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That’s what I said before I got my first Yak. We now have 45. There are not very many yaks in the USA. Those of us who raise them however have garnered an affection for them that is hard to describe. There are some basic facts however that make this “exotic cattle” very desirable to own. Yaks are cattle and their species name is Bos Grunniens (or the grunting ox). As their name suggests, these humped ox do not moo like normal cows, preferring to grunt instead.
Yaks are mostly raised for meat, wool, and packing/trekking. On our farm, the main use is for meat production. Yak meat is very tasty, and the health benefits are phenomenal. For detailed information on the benefits of eating yak meat, please see our ‘Benefit of Yak Meat’ page.
In addition to providing a healthy, delicious meat, yaks supply us with a high grade wool. Yaks produce two kinds of hair. The outer layer is long, strong and waterproof. This hair is used for making ropes, human hair extensions, clown wigs and fly fishing lures. The downy under layer grows in the cooler months and sheds, or molts, in the Spring. Those who wish to harvest this wool simply brush it out. Spinners prize yak wool. Its microfiber count is compared to that of cashmere. It also does not produce static electricity during the spinning process, which makes it easier to manipulate. Yaks’ beautiful coats make their hides quite marketable, as well.
In Tibet, the local people utilize yaks in virtually every facet of their lives. They are used as a main source of trekking due to their amazing ability to navigate harsh, steep terrain. Yaks are biologically designed to withstand brutal climates and sparse forage. Yak butter is used for many different things. Most of us yak owners here in the USA do not milk our yak. Their teats are very small, and they do not produce very much milk.
Their natural versatility and resilience is what makes them so desirable to herd owners. Not only do they provide us with high quality resources, but they do not consume a great deal of resources in the process. Yaks do not require shelter (in fact they rather dislike it). They much prefer to roam outdoors. Their wool shelters them from the cold, and they really seem to like Winter. As long as there are trees present to offer shelter from the hotter months, and a source of water, they are totally self sufficient.
Add to all those benefits the fact that they are disease and parasite resistant, and why wouldn’t one want to own yaks? A yak baby is low birth weight (usually around 25 pounds). Yak cows almost never require assistance during calving. Even though they are tiny, they are born just as hardy as their large parents! Despite their ruggedness, 3 to 4 yak can be kept on the same amount of pasture as a regular cow so their feeding requirements are actually less.
Although Yaks do not require any additional feed or grain, we offer it on occasion as a ‘treat’ to keep them used to us. They have remarkable individualized personalities, and they are very intelligent. They respond to our calls, and come running with excitement for a treat. It’s hard to describe how it feels to watch these majestic creatures running together as a herd, over a hill and through a pasture with their horse tails raised up over their backs-leaping, bucking and playing. Why yaks? When I’m watching them I can’t think of any reason why we shouldn’t have yaks. They truly are amazing!