Phub Dem | Haa

Feed and fodder scarcity for yaks has been a challenge for the yak herders every winter.

To help address the problem, the National Highland Research and Development Centre (NHRDC) and the National Research Development Centre for Animal Nutrition (NRDCAN) produced a feed block as a cheap alternative.

The block consists of paddy straw, molasses, salt, and mineral mixture.

According to an official from NHRDC, the two development centres initiated the feed production with a farmers’ group from Kabisa in Punakha.  The feeds were then procured and supplied to the highlanders to supplement nutrition.

He said that the Department of Livestock (DoL) handed over the feed block to the yak herders as a part of a promotional programme. “After some years, highlanders have to buy or either make the block themselves.”

Although the centre tried to supply the feed blocks in all highland dzongkhags, he said that there was difficulty procuring the mineral due to the pandemic. “We have plans to reach out to every highland dzongkhag like Haa.”

He said that it was a pilot project and the centre would collect feedback from the herders.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest, fodder scarcity was a leading cause of mortality among young animals, with low calving and growth rates.  It reduced productivity due to poor nutritional conditions in the winter season.

The initiative is expected to reduce the mortality of yaks during the lean season and maintain production and improve the animals’ health.  Apart from wildlife depredation, fodder scarcity is reported to be a significant issue facing yak herders.

DoL handed over 3,087 kilogrammes of feed block to Haa Valley Yak Herder Primary Cooperative on March 5.

A villager from Dumcho, Ugyen said that usually, there was a shortage of feed as grasses would not grow, and pastures be mostly covered with snow at this time of the year.

He said that he could not reach the block to his yaks but hoped it would help solve the issue.

Earlier, he said that the government asked highlanders to sow grasses in highlands. “It wasn’t reasonable. I hope my yaks like the feed block.”

Like Ugyen, many highlanders of Haa haven’t reached the feed block to their herds due to heavy snowfall.

Ugyen said that, while the government had invested a considerable budget, he wasn’t sure if it would solve the issue.

Another herder Sonam Jamtsho said that fodder was an issue, especially while migrating from winter lowland to summer grazing lands. “I hope it serves the purpose.”