I’m No Expert... What I’ve Learned from (and about) Yaks 101
Edition 101: Fences and Horns
Life is a journey and there are lessons in every day. We raised alpacas for about 10 years before we bought our first yaks. The stories of our mistakes and successes with alpacas could fill a book. And then there were yaks.
Yes, yaks and alpacas are both farm animals, but there are as many differences as there are similarities. Both eat hay and grass. Both are curious and intelligent animals. Both are exotic and beautiful. Heat is friend to neither species and cold is tolerated well.
We had discovered (the hard way) that alpacas are at risk to get their long necks caught in things like fences, strings, etc. The horns on yak put them in danger of getting stuck--in feeders, fences, and each other. We have had to modify our farm operation to facilitate their wide horns. Sue, the yak, had to be freed from a wooden feeder with a saw and Saltora had her entire head caught under our fence twice which involved a chainsaw rescue.
Snow piles up here in CNY (Syracuse earns the golden snow globe award most years). Our first winter with yaks we found out an important difference in the herds. Alpacas stay away from deep snow. They prefer a shovelled path. Yaks will plow right through it, sleep under it, or test it. The snow had drifted completely over portions of our fencing and had hardened with a thick crust over it. The yaks found the snow bridge very convenient. It gave them a nice avenue to get to the little bit of green grass poking up through the melting snow on the OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE. We happened to be out of town when we got the call that they were loose. I had to call the high school and ask them to send my then-teenage son home to herd them in.
Yes, there is much to learn. I will dredge up old tales of our successes, failures, and lessons learned in the blogs to come.
My husband and I have raised our family of 6 children in our favorite place on earth, Tully, NY. Sixteen years ago we built our home and decided we wanted to raise livestock. He was raised on a dairy farm and my father was a veterinarian, so animals were a part of who we were and we wanted our kids to know the value of a hard days’ work. Our first venture was with alpacas. We did it all: breeding, vet bills, shows, seminars, trips, visits, and a lot of buying and selling. Of course there were ups and downs with mistakes and successes along the way.
Being on the iyak board is an honor and I promise to do my best. I am still learning as I go and am awed by the knowledge and dedication of the board members. As I become more comfortable with my role, I hope to be able to contribute more.