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Collective sheep farms make wallets bulge in Chinese villages
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Collective sheep farms make wallets bulge in Chinese villages

As dusk fell, the sheep at Shangping Village's collective breeding farm eagerly awaited their meal, with Zhang Chun, a 41-year-old shepherd, moving about the sheep sheds to prepare feed and water for the bleating flock.

The farm, just a 10-minute ride from Zhang's home, has allowed him to work closer to his family, earning a stable income of 4,000 yuan (about 556.8 U.S. dollars) a month.

"We have chaff cutters, feed mixers and feed spreaders here on the farm. These machines are handy and can save me a lot of work," Zhang said.

Situated in Dawan Township in Jingyuan County in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Shangping Village boasts a rich history of sheep breeding.

To enhance the sheep breeding industry, Shangping pooled a total of 1.84 million yuan from the village collective's profits and development fund, along with contributions from shareholders, and started a centralized breeding farm last year.

With four standardized sheds equipped with a breeding area, a nursery, and a fattening area, the farm has refined the sheep-breeding process. Additional facilities, including a separate disinfection room and a forage storage room, have been built for better management.

Villagers even selected experienced individuals like Zhang Chun to oversee the farm. "Besides feeding sheep and cleaning the shed, it is also my job to make powdered milk for the lamb and administer injections and medications for the sick," Zhang said.

In the first half of 2023, about 2,000 ewes found their "cozy home" on the farm, and Shangping was recognized as the sheep breeding demonstration village of the county.

Villagers, including Zhang Ping, have earned substantial benefits from the collective sheep farm. Every day, the 60-year-old would pay a visit to the sheds and check out the sheep's diet and prevention measures in place to ward off illnesses.

"Raising sheep is profitable. Counting on it, we've built a new house and sent three children to school over the years. It also covers our daily expenses," said Zhang Ping, who invested 5,000 yuan in the village's collective sheep-breeding business this year and was looking forward to receiving dividends.

Guided by Chen Baiping, the Party chief of Shangping Village, the community has embraced a collaborative farming model involving the Party organization, rural collectives, family farms and breeders.

This model focuses on providing a more nutritious "diet" for the sheep, resulting in a shortened fattening period and improved mutton quality.

"With over 3,500 sheep, sheep breeding has become the village's pillar industry, contributing nearly 40 percent of its income," said Chen, an experienced sheepman.

China has advanced rural reform across the board in the past decade, achieving breakthroughs in some key areas. The reform of the rural collective property rights system was one of the major tasks.

By verifying rural collective assets and allowing farmers to voluntarily turn their rights in collective assets into shares, this reform is aimed at protecting farmers' interests and boosting the vitality of the rural collective economy.

Nationwide, around 960,000 rural collective economies have been established since the reform of the collective property rights system was rolled out in 2015.

At the turn of the year, Chen crunched the numbers for the sheep business. After accounting for expenses like acquiring sheep and forage, the net profit of the collective sheep farm reached 120,000 yuan in the past six months. On average, each shareholder in the village stands to receive an additional 3,000 yuan in dividends.

Looking ahead, as Dawan Township prepares to establish a sheep-breeding association and expand its breeding scale to 30,000 in 2024, Chen has big plans for the village.

"We will build two more sheds this year and raise 5,000 sheep in total," he said.

XinhuaShen Yi

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