News Date: June 28 2016
WE OFTEN SEE them frolicking around in green pastures and open spaces. Ranging in colour from light tan to dark mahogany red, with black facial stripes and legs, the Barbados Blackbelly sheep is a breed of domestic sheep indigenous to the island.
Known for its ability to shed its wool, its capacity to adapt to a wide variety of climates and terrain, high resistance to parasites, and docile nature, the Blackbelly sheep is often a talking point among local agriculturalists, as the general feeling is that not enough attention is being paid to this ovine breed.
Among those to hold this view is chief agricultural officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Lennox Chandler, who, during a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, was quick to point out that in the case of the Blackbelly sheep, “too much talk”, was taking place and not enough action.
“Just like cotton, we have not paid enough attention to the Barbados Blackbelly sheep. People all over the world want it. As a matter of fact, there are more Blackbelly sheep outside of Barbados than in Barbados. I remember years ago at the Sugar Cane Field Centre in Trinidad there were 1 000 Barbados Blackbelly sheep and at the time we only had 100. Again, we have to start thinking about how we want to develop this and we have to start harping on the linkages,” he underscored.
Stating that the local sheep was considered an expensive, gourmet meat, Chandler noted that it was nice in flavor and carried little fat.
“First off, you have an animal that produces four or five in one litter, but again I want to state that we have not paid enough attention to branding and marketing. You have New Zealand lamb which is 15 years in the fridge and doesn’t have the flavour like Blackbelly sheep. So, again, we have to revisit and refocus on that little sheep which has a lot to offer.”
The leather from the sheep, which according to the agricultural officer is superior to any leather that one could get in any part of the world, is also supple, smooth and soft in texture. He further stated that the leather, hooves and all the parts of the sheep could also be utilised to produce quality products.
“One of the things that we have ignored in this country is the development of so-called cottage industries. We have not paid enough attention to these small or micro cottage industry people, who, all over the world, add to their respective economies. We have not paid attention to bringing people into these cottage industries and working with them. These are cottage industries that people could be working on,” Chandler stressed.