Herders and livestock professionals' experiences and perceptions on developments and challenges in yak farming in Bhutan

Nedup Dorji*, Marjolein Derks, Phub Dorji, Peter W.G. Groot Koerkamp, Eddie A.M. Bokkers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Context: The yak-based transhumant system is influenced by socioeconomic developments, regulations and environmental changes. Little is known about the impact of this on yak farming practices among different regions in Bhutan. Aim and methods: The experienced changes in yak farming practices over the years and perceptions on developments were assessed through interviews with yak herders in three regions (west, n = 22; central, n = 20; east, n = 25) and with livestock extensionists (n = 28). Key results: At present, forage shortage in the rangeland, yak mortality mainly due to (endangered) wild predators and, to a lesser extent, labour availability are the main concerns in all yak farming regions. These concerns have increased due to socioeconomic developments (e.g. education and other sources of income) and strong conservation policy, which affects the living environment of the yaks. Overall, the market to sell yak products and livestock extension services has improved, but forage shortage and yak mortality has increased over the years. However, some factors causing forage shortage are more specific to certain regions, e.g. competition with the horse population (west), cattle and cattle-yak hybrids (east), cordyceps collection (west and central) and prohibited burning of rangelands (central and east). Family labour available to herd yaks has slightly decreased, and the number of young family members (successors) to take over yak farming has decreased over the years. Conclusions: On the basis of the experiences and perceptions of yak herders and extensionists, we conclude that increasing forage shortage in the rangelands, decreasing numbers of successors, and increasing yak predation by wild animals are the major threats to yak farming. Implications: This study demonstrates that yak farming in Bhutan experiences an increasing pressure to sustain. Differences between regions make clear that a one blanket-policy will not be effective to preserve yak farming for the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2004-2020
JournalAnimal Production Science
Volume60
Issue number17
Early online date7 Jul 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • policy
  • welfare

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