Highlanders in Laya gewog under Gasa dzongkhag will produce high-end yak cheese called Italian or caciocavallo cheese. This would add value to their dairy products apart from their usual cordyceps and porter businesses. The gewog livestock extension officer, Jigme Rinzin said that currently, the Layaps barter 60 percent of their dairy products with red rice and 40 percent are offered as gifts. “They need to convert their products directly into cash since the income and the market are very good,” he said. He added that Italian cheese is a high-end premium cheese that could be sold to high-end hoteliers in the country.
The cheese, shaped like a teardrop could fetch Nu 1,800 a kilogram while cow’s cheese gets Nu 1,400 a kilogram. Five litres of yak milk can produce a kilogram of cheese. There are 3,500 yaks in the gewog. With 1,500 milch yaks, the gewog has the potential to produce 360,000 litres of milk in a year. Jigme Rinzin said that the cheese is tastier because it is produced without removing butter after 12 days of ripening. The cheese is usually eaten with wine and bread. He added that there was potential for cheese production since it could be also used in pizza making, a substitute for common mozzarella cheese.
However, Jigme Rinzin said that Laya Gaki Lanor Tshogpa with 56 herders was not doing well since the herds were scattered. Passang from Chongra chiwog said that most of the herders are old and the herding responsibility was handed over to the young herders a few years back. However, the 64-year old said that most of the young herders happened to sell the yaks. In the next 20 years, Jigme Rinzin said that the number of yaks was expected to remain the same. “However, the number of herders would decline because most of the herders are old.” Young Layaps are engaged in the cordyceps business because they find it a more lucrative business than dairy farming. To support the community, the gewog livestock extension office provides dairy produce drying facilities, a cool box to store and a transportation basket. A dairy outlet will be opened in Gasa soon.