Profile: Cowboy finds his cash cow in karst mountains
NANNING, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Wearing a straw hat and holding a sickle, Qin Zhibao feels like a "cowboy" from the movies as he makes his way toward harvesting forage grass.
"I am making a living by raising cows now, so you can call me a cowboy in this regard," he said, adding that he has been raising cows in the karst desertification region in southern China for five years.
Qin, 37, is a villager in Du'an Yao Autonomous County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The county is known as the "rocky kingdom" as 89 percent of its administrative region is covered by karst mountains.
Qin never dreamed of being a cowboy until an accident changed his life.
In 2013, he lost sight in his right eye in a campaign launched by local villagers to improve the village infrastructure. Two years later, his family was put on the government's poverty list as he was unable to work after the accident.
"The accident forced me to find another way to make a living," he said. "In our traditional culture, as a man, I should be the breadwinner in my household."
To improve the family's financial situation, Qin laid out all his savings and bought four cows to start his cowboy career.
"Generally, bulls and cows are used for plowing in the rural areas, but we never thought about raising cows to support the family," he said.
"You can't imagine how difficult it is to feed cows in the mountainous regions without natural pastures," he said. "Compared with goats, cows are unable to climb over steep mountain slopes to eat grass."
Desperate to feed the cows on the mountains, Qin's major task was to plant forage grass on his farmland.
"My wife opposed me for turning the farmland into a forage plantation because our small patch of farmland was used for commercial crops, such as corn," he said. "But I had no other choice."
Every two or three days, Qin would carry cow fodder up the mountains to feed his cows. His horses helped ease the task. Sometimes he needed to walk for several hours across the mountains to find the cows.
Qin's four cows gave birth to four calves in the following year, and his cattle number doubled. Each calf could fetch almost 5,000 yuan (708 U.S. dollars), and the family's income increased.
The success helped Qin gain the support from his father-in-law, who later pooled about one hectare of farmland for him to grow forage grass.
"It was an exciting thing to have more available land, but to fetch the forage back was very difficult," Qin said. "I had to climb the mountains with my horses to reach my father-in-law's house, and I could only go back and forth twice a day."
He added that riding horses in the mountainous area was dangerous.
"You cannot ride horses as people do on vast and flat prairies," he said. "You walk with them."
Qin has two horses to carry goods for him.
The family income gradually increased as the cows gave birth to more calves over the past four years. In 2019, his family was lifted out of poverty.
Currently, Qin plans to raise the number of his cows to at least 10.
"First, I need more arable land," he said. "Land reclamation in this rocky desertification area is tough. I have to remove the rubble and bring the soil back from other areas."
But Qin believes his future will be bright.
"Our lives are getting better," he said. "It is not too bad to be a cowboy in the mountains."