Tan sheep industry lifts Ningxia village out of poverty
At the welcoming dinner of last year's G20 Hangzhou Summit, a cold dish made of lamb was appreciated by the world leaders for its delicious taste and tender texture.
The main ingredient of the dish came from a previously poverty-stricken village in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
A photo shows the breeding cooperative in Ma'erzhuang Village of Yanchi County, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. [Photo: China Plus/ Lv Mou]
Ma'erzhuang Village of Yanchi County now has earned a reputation for the Tan sheep industry.
Located in the desert and Loess Plateau transition zone, the village had long been threatened by wind and sand storms.
Under such adverse environmental conditions, raising Tan sheep became an important economic pillar for the local people.
The villagers' living standards were hard to guarantee, when mutton prices fluctuated, feed costs increased, or when the occasional outbreak of epidemics occurred.
With the support of the government and local poverty alleviation policies, in 2002, Ma'erzhuang Village began closing the hills to ban grazing.
"In the past, the sand could accumulate to a height as tall as the house roof. Since 2002, the restoration of farmlands to forests has been implemented. Just in three years' time, the eco-system was nearly back to normal," said a villager named Lu Wentao.
A photo shows the feed processing building of the ecological pasture in Yanchi County, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. [Photo: China Plus/ Lv Mou]
At the same time, the village also established a breeding cooperative to encourage villagers to jointly raise Tan sheep.
Through mutual assistance and centralized management, the cooperative has greatly reduced costs and financial risks.
With increasing funds and preferential policies, the village has been working on a development mode that connects enterprises, business parks, famers, brands and standardization.
The mutton at last year's G20 state banquet was provided by the Xinhai Company, which is in cooperation with the Ma'erzhuang Village.
The company built a pasture in the county in 2015, aiming to raise higher quality Tan sheep through scientific and technological means.
Feng Huan, director of the ecological pasture in Yanchi County, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. [Photo: China Plus/ Lv Mou]
"One hour later, we'll start playing music for the sheep. We've selected 15 of 300 songs, and played two songs for them each day from Monday to Saturday, and on Sunday is the shuffle play. Then we can know which song they like the most, because if the sheep enjoy the songs, they will move closer to the speaker box," said Feng Huan, the director of the pasture.
Along with scientific experiments, the Internet has also been introduced into the company's marketing efforts.
A photo shows the product demonstration area in Xinhai Company in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. [Photo: China Plus/ Lv Mou]
"For the customers, after they pay, we'll offer them a full range of services. After they buy the Tan sheep skin, we'll give them some small handmade products processed with sheep skin. And now we're cooperating with a manufacturer in Wuhan, using the sheep bones to develop a mutton-soup product, which tastes exactly the same as what you can have in Yanchi County. This is our company's secret weapon," he added.
In 2016, the output value of the Tan sheep industry in Yanchi County reached 680 million yuan. One third of the local famers' per capita net income came from raising sheep.
During the next three years, Ma'erzhuang villagers are set to build a complete set of Tan sheep breeding, processing and sales industry chain.