Across China: Modern herders embrace machine helpers
HOHHOT, July 3 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of sheep start enjoying their meals together after the hay is shredded and blended by a machine, before being delivered by an automatic belt into the 80-meter-long manger.
Local herder Erdenet does all this with just the push of a few buttons.
To herd 1,500 sheep on a 730 hectare grassland, Erdenet used to need eight to 10 workers. Now, he only has one.
"Compared with human workers, machines are more powerful helpers," says Erdenet, from Hanggin Banner, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Nearby the sheepfold, a self-propelled sprinkler waters the clover, with the grass trimmer ready to harvest the clover as feeding stuff.
With machines and technology becoming more widespread, more and more herders are turning to technology to help manage their pastures, improving herding efficiency and saving labor costs.
Wang Chuge, from Otog Front Banner, brings his smartphone wherever he goes, as he can observe every corner of his pasture through his phone.
In 2016, Wang had rotating cameras installed over the sheepfold and grassland.
Via a remote control app, Wang can feed and water the sheep even if he is not there.
Sowing machines, fodder shredders, sprinklers, and automatic feeding and watering machines are also used on Wang's 260 hectare pasture, grazing over 400 sheep. No extra workers are needed except him and his wife.
"Unlike the past when we had to ride a horse for herding, now all we need to do is to press a button or touch a screen," he says.
To encourage application of technology, central and regional agricultural authorities subsidized more than 1 billion yuan (150 million U.S. dollars) to 62,600 farmers or herders for purchase of 73,600 machines last year.
According to a circular issued by the regional department of agriculture and husbandry in March, more than 10 demonstration shows for machine operations will be organized, and 100 farmers, herders and cooperative managers will be trained this year as technical support.
Freed from the workload on the grassland, Erdenet and his neighbors have established a cooperative for sheep slaughtering, as slaughtered sheep can be sold at higher prices.
This year, he plans to invest 1.6 million yuan for a mechanized workshop, in which sheep can be slaughtered by machines.
With the sheep and cashmere sold, Erdenet earned 400,000 yuan last year. He had a yard with three rows of houses built, equipped with electric appliances, furniture and flowers. He also bought an apartment in town, as well as a luxury car several years ago.
For 200,000 yuan, Wang also erected two Mongolian yurts for tourists to use. He also has enough free time to run a second-hand car sales business. His annual net income reached 350,000 yuan last year.
"Machines make us lazier, but happier," he says.