Across China: Modern cowboys cash in on cattle rearing

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LANZHOU, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- Wearing a black jacket and a pair of rain boots, 48-year-old Wang Wei shoveled proportioned forage grass to a feeding trough in a well-lit barn. He then stepped in, picking up a brush to massage his cash cows.

Even without cowboy hats and huge belt buckles, Wang and his counterparts in Yayao Village, Chongxin County, northwest China's Gansu Province, lead a modern cowboy lifestyle centered around rearing cattle.

Raising cattle has been a long-standing tradition in Yayao Village. Wang started herding cattle with 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 said.

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

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

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

Single feed type, backward breeding method, aging variety... Wang's inexperienced ways of raising resulted in a bumpy start with slow fertilization and poor quality cattle.

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 learn new techniques.

Through constant learning and practice, Wang has "tamed" more than 40 cattle using "soft power" instead of the traditional hard way of whipping.

He built his cattle a home and increased the number of beef cattle with the support of about 30,000 yuan (about 4,500 U.S. dollars) 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.

Now, Wang is regarded as 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 largest 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 volume," said 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 households in Chongxin to raise 3,935 cattle, according to the county's agriculture and rural affairs bureau.

"My eldest son used to work in other cities, but he returned home this year to become a modern cowboy, pursuing a happy life with diligence and wisdom," Wang Wei said. Enditem

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