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Improving grazing systems with Nepalese yak crossbreds to foster the livelihood of mountain farmers in the Taplejung district of Nepal

Project leader
Michael Kreuzer, Group of Animal Nutrition
Research fellow Shanker Raj BARSILA
Collaborators Svenja Marquardt, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Naba Raj Devkota, Tribhuvan University, Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Nepal

Initiative for Social Transformation Nepal (IST NEPAL), Kathmandu, Nepal

Duration September 2009 – October 2012

In Nepal, livestock husbandry is an important source of livelihood, in particular in the mountain regions. About one million hectare of the total pasture land available in the country (12% of total land area) is situated in mountainous regions. Traditionally, common natural resources are used for this activity. In principle, these resources have a high potential for livestock production. However, rangeland productivity is constantly declining due to high grazing pressure of mixed herds of domestic animals such as mountain goats, sheep and large ruminants (cattle, yaks and their crossbreds, which are called “Chauries” in Nepali). Among the three currently applied livestock production systems – transhumance, sedentary and stall feeding – the transhumance mode is the oldest one. Its specific feature is the herd movement between different grazing sites from temperate to high alpine altitude.

The present research aims at investigating the socio-economic components of the transhumant grazing system, the pasture productivity and its relation to the productivity of Chauries. Among the mountain livestock species, the yak-cattle crossbreds are widely adapted and are of increasing importance in Nepal. The Taplejung district counts more than 2800 Chauries and purebred yaks. However, their status and production potential in relation to the pasture use has not yet been well documented. As a first step, the research will analyse the transhumant system in detail by the means of a socio-economic survey. As a second step, a two-year experiment on grazing and its impact on vegetation composition, pasture productivity and utilisation, milk production performance, as well as quality of milk products will be carried out. The quality of the milk products will be examined especially with regard to the fatty acids composition of the yak cattle crossbreds (Chauries). For this purpose, two stocking densities (high and low) at three altitudes (upper temperate, subalpine and alpine) for both seasonal movements along transhumant routes (upward and downward) will be simulated. The Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA) of the Taplejung district of Nepal will serve as experimental site.

The final product will consist of a guide in both Nepali and English for mountain farmers describing and demonstrating best practices for the use of the transhumant grazing system in the Eastern Nepalese mountains. The results will serve also as a basis for future development interventions in Nepal.

 

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