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Review of the research and development of Bayingolin yak in Xinjiang, P.R. China

T. Abudula,1 L. Hongyun,2 Zh. Changrui3 and Ch. Jingbo4

1. Bureau of Animal Husbandry, Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, Kurl 841000, Xinjiang, P.R. China
2. Institute of Animal Science, Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, Kurl 841000, Xinjiang, P.R. China
3. Technique Extension Centre of Animal Husbandry, Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, Kurl 841000, Xinjing, P.R. China
4.Institute of Animal Science, Xinjiang Academy of Animal Science, Urumqi 830000, Xinjiang, P.R. China


This paper presents the origin, distribution, productive and reproductive performances, and natural environments of Bayingolin yak, one of the Chinese yak breeds in Bayingolin, Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang, P.R. China. The brief review of past research and development activities on Bayingolin yak covers genetic selection, crossbreeding, embryo transfer between cattle and yak, wool analysis, fattening trials, disease control, physiological and biochemical measurements etc. The paper identifies problems in yak production in the area and suggests possible ways to develop the yak industry in the next five years.

Keywords: Bayingolin yak, crossbreeding, improvement, origin, productive performance


Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture is located in the north-eastern part of Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region, P.R. China. With 11 million hectare of grasslands, the Prefecture ranks first among all Prefectures in Xinjiang in terms of grazing area. Out of the total grassland area, useable grassland area is 8.6 million hectare, which accounts for one-sixth of the total useable grasslands in Xinjiang. Some 3 million hectares of alpine pastures are suitable for yak production. There are around 3 million domestic animals in eight counties and one city of the prefecture, out of which 100 thousand are yak. The meat production is 60 thousand tonnes in the Prefecture, and total value of animal production is 340 million RMB Yuan (US$ 1 = 8.2 Yuan during this study) per year.

Distribution of Bayingolin yak and the natural environment in central yak production area

Bayingolin yak are mainly found in Tianshan Mountain area and Baluntai Mountain area in the north part, and in Arjin-Kunlun Mountain in the north-eastern part of the Prefecture. The Bayinbluk pasture in Hejing County is the central yak production area, one of the most famous highland plateau pastures in China, where the average altitude is 2500 metres above sea level (masl), annual average temperature is 4.5°C, and the ground is covered with snow in the basin for as long as over half a year. The average temperature in January is 26°C, the minimum temperature in the year is 48.1°C. The average temperature in July is 10.4°C, and the maximum temperature in the year is 28°C. There is no absolute frost-free period throughout the year, and the cold season is over 8 months. The annual rainfall is 468 mm, and annual wind speed is 2.23 m/s. The mean fresh grass yield is 17743404 kg/ha. Bayinbluk grassland has excellent natural pastures. This area is one of the main animal husbandry bases for Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and about 90% of Bayingolin yak are found here.

Origin of Bayingolin yak and its productive and reproductive performances

Bayingolin yak were introduced from Tibet in the early 1920s. Following long-term selective breeding by local Mongolian herdsmen, the Bayingolin yak were developed as a yak breed with common genetic background, relatively uniform body type and appearance, and good meat production characteristics and adaptability to the harsh local conditions.

The live weight of mature male and female yak is 300400 kg and 200300 kg, respectively. The height is 120130 cm and 105115 cm for mature male and female, respectively. The annual average milk production is 250300 kg, and the milk contains 68% butterfat. The dressing percentage is 4050%. Annual wool production is 13 kg for mature male yak. Mature steer yak can carry 7080 kg and walk for 3040 km in a day.

Male yak usually start breeding at the age of 3 years and 46 years is the best breeding age. The breeding ability decreases after the age of 8 years. The age at first breeding for female yak is 3 years. The breeding season is June to November. Average oestrous cycle is 20 days and ranges form 1525 days. The oestrus persistence period is 32 hours and ranges from 16 to 48 hours, but female yak over 8 years of age show longer oestrus time. On average, the gestation period is 257 days and ranges from 224 to 284 days. The reproductive rate is 77.13% in yak herds and yak calves survival rate is 98.65%.

Research and development activities in Bayingolin yak

Selection within the native local herds

To encourage the yak industry to a steady and healthy development and increase the local yak productive performance to continue providing the range of products for the local communities, we followed the yak development guidance of 'selection within the breed in the native herds and crossbreeding in the commercial herds', which was proposed after investigation in the central yak production area. The data on the traits of body weight, main body type measurements, growth rate, meat and milk production, and draft ability showed a serious degeneration of yak herds over the years. For the genetic improvement purpose, we developed and applied 'Standards of Bayingolin yak'. The genetic background, appearance, live weight, body size, wool and milk production, and reproductive performance of individual breeding yak were assessed and all animals with poor performance were eliminated from the breeding herds.

Crossbreeding with wild and semi-wild yak

We also introduced male yak from Datong Yak Farm in Qinghai to get some new blood in 1981 and 1983. In May 2000, the third batch of 292 semi-wild yak were introduced to the Hejing County from the Datong Yak Farm, of which 235 were females and 57 were males. Some 5000 dosages of the pure wild yak frozen semen were introduced at the same time. All introduced animals were kept in the Ulastaichahan Animal Production Farm for acclimatisation to the new environment. After the adaptability of these semi-wild yak was achieved, a pure reproductive herd had been set up to increase the number for further extension to the local farmers for the crossbreeding programme. Regarding the introduced wild yak frozen semen, skilled technicians have been assigned to carry out artificial insemination of the Bayingolin yak with the aim of increasing the meat traits in the herd.

Crossbreeding with Tianzhu White yak

In 1989, eight breeding bulls of the Tianzhu White yak were introduced from Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County of Gansu Province. A significant improvement and economic efficiency were achieved by subsequent crossbreeding in local farmers' herds such as the disease resistance and tolerance to cold and harsh highland conditions (Table 1). All the crossbreds achieved the standard of 'Best Grade' on body weight for Bayingolin yak.

Problems and recommendations

Harsh natural environment in yak production area, simple and old production facilities, and lack of forage and grain supplement in the cold seasons are the main difficulties of yak husbandry in Xinjiang. Furthermore, the old traditional herding method of having the yak grazing in migratory system all year around to follow the water and grass are still practised. This results in small numbers of female animals per herd, low reproductive and survival rate, high mortality rates and low off takes.

Table 1. Performance of F1 crosses between the Tianzhu White and local black yak.




Birth weight of local black yak calves (kg)

12.8 ± 1.0

12.8 ± 0.9

Birth weight of crossbreds (kg)

17.4 ± 1.7

13.8 ± 1.7

Body weight of adult crossbreds (kg)



Wool of 2-year-old yak



Based on our analysis, the development of Bayingolin yak should emphasise on the breeding to improve productive performance. Development of the yak industry should result into increased animal productivity and better animal products. This, in turn, should increase farmer's income, and improve the living standards of yak-herding families.

If the programme is implemented successfully, yak numbers are expected to increase to 120 thousand by the year 2005 from 100 thousand at present, female ratio will be up to 60%, reproductive and survival rate to 80%, adult and young animal mortality rate decreased to below 2%, and off take increased to 31.7%. For the quality improvement, the 'Standards of Bayingolin yak' will be enhanced. All adult yak in the herds will at least reach grade 3 or above in next five years. At the same time, a series of comprehensive measures will be taken, including introduction of new genetic material, grazing management, and disease prevention and control. All of these will make the Bayingolin yak attain high levels of performance in terms of body size, body weight, reproduction and overall production.

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