In Arunachal, a parlour for yak milk 

The Nyukmadung Dairy, situation about 2,800 metres above sea level, aims to popularise a range of products from the milk of the animal that’s referred to as the ‘ship of the Himalayas’ 

Published - September 16, 2023 06:30 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Nyukmadung in Arunachal Pradesh sports the first parlour for yak milk and milk products.

Nyukmadung in Arunachal Pradesh sports the first parlour for yak milk and milk products. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A high-altitude village in Arunachal Pradesh, known for a 1962 war memorial, has added a first-of-its-kind parlour for milk from a bovine animal that’s often called ‘the ship of the Himalayas’. 

Travellers to and from Tawang invariably stop at the Nyukmadung War Memorial to pay homage to Indian soldiers who died fighting Chinese aggressors nearby on November 18, 1962. The main memorial is a 25-foot-high chorten — a Buddhist shrine — conforming to local ethos and traditions. 

The village, at about 2,800 metres above sea level, now sports the Nyukmadung Dairy at the farm of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research-National Research Centre on Yak, or NRC-Y. The farm in the West Kameng district is about 25 km from Dirang, where the yak research centre is situated. 

“The dairy, inclusive of a parlour, was opened on September 15 with the objective to make yak farming more remunerative by making yak milk and its diverse derivatives such as designer paneer, ghee, curd, and ripened and mozzarella cheese popular,” Mihir Sarkar, Director of the NRC-Y, said on Saturday. 

The facility was inaugurated by S.P. Kimothi, a member of the New Delhi-based Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board. 

The yak (Poephagus grunniens) is the lifeline of highland ethnic communities living in the Himalayan and trans-Himalayan regions in conditions not favourable for any type of agrarian activities. The animal sustains the livelihood of the highlanders by yielding milk, meat, fibre, hide, and dung apart from being used for transportation. 

Yak milk and milk products are the integral components of the diet of these highland communities thriving in an extremely hypoxic and harsh environment without vitamin and mineral supplements, NRC-Y scientists said. 

Yak milk is creamy white, thick, sweetish, fragrant, and richer in protein, fat, lactose, minerals, and total solids than cow milk. It contains 15.63-19.63% of total solids with 5.29-8.73% of fat, 3.45-4.27% of protein, and 0.64-0.82% of ash. 

In general, yak milk is considered naturally concentrated milk enriched with a higher nutrient density and loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, and antioxidants. It also has vitamins and minerals. 

Although raw yak milk is inadequately available for consumption due to the remote habitat of yak rearing, most of it is processed into various traditional products like chhurpi (wet soft cheese), churkham (hard cheese) and mar (butter), and a small portion of the raw milk is had in the form of butter tea for the communities’ own consumption, with a little left for sale. 

The NRC-Y has been working on diversification and value-addition to make yak milk and milk products suitable for commercial production. The activities include hands-on training and capacity-building programmes for tribal yak farmers.

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