Monday, 21 December 2015

Fermented Mare's Milk and Donkey Soup in Inner Mongolia


Just a couple of the unusual food choices found on the menu in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia!
Sampling some of the more interesting things that Mongolian food has to offer was just a part of the recent visit to the Inner Mongolian Agricultural University by Prof Cathy Dwyer, team leader in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at SRUC and Gemma Pearson, clinical behaviour resident at the Equine Practice, R(D)SVS. Cathy and Gemma spent two weeks in Hohhot as guests of the Agricultural University to give lectures on sheep and horse behaviour and welfare to students and industry. The trip provided a fascinating insight into the very modern (large scale industrialised dairy and sheep units managing thousands of animals) and the ancient (Buddhist temples and nomadic herdsman taking their animals out to graze on the Steppes) co-existing in China today.

Cathy Dwyer, second from left

The Chinese veterinary and agriculture students were interested in animal behaviour and welfare, and keen to discuss concepts and to be able to access other information or to attend Masters courses outside China. Animal welfare has only really be considered a subject in China for the last 10 years, and there is still some confusion over what it is and whether it is a subject of importance to agriculture. Sheep industry representatives, however, were of the belief that improving welfare would be important for the improvement in their profits. The manager of the Sino- sheep breeding farm was particularly taken by the fact that Cathy arrived in her farm boots and headed off to see the animals rather than spend the time sitting in the office drinking tea – the difference between UK and Chinese researchers he suggested!
Visits to the Technical University horse farm also revealed opportunities to help with education and training of students as the leisure horse industry is exploding in China. Mongolia has its own very special breed of hardy horses and a very old tradition of horsemanship. The horse is everywhere in Mongolia: from the horse-head guitars, statues of Genghis Khan to decorations in restaurants and homes. Scientists at the Agricultural University discussed plans to develop a stud book and preserve the unique character of this ancient breed, and the opportunity to provide a role for the horse for the Mongolian farmers was suggested through equine tourism – watch this space!      
This initial visit was characterised by cultural events, visits to important religious and cultural sites as well as academic activities. There are many opportunities for joint research and education activities with the University and hopefully this is just the start of many more visits and interactions between SRUC, University of Edinburgh and Inner Mongolia.  

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