Yaks are pleasing to view and own. Their great handlebar horns, buffalo like shoulders, horse-like tail, and a long hairy skirt combined with their unique docile behavior make for an exotic appearance you can enjoy watching for hours. Yak babies are agile, athletic, playful, and leap and run like excited horses with their tails held high over their backs. Yaks are not loud animals. They communicate in quiet grunts, snorts and head shakes. Yaks are extremely intelligent, curious, independent, serene, mellow, and quiet animals that make them a pleasure to raise.
Because of their unique heritage of thriving in high mountainous regions with great temperature extremes they are extremely hardy and well suited for environments that are considered traditionally considered inhospitable to livestock. They love the cold, dry conditions and require no special shelter or diets. Yak calves, cows and steers easily become halter trained, and can make great pets or 4H project animals. They are an excellent choice for packing and trekking purposes. An adult animal can pack tremendous weight through rough mountainous terrain more surefooted than horses or mules. Not needing shoes, they are trail friendly and require little more than browsing along the way. They also can be confined with horses and combined for a unique pack string.
Yaks are naturally very hardy and disease resistant. Their great wooly coat consists of an outer guard hair and a fine inner hair called down. The down provides insulation against the cold winter months. Each spring as the weather warms, the yak start naturally shedding their downy undercoat. Yak owners help this along by combing out their yaks and collecting the down. It is then washed and processed the same as the fiber from sheep and other fiber animals. An adult yak produces approximately one pound of down per year. Yak fiber is soft and luxurious. It is close to Qiviut (musk ox down) and compares in softness and warmth to Cashmere. Yak fiber is not slippery and can be easily spun. The micron count of yak is 15-18. It has a short staple 1 1/2? – 2? with an irregular crimp. It is wonderful for woven and knitted garments, additionally; yak down is a great fiber to felt.
Most uniquely is the taste and benefit of yak meat which is quite possibly the healthiest and best tasting meat on the market. Yak meat averages 96% lean red meat and rates extremely low in the “bad” Palmitic acid and saturated fats associated with heart disease and high cholesterol. It is also very high in protein and iron, and the “good” oleic acids and poly-unsaturated fats. It has a delicious and delicate beef flavor which is never gamey or greasy and is even lower in fat that salmon. Testing has proven that nine out of ten persons will prefer yak meat over beef, bison or elk.
Yak make an excellent livestock choice for the hobby farmer or the serious rancher. The stocking rate of yak is 3 to 4 times that of cattle, which means you can raise 3 to 4 times as many yak per acre as you could beef cattle. Their initial pound of gain versus pound of feed far exceeds that of cattle. Studies have shown that yak use less than as little as six pounds of grass forage, to convert to a pound of gain. In the wintertime yak slow down their metabolism to conserve energy, while beef cattle need to eat more to produce enough energy to contend with the cold. Additional benefits include their compatibility with most agricultural operations; they require no special fencing beyond standard cattle fence and qualify for certain tax advantages. Another great attribute is their longevity. Yaks live and reproduce up to twenty-five years of age.
This great animal abounds in history, culture and tradition. One of the most unique aspects of yaks is that they are still considered a rare animal in most of the world. The wild Yak is listed as an Endangered Species and numbers less than three hundred animals world wide. The International Yak Association and the North American Yak Registry maintain the registry and preserves the pedigree of the breed. Currently, there are less than one thousand registered yak in North America and approximately 2,000 overall.