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by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer
Are cows native to Jamaica?
No, they are not but, they have been present on the island for more than 500 years. We do have 3 native cattle breeds though.
Who brought cows to Jamaica?
Cows have been in Jamaica since the Europeans were in charge of the island. Christopher Columbus introduced cattle to the Caribbean region during the period of Spanish rule and cattle rearing continued throughout the rule of the English as well.
How many cows are there in Jamaica?
The cattle rearing business in Jamaica is quite big. There is no way to tell how many cows there are on the island but approximately 27,000 cows are slaughtered each year.
Because cattle were not originally from the tropical region, they did not always do well on the island. But Dr. T.P. Lecky revolutionised the Jamaican cattle industry with his work in cattle breeding.
Throughout his adult life, he introduced 3 of Jamaica’s four indigenous cattle breeds, the Jamaica Hope, Red and Black.
This was Dr Lecky’s first attempt at breeding cattle better suited for the climate and rough terrain of Jamaica. He decided on using the British Jersey, Holstein and Indian Sahiwal breeds; Jersey is characterised by its ability to adapt to climates and terrains, the Holstein for its high milk production and the Indian Swahili (zebu) for its tolerance to heat tick-resistance and high resistance to parasites, both internal and external.
With this, he was able to create a cow that would be able to produce up to 12 litres of milk daily, which tripled the highest breeder at that time. Not only that, the Jamaica Hope, they found to be:
The current breed of the Jamaica Hope comprises 80% Jersey, 15% zebu and 5% Holstein and makes up for 80% of the cattle on the island.
The Jamaican Red was developed from the Jamaican Brahman and Red Poll cattle breeds. Combining these two breeds translated into improved milk production without sacrificing the quality of the beef, which was the good doctor’s intention.
The mature bulls weigh about 1000 kg (2200 pounds) and females weigh 600 kg (1300 pounds). This breed has been exported to central and south America. The breed society was established in 1952.
As with all cattle in Jamaica, the Jamaican Brahman also has a high tolerance to heat. They also easily adapt to different feeding. The Brahman was also used in creating other types of Jamaican cattle for example the Jamaica Red.
When the British Red Pole was brought to Jamaica, it did not take well to the climate and had a grave issue with ticks. Mixing with the Jamaican Brahman made it more tolerant to the climate and resistant to ticks. It also had the dual purpose of milk and beef production. The Jamaican Brahman was also used to create the Jamaica Black.
The Brahman is mainly used for breeding and beef purposes.
The Jamaica Black was Mr. Lecky’s last cattle breed. The Jamaica black was meant for the cooler areas of the island where other breeds did not do very well. The Black Aberdeen Angus from Scotland was brought in and combined with the Jamaican Brahman to produce the Jamaica Black. The Black is one of the most difficult breeds to care for and is, of all the cattle breeds, the one most feared of going extinct.
The cattle business in Jamaica is thriving and there are respective societies dedicated to each of Jamaica’s native cattle breeds. With yearly shows and festivals centred around agriculture, you can always see proud cattle farmers with their animals on display.
The Denbigh and Montpelier Agriculture Shows are two big ones. We actually went to the Montpelier Agriculture show, you can watch the video below.
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Are There Cows In Jamaica? | Written: September 01, 2022