Programme Overview

CARDI, under the CARICOM Regional Transformation Programme for Agriculture, now being operationalised by the ‘Jagdeo Initiative’, has lead responsibility for the development of regional small ruminant industry. CARDI’s small ruminants programme uses the commodity value chain approach (Figure 1) to pursue the development of the regional industry. The Institute’s contribution towards this effort is through research and development in nutrition, health, breeding and production systems. The main objective of the programme is to increase production and productivity at the farm level in order to increase the local supply of quality meat and meat-products and to enhance competitiveness. The major CARDI centres for research and development in small ruminants are Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The current work in these countries includes research into the development of feeding systems, especially forage-based feeding systems using improved, high-yielding grasses and forage legumes, improved breed types and sustainable production systems.

Highlights of Recent Activities

Industry Overview

  • The CARICOM Region continues to import more than 75% of its small ruminant needs, mainly meat but also milk and cheese, in some countries, from extra-regional sources. This has continued to take place despite the relatively large number of small ruminant projects designed to increase production, improve sustainability and contribute to better livelihoods for small farmers. Experts agree that the binding constraint to expansion and development of the industry is the non-availability of breeding stock, along with lack of financial capital, difficulty in accessing adequate land for pastures and the high cost of supplement feeds. For this reason CARDI implemented projects in Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago to identify potential solutions to some of these constraints. The Institute’s work among other things, contributed to improving the output of quality breeding stock, development of forage-based feeding to improve pasture and reduce dependence on expensive supplements and feeds..

Activities of National and Regional Scope

  • During 2009, a case study to analyse the small ruminants industry using the Agricultural Science Technology and Innovation Systems (ASTI) methodology was initiated in Trinidad & Tobago. This was part of a larger regional study designed to identify and characterize (i) the innovation system in which the regional small ruminants industry is functioning, (ii) critical constraints which prevent the system from functioning optimally and (iii) approaches needed to bring about an enabling environment to support innovation. Over 600 farmers in the eight countries including Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, St Kitts/Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines, participated in this study. A regional workshop was also held to discuss the findings of the study and identify a strategy for moving the small ruminant industry forward.
  • CARDI worked in collaboration with the private sector, Ministries of Agriculture and farmers to develop and test several production technologies which must now be transferred and tested on farmers’ holdings. Over time these resulting sustainable practices may be transferred as appropriate to the rest of the small ruminant industry in the Region. Such trials were undertaken in Jamaica. Animal performance parameters e.g. birth, weaning and disposal weights for different breed and breed types were monitored. A new protein source recently introduced on the small ruminant feed market was used to formulate a by-product ration, which was compared to the commercial concentrate in terms of weight gains, cost of production and carcass quality of the animals. Trends indicated that animals on the propriety feed developed at a similar rate when compared to those on the commercially prepared feeds. The feeding trial which examined performance between Nubian and Boer breed types at birth and weaning continues in 2010.
  • Hormonal manipulation is being used in many species of animals to reduce large variations and by extension improve productivity. Therefore a study was undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of oestrus synchronisation in goats in Jamaica. This trial will be replicated over 3 years with 20 Boer and Nubian breed types. Initial results showed that treated animals had such a uniform cycle that there was no need for a second treatment and they were bred within 72 hours after being injected with the hormone. However, untreated animals were bred over a 26-day period. Trends also reveal that the animals exhibited an average shorter kidding period of 20 days.
  • The Institute has been breeding dairy goats for the past 10 years at the Sam Motta Demonstration and Training Centre (DTC) in Jamaica, as a precursor to the expansion of the goat industry into diary and related value-added products. A recent project has been developed to expand the existing facilities through the construction of milking facilities. Training for selected farmers in the care and management of dairy goats, preservation and packaging of fresh goat milk and processing of milk into cheese and other projects, will also be a part of the project activity.
  • Two on-farm housing units were constructed, one in Carriacou and one in Grenada, as part of a joint project between the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and CARDI, entitled Improving Goat Rearing Capacities in Grenada,. Both houses were also stocked with 9 Boer goats and 8 mixed breeds – Saanen/Alpine and Toggenburg/Saanen. Two training sessions on improved feeding systems were conducted for the benefit of 36 farmers and 40 agriculture students as part of project activities.
  • Efforts in Barbados were focused on constructing adequate housing, training farmers in general management, mobilizing equipment and forage resources. Two field days were held focusing on training farmers and technicians in the manufacture of silage and molasses-urea blocks. Mechanisation of the silage making process for small farmers was also introduced. An improved forage, Mulato – a Brachiaria hybrid – was also introduced to the farmers. CARDI assisted the Ministry of Agriculture in the re-establishment of the animal nutrition laboratory, which has acquired state of the art equipment to conduct analysis of all the key elements of animal feeds.
  • In the area of forages CARDI’s efforts are continue to focus on identifying forage species that yield high dry matter, and so sustain a larger number of animals per unit of land and so optimise production of small ruminants on limited land space. This is important where access to land is a constraint. A trial was conducted in Trinidad & Tobago, to compare the performance of a Brachiaria hybrid (Mulato) to the most commonly used local grass, Tanner (Brachiaria arecta). The highest dry matter yields for both grasses were obtained in the 30week re-growth and during the study, yields were 68,479 kg of dry matter for Mulato and 54,177 kg for Tanner. Further research will be conducted to determine nutrient composition and animal performance.


CFC Small Ruminants Project

CARDI/ Common Fund for Commodities / Caribbean Development Bank / Governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica “Diversification of the Caribbean Livestock Sector through the Production of Small Ruminants” project

The Small Ruminant Industry in CARICOM countries with particular reference to Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago. Prepared by Ansari Hosein, Compton Paul, Cheryl Roach-Benn, John Borely, Marcia Blair Thomas and Albert Fearon. December 2013. St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute. (Project report. PSC # TT/001/14)





Guide to goat breeds for the Caribbean Guide to goat breeds for the Caribbean. October 2006. John M. CARDI Factsheet TT/005/06. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute Download the factsheet.
Guide to sheep breeds for the Caribbean Guide to sheep breeds for the Caribbean. October 2006. John M. CARDI Factsheet TT/006/06. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute Download this factsheet.



Technical Publications