Posts Tagged ‘milking horses’

Mongolian beer comes from a horse

During summer everybody is drinking alcoholic drinks in Mongolia, even young children, as fresh water is not everywhere available. The best available alcoholic drink is called airag and comes from horse milk. I will describe the process.

The foals are tied to a rope and mares stay near

The foals are tied to a rope and mares stay near

In May and June most mares deliver a foal and they start producing milk for them. The horses walk around in herds of about 10-15 mares and can get their feed from everywhere. Now and then the herder checks where the horses hang out and if all the deliveries are successful. If the grass is growing well, the mares are caught and brought to the ger of the herder. Two big poles are pushed into the ground and a rope is tied from one of the poles to the other. The foals get a halter and are tied to the rope between the poles. This assures that the mares are staying near the ger as well.

The whole day the foals are laying or standing there, with the mares grazing nearby or sometimes a little further away if the foals are older. Every two hours the mares come to feed them. During that time, the herder and his wife make sure they are present. The herder takes the foal and lets it drink with the mare for a minute or two. Then the wife starts milking the mare for about 5 minutes in the bucket she brings with her. The mare just stands there and allows it without any problems, aggression or troubles. If the mares are young, sometimes the herder ties one leg, so he can be sure his wife will not be kicked. Most mares even bow that one leg on command, so the herder can tie it easily. Sometimes the stallion is present and walks around to protect the herd, but respects the milking process.

First the foal can drink from the mare

First the foal can drink from the mare

and then the herder's wife can milk the horse

and then the herder's wife can milk the horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all the mares have been milked, they can roam around freely again. The foals are kept tied to the rope. Every week or even within a week, the foals are set free and can walk around with their mothers to find new pastures. After a few days they are caught again and the whole process starts from the beginning. The first time the mares and foals are caught, the first foal of that year is honored. It receives a khadag (blue scarf) as part of the halter and after catching all the horses, the celebration of the airag season starts with wodka.

Every two hours the mares are milked, starting from 8am to 8pm (sometimes even after that or starting earlier). The milk gets into a big plastic barrel. At the start of the airag season, some bacteria are added, but none of the herders wanted to tell me where they get the bacteria from. Could be from a dried curd. Anyway, the milk in the big plastic barrel is stirred minimum 3000 times with a big wooden stick by the herder woman every day. If guests come over, a small bucket is filled with airag and instead of sute tseh this is drunk by all. During day, the small children can drink it as well. The average alcohol percentage is about 1,5%, but varying from 0,8% to 3%. If the airag is sold, it is placed in old plastic bottles (that hosted coca-cola, water, .. before) and has to be sold the same day. Storing it warm will make it go off.

 

You can drink airag with the herder group in the field

You can drink airag with the herder group in the field

and airag can be sold to others next to the main road

and airag can be sold to others next to the main road

 

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