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Barbados’ sheep farmers organisation says Blackbelly sheep not very profitable

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August 2022, 22:56 by Denis Chabrol

Just weeks after Guyana began importing Blackbelly sheep from Barbados,  the Sheep Farmers Inc. of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) said it was embarking on a new project to import a breed of sheep that can be crossed with the local Blackbelly variety which is not very profitable, Barbados Today reported on Thursday.

Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Zukfikar Mustapha has already announced that Guyana, too, would be crossbreeding the Blackbelly sheep and sheep in Guyana.

President of the association Maurice Grant said that the indigenous animal was not profitable to farmers and cross breeding the sheep with another one would help improve the genetics and create a superior breed that was bigger and more muscular.

“The Blackbelly sheep is not a very profitable animal for a farmer. While we pride ourselves in the quality of the meat, it really does not make a great deal of sense to the farmer . . . The reason for that is very simple,” he said. “If you kill a Blackbelly sheep . . .it’s the two hind legs that provide you with your leg chops. Beyond that if you are lucky you may get shoulder chops. Outside of that there is nothing else.

“The backs are not broad enough for you to get lamb chops out of the back. In Barbados, the lamb rack of the Blackbelly sheep is not meaty so it is sold mostly as a soup meat as opposed to the very expensive lamb rack that you will see elsewhere.

“So basically when you kill a Blackbelly sheep there is not a lot that you will get out of the meat. And if you price the back legs too high to try to offset that, it probably just wouldn’t sell,” he was quoted as saying by Barbados Today.

Grant said sheep farmers could no longer raise the Blackbelly as a primary source of income and decided that it was more lucrative to import a breed that could be crossbred with the Blackbelly.

He stressed that it was not ideal to rid Barbados of its indigenous animal and the aim of this project was to establish a crossbreeding programme, in which a farmer could truly benefit from rearing sheep in Barbados.

He said farmers would be rearing both the Blackbelly and the crossbred sheep simultaneously.

He explained that rearing the Blackbelly sheep was costly when labour, utilities, security and feed were considered, and a farmer with 100 Blackbelly sheep could spend from $1 000 to $2 100 monthly on hay and feed during the dry season depending on how much supplemented feed the animals were fed.

Chief executive officer of the BAS James Paul said that in the past efforts were made to crossbreed the Blackbelly sheep to boost the genetics and breeds such as the Wiltshire and Dorset were imported, but those projects failed.

Grant said that a survey was carried out last year to ascertain how many Blackbelly sheep were on the island and it was determined that about 11 000 of the breed were being reared, but there could be as many as 15 000.