What I've learned from (and about) Yaks 108
I’m no expert, but I have learned that most people know less than I think they should about animals. Sure, I was raised by a veterinarian who took us to work with him. We were included in or at least witnessed a plethora of animal care. Some high points involved new puppies or kittens. It was disheartening on the other hand when we witnessed the wounds and battle scars my father tried to repair. There were times when we assisted in surgeries and rode along for farm calls. Of course we also had a wide variety of pets over the years (almost like a zoo). Animals were our family’s life.
Over the years as we have built our farm up and our family has grown we have gradually found our herds to be an attraction for our community. Yes, we do raise a couple of unusual breeds. Yaks and Alpacas are both considered exotic so there is a curiosity factor. We also have a variety of breeds of chickens. It is interesting to learn about the origins of all of these various creatures.
It all began with an invitation to bring some of our alpacas to an “Ag Awareness Day” for 4th graders. Every June I would cart a few of them to a local farm and teach the children a few facts and answer lots of questions. This event has evolved and is now conducted at our farm. A local retirement home also brings a group here every year. Sometimes people just pull in the driveway and pile out to “tour” on their own. We do get the respectful calls with requests to come by. The largest tour of the year occurs each fall for the county. Several farms in Onondaga County are host farms that open their “doors” to the public and try to raise awareness. 100s of people come to try to gain an understanding of agriculture.
We live in a rural area (despite what people might assume when they hear we are in NY). You would think that people who live surrounded by dairy, apple, grape, and other types of farms would have a clue. They don’t. Some of the questions I have been asked are quite frankly embarrassing. Here are a few examples:
-Do alpacas lay eggs?
-Do roosters lay eggs?
-Is Yak milk pink?
Body language as animal lovers know, is a key part of interaction with every species. Many of our visitors have yet to learn the ropes. The way they casually grab or pat animals on any part of their body is odd to me. To stand behind any four-legged farm animal is just asking to be kicked. Yes, alpacas spit but usually at each other or to try to protect themselves. Yak horns ARE dangerous. Don’t push it.
The bottom line is, we all have a lot to learn.
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.