For millennia, milk products have been a core part of the dietary economy of the Eurasian steppes. After the end of state socialism, millions of people in the countryside again rely on their livestock for survival. All over the region, milk is overwhelmingly produced by family farms, with microbes playing a central role in creating storable long-lasting products.
With an interdisciplinary approach that will bridge the gap between cultural heritage, contemporary economies and microbial biodiversity, this conference will bring together a diverse group of scientists, livestock owners, civil society actors and state employees from Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China and Germany.
Working on past and contemporary dairying in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, together we will discuss the archaeology, history and contemporary trends of dairying in the Eurasian steppe. The central aim of the conference is threefold:
First, to foster collaboration between practitioners, civil society organizations and researchers in order to develop protocols to identify and preserve peasant milk microbes and to increase herd health. In light of the growing influence of standardized starter cultures imported from abroad, this will help to protect the dairying variety of the steppes.
Secondly, this project will start an open dialog regarding the preservation of these unique microbial cultures in culture banks. Such preservation will ensure open and continued access to unique starter cultures for future generations.
Third, in light of recent advances in genetics and archaeology, understanding the diversity of modern dairy foods and practices will be instrumental to shed light on the co-evolution of humans and dairying microbes through comparison with archaeological finds.