Yak milk 'udderly' transforms fortunes of herdsmen in SW China
On the grasslands under white clouds and a blue sky, herdsman Choyang Yeshe carries 90 kg of yak milk on a motorcycle and sells it to a milk company in the village.
"I have raised 120 yaks, and I can make up to 60,000 yuan (US$8,521) a year from yak milk," he said.
Choyang Yeshe, 36, is a herdsman in Ramda Village of Hongyuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The village is located 3,500 meters above sea level, and yaks are a traditional herd.
Like him, many villagers there have moved out of poverty thanks to the yak milk industry, and the Hongyuan Yak Dairy Co Ltd, a yak milk company that purchases the product from locals.
So far, the company has signed contracts with more than 6,000 local herdsmen and employed more than 500. The average annual income of those selling milk to the company has exceeded 20,000 yuan.
The county was one of the major grasslands that the Red Army soldiers crossed over 80 years ago during the Long March to break the Kuomintang regime's grip on the country and to continue their fight against Japanese invaders. It is reported that locals helped the Red Army soldiers get through difficulties with yak milk. Now, decades later, the yak milk industry is helping the impoverished live better lives.
Shamo is one of the herdsmen that have signed contracts with Hongyuan Yak Dairy Co Ltd. Each day, she and her mother drive the baby yaks away from their mothers and start milking the yaks with buckets.
The family has raised more than 40 female yaks, and by selling the yak milk to the company, they can rake in about 400 yuan a day.
"Before the company was established, we usually drank the yak milk ourselves, or sold it to random people," she said. "It was impossible to make this much money."
The company is situated in the suburb area of the county. It not only purchases yak milk from poor villagers but also helps them buy yaks with the yaks as collateral.
Villager Dakar Ragya bought eight yaks in 2016 with the help of the company. In the past few years, his life has taken a U-turn by selling yak milk.
"Even with the tuition fees of my child, I still have more than 10,000 yuan of money in the bank," he said.
China aims to eradicate poverty by 2020, the target year to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
According to the vice general manager of the company, yak milk has huge potential in the market, and that their product has been exported to many foreign countries.
"Since 2012, we have given more than 300 million yuan of money to the herdsmen for their yak milk," said the manager. "The yak milk industry has truly lifted locals out of poverty."