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Yaks!

 
Niko Economides
Posts: 24
Location: Marquette county Michigan's upper peninsula
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Ok so here I go the first of many (I'm sure) questions. Yak people sing out! Has anyone milked a yak? Worked a yak? I'm working towards larger animals on our forrested kinda hilly and rocky homestead we now have sheep on silva pasture, red oak aspen birch maple.
 
patrick canidae
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I sold a herding dog to the only folks I knew at the time who had yak east of the Mississippi. I travelled to their ranch and dog broke their yak and other livestock for several days. The yak suffered immensely from the heat, humidity, and low elevation. The owners gave up the project after a few years because of respiratory ailments, mastitis and foot rot. An animal that you can't kill at 40 below zero can't handle several inches of 30-39 degree rain, wet snow and mud for two weeks straight and really struggled with high heat, high humidity in the summer months.

Most yak can't even produce as much milk as a dairy goat, and with much shorter lactation persistence. 5 months of lactation for maybe 400-600 pounds of milk. 1/3 to a 1/5 of a decent dairy goat.

Yak are adapted to high, dry plateaus. While there may be some bos taurus x yak that could take a humid, low altitude environment, the original thing really suffered. There are some hobby yak producers in the northern lower peninsula. You can find them on the iYak registery and talk to them. Go to the iyak.org breeder page and click on the state tab to organize the breeders alphabetically by state.

 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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My next door neighbor breeds and raises yaks, and sometimes his daughter even milks them. They are interesting animals, and beautiful.

The main consideration between yaks and cattle is an ecological one. Yaks, coming from Tibet, can thrive in barren rangeland that would kill a cow. On the other hand, if you have lush pastures like Switzerland, this is much better suited to cattle. The climate considerations are significant as well, but both cattle and yaks can handle the cold, it is just that yaks cannot handle the heat like cattle can.

In the end, if your pasture is good enough quality to support cattle, then raise cattle. Cattle are much more productive, breed more reliably, produce more pounds of meat per year, and are vastly superior milking animals. Milking a yak is like milking a sheep in terms of quantity, except you are dealing with a giant animal that is not necessarily super tame in the stanchion. The only reasons to choose yaks over cattle is because your pasture is too poor for cows, or you especially like the novelty of yaks.

hope that helps!
 
Rebecca Norman
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Hi from yak-land here in the Himalayas. Yaks don't like it in the balmy lowlands down here at 11,000 feet high. Some years one or two will come nosing around our school in the winter when everything is totally frozen, but in Ladakh they really prefer it up above 14,000 feet.

Yep, they really produce very little milk, though very rich. A friend's parents keep yaks (up on a high pass near a convenient highway, at 14 - 16,000 feet), and he's making cheese. His mom sends a 15 liter container down to him every morning all summer, and it seems that their 15 - 20 female yaks produce 15 liters of milk max. The advantage is that they don't have to be fed anything extra in this biome where pasturage and fodder are scarce, and they fend for themselves. Their meat is delicious, and their fluffy underwool makes a lovely, soft and exceptionally warm but heavy yarn. Their coarse long hair used to be spun for ropes and tents but those aren't needed much now.

The dzo (Bos taurus [cattle] x B grunniens [yak]) is happy down here at 11,000 alongside cows. Male dzos are infertile, and females produce calves that almost never survive. The males are used for draft animals here (whereas neither bulls nor yaks are), and the females are considered hardier than cows but lower producing. I suspect the local breed of cows might share more genes with yaks than non-local breeds like Jerseys do, because a cross of a yak with a local cow produces a strong dzo, whereas a cross with a Jersey cow produces a weak dzo, even though the Jersey mother is like twice the size of the little local cow.
 
B.E. Ward
Posts: 79
Location: Aside the Salish Sea
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Jack Spirko had an episode last week with a 16-year old who has Yaks in Oregon..

http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/yaks-and-anarchy
 
Niko Economides
Posts: 24
Location: Marquette county Michigan's upper peninsula
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Thanks for the good advice. I will probably look into another animal for milk production although a yak cross is still appealing. Part of the appeal is our terrain. I live on property witch backs up to thousands of acres of state park an I am responsible for maintaining some of the trail. Plus the northern part of my property is pretty rugged and my small 4 wdrive tractor has no business working in there. I may go with oxen but some arias maybe to rugh for them, aspecaly the trail work. I'm still at least 2 years away from having to make a decision but it's fun to plan.
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This pic shows what the north portion of our property looks like. I took this pica couple days ago the temp was 15 below zero. Summers can get hot humid but hot for us is 80 degrees.
 
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