Yak milk butter, anyone?

Local news, 22.01.2023

One of the unique inhabitants of Mongolia’s mountain regions is the yak, with around one million domesticated for their milk and fibre. They flourish in mountains with an altitude of over 1,800 meters above sea level and are herded in only a few provinces in the Khangai and Altai mountain ranges. 

Yak in Mongolia
Yak in Mongolia ©SDC

Yak milk is high in fat and protein but is cholesterol free and nutritious. A kilogram of yak milk fat contains 19 grams of carotene or vitamin A. The yield of butter and cheese is twice more per litre compared to cow’s milk, and the cream, curd, and ghee produced by yak herders are popular in Mongolia. Yaks are more reproductive in wild areas, far from settlements; there are no yak farms in Mongolia. Yak herders and milk producers only have the opportunity to milk their animals and process their dairy products in a traditional way and sell them twice a year at the Green Days of Autumn and Lunar New Year exhibitions.

The Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development partnered with VitaFit Milk LLC, providing 38,000 CHF to build two small milk processing plants in Bat Ulzii soum and Erdenetsogt soum in Uvurkhangai province to enable the use of the traceability system developed under the SDC’s Green Gold Project.  In the first summer, over 100,000 litres of milk were supplied by around 60 yak herders over three months, earning them over 60,000 CHF. One of the herders said, “It was thrilling to have weekly payments made to our bank accounts. For most of us, it was the first time we’ve ever had a continuous flow of income.” VitaFit Milk LLC provided all the necessary food hygiene and safety training and allowed herders to negotiate the price per litre. Herder families are at their busiest during summer months, and the time freed up from traditional milk processing is a welcome change for women mostly. 

Besides the income guarantee for the herder households, VitaFit Milk LLC created employment opportunities. The company now employs 10 people in the summer and two people throughout the year to produce high-quality butter and curd that can easily be transported to their central factory for further processing, packaging, and distribution. Twenty-one tons of yak milk curd and five tons of butter produced by VitaFit Milk LLC are stored in a freezer in Ulaanbaatar, and the packaging and production of various dairy products will commence in the first quarter of 2023. Keep an eye on supermarket shelves for yak milk products from VitaFit very soon! “These two small factories were a pilot to see if the concept would work in such a remote area. If it proves to be successful and profitable, VitaFit Milk LLC will replicate this concept in more areas with yaks. So far, we’ve learned that milk collection from popular tourist areas is less effective, and it’s better to tie collection time to yak herders’ summer camping time since they move up to the mountains as soon as the middle of August,” says the vice-director of production of VitaFit Milk LLC.  

For more information, please visit VitaFit Milk.