Dairy farmers at the dairy seminar held by Nutramix at Serge Island Dairies in St Thomas two weeks ago. (Lionel Rookwood)

Dairy farmers at the dairy seminar held by Nutramix at Serge Island Dairies in St Thomas two weeks ago. (Lionel Rookwood)

Proper nutrition, pasture management and genetics were just some of the topics covered at the third and final Jamaica Dairy Seminar staged by Nutramix for farmers in St Thomas.

The seminars, which were also aimed at boosting local milk production as well as increasing the income of dairy farmers, were held as part of the Drink Real Milk campaign’s ‘360’ degree approach to revitalising the dairy sector through customer engagement as well as improving production practices.

All four of the campaign’s founding partners (Nutramix, Newport Fersan, Seprod/Serge, and the Jamaica Dairy Development Board) made presentations based on their various areas of expertise. The seminars were held in Elim, St Elizabeth; Ebony Park, Clarendon; and Serge Island Dairies in St Thomas over a three-week period.

The first session, titled ‘A healthy start for better milking’, was conducted by veterinarian at Nutramix, Gabrielle Young. She examined nutrition and calf development, specifically bringing the age of calving down from around 30 to 27 months, which, she said, will aid in better milk production and increased profits.

“We’re also introducing something called the calf milk replacer, it’s not a new concept, we’re looking at affordability for farmers because by using the calf milk replacer, now around at $45 per litre or under, maximum is $45; the farmer is getting $65 to $75 per litre for their fresh milk. So that’s a saving for the farmer where they can now use this money to do other things they want on the farm,” Young told the Jamaica Observer before the start of her presentation.

She added that by not using the calf milk replacer, which is sold by Nutramix, the farmer is “losing or giving away $30, either way you look at it”.

She said this will also see more milk going to the fresh milk trade so that the dairy board can more quickly achieve its target of producing 20 million litres of milk per year by 2020.

“Other things we are looking at, we are going to be presenting on genetics where we are also going to be making available to the farmer imported semen from different breeds. We have the Jersey, Holstein, Brown Swiss, some beef animals also, such as the Angus, Red Angus and Black Angus and yes, we know genetics is not the only solution,” Young stated.

“But we are thinking that if we also assist with genetic improvement and nutrition – you cannot have genetic improvement if you don’t feed the animals right – we can have the same number of cows producing twice the amount of milk,” she said.

The second session saw Fersan’s Denton Alveranga examining proper pasture management, while imploring farmers to ensure they use the proper fertiliser blend for best results.

“To be frank, you’ll go and ask ‘what is the price for urea?’, they say $6,000 and you ask ‘what is the price for sulphate?’, and they tell you $3,500 and you say ‘alright, give me da one deh now’, but what I’m saying is that we have to look at how we choose our fertiliser and do it in a more comprehensive way,” Alveranga advised farmers.

He gave solutions to this problem, saying that one method farmers can look at is that of a soil test, which can help to identify what is, as well as isn’t present in the soil, so farmers can know what blend of fertiliser to use on their pastures.

The seminar saw farmers actively interacting with the presenters, asking questions as well as commenting on the information offered.

“We learn how we can advance on what wi doing. Wi learn about how to clear the land and I didn’t know that,“ said dairy farmer Richard Frazer.

”I think it will help me to be a better dairy farmer. We want to have more, man, it’s good stuff. Seprod and Nutramix come together fi teach wi new things, and we grateful for that,” he said.

– Javene Skyers

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