Scientific name: Bos grunniens
Other common names: Tibetan Yak
The domesticated Yak (Bos grunniens) is a cross between the wild Yak (Bos mutus) and local domestic cattle breeds in nations surrounding the Himalayan Mountains such as Tibet. Yaks were domesticated in Tibet around 3000-2500 B.C.E., and then spread throughout western China to Mongolia. Yaks are an important domestic animal in countries like China, and because of their hardiness, meat and fiber, are also growing in popularity in the West.
According to the International Yak Association (IYAK), "Yaks can fill the market niche of every cattleman, small acreage owner or exotic breeder. They provide a source of breeding stock, crossbreeding stock, meat, fiber, milk and dairy products, hides, horns, and make excellent pack or show animals." "Yak meat has a delicious and delicate beef like flavor. It is very low in fat as the fat layer is put down on the outside of the carcass and is easily trimmed off. It is deep red in color, high in protein, and low in calories, saturated fats, cholesterol and triglycerides.
"Yak fiber is comparable to cashmere or angora. It is the downy undercoat that sheds off during the spring and can be combed out, collected and processed. The courser outer hair or ‘guard hair’ can be used to weave ropes and belts."
Appearance / health:
Yaks are herd animals maturing to more than 10 ft. long and 6 ft. tall. The tail is about 2 ft. in length. The body color is typically brown to black, sometimes whitish with varied markings and patterns among domesticated yaks. The head is broad and drooping; the shoulders are humped. Both sexes are horned, growing from the sides of the head and curving upwards. The horns average 38 inches on the male, and are smaller and shorter on the female. The fur is wooly, shaggy, and thick, with a dense undercoat.
According to the International Yak Association (IYAK), "Yaks, (Bos grunniens), a member of the bovine family, are divided into the following categories: 1. Imperial: black with a black nose. 2. Black: black with a gray nose. 3. Trim: black with white trim usually on the forehead, feet and tip of tail. 4. Royal: black and white (similar to Holstein markings). 5. Golden: dun coloring over black 6. Woolly: longer and thicker hair coat"
Behavior / temperament:
Yaks are extremely tolerant of very low temperatures and can even swim across lakes and rivers that are close to freezing. They are sensitive to warm temperatures and will climb mountains to escape the heat. They look bulky and awkward but they are excellent climbers. They are quick to flee when threatened or startled. They may charge but usually abort and flee before coming face to face with the intruder. Their common vocalization is a grunt (they don’t moo), hence the name “grunniens.”
Housing / diet:
In general Yak utilize their feed much more efficiently than cattle, so 3 to 4 Yak will graze an amount approximately equal to 1 cow. According to the International Yak Association (IYAK), "Yaks are ‘easy keepers’. They require no special fencing needs. Your standard 4-wire barbed wire fence is sufficient. They are cold hardy and disease resistant. Birthing comes easily as the calves are relatively small at around 35 lbs. Although yaks do not do as well in extremely hot and humid climates, they are fine at normal ‘summer’ conditions when shade trees and fresh water are available. The stocking rate of yaks is greater that of commercial cattle. A yak eats about 1/3 the amount of hay that a commercial cow eats. Yaks do not need a finishing ration, thus you can eliminate grain, hormones and steroids. A good mineral block is essential, however, along with free choice freshwater."
fiber animals, small acreage farms, multipurpose animals, Yak products, unique personalities
rut breeding seasons, good fence, extra wormings
low hum, exceptionally keen senses, ongoing pack training
Just the facts and more.
I guess I could give you all the facts on why you should raise Yaks but let us look into some reasons why we still enjoy them.
For just a minute imagine an early spring day, the Yaks (we have Royals but all will be the same) are out on the tall pasture grass. I stand at the gate and call them "by name" (yes they do know their name) and over the hill they come, not a slow methodical way but hopping and kicking up their heals as though they are little kids playing (our Scottish Highland doesn't do this). With tall raised as though they are in a royal parade and tongues hanging out "here is our HAPPY yaks". You can tell when they are happy.
By now you know they do not MOOO they have a soft grunt but wait if crossed with other cattle will the calf MOO or Grunt? Neither the calf (so far 2 Yak/Highland, one bull and one heifer) has a low hum. I think it is a different accent like some one from the south vs up north.
We had to bottle feed one of our bull calves this year (born 4 Jul 2010), he is in ongoing pack training and our pig/chicken herder. When I am out working on fencing he will follow till I stop for repairs, off he goes but not far and soon here he comes jumping around through the woods back to me. They are social animals, since he was bottle fed his herd consists of Mulefoot pigs, chickens, ducks and Bell and Charlie (our draft horses). In fact when we put him out with the rest of the Yaks he could care less and will come running when we return.
We raise them because they are very hearty and easy keepers but we keep them because of their character.
My disclaimer: Just like most other animal more time spent with them the friendly they get (for the most part). Feel free to send us a note for questions.
RedBird Inn Farm
From RedBird Farm May 13 2011 10:58PM
Yaks - Our Gentle Forest Helpers
We considered many livestock animals before choosing yaks. Our high elevation, 9,400 ft. near the Continental Divide, dictated the need for hardy livestock that could handle extreme winters and predators. We have seen our yak herd surround their babies to protect them when a coyote passes through our property. We have heard of yaks protecting their owners in the same way.
Having raised Angus in the past, we wanted animals with a much gentler disposition that could be easily handled. We purchased our original breed stock based on inherited gentleness and top quality genetics. Our goal has been to produce gentle high quality registered breed stock and good fiber production animals that others who want these qualities could purchase. Success was achieved in 2010 with our first baby yaks born at the Mystic T Ranch.
Our personal experience has been that yaks receiving close interaction multiple times a day are much easier to train and handle than yaks left out to pasture with little to no human contact. Basically, with any animal, you will get out of the relationship what you put into it.
Several of our little yaks are in training for packing wearing light weight packs to get them accustomed to wearing a pack. We find yaks are very alert and make wonderful companions to have on the trail with their exceptionally keen senses and surefootedness.
Our yaks are also an essential part of our Forest Management Plan and are helping us to restore our land. Our land was used for mining 100 years ago and lost most of its topsoil due to clear cutting for mining timbers. Our yaks stir up the years of accumulated pine needles helping them to deteriorate more quickly by mixing them into the rocky soil. Composted yak manure is excellent for helping to rebuild topsoil and for new tree planting. Yaks are easy on the land which is not true of all livestock. We think yaks are the perfect animal for a small farm and ranch as they have so much to offer and so many uses.
From Mystic T Ranch May 13 2011 6:56PM
Yakking about Yaks
Upon hearing that Yaks could be interbred with cattle, my Dad was quite curious, and decided it would be an excellent idea to get a male yak to interbreed with our primarily highland cattle herd.
I can't say this was the best success. The yak was a lovely animal, but was more than a bit dull (as in, stupid. Very stupid). We theorize that he may have had a slight brain injury, as the breeder later told us that in general, the other yaks from his birth herd were quite intelligent.
He was also not very hardy, and required extra wormings and extra food during the winters. Unfortunately (again, not necessarily a yak thing, but perhaps a 'brain damaged from birth' thing), the yak was not quite certain what species it was, or which it could inter-breed with. We kept him with the highland cattle and a small herd of horses, and he was always far more interested in the mares than the cows. Ultimately, our goal of interbreeding him with the cows was not successful both because of this, and because we had a hardy, sizable highland bull who provided significant competition when it came to breeding the cows.
In terms of temperament, our yak was very amenable and responsive - this only increased the more time we spent with him. He liked to have a lot of room to roam, so our large pastures were a great benefit. I have heard that some yaks are aggressive, and this could cause significant danger, as they have long horns and can be quite nimble creatures.
Yak meat is very similar to cattle meat, but tends to be leaner than beef.
Overall, having a yak was interesting, but not especially rewarding for us. However, much of this was due to our specific interests and expectations..
From mernst Sep 21 2014 6:04PM