Yaks are very similar to cattle and are most simply described as "small, hairy, beautiful cattle with horns." They are native to the Himalayas and are usually found in Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, and China. Many people in the Himalayas rely on yaks. Yaks provide meat and milk; dung can be used as fuel and the hides and felted hair are used for clothing and shelter. Although yaks are generally rare in the United States, they are well suited to the small farm. In addition to being a multi-purpose animal, yaks are typically mild mannered and are not as flighty as bison. Their smaller size makes them lighter on the land and they are well suited to forage based systems. We have 11 yaks in our herd now, including 4 beautiful Royal (white and black) yaks. Most of our herd is full black (Imperial). We think our yaks are great fun on the farm and are a fantastic addition to the landscape. For more information on yaks see:
Yak meat is similar to grass-fed beef and bison. It is a lean, dark red meat with a delicate, delicious flavor. It islower in calories, saturated fats, cholesterol, and triglycerides than beef and higher in protein. We've had many people get back to us about how much they enjoy our yak meat. Because of its unique qualities yak also cooks differently than beef. We recommend doing a little research to best ensure your success in preparing it. For some good tips on cooking yak, see:
Yaks produce amazing fiber. They have two layers of hair, an overcoat that is water-resistant and an insulating layer underneath. Yak fiber is a sought after product for fiber artists. The undercoat has the micro-fiber consistency of cashmere, at 14 to 20 microns.
Yaks can be milked, people in the Himalayas use the yak cows for milk all the time, but it isn't common in North America. There are currently no commercial yak dairies in North America, but there are people who have milked yaks for personal consumption. Yaks are difficult to milk, they have small utters and teats, they are very hairy, and don't always appreciate being handled. It's also hard to compete with subsidized cattle dairies. Milking yaks is something we are interested in pursuing, because the milk has very high butterfat, 7-11% butterfat. Which makes it awesome for yogurt and cheese.
Yaks are hardy animals, and great for the small sustainable minded farmer. They take up less space than cattle, as they are smaller.