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Young researchers aid herders on plateau

Updated: May 27, 2024 China Daily Print
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Cao Ze feeds yaks at a ranch in Maqu county, Gansu province, on April 27.

LANZHOU — Riding a motorcycle, Zhao Zhiwei, 30, skillfully drove some 30 yaks back to the shed where his classmate Cao Ze was waiting to hang a feeding bag onto each yak's horns.

After appeasing a yak by touching its head, Cao grabbed the horns tight, leaned on the animal to push it down and quickly put on the bag. The yak then began to munch on a nutritious mix of straw, wheat bran and bean pulp.

"It takes skills to catch a yak smoothly. I learned them from local herders," said Cao, 26.

As doctoral candidates at Lanzhou University's College of Ecology in Gansu province, Zhao and Cao are stationed in Maqu county at an average altitude of over 3,700 meters, where they are conducting research and providing technological services to local herders.

Eighteen young researchers and postgraduate students led by their professor, Long Ruijun, have carried out fieldwork on ranches, herding bases and agricultural enterprises on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Through field investigations, experimental research and technical training, they have aimed to bring more benefits to the animal husbandry industry while balancing ecological protection and improving the livelihoods of local herders.

The young team has overcome various difficulties to conduct research on the plateau. For Zhao, the hardest part was purchasing yaks and sheep for research.

Dong Youhan (left) and her classmate weigh grass samples in their converted cottage on April 27.

"We only accepted yaks weighing between 145 and 155 kilograms, so we had to choose ideal cattle as we went door to door," Zhao said, adding that sometimes they walked into the wetland barefoot while carrying a huge scale to weigh the animals as they visited herders' homes.

The team converted a vacant 40-year-old cottage with three rooms into their dormitory and "lab". In the house, Dong Youhan, 25, weighed grass samples with her classmate.

Dong said they feed the yaks in the morning, cut grass in the afternoon and then conduct vegetation research, with the plateau constantly providing research subjects.

During their dull days of endless research, the researchers try to find ways to enjoy themselves.

"We really enjoy breathing the fresh air, strolling and lying idly on the grassland," said the second-grade postgraduate.

Long, the professor, said that doing fieldwork in areas with harsh conditions will not only help young people with their studies but also cultivate a spirit of hard work among them so they can better contribute to society.

According to Tenzin Gurmey, head of a local breeding base, the optimized foraging and breeding techniques taught by the team have lowered herding costs while maintaining meat quality, and have also promoted the high-quality and sustainable development of the animal husbandry industry.

"I hope the scientific technologies that we are working on will someday be further promoted to the plateau area in Asia and even the alpine areas around the world," Cao said.


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