Project #10424

Heifer International and Elanco in Weichang, China

by Heifer International

This report will serve as the final report for this project.  Elanco Animal Health will be providing funds to cover the remaining costs of the project...thanks to all for your donations and support.  Please visit for more information.

Comparative Experiment Improves Farmer’s Methodology

Yangebai Township in Weichang County lies between the Yanshan Mountains and the Mongolia Plateau. Year after year, its villagers save money to buy cattle and raise them in the local hills. 
However, mass animal husbandry threatens desertification and decreases available grazing land. Heavy rains have eroded the hillsides and blocked cattle trails, leaving small-scale farmers in a harsh cycle of poverty. 
Heifer International introduced in-barn cattle breeding technology and taught villagers how the environmentally friendly method could produce higher profits. Yet, the majority of farmers were unwilling to invest the labor required to build new breeding barns. 
By conducting comparative experiments, Heifer China transformed farmers’ opinions on the newly introduced breeding method. Three demonstration farms were established with 10 cows each. Cattle from the first farm were kept in an unheated barn and fed through traditional grazing. The second farm used a heated barn, still used traditional grazing. Cattle at the third farm were kept in a heated barn and fed nutrient rich silage. 
Data recorded from January 1 to March 30, 2013 confirmed in-barn breeding produced healthier cattle. Cattle without heated barns lost 25 to 42kg (about 55 to 93 pounds) in 150 days. Heated barns and silage helped cattle gain up to 1.2kg (about 3 pounds) per day. The experiment helped farmers understand the function of heated barns and silage and eliminated farmers' worries about investing in new barns. In the spring of 2013, project participants planted 542 mu (about 90 acres) of silage corn, which was tenfold over production in 2012. During the summer, 360 project participants collectively built a new barn and began transitioning from traditional methods to in-barn breeding. This eased the threat of hillside desertification and improved livestock living conditions. 
The community also executed a desertification prevention plan. Participants planted grass on 250 mu (about 41 acres) of desertified hills to repair damage from erosion and over-grazing. Now, participants can restore hillside ecology and transform small-scale farmer’s socioeconomic status through improved cattle breeding. 

This project has addressed the goal/objective of empowering families with the tools and skills needed to develop economically-viable and ecologically-sound agricultural enterprises:
Since project implementation, Heifer China has assisted 434 families in the target villages of Weichang County. From this, 211 original families have received beef cattle and another 34 families received cattle through POG. 
The remaining families have been assisted through technical training and SHG formation.  Project families better understand the connection between hygiene and human health, and are passing on this knowledge within their communities. 
Education and public services have improved as villagers attend Heifer trainings. During this reporting period, eight trainings on cultivation and planting technology were provided for 687 participants. The topics included fodder nutrition, organic fertilizer and herb planting. Villagers have also applied training on common cattle diseases to improve animal welfare.

Difficulties:  The feed for cattle was not diversified enough during winter when the temperature can drop significantly, and the cattle suffered from malnutrition. Farmers had little awareness of silage (stored fodder), so they did not take the suggestion of making silage to improve the cattle’s nutrition.

Measures taken:  Pilot farmers were selected to produce silage to show the other farmers how silage worked in the community during winter.

Success:  By the end of 2012, five pilot farmers proved the success of producing silage. The control team of cattle where there was no silage had much poorer nutrition. Participants were convinced of the benefit of silage and other scientific feeding practices.

Yu Zhanjun feeds his cattle.
Yu Zhanjun feeds his cattle.

Yu Zhanjun, who lives in Community 3rd of Yanshang Village, Yangebai Town, Weichang County, used loans to purchase 6 cattle in 2009 in order to enrich his family. He often worked from dawn to night. When the pasture was lush in summer, he left the cattle on the mountains to eat grass early in the day. After the cattle were fed, he drove the cattle back at night. When the cattle were kept in his yard, he didn’t feed any grass for the cattle for the whole night. When the season came to winter or autumn, he followed the same procedure. The place where the cattle stayed at home was broken-down with wind blowing from four sides. At night, he just threw a bundle of dried corn stalks to cattle. The cattle didn’t gain weight and were sick sometimes. At last, in spite of his care, two cattle died. He sold the other four in autumn.  He was busy and tired of raising the cattle for nearly two years, and he didn’t gain any fact he lost more than 8000 yuan.
In June, 2012, the Heifer Project came to the village. The villagers began to discuss raising cattle to earn money. Yu Zhanjun was happy as well as fearful of the news. He took several trainings, in which the technical personnel in Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Bureau taught many things about cattle, from how to choose a good cow to which temperature cattle could adapt to, which food can make the cattle grow fast, and how to prevent disease. They hadn’t heard all these things before. After returning home, he read the manual of technical skills for raising cattle they had given him carefully and understood a truth: raising cattle also requires technology. The cattle should be of good varieties and be kept in warm places and fed carefully. Therefore, Yu Zhanjun made up his mind to try again. He applied for the Heifer Project SHG (self-help group), and added the heifer project funds to money he'd saved to buy four Simmental cattle. Under the sponsorship of the government, he also built a breathable warm shed. According to the captive raising method, whether vaccination or feed formulation, whether outdoor sports of cattle or pens clean, he did all these things by his heart. 
A few months later, the cattle in his home grew well, gaining about 1 kg every day. Yu Zhanjun became more confident in his affair. His wife was grinning from ear to ear. The moment she met people, she would say: the scientific method was really good. Just see our cattle. If not in accordance with the scientific method of raising cattle, our cattle will not be healthy like those. We can expect earning more money in the coming year.

Cow ready for new family
Cow ready for new family

A large group visited Heifer China’s Yan’gebo project in the Hebei province on May 3, including people from project funder Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Company, and Heifer International. Jeff Simmons, Elanco President; Rob Smith, Eli Lilly Foundation President; and Gail Neuwirth, Global Corporate Responsibility Consultant accompanied several people from Heifer International including Bob Bloom, Chief Financial Officer; Mahendra Lohani, Vice President, Asia/South Pacific; Tina Hall, Communications Director; and Marleen New, Director of Corporation and Foundation Relations, as well as Heifer China’s Country Director Chen Taiyong and Heifer China Beijing’s Regional Manager Song Jinpin.

Simmons, greeting participants at the animal placement ceremony, said, “Today is the beginning of all the great memories we will have for many years. All of the Elanco people are happy to be part of making your dreams come true.”

The visitors divided into three groups to visit the project families. They walked around their houses and visited with family members, learning about production and living conditions. One of the project family members asked the visitors, “What is the difference between my home and your home?” Gail Neuwirth answered, her eyes full of love and tears, “Maybe your house is different from my house. But we are the same people living in this great world community.”

The next day, the visitors went to a second Heifer China project in De’anzhuang, Chengde County. The villagers welcomed the guests joyfully with Yangge dancing, with Smith and Lohani joining in.

This project has a longer history and the project impact could be seen easily. The dramatic increase in annual incomes and the number of beef cattle sales proved that Heifer enables families to lift themselves out of poverty. The set-up of the village cooperative and its three-year business plan demonstrated that projects can inspire people to plan for their future through joint efforts like these.

Touched by the community’s confidence and enthusiasm, Lohani not only gave suggestion about the cooperative operation, he encouraged villagers to collect the plastic bottles strewn throughout their community and sell them for a small profit. He went even further by telling them to think big and educate the county about caring for the environment, and collect plastic bottles from the entire county for recycling. And then, to think even bigger again by sharing that vision and process with counties throughout China.

This two-day visit to Heifer projects exemplified to both Heifer staff and Elanco partners the effectiveness of Heifer founder Dan West’s concept, “Not a cup, but a cow.”


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Organization Information

Heifer International

Location: Little Rock, AR - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Marc Bunn
Little Rock, AR United States

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