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Cattle business steers Gansu herder's success

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-11-27 08:31

LANZHOU - Wearing a black jacket and a pair of rain boots, 48-year-old Wang Wei shoveled forage grass into a feeding trough in a well-lit barn. He then stepped in, picking up a brush to massage his cows.

Even without typical hats and huge belt buckles, Wang and his counterparts in Yayao village, Chongxin county, Northwest China's Gansu province, lead a modern cowboy lifestyle.

Raising cattle has been a longstanding tradition in Yayao village. Wang started herding with the other villagers when he was a teenager. "Herders were everywhere at that time when people raised cattle for plowing."

Before the spread of agricultural mechanization, plow-pulling cattle were the main helpers for many Chinese farmers.

"Waving whips while singing songs, villagers drove cattle up to the mountains. When the animals were busy fattening themselves, the cowboys would gather to chat or play cards," Wang says.

To curb the degradation of natural grasslands, China launched a project to return the grazing land to grassland in 2003, and cattle were no longer allowed to roam freely in the mountains. Wang then became a dealer who collected and sold cattle.

"I traveled a lot, but still worried about losing money due to market fluctuations. Life was anything but easy," Wang says.

Encouraged by the local government that had been promoting animal husbandry for poverty alleviation, Wang seized the chance for a change in 2015 and started his life as a cowboy after buying two cows.

Wang's inexperience in the ways of raising cattle - single feed type, backward breeding method, aging variety - resulted in a bumpy start to his new venture, with slow fertilization and poor results.

In 2018, as funds for poverty alleviation flooded in, the village began to give farmers subsidies for raising cattle and more local cowboys had access to programs to learn new techniques.

Through constant learning and practice, Wang has "tamed" more than 40 cattle using a gentler approach, instead of the traditional way of the whip.

He built his cattle a home and increased the number of animals bred for beef with the support of about 30,000 yuan ($4,500) in subsidies from the government. Now Wang runs to the cowshed a dozen times a day, feeding, cleaning, brushing and massaging them as if they were his children.

These days, Wang is regarded as something of a cattle expert."I can know at a glance whether the animal is healthy or not."

Wang earned about 100,000 yuan from raising cattle last year, making him the most successful free-range farmer in the village. This year, he has applied for 300,000 yuan of loans as he is ready to expand.

"From production and living tools to commodities, cattle has become a cash cow in the anti-poverty campaign of our village, where preferential policies have brought large-scale development and stable sales volumes," says Wang Zhifeng, Party secretary of Yayao village.

By the end of October, Chongxin county had built 41 standardized farming communities and 269 livestock greenhouses, driving 935 impoverished local households to raise 3,935 head of cattle, according to the county's agriculture and rural affairs bureau.

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