Hy­brid sheep boost farm­ers’ in­comes

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By PALDEN NY­IMA in Lhun­drub County, Ti­bet

With its curled horns and thick coat, the Phanpo sheep stands out from the small, plump, thick-horned va­ri­eties that usu­ally pop­u­late the grass­lands of the Ti­betan plateau.

The farm­ers who raise them in Lhun­drub county can also be told apart by the size of their smiles.

The Phanpo sheep, known for its qual­ity semi-fine wool and meat, is a hy­brid of va­ri­eties na­tive to Rus­sia, and China’s In­ner Mon­go­lia and Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gions.

Work to cre­ate the species started in the 1960s, and in 2008 the Na­tional Com­mis­sion of Live­stock and Poul­try Ge­netic Re­sources of­fi­cially ac­knowl­edged it as Ti­bet’s first stain of live­stock.

“More ru­ral Ti­betans have started been keep Phanpo sheep as a way to boost their in­come since 1998,” said Buchung, a vet­eri­nar­ian in Jang­shar town­ship. He ex­plained that the breed is more eco­nomic than the tra­di­tional Ti­betan sheep.

“The wool yield is six times that of a Ti­betan sheep, and the pro­duc­tion of meat is dou­ble,” said the 53-year-old, who has kept Phanpo sheep for more than six years and now has a flock of 280.

“I’m a di­rect ben­e­fi­ciary of the fruit of sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal re­search,” he said. “My av­er­age an­nual in­come has been 80,000 yuan ($13,000) in re­cent years.”

About 650 house­holds in the county each raise more than 200 head of sheep, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal es­ti­mates.

Gy­atso, 38, an­other Jang­shar farmer, has kept Phanpo sheep for more than six years. He said: “My fam­ily has more than 200 head, and my av­er­age an­nual in­come has dou­bled since I got them.”

Yon­tan, direc­tor of the coun­try science and tech­nol­ogy bureau and head of the lo­cal an­i­mal hus­bandry and ve­teri­nary sta­tion, said he led a re­search team for 48 years to de­velop the new breed. The re­sults have earned him many ac­co­lades and awards.

“The fine­ness of the semifine wool (from Phanpo) is usu­ally be­tween 58 and 60 mi­crons, and it is used best for cash­mere prod­ucts,” the 61-year-old said, adding that Ti­betans have wel­comed the thicker wool and now use it to make quilts, blan­kets and other prod­ucts.

He said the re­gional gov­ern­ment has been pro­mot­ing the breed in other pre­fec­tures in an ef­fort to boost farm­ers’ in­comes and has been of­fer­ing fam­i­lies a sub­sidy of 800 yuan.

“The de­mand for wool is huge in Ti­bet, as most Ti­betans make nambu, a heavy woolen cloth,” said Tser­ing Choe­dron, a Ti­betan tai­lor. “A nambu needs 15 kilo­grams of wool. To make one takes just six Phanpo sheep, or al­ter­na­tively 30 Ti­betan sheep.”

ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY

Gy­atso, a 38-year-old farmer from Jang­shar, Lhun­drub county, said his in­come has dou­bled since he started to keep Phanpo sheep six years ago.

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