Himalayan Yak Milk & Butter: How To

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Yak Butter Tea- Legendary Status

My friend, Ping, grew up in the Autonomous Region of Tibet and wants me to understand her love for and the importance of yak to Tibetan culture.

Lesson 1: Making traditional yak butter tea.

Step 1: 2 liters of fresh yak milk

For me, the first step is milking the yak. While I go ask Brandyberry if she’d like to participate in this project, here are some details about traditional techniques. Stay tuned for tea recipes, notes on yak milking, and butter-making details. We ween in the Fall, so look for my new dairy posts in November or December.

Yak Milk, contrary to the Trivial Pursuit game, is not pink but yak butter's legendary status is well deserved. Yak butter tea is the comfort food of the Himalayas with native herders drinking as many as 40 cups a day.  Yak milk is rich in butterfat at around 6% to 11% making it perfect for yogurt, butter, and cheese.

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Yaks evolved under harsh mountain conditions and are well adapted for winter. Their bags and teats are small, compact and close to the body so they don't freeze. In Tibet yaks are primarily considered dairy animals. Yak butter tea made from fresh butter is quite good, although very rich. Tibetan nomads have no refrigeration so sometimes the butter can become rancid.

Close Handling is the Key

Yak milk cows need to be well socialized and pet. Yaks are very accurate kickers and should be trained for close handling as young calves if they are to be good, docile milk cows.

Tibetans will let the calf suckle to get the cow to release her milk before they start milking. Their general attitude is the calf gets half and the herder gets half.


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Nicole Porter-Salvato, PhD is one of the owners of Prairie Sky Sanctuary and Ranch, a horse and Tibetan yak ranch in South Western Wisconsin. She’s trained in epigenetics and epidemiology, an avid IYAK supporter, BOD member and yak lover. She and her husband, Dan, love to talk about yak and are always available to answer questions or provide resources.

Nicole Porter-Salvato

Prairie Sky Sanctuary