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The Prairie: More than Just a Beautiful Scene
(Tianshannet) Updated: 2008-January-11 11:25:06


Xinjiang owns some of the world’s biggest remaining prairies.

They are not only vast but also changeable, spectacular and elegant. The whole view can be extensive or delicate, flat and endless to the sky or gives you a visual effect of ups and downs. Around the prairie, there is also snow, mountains, forests, lakes, springs and rivers.

An ideal prairie should have not only good grass but also abundant water, without which grass can not grow, while herdsmen, cattle and sheep would go thirsty.

Sheep and cattle are not camels, they need water besides fodder.

A place with grass might not be fit for nomads, while a place with water might not be appropriate for herding sheep, therefore, nomads must change their habitation according to grass and water. People living on the prairie without water still have to carry water or dig wells in order to spend a grazing season with their cattle and sheep.

Prairies in Xinjiang are not short of water and grass. In early summer, the wild flowers pop up on the prairies and become a colourful cover.

Bayanbulak Grassland and the Swan Lake are bright pearls in the Tianshan Mountain region. Gongnais Grassland in the beautiful Yili River valley is the realistic scene of a famous old Chinese poem saying “wind blows, grass nods, cattle and sheep stands”. Kulustai Grassland located in the humid Tacheng Basin is the second biggest grassland in China. Altay Grassland stretches among woods and rivers and is the only “Swiss landscape” in Asia.

Bayanbulak Grassland

Yili grassland pastures

Such wonderful prairies have always been desired by nomadic peoples. For many ancient nomads, the Altay Grassland was their home.

What’s more, the grassland is not only beautiful scenery, but also a natural base for developing animal husbandry.

Xinjiang is a traditional animal raising area. For thousands of years, people have gathered a lot of animal raising experience and have developed deep emotion with the animal husbandry.

Custom and emotion can be a resource and a power. For a Wenzhou person who is good at doing business, herding sheep must be very strange; and for an islander who is used to sailing, riding a horse can be very uncomfortable.

Urumqi, as a geographical name, is transliterated from the language of the minority group, meaning “beautiful pasture”.

Nowadays, the grassland of Urumqi has been replaced by streets and buildings, so herds of cattle and sheep are no longer seen.

Similarly, the output from prairies in Xinjiang is not only fresh milk, but also more fortune.

People usually speak highly of Xinjiang’s mutton, and that’s true. Because it is said that sheep in Xinjiang eat Chinese herbal medicine and drink spring water.

People also say meat and milk in Xinjiang are “green food”, and that’s true too because Xinjiang is a pure land far from industries and humans, so its food is mostly organic.

Here, foods are free of nuisances, cattle and sheep living with wild animals also have the character of savagery. On the prairies, that people should live harmoniously with nature is a herdsman’s nature and one doesn’t need to gain from education. When digging channels and building roads, people always leave a route for wild animals; when facing snow storms, people also leave foods for wild animals besides preparing for their own cattle and sheep. Just think about how valuable the livestock tamed in a nearly primitive environment can be.

On the north and south sides of Tianshan Mountain, pastures are great. This old saying is not bragging.

Consumers are gradually favouring animal products from the beautiful pastures.

These products are not being commercialized, what worries some is not finding markets, but how to get considerable production scales.

It is said Muslim restaurants in Guangdong and Hong Kong use only quality mutton from Xinjiang areas including Altay fat-rumped sheep, Tacheng Bashibai sheep, and Kashi Duolang sheep. The excellent beef in Xinjiang is mainly supplied to high-class hotels in Beijing and Shanghai. Xinjiang’s cotton and wool brings warmth to many people. There’s only enough Xinjiang milk for the breakfasts of local people, and it costs much money to have a taste of mare’s milk, camel’s milk, ghee and horse’s gut.

Currently, with the fast pace of the internationalization the market, the natural advantages of Xinjiang’s animal products are gradually being introduced by experts, investing organizations and the media. They say things like Xinjiang’s grasslands are a valuable organic foods base, while Xinjiang’s cattle and sheep are reliable Muslim products. Enterprises of animal husbandry in Xinjiang do have unprecedented potential.

Animal husbandry is one of Xinjiang’s economic struts as well as one of the government’s important development strategies.

Along with carrying out this strategy, herdsmen can settle down and say goodbye to the time of being nomadic. Categories of cattle and sheep have been improved and animals can live in warm stables. A big amount of manned pastures have been developed and fodder grass quality has been improved.

On the grasslands, cattle and sheep are prosperous, and animal husbandry within the farming area is developing at a high speed. High-tech breeding technologies are commonly employed, and the excellent breeds are increasing in size. The traditional nomadic production method decided by water and grass is now experiencing substantial changes.

Animal husbandry is no longer herdsmen’s patent and rather, it becomes an investing progamme of many companies and enterprises.

Animal husbandry is a way of making fortunes, a new industry, rather than a scenery on the prairie.

In this industrial train, connections like feeding, breeding, milk, meat, gut, furs, wool, leather, textile, animal skin tanning and craftwork, including technologies and hardware services for each connection, all have a big opportunity for business.

Merino sheep is an excellent breed independently cultivated in Xinjiang. The animal-raising industry in Xinjiang, along with the beautiful prairies and the merino sheep, will have a fair future.

(SOURCES:XJTS)Editor: Chengli
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