Cattle market day

This week I visited two separate markets. the first set of pictures is from Shebaitu, which is about 50km north of Tongliao, and the second is from Kailu, which is about 100k to the southwest.

Shebaitu

Kailu

The markets themselves were both pretty similar. Start in the afternoon (1:00 or 1:30), and trade until the next morning, but in both cases, most of the action happens within the first hour. Maybe even less. I’m glad I got there early to chat in the half hour of waiting, because once the market starts, everyone–buyers and sellers–is too busy to talk.

The cattle markets are held three days a week, and in between there are sheep markets, but these are not as well attended, because there’s less profit in sheep. The markets also provide services, like loans and health certifications.

So who are these people, and what are they doing? Overwhelmingly, they’re feeders, which means that they buy grazed cattle and fatten them up for slaughter. This process takes anywhere from six months to a year, but can add thousands of yuan to the price of the animal. Some people do this as a sideline–you’ll see a few head of cattle in the back gardens of village houses. Others do it on a larger scale. My friends in the pictures have about 200 head of cattle each, and make most of their profit margin at this stage. Other buyers were coming in from all over northern China.

What does all this mean? Well, to me it means a lot, because I want to know how Chinese beef chains work, and every place I visit does things in a different way. But that’s the thing–you have to go there and see for yourself. It’s hard work, but it’s the only way to understand what’s going on.