What I've learned from (and about) Yaks 112
I’m no expert but you definitely need to be prepared for calving season. Unless you monitor your cows through ultrasound and constant vet checks you can’t really accurately predict delivery time. While the majority of calves are born without incident or intervention, there can be exceptions.
As a matter of fact, the first yak calf delivery was tragic. From my experiences from alpacas I have learned that the best policy is to be patient and keep your distance. As I was doing my morning chores that day I noticed Kicker off by herself alternating between straining and laying on her side. I was excited, but nervous. Kicker was one of our oldest and meanest cows. She had always intimidated me because of her size and aggressiveness. I kept my distance but kept watch.
As time wore on I realized she was having trouble. This was not her first calf but something was obviously wrong. I crept warily closer and realized to my horror that the calf was already dead. I ran for a towel (for better grip) and tried to call my husband to no avail. As I watched her suffer I decided I couldn't wait any longer. I grabbed onto the calf’s legs and started pulling. The calf was huge and lodged tightly. It was the hardest tug-of-war of my life. Finally I pulled him free. He was larger than any calf we have had born here still. Kicker mourned him for a few hours by standing over him After that she and I had a special relationship. of trust.
Most deliveries take place when we aren't looking and go well. We come out to find a newborn being licked all over by its mother. My only task then is to spray the umbilical cord with iodine to protect it from infection. The mother does her job and we are all set.
We do try to separate the new calf and cow from as much of the herd as possible. We have had a few incidences for whatever reason that the other cows target a new calf for tossing around. This does not end well for the little one.
Of course there are the occasional still births and miscarriages also.
A first calf heifer can prove to be a challenge at times also. Some are naturals and just instinctively know what to do. Others will not stand still for the calf to figure out the whole nursing thing. We have had to tie cows up, milk them out a little, and guide the calf in. (This happens occasionally with alpacas too)
A few recommended supplies for calving season are:
towels, iodine, ocytocin, colostrum, a bottle, your vet’s number, patience, and a watchful eye.
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.