Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 8th 2018 Contents 10 UWI TODAY -- SUNDAY 8 APRIL, 2018
If this were a Net ix documentary, we would open on a rustic
village scene of Indian descent. A peasant farmer would be
yoking a bu alo to a wooden cart, while chickens would be
briskly pecking at the dry, patchy grass underfoot. Two half-
clad children would peer shyly out from the doorway as their
father climbs onto the cart and trundles o to another back-
breaking day in the eld.
We would be taken on a journey from India to Trinidad,
replete with breathtaking vistas of hundreds of acres of land
with water bu alo of varying hues and horns grazing languidly.
We'd be taken through industrial plants where Bu alypso hides
are being transformed into leather; to fancy restaurants where
the lean, red loins are being served as a preferred beef substitute;
to roadside stalls where ercely marinated strips would be
sizzling on grills and topped with imaginative Trini sauces; we
would be watching celebrity chefs on TV rhapsodizing about
the mozzarella cheese that has to be made from Bu alypso
milk. Oh! And what are they saying about paneer and kul ?
You'd be salivating when you hear.
But this is neither a Net ix documentary, nor is it a success
story. In fact, it might qualify as the worst case of Trinidad and
Tobago missing out on something that was created here that
has been so undernourished as an industry that it might just
have made itself extinct, while several countries have developed
something rich and viable from the Bu alypso they imported
from local pastures.
If that sounds like the story of the steelpan, it is simply the
same pattern, except that the steelpan has a whole lot of life in
it, and will survive, and maybe even prosper.
In this sad tale, a once vibrant collective herd of roughly
6,000-8,000 water bu alo has been dramatically whittled,
mainly by the dreadful Brucellosis infection, but exacerbated
by neglect and a lack of resources.
It is a story that began with the vision of a veterinarian,
Dr. Steve Bennett, who saw the potential for a meat industry to
be developed by re ning the breeds of water bu alo that had
come from India. (See e Journey of the Bu alypso.) Once the
strain that he joyfully named Bu alypso came into being, the
possibilities opened up.
e meat was not beef, though it had a similar taste -- thus
making it permissible for Hindus to eat it -- and it was leaner
and less marbled, making it healthier. Bu alo milk had been
embraced as the basis of the popular Mozzarella cheese in
Italy and other European countries, and was a staple in the
production of Indian products, such as paneer, kul , yoghurt,
ghee, and sweets like bar , rasgulla and rasmalai.
The hide was as thick as an elephant's making them
particularly resistant to ticks, which are the plague of cattle,
but also lending itself to particularly durable leather that was
well suited for furniture.
To cream it o , the germplasm from this superior breed
of the water bu alo could be the basis of an exclusive line of
cattle exports. In fact, a 2007 report in the Italian Journal of
Animal Science, stated that the Bu alypso had been exported to
19 countries , including the USA, Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica,
Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico (via Honduras), Nicaragua,
Panama, and Venezuela. e industries in those places have
moved forward pro tably.
With all of this, who would not be tempted to invest in
opening up a bu alypso industry?
e State was, or so it said.
e 2012-2015 Action Plan for the Ministry of Food
Production, Land and Marine A airs (still posted on the site
for the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, so I assume
it is still e Plan) has this section:
Bu alypso/Bu alo
Facilitate the development of the Bu alypso meat industry.
Conservation of the genetic material of the Bu alypso
through the development of a gene bank and development of
herd registry and herd book.
Facilitate the development of the Bu alo milk industry.
e Horns of
In March, members of a committee planning a symposium on the Bu alypso, visited the Mora Valley Estate.
One of the committee members, UWI PhD student, Akilah Stewart took this photo of part of the herd.
Continue to maintain the bio-security of the Aripo Livestock
bu alo herd.
Implement a management program for Brucellosis with a
view to eradication.
So far, so good. If all goes according to plan, it sounds like
a heap of positive things. Except for the timeline.
at's the twist in the plot.
In 1998, twenty years ago, Brucellosis, a dreaded cattle
infection, was detected within the bu alypso community and
In April 2017, a status report on the water bu alo industry
was published in "Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad)". Its aim,
said one of the authors, Riyadh Mohammed, was to try to get
a grasp of the size, location and state of the water bu alo in
T&T. Based on surveys done in 2012, the data tell a story, best
repeated in their words.
"A test and slaughter brucellosis eradication programme,
instituted by the Government, resulted in the three large WB
(water bu alo) producers selling their stock and closing their
WB production operations. Based on annual reports, 3255
WB were slaughtered due to a positive brucellosis status from
1998 to 2008."
ose gures were taken from the Ministry's report for
e researchers noted that in 1999, the Animal Health
Division tried limited vaccination with RB51 -- a commercially
available vaccine in the USA that had had some success with
bison -- but it did not protect the WB.
e infected herd was con ned to the 1657-acre Mora
Valley Estate in Rio Claro in 2003. A 2015 Ministry of Food
Production Project Document, prepared by a Mora Valley
Steering Committee, noted that the main operations were
"cocoa production and water bu alo rearing but in 2003,
operations on the cocoa estate ceased and some of the animals
were sold/le abandoned."
e document goes on, " e estate was to be restocked
by 2006/7 but this did not materialize. e livestock farm was
originally 1400 acres, but some of the land was distributed to
ex-Caroni (1975) Ltd employees in 2008/9 while some was
divested into MFP large farm in 2012/13."
Using gures from the status report, the State owned 1021
head of Bu alypso in 2012, and the majority were infected with
Brucellosis at a rate that has not decreased over 20 years. Plans
to develop a Bu alypso industry have never materialized. ere
are only a few of the 'pure' Bu alypso remaining at the Aripo
Livestock Station -- an entire germplasm can be lost.
Despite numerous representations on the potential for a
Bu alypso milk industry -- based on the high butterfat content
of the milk -- nothing has ever been done to establish even
facilities for this. I was told that because it is not classi ed as
milk, it cannot legally be sold as such.
e infected herd at Mora Valley has literally gone wild, a
feral bunch that roams the vast acreage, fending for themselves
and not accountable to anyone (except for Deolal, the single
keeper who can walk among them). Nobody can accurately tell
the size of the herd, or how many are infected with Brucellosis,
or whether they have strayed o the premises.
People who once kept herds have given up, mainly because
there has been little support for Bu alypso as either a meat or
It is truly another sorry tale of neglect.
If this were a Net ix documentary, it would have taken us
on a long journey full of promise, potential, and magni cent
vistas along the way, but as the shadows lengthen, the cameras
would pan in on that one man on his Bu alypso cart, returning
home, dusty, bedraggled and hungry, with nothing to show for
his day of hard labour in the elds of misfortune. And the sun
would set innocuously behind his back.
e meat was not beef, though it had a similar taste -- thus making it
permissible for Hindus to eat it -- and it was leaner and less marbled,
making it healthier.
Bu alypso's Last Stand SPECIAL REPORT BY VANEISA BAKSH
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