Farms, ag expo offer learning experience

A delegation of Cayman livestock farmers, Department of Agriculture representatives and a ministry official recently returned from a visit to several Florida and Georgia farms and attended the Sunbelt Agriculture Exposition in Moultrie, Georgia.

As a result of the trip, about 45 cattle and 100 goats have been selected for purchase to help farmers replace and upgrade their stock following hurricane Ivan.

Representing Cayman on the trip was Chief Agricultural and Veterinary Officer Dr. Alfred Benjamin; Senior Animal Health Assistant Ronald Green; Ministry of Agriculture Administrative Officer Leyda Nicholson-Coe; and farmers Mr. Leighton Dixon, Mr. Earnest McFarlane, Mr. Arlond Brooks, Mr. Miguel Smith, Mr. Errol Watler, Mr. John Mclean, Jr., and Mr. Paul Bodden who joined the delegation briefly, in Georgia

Two Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services representatives, Mr. Kurt Shiver and Mr. Zack Henderson, assisted the Cayman delegation by making arrangements with goat and cattle farmers from South-Central and Northern Florida to tour their farms. From 13 to 17 October the FDACS officials led the delegation across Florida to nine farms.

First-hand accounts

During the farm visits the group was introduced to the owners and their staff and given a personal tour of the modern facilities where they saw first-hand the professional farming practices and new technologies in action.

‘Overall we had a very good tour,’ said Dr. Benjamin. ‘Our farmers had the opportunity to participate actively in their livestock selections and there were many learning opportunities on the tours related to new breeding technologies, including artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

Many of the farms featured the latest technology with computer databases to manage herds and feedstock.

The farmers found the tours and the expo new and exciting, and the DoA shared in their enthusiasm in adopting some of these practices in the near future.’

Farms visited

Farms visited included: Seashine Farms (goats) in Valrico, owned by Julie Brown; Indian Hills farm (goats) in Ft. Meade, owned by Tom & Ann Winkler; International Agriculture Expo Center managed by Bo Mullis, in Indiantown; Prime Rate Ranch (cattle) in Okeechobee, owned by Art Martinez; Baldwin Angus Ranch (cattle) in Ocala, owned by Leroy Baldwin; RL Meat Goats, owned by Liz Wettingfeld, in Dunnellon; Bullock’s Charolais (cattle) owned by Winkie Bullock, in Williston; CD Ranch(cattle) operated by Chanley Carter in Marianna; Sewell Farms (cattle) operated by Rodney Sewell in Chipley and the Southern Cattle Company managed by Roland Starnes in Mariannna ,Florida In Georgia the group visited two goat farms: Veal’s Farms owned by Troy Veal of Ambrose, Ga. and GL Quality Boers owned by Lynne Burke of Fitzgerald, Ga. The International Agriculture Expo Center functions as the Florida Department of Agriculture’s collection point for livestock that are distributed to areas world wide including the Cayman Islands.

Ag expo

On 17 October the group completed its farm visits in Northern Florida and drove to Moultrie, Georgia, where members attended the Sunbelt Agriculture Exposition, 18-20 October. Sunbelt is one of the largest agriculture shows in the Southern US, featuring the latest technology, products, machinery and information from the agricultural industry.

Of particular interest to the Cayman delegation were the presentations on beef cattle and goat farming.

University of Georgia Extension specialists conducted beef demonstrations featuring the National Animal Identification System, and forage quality and quantity systems.

These systems are designed to control quickly disease outbreaks by tracing individual animals through the production chain, all the way back to the cow-calf producer.

USDA’s timeline will require animal premises to be identified by January 2008, and, starting in January 2009, all animal movement to be recorded.

Dr. Benjamin said the Cayman Islands will adhere to these deadlines as here livestock is related to US animals.

Prior to the Florida tour, the DoA met with local farmers to assess their livestock replacement and upgrade conditions following hurricane Ivan. Farmers on the Florida tour were able to choose their replacement animals in person.

In the final count, the department expects to assist with the importation of a total of 41 breeder cattle with the majority comprising Senepols followed by Black Angus, Charolais and Beef Master. Of the 97 breeder goats selected 83 are South African Boer (meat- type) and 14 are Anglo-Nubian (milk- type).