|Strong and healthy: Son Thanh has more than 300 households raising a buffalo herd of 1,300.
by Huynh Van My
Ethnic H'Re households in the central province of Quang Ngai's mountainous and remote village of Son Thanh have been able to escape hunger and poverty, thanks to new ways of buffalo raising.
Dinh Thanh Tam, 65, who owns a buffalo herd of 9 heads, including 4 females, 4 young calves and 1 male, said his village's buffalo herd has been raised in extremely progressive and lucrative fashion, thanks to the villagers' know how to mate their female buffaloes with males from other areas.
"No female buffalo has been crossed with a male of the same breed for two years now," said Tam.
In the past, very few villagers knew about breeding techniques, often letting their female buffaloes mate with the male from the same herd.
The results were poor offspring as mother buffaloes used to give birth to weak calves, many of whom used to die young soon after birth or could not grow into healthy cattle. Now, calves' fatality rate has come down drastically, thus contributing to the village's herd consistently becoming larger.
At 7am everyday this summer, buffalo raisers in Son Thanh Village drive their herd to the valley next to the harvested fields or to the hilly edges and wild grass fields at the foot of the mountain to raise them.
Watching this beautiful and picturesque scene of big fat buffaloes grazing and cattle herders talking to each other is an idyllic experience.
Villager Dinh Denh, 53, said before the rice crop is harvested, herders have to drive their cattle to the mountains and then bring them back home in the afternoon, while earlier, they often used to let the herd loose in the mountains for a month long period.
"Now we have to carefully look after our herd so that they grow up healthy and strong, and eventually fetch a good price," Denh said.
Denh said he plans to bring his male buffalo to exchange it with one from a different village to mate it with his female buffaloes.
Dinh Hong Ngot, deputy chairman of the Son Thanh People's Committee, said ever since the State gave his village a strong male buffalo brought from another province, young healthy calves that were born are much stronger than those born earlier.
|Feeding frenzy: The H'Re people have now started to grow grass to serve their buffalo herd. — VNS Photos Huynh Van My
It was 4pm when the herd of buffaloes of Dinh Van Nhay returned to their sty without the cattle herder even directing them. It seemed such a routine for the cattle, and many villagers follow the same drill.
"Our buffaloes should be much more happy because they live in such a solid sty that is equipped with separate spouts for their meals, their drinking water and an area for their waste," said Nhay.
Such solid sties help the herd escape severely hot and cold weather and grow up strong, less vulnerable to disease, he said.
Those who visited Son Thanh in the past would be astonished to witness such development of H'Re people, with solid buffalo sheds roofed with red tiles and smooth concrete foundation.
Dinh Van De, owner of a 5-buffalo herd, said he was very happy at having such a sty compared to the time when he and his villagers had to leave the herd unbridled in the forest where they used to sleep together in a group.
Some villagers used to drive their herd home and tie them to a tree, letting them suffer in the heat or cold. Many of them died in winter or suffered serious diseases, De said.
Seeing a lucrative opportunity in such a solid shelter, many buffalo owners in the village did not even wait for help from the State but invested their own money to build a shelter.
H'Re woman Dinh Thi Eo said she borrowed money from her relatives to build a shelter that enabled her to collect the waste and use it as fertiliser for her maize field.
In addition, her female buffaloes gave birth to two strong, healthy calves recently. "I'm very happy. I never get tired of gazing at my buffalo herd," she said, adding that she will tell about her experience to her friends in remote villages of Go Chu and Nuoc Chu in Quang Ngai's Son Ha District so that they too can apply it.
Apart from applying a new method to raise buffalo, the H'Re people have now started to grow grass to serve their buffalo herd.
The story began when several cadres from district agriculture promotion office approached the villagers, asking them to come to the district to receive grass saplings and plant these.
"None of us agreed because we thought we live in a forest where all kinds of grass is available, so why should we 'carry coals to Newcastle' but we did not know that fresh grass is a very good food for our herd in winter or during stormy season," said Tam.
Now, almost all villagers plant the same grass after several volunteers grew the grass known as VA06 which yielded high productivity and particularly because the buffaloes took a liking to it.
Now, together with straw and grass, villagers do not have to worry about shortage of food for their herd all year round, said deputy chairman Ngot.
He himself is also an owner of a buffalo herd of five.
"My family has allocated three sao (one sao is about 360sq.m) of land to grow VA06 grass which is enough for my herd. We earn more than VND30 million a year from selling calves," said Ngot.
Son Thanh has more than 300 households raising a buffalo herd of 1,300.
Every year, an increasing number of buffaloes and calves are sold.
As a result, villagers' living standards have been improving while the number of households classified as poor has come down from 50-60 per cent in the past to 15 per cent currently, said Ngot.
Ngo Huu Ha, director of Quang Ngai province's agriculture promotion centre, said based on good results from buffalo raising in Son Thanh, "we have formulated a project to improve buffalo herd in our six mountainous districts. The project is waiting for the approval from the Department of Investment to be implemented from 2016."
Ha said the province will popularise the achievements made by the ethnic H'Re people.
Those who care to visit their village at Truong Son Range with rolling forests and mountains, will see H'Re's houses roofed with red tiles under which are grass plots and large stacks of straw and solid buffalo shelters.
Son Thanh has now become a bright example of successfully raised buffaloes under the new method. — VNS