What I've learned from (and about) Yaks 109

I’m no expert but weaning time is rough.  Just think about it. Do you remember how much you missed your mommy when you first went to school?  No? How about, if you are a mom, do you recall the torment of leaving your child in someone else’s care for the first time?  Did you or your baby cry more? Of my 6 children I can think of only one that did not scream, cry, or fake sickness during their first few months of kindergarten.  (College was also a struggle for most of them.)



We are in the process of weaning some calves right now.  The first challenge is physically separating them from their mothers.  Fortunately they have become accustomed to spending time in our calf creep for unchallenged eating away from the “hogs” of the herd.  There was minimal chasing this go around. Only one of the group lagged behind. He still proved to be a challenge to herd in with the others!  Calves become adept at hiding behind adult yaks, dodging people, and jumping & twisting away.


Once they were all contained, the next problem became gathering enough help to move them across the driveway to our weanling pen.  During the wait there was a lot of grunting going on! Each yak has their own “voice”. Craut proved to be the most vocal. His grunt was the loudest and deepest I have ever heard from such a little guy.

Calves in the creep.

Calves in the creep.


As soon as we had gathered enough people to ensure no escapes the trek across the driveway was uneventful.  They were curious enough to trot right over and re-acquaint themselves with the older weanlings. Hooves and snow were  flying as they raced around their new quarters.

Once they calmed down the realization of their separation really set in. All through the night and for days to follow we could hear their calls:  babies to mothers and mothers to babies. It is very sad to witness. I feel so bad for them but know it is necessary.

Walking Frank.

Walking Frank.


Why wean you may wonder?  Well, for one, as the calves growths demand on the mothers becomes taxing.  The cows (hopefully) are bred, so they need conserve their energy for the next offspring.  Our cold weather is draining enough. Also, for obvious reasons we want to separate bull calves form both their mothers and the other females.  Weaning is the first step.

Now that they are away from the adults it will be easier for me to interact with them without danger to myself.  I plan on gradually teaching them to trust me and look forward to seeing me. A treat or occasional grain is a sure-fired way to accomplish this.  

Eventually we will divide the heifers from the bulls.  For now we have 5 heifer calves and 5 bull calves comforting each other and relying on me rather than their mothers.




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.