Raising yaks for meat is a rewarding endeavor. The meat is very delicious, clean, satiating and versatile, and wonderful as a family homestead meat, or for larger operations. However, there are some important things to consider when getting into raising yaks for meat. If you are looking to build a meat herd, whether it be for home use or a larger venture, genetics, productivity and build are equally as important as temperament. You may not need them to be social and human oriented, but they need to be easy to work, of sound mind and safe to handle. Color is of less importance. Good meat producing animals are large framed, or produce large bodied offspring with good growth rates and have good musculature on their forequarter and hind end. That generally means good conformation and overall excellent, sound animals. While these are not necessarily show quality yaks, they must have good genetics for size, productivity and soundness. Carcass weights are determined by both feed quality and the quality of the genetics. It may seem counterintuitive to pay more for animals being raised for meat, but our best stock used for producing good meat animals are, in our opinion, our best overall yaks.
The genetic pool of yaks in the US is very small. When choosing your first yaks, it's important to think about this a little if you are planning on breeding your stock. The main thing to think about is your strategy for your operation, and to know enough about genetics to help the species rather than breed inferior animals or accidentally create inbred stock. So, you’ve chosen your lovely cows and you need a bull. But then what? Do you keep his daughters? What do you do with him? These are very common considerations for small farms. Here are some things we go over with new yak customers to get the ideas going about how to design your herd and program.
Do you want to keep a bull?
There are a few key differences to raising yaks with a bull in the herd. Hormones, safety, breeding season, herd separation and offspring planning are all part of it. Read more HERE about bulls.
Do you love him and want to keep him for many years?
Bulls are a dime a dozen, but a good bull is solid gold. Some people absolutely love their bulls and can’t imagine their herds without him. For small farms that can only keep one bull, it is then necessary to have a plan for what happens with the female offspring, and be able to manage those decisions as action items occur throughout the year. Read more HERE for managing herds.
Do you want to raise yaks for meat and butcher the female offspring?
Some folks want to raise exclusively a meat herd, don’t want to deal with marketing and selling calves, and see value in all animals for meat. In theory, this makes it easier to keep one bull for years without worrying about inbred offspring. However, in reality there are often issues. Someone in the family falls in love with a cute little heifer and wants to keep her. Daughters may accidentally be bred by their sire. Additionally, females do not have good hanging weights compared to males, and it can be more cost effective to sell them rather than butcher. Do you not want a bull but may want to breed your cows in the future? Do you want to market the offspring as tame yaks or breeding stock? Do you not want to deal with marketing offspring, but don’t want the females? Some folks just make sure to sell all the female offspring. Some rotate their bulls regularly. Some choose to not keep a bull and find other ways. Read more on breeding HERE.
yak learning center
If you have children and want yaks, please consider some important details. Even the tamest yaks have horns and can easily injure children, often accidentally. If you do plan to add yaks to your human family, ask these questions and make sure the animals you are looking for will be safe for your family.
- Do you have adequate fences to keep your children out of the yak pasture when you are not present?
- Do you expect to have your children do chores around the yaks? At what age?
- What training are you planning to do with your children to ensure their safety?
- What rules will you have in place for being with the yaks?
In general, we highly recommend starting out with adults accompanying children with the yaks at all times. The sudden motions, noises and small size of our human kiddos can startle yaks quite easily, and they can be both curious and terrified. A curious yak is cute, but be careful of the horns! We recommend folks with families start out with smaller weanling yaks. As the yaks and kids grow together, they build a bond and respect. Providing the children are aware of how to act around yaks and are in control of their body language, there should come a point when they can be safe around the yaks. I still strongly recommend that it does not occur for a long time. Photos and videos you may see of ranchers’ children with their yaks are often the result of years of living together, teaching and training.
yak learning center
There is a reality to raising animals of any kind that we must be aware of and plan for. They cost money. No matter how efficient your system, they will eventually cost money. Let’s talk about what that looks like for your goals and needs. First, it’s important to identify why you want yaks, as it relates to finances.
- Do you plan to recoup your purchase price on your yaks?
- Do you plan to turn a profit?
- Do you plan to use the yaks for tax purposes, zoning or grazing regulations?
If none of the above, do you have the resources to keep yaks if they serve no other purpose than being absolutely fantastic? If you answered yes to 1, chances are you can do so given a reasonable time frame, and we are happy to help build out the scope of ways in which to earn on your herd to recoup the purchase cost. If you answered yes to 2, that requires some planning, discussions, research and decisions around the specifics of your operation. It can absolutely be done, but there are a lot of details to determine with each type of enterprise in terms of size, scope, marketing channels, processing, breeding sales, etc.
We are happy to help any way we can. If you answered yes to 3, great! Yaks make wonderful ways to keep land in EFU designation, and have running costs associated with agricultural endeavors that can be used in conjunction with property development, maintenance and financial planning. If you answered yes to 4, you’re going to just have so much fun enjoying yaks for all of their innately wonderful qualities that go beyond our world of finances and human conundrums.
yak learning center
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