Farmer Trevor Bernard believes that the introduction of artificial insemination with the use of semen and embryo transfer for small ruminants (goat and sheep) is a step in the right direction for the sector.
“It’s a game changer and a move in the right direction to help the industry,” said Bernard.
A goat and sheep farmer for the past 10 years, the Kingston-based Bernard also happens to be the president of the Small Ruminants Association, a position he has held since 2017.
Earlier this year, Newport Mills, makers of the popular animal feed brand Nutramix, made semen and embryos for small ruminants available locally. The technique of artificial insemination is routinely used for breeding livestock and is more frequently applied in dairy and swine production. The importation of goat and sheep semen and embryos was seen as necessary to provide “new bloodlines” and to introduce “new breeds” which are more suited to the needs of the industry.
Bernard’s farm comprises 50 goats and sheep.
“I grew up seeing my grandfather and my father raising goats and I love having them around,” said Bernard.
Bernard is testament to the success of artificial insemination.
“It’s early days, but so far I am seeing good results. My use of artificial insemination has been very successful so far. It was my first time trying it, and I am getting some really nice goat kids,” he shared.
“So far I have got nine Boers and two Nubians. It is all new genetics, and anyone using artificial insemination will be ahead of everyone. As the president of the Small Ruminants Association, I will be encouraging farmers to consider using it, because this is where I see the industry heading. It will improve what we have in a significant way,” Bernard explained.
“We have got a new injection in the bloodline in both goat and sheep. When we began to see results, other farmers decided to give it a try.”
For Bernard, goat production has been a profitable business.
“It can be a profitable thing but you have to be doing it on a large scale. Now, I have more buyers and any number of goats that you have to sell, they will sell.”
The average ruminant farmer, who has a good management system in place, will stand to benefit from the introduction of artificial insemination and embryo transfer. The procedure will allow access to superior sires (male goat/sheep) that are the top tier of any herd. In addition, the semen from these sires would come at a fraction of the cost of buying the male, semen prices range from $8,000 to $14,000 per straw. Nutramix imported varying lines from Nubian, Boer and the “new” KIKO goats.
With several farmers utilising artificial insemination and embryo transfer, it is hoped that more farmers will join the mission to increase the production of goat and sheep meat locally.