper.

His plan for the future is that Jamaicans will explore the possibility of goat milk production, as a cheaper alternative to milk production.

"The best way to increase our milk and meat production is through the ruminants sector. We need to push the production of this because we have enough land to feed these animals, they can sustain themselves," he said.

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