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Bring buffalo to avoid the cold

LAO CAI – Herds of buffalo worth hundreds of millions of dong are brought by Sa Pa people from the forest to their shacks, rented by cars to the lowland 30 km away to avoid the cold.

On the afternoon of February 20, many households in Sa Pa town took their buffaloes to hide in the lowlands of Coc San (along with Lao Cai city) before the cold air continued to intensify. The morning temperature of the same day in many places dropped sharply, Sa Pa was about 2 degrees Celsius, while Mau Son (Lang Son), Xin Cai (Ha Giang), Phia Oac (Cao Bang) had thin ice.

Before each annual northeast monsoon, many Hmong households around Sa Pa often bring buffaloes to the field to graze in Coc San to avoid the cold and bring them back in the spring of next year. At the beginning of winter, when corn is harvested on the fields, the grass begins to die, and food for cattle is scarce.

Coc San is located in an airtight valley, more than 30 km from Sapa, the temperature is about 10 degrees Celsius while the town drops to about 1 degree Celsius.

Mr. Ma A Phu’s family (50 years old, residing in Ham Rong ward) raises 4 buffaloes. A month ago, he spent 600,000 VND to rent a truck to transport buffaloes from Sa Pa to Coc San to avoid the cold, and is expected to bring them back at the end of March.

Buffalo farmers often follow the news on the radio or spread the word to each other to cut grass to store, go to the forest to collect more firewood, shield the camp to be stable against the north wind. Livestock households around the town all realize that Sa Pa is increasingly scarce of water. The land is arid each year, the grass is difficult to grow, natural lawns are harder to find.

Grown buffaloes are worth 30-40 million VND, calves are 10-15 million. A herd of 3-5 buffaloes can amount to hundreds of millions of dong. For the Mong people like Mr. Phu, they raise buffaloes for economic accumulation when there is a big job such as building a house, getting married, sending their children to school. “It’s very secret, I don’t have money to sell buffalo,” said Mr. Phu.

Ma A Tru’s barn has two buffaloes and one calf. Breeding for more than ten years, experiencing cold and harmful winters, the 42-year-old man remembers most in the winter of 2016 when it snowed continuously in Sa Pa, Y Ty, buffaloes kicked their legs and then died. That year, the buffalo raised for four years kept getting weaker and weaker, so he had to urgently call a merchant, selling more than 10 million, while the live buffalo was worth 3-4 times more.

Temporary tents are stretched from canvas, piled with bamboo trunks or trees, tied with steel. Every season, when people drive buffaloes to avoid the cold, people often cut down trees and buy new tarpaulins to repair tents.

Grade A Sung, 15 years old, plays video games in a hut after bringing home a buffalo to eat. He and his parents brought 5 buffaloes down from Sa Pa to avoid the cold on February 18. Sung had been absent from school a few years ago, being the family’s main buffalo herder.

With a household raising dozens of buffaloes, the whole family takes turns going to San Coc to take care of them. They raise chickens, grow cassava and maize on the hillsides around the grazing place.

Because families raise livestock in the same area, many households have to chase buffaloes as far as 5 km to find a source of food.

In the late afternoon, Mr. Tru and his wife went to the forest to collect more firewood and cut more grass, fearing that the next day the temperature would drop even lower.

On the top of O Quy Ho pass, nearly 10 km from Sa Pa, Mr. Grade A Sai chased a herd of 11 buffaloes and calves back to the fields near his house. The buffalo herd will be kept in tents temporarily until the cold weather ends, which is expected on February 24. Every winter comes, what the indigenous people raising buffalo like Mr. Sai do not want the most is snowfall.

The North entered the second day of the strongest cold airwave since the beginning of the season, causing severe, damaging cold. Strong cold air will continuously strengthen in the two days of February 20-21, combined with high-altitude wind convergence, which will cause widespread showers and thunderstorms in the North. People are advised to avoid cold for cattle, limit outdoor activities, especially do not use coal for heating in closed rooms.

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