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Tashigang: Mule Breeding Programme

The programme began in 1998 as an off-farm activity to generate additional income for farmers in the five geogs. The geogs were given a donkey each to start breeding mules. "In the past mules were bred because they were a means of transport and were best suited for pack pony," said Samten, a 52-year-old farmer from Radhi and an expert in getting donkeys to mate with mares, a skill he gained from his parents. "The mules have to be guided only once through the path farmers normally travel and the next time they knew exactly which path to take," he added.

A Farmer in Phongmey
Mules in Haa
Previously only the required number of mules were bred to serve as pack ponies said Tashi Tshering, 31, a farmer from Tokshimang village in Phongmey because villages itself had very few horses needed to breed the mules. Gradually farmers started buying more horses from Arunachal Pradesh and began breeding more mules. "We sold one mule and bought five horses and used them to produce more mules," said Tashi Tshering. "Now we have enough horses."
Mule breeding is costly
According to Tashi Tshering a good full grown horse might cost about Nu. 5,000 but even a not fully developed mule fetches the at least Nu. 15,000. "A full fledged mule with a desirable colour, can go upto about Nu. 30,000," he said. Tashi Tshering said that buyers normally prefer a full-sized mule with a reddish-brown colour, which indicates that they are supposedly stronger and agile than other mules. Black tinted mules although fully developed fetched only Nu. 12,000.

Tashi Tshering sold three mules last year and used the income to renovate his old home. He now runs a small general grocery shop.

Mule breeding and mating

According to Tashi Tshering breeding mules is easy to manage, but if a male horse mates with the same female horse that a donkey had mated with on the same day, the female horse fails to produce offspring either of the horse or the donkey.

During the mule-breeding season from March to July, the donkey is made to mate with about 15 mares in a day.
The mares produce their offsprings, mules, in about 11 months. The mules have to be fed and taken care of for about three more years till they gain their full body weight and are fully grown.
Farmers who bring their mares to mate with the donkey pay a fee of Nu. 10 and once the mare produces a mule the farmer has to pay an additional Nu. 350 to the owner of the donkey.
Contributed by Samten Wangchuk, Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper
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