Care and Keeping of Domestic Yak

Care and Keeping of Domestic Yak

For those wishing to keep some more unusual animals on their land, the Yak could be the animal for you. Yaks have a striking appearance, with shoulders like that of a buffalo and large horns. They have long hair that reaches below the stomach and can have various colours. Away from farming, they can make fantastic pasture pets and will respond to you by seeking attention and have real personality. Yak cows can grow to 700lbs whilst yak bulls can grow to 1400lbs.

Keeping Yaks is quite easy since they don’t require any special permits to own. Yaks can be raised in standard cattle facilities and don’t need any advanced fencing to keep in, just a standard barbed wire fence will be enough. They are moved quite easily by using a stick in front of them to direct them. When a Yak mother has calves they become very protective and will warn any perceived threats with grunts and head shakes. The Yak babies will run around a lot much like a horse and are very playful, loving to leap around the pasture.

The cost of keeping Yaks is very low since they are disease-hardened and birthing is quick and easy. This leads to vets fees being astonishingly low. As far as housing them goes, they prefer roofing without sides or even just shade provided by trees which means building and maintenance costs are low. You can pasture 4 Yaks in the same amount of space as one commercial cow making them more space-efficient, whilst food savings are significant too. A commercial cow will get through 25lbs of forage each day, but a Yak cow needs just 8lbs of forage each day. They can survive in all sorts of climates, but love the cold weather the most. During warm spells they pant strongly and spend much time in lakes, so a large water source is recommended to help the Yaks keep cool.

The produce Yaks can provide are much like cows, but they have an added bonus in that their hair and wool can be harvested and sold for a good sum. Yak hair is often used in human wig production due to its striking similarities in texture. Yak meat is juicy, flavourful and has a unique dispersion of fatty acid. Yak steaks are a delicacy around the world and can fetch a decent fee, increasing if the Yaks are fed nothing but a grass/forage diet, with no steroid or antibiotic supplements. Of course as mentioned earlier, some Yaks can become pets and when people become attached to these loveable animals they will want to keep harvest everything but meat from them. Along with hair, Yaks produce milk that can be turned into butter or cheese. This is sought after in eastern countries, but there is no real market for these or production opportunities in the US.

Overall these animals are fun to keep and if you harvest them for their meat there is plenty of profit to be made, and the cheap cost of keeping them means there are very few downsides of Yak farming, other than their capability to win over your heart.

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What does the Yak eat?

From wild yaks (Bos mutus) to the domesticated yaks (Bos Grunniens), Yaks are strong and well built animals. It is closely related o the bison and the buffalo and their bodies are made to have them adapted to cold regions. These include lungs with larger capacities as compared to most animals in the species and more hairy. The wild yaks are slightly taller and heavier than the domesticated yaks. Though they are mostly found in the Himalayas, Russia and Mongolia regions yaks are also kept as livestock for their numerous benefits.

Compared to the popular cattle breeds, Yaks are less expensive to maintain mostly because of their less expensive feeding requirements. The domesticated yaks are great sources of milk and meat. Their strength is also useful when it comes to transport, ploughing and sport such as racking yak skiing and yak polo. Wild yaks are also hunted for meat, wool and hides. Their hooves especially made to transverse through the rocks and ice.

Wild yaks are found mostly graving in herds of a hundred containing more female and young ones than the mature males. The males may choose to move alone or in groups of about six animals. Their grazing is usually depending on the climatic conditions.

Yaks do not like eating grain. For this reason, if you intend to travel with one, ensure that you have it graze on grass on the way. Other than grass, both wild and domesticated yaks will enjoy sedges such as carex, kobresia and stipa.

Yaks will also eat shrubs such as the winterfat shrub. Herbs and mosses and lichen also make up part of a yak’s diet. A yak’s independence, curiosity and brains makes it an even better pet. They are as noisy as most cattle including then the young ones are weaning.

How to feed your yak

Yaks drink snow instead of water which makes them cost efficient. A yak is able to gain an extra pound from eating only six pounds of forage. They also do not need any supplements, steroids of hormones to help them grow healthier as they can survive completely in grass.

They are herbivorous by nature and are used to grazing for grass. They also eat tubers and will re chew their food like most cattle. Mostly found in the Central Asia’s mountains, Yaks when extremely thirsty, will also chew on the ice to suck the water.

It’s several stomachs, enable the Yak to get the most nutrients from a single feed. They will also eat the twigs from trees and shrubs. They eat the grass and herbs when they are in the lower plains. When the weather gets warm, they shit to higher altitudes for the lichens and mosses.

Lichens are mostly known as being very vital forage for deers during the winter season. This makes them of good nutritional value during the cold for Yaks too.

Avoid over grazing by getting to know by leaning more about the pasture vegetation.

Early morning grazing in summer pastures during the warm season is advisable. During the winter, grazing is done more during the evenings. The grass they eat is quality and not so much. Some of those who keep yaks also give them alflfa, edible forbs and let them chew wild flowers.

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Relationship between Yak and Humans

Yaks have been living with people for thousands of years. Yaks are found in the Himalaya region of central Asia, in The Tibetan Plateau, Mongolia and in Russia. Most yaks are domesticated. However, there are some Yaks that live in the wild. Yaks are not the most beautiful animals. However, they are no doubt among the most beloved animals by the people who keep them. This is because these animals help humans in so many ways. The yaks are well adapted to cold environments. They are very intelligent and docile. Yaks love to be in herds. In the wild, a herd can have several hundred individuals. Typically, a herd has a high number of females and the young ones and a few adult males. The remaining males are either found in smaller groups or are in solitary. Domestic yaks are not uncomfortable around humans. However, the wild Yaks can be very uncomfortable when humans are around them. They tend to avoid humans or they flee when they notice human approach.

The physical characteristics of Yak

Yaks are large animals. They have a bulky frame and sturdy legs. The domesticated yaks have variable colors. The wild yaks on the other hand are usually blackish to brow in coloration. They have horns that protrude from the side of their heads and curve forwards. The horns on the males are larger than the horns on the females. They have short necks and pronounced humps over their shoulders. These animals are very friendly in nature and can easily be trained. They are rarely aggressive towards human beings. They all have a dense woolly coat covering that helps to protect them from cold.

Domesticated Yaks

Yak have been kept by people for thousands of years for their fiber, meat, milk and as beasts of burden. The Tibet people have also been using their dropping as fuel. Yaks transport goods for local farmers in the mountainous regions of South and central Asia as well. These animals get most of their food from grazing. They do not eat grains. This explain why they cannot be used for long journeys across barren regions. They can easily starve if they are not brought to places where there is plenty of grass. The yaks have also been used by humans for a long time to pull ploughs. In some part of Asia, Yak racing has been a popular form of entertainment in traditional festivals. In the recent times, sports involving the yaks has been marketed as an attraction for tourists by countries in central Asia.

The importance of Yak

The yaks have been very important to humans. They have a had a symbolic relationship with the Tibetans. They have been an important source of cheese, butter and milk to the Tibetans. These animals have also been playing an important role in transportation. The people in the central and southern parts of Asia place a high value on their protection and preservation. The Tibetans believe that they would not exist without these animals. When the yaks die, they use their bones to make jewelry.

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Biology of the Yak

Yak is a vulnerable, rare and very mysterious animal. It is a herd animal usually found in herds of 10 to 1000 yaks. Yak is a Bovid. Bovid refers to animals that fall under the biological category of animals called Bovidae. Bovidaes are ruminants which include Water buffalo, African buffalo, Bison, domestic cattle, sheeps and goats.

Yaks live in the Himalayan regions of the South East Asian Countries. Called as Bos Grunniens, Yaks inhabit the Qinghai Plateau and the surrounding moorlands of Tibet. People live in these regions, Nomadic Pastoralists and Tibetans, rely on Yaks as the important source of milk, meat and even dung of Yak. Bos Grunniens are domesticated yaks, and have been used as major source of supplying the essentials for more than 1000 years. Beyond milk, skin and meat, the dung aka excretion of yaks are used as a major source of fuel. In fact, it is the only source of fuel available in the Tibetan plateau, in the regions that has no trees.

The male wild yak weight about 1000 kg and can grow up to 2 meters in height. Female yak weighs and have the height about one-third of the male yaks. Domesticated yaks contain less fur, weigh less and appear smaller to wild yaks.

Yaks reach the age of maturity generally between 4 to 8 years. The gestation period of a yak is estimated at 260 days. The common mating period of yaks fall during September of every year and they give birth to baby yaks during April to June. Both wild yaks and domestic yaks give birth to one calf a year, in every alternate year. In many cases, due to poor feeding domestic yaks give birth to one calf every three or four years. The average life span of a yak is 20 to 23 years.

The yaks generally feed themselves in morning and evening. Since they live in high altitude areas (from 3500 feet) above the sea level, they travel long distances to nourish themselves. Yaks are sensitive to heat, but they can tolerate the even the extreme cold weather. Yaks constantly move in search of food, and stays in the high altitude regions that has permanent snow during the month of August and September. It is the mating period of yaks.

The wild yaks were found widespread throughout Tibetan Plateau and other regions namely India, Bhutan, Nepal and China. However, due to excessive hunting for meat and fur, the population of the Yaks was reduced. By the beginning of 70s, Yaks are found only in the remote areas of the hilly terrains and in a few remote areas of North East India. The breeding and distribution of the wild yaks are hampered due to hunting and human disturbance.

Yaks are herbivores and base their diet largely on grasses as well as sedges. Besides, they also rely on some herbs like winterfat shrubs, mosses, stipa and Kobresia.

International Union for the Conversation of Nature declared the wild Yaks as VULNERABLE animals. Although yaks are plant eaters, they are dangerous.

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Where do Yak Live?

Due to their unique physiology of having extra large lungs and hearts than their cattle cousins, Yaks are naturally better suited to existing at higher altitudes. It comes as no surprise then that most wild Yaks live in the most mountainous regions of countries such as Tibet, Mongolia and China. While historically Yaks have been known to have existed across whole swathes of the highest regions of central Asia, in modern times Yaks are limited to a concentrated geographical area in what is now southern central Asia; mainly encompassing the outer fringes of Tibet and its neighbouring countries.

While the majority of the wild Yak population exists within this concentrated geographical area, there are many smaller more isolated populations of wild Yak existing in more remote regions such as southernmost Xingjian province in China, Ladakh in northern India and westernmost Qinghai province in China. This is no mere coincidence as most of these regions consist of mountainous plateaus of alpine tundra which is a highly suitable habitat for the wild Yak. Unlike the barren Eurasian Steppe Belt that cuts through northern central Asia, these regions are blanketed in luscious grass; perfect for the modern day Yak to graze upon.

Moreover, while it is true to suggest that Yak are widely seen as wild animals, many are domesticated and used as a form of cattle. This is largely unsurprising based on the simple fact that most breeds of traditional cattle and livestock are physiologically ill suited to the challenging terrain of some of the world’s highest regions. As such, many domesticated Yaks can be found in countries where Yaks have been declared extinct. These countries include Nepal and Bhutan. While wild Yak are still officially declared as extinct in Nepal and Bhutan, domesticated Yak can be found in the highest regions of these countries and provide invaluable support to countless Nepalese and Bhutanese livelihoods.

It is also worth noting that from a historical perspective, it would be inaccurate to assume that Yaks have always resided in this very specific part of southern central Asia for time immemorial. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Recent fossil discoveries in the eastern most regions of what is now considered mainland Russia, have shed light on the possibility that Yaks have not only existed across a much larger geographical area, but that they might have been the ancestors to modern day American Bison. The thought process behind this theory is that at one time a glacial corridor joined what is now Alaska to eastern Russia, thus providing a significant route for these historic Yaks to migrate to the Americas.

Yaks have a long history of populating the most mountainous areas of southern central Asia. From the Himalayas to the Tibetan Plateau and from Mongolia to Russia, the unique Yak have managed to survive the most difficult of terrains for centuries. Not only have they managed to exist in these remote areas, but they have also managed to survive and indeed adapt to encroaching human civilisation. On this basis, it is clear that the Yak will continue to exist and perhaps thrive in south central Asia as it has done for many centuries.

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