1970: Dr. Thomas Lecky
(centre), pioneer in cattle breeding, receiving the first Noman Manley Award for Excellence, an illuminated scroll, from Mrs. Edna Manley.
, was born on a small farm in Portland in 1904.
After graduating, Lecky
went to work for the government at Hope in 1925.He
became closely involved with assessing the suitability of new breeds of cattle being introduced to Jamaica and testing their reaction to local conditions.Lecky
learned that the cattle in Jamaica at that time were not well suited to life on hillsides where many small farmers had holdings.Hailing from a hilly region himself Lecky
became one of Jamaica's earliest environmentalists, a strong advocate for conservation of hillsides.He
believed that all small farmers should have cattle because besides producing milk, every year a young animal could be sold to help pay for school fees.
Bred for size and strength Jamaican cattle at the time were descendants of animals brought by the Spanish and the British hundreds of years before.In general, they were slow to mature, grew on grass and water, had a low milk production and a low proportion of meat around the haunches and ribs.They were, however, champion haulers of carts and resistant to tick fever and other tropical diseases.Lecky
decided that what Jamaica needed was an animal that would produce enough milk for farmers as well as be light enough that they would move up and down steep hillsides.
NEW BREEDS OF CATTLE 1960: Dr. Lecky (centre) awards Mr. Sugar Brown Junior, owner of winning supreme champion bull at the Denbigh Agricultural Show.
began to dream of a new breed of cattle, a Jamaican breed.He turned his attention to the study of animal genetics and earned degrees in Agriculture from McGill University and Animal Husbandry from Ontario Agricultural College, Guelph.
At Guelph he
focused on evaluating cross-breeding as a means of acclimatizing European cattle to Jamaica's environment.He
concluded that the answer was not an acclimatized European breed but a new breed, a completely adapted tropical breed.He
returned to Jamaica in 1935 and started to test his
used two lines of cattle and began to select bulls for breeding from the best producing cows in Jamaica.In 1949, Lecky
documentation and traveled to the University of Edinburgh
used this research as the basis for his
dissertation, entitled "Genetic Improvement in Diary Cattle in the Tropics" presented his
ideas for developing a tropical dairy breed and catapulted him to international acclaim.
noted this in animals he
observed in Jamaica where some cattle showed significant improvements after a period of 20 years.
By the early 1950s, Lecky
ideas realized and the first examples of genetically bred cattle, named Jamaica Hope, were ready.
Not satisfied with the Jamaica Hope, mainly a producer of milk, Lecky
attention to creating a Jamaican breed able to produce meat.He
worked with cattle farmers and looked carefully at Indian cattle.He
selected from amongst a few breeds of Indian cattle that had been brought into the island and created a new breed known as the Jamaica Brahman, which has since become popular also in Latin America.Farmers had noted that the imported English Red cattle, which had not proved resistant to ticks and tropical disease, when bred with the Jamaica Brahman, produced cattle of top quality beef.This breed became known as the Jamaica Red , the main meat-producing cattle on the island.
THE JAMAICA BLACK Still not satisfied, Lecky
decided to focus on cattle who could live in the cooler areas of the island where other breeds were unable to thrive.He
bred the black Aberdeen Angus from Scotland, well adapted to cool temperatures, with the Jamaica Brahmans
to produce a small, black cattle called the Jamaica Black.Yet, even though some claim it has the best quality of beef on the island, the Jamaica Black proved to be the most difficult breed to care for.Not surprisingly, it did not prove to be as popular as its two predecessors, the Jamaica Hope and the Jamaica Red, among cattle farmers. Dr. Lecky retired from government service in 1965, but remained available as a consultant until close to his death in 1994.
was at work at his
beloved Bodles Research Station until a week before his
death, having dedicated over 60 years of his
life to the development of Jamaican livestock.