Okeechobee goats now at home in the Caribbean

OKEECHOBEE — Three Okeechobee goats now call Saint Kitts and Nevis their new home thanks to a collaborative project being led by the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Small Ruminant Student Club and the local Ministry of Agriculture.

Three different genetic lines of boer goats from Kissimmee River Boer Goats located in Okeechobee, were delivered to the island of St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean to crossbreed with the local goats in order to help the limited genetic diversity of goats on the island.

One of the three goats from Kissimmee River Boer Goats in Okeechobee takes a look around shortly after arriving in St. Kitts and Nevis. Special to the Okeechobee News.

Through the crossbreeding of local doe breeds with boer goats brought to the island from Florida, this collaborative project aims to improve goat farming and food production on the island within the next five to ten years.

Kissimmee River Boer Goats owner Teresa Prescott admitted she was a little envious that her goats get to enjoy life in the Caribbean now.

“I’m a little jealous of the goats getting to go to such a beautiful location,” Mrs. Prescott said with a laugh. “The goats have very big personalities, so I get a little sentimental seeing them go. But it’s been a great experience working with the students at Ross, they are just the nicest people I’ve ever talked to and it’s been a pleasure to deal with them.”

Dr. Aspinas Chapwanya, assistant professor of Theriogenology at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, oversaw the project of introducing new genetic lines into the islands ecosystem.

“What we discovered in working with the local farmers is that there was quite a lot of inbreeding and we just didn’t have the diversity in genetics that we want,” explained Dr. Chapwanya. “Because of that, the growth and the quality of the goats were very low. So we started looking around for a different breed to introduce to diversify the genetic pool on the island. We were looking for a goat that was hardy, and could survive in this environment. And not only survive but thrive, with good growth characteristics that allowed us to produce more meat for the local market.

“But the most exciting part of this project is that it’s a great opportunity for our students, because we’re in the business of training the veterinarians of tomorrow. We want to produce vets that are practice ready.”

One of the students participating in the project is Michael Taylor. Michael is the president of Ross Vet Small Ruminant Club.

“It’s really a great opportunity for the members of our club,” said Taylor. “We learn a bunch of information in classes, but it’s nice to actually have the chance to apply it hands on and get that experience. In addition to the skills we learn, such as doing ultra sounds and practicing vaccinations and exams on these animals, it’s also really nice to have the interaction with the farmers. That’s something we don’t get much practice with while in school.”

Mrs. Prescott says that the transition of getting the goats to St. Kitts and Nevis was flawless, and she wouldn’t mind visiting the island herself soon.


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