Dedicated leadership with a proven record of success.
IYAK Board of Directors
Preserve, Promote, Protect IYAK. IYAK Board members are the dedicated yak ranchers who steer our organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure our nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission.
Claire Roberts, Staff Registrar
Yak Commander Ranch, Kansas
Claire is a relentless and dedicated IYAK commander. She’s often the initial contact and provides the first face of IYAK. She is reserved about her contributions and goes about her work in a quiet and unassuming manner. We are proud of her representation and efforts to go above and beyond the call.
“When people ask me how I got involved in yaks. I always tell them it was the long round about way. I took a job in high school working for Stephanie David (registrar at the time) to get to handle more horses than my personal group. As the stock show grew near, I began halter breaking yaks instead of my usual horses. I eventually began helping with the registrar work. It wasn't long and I was hired as the first ever paid registrar for a quickly growing association. Cody and I were given two yaks shortly before getting married. We bought a third shortly after. While we loved our yaks, we have since sold them as we welcomed our twin girls in January of 2018 and couldn't keep up with that amount of livestock. We also care for a cow/calf operation of beef cattle, a herd of horses, and group of goats! I have been with the association since October of 2016. I am always available for questions and concerns about any portion of IYAK.”
Lawrence Richards, Vice President
Living Diamonds Ranch, Polson, Montana
I am a founding member of IYAK and NAYR since 1989 and have been a BOD member continuously since 2009 on both the Registration Committee and the Genomic Committee since their formation.
I have been a major element in the development and implementation of both the Appendix Program and the Generation Based Progression Registry, which allow members to introduce new animals into the NAYR. In most cases I have written the protocols for these programs. And in my 2015 Denver presentation and my 2018 Genomic Research Presentation at Denver I have presented these programs and the rationale and the science behind them to the membership. These presentations are available on the IYAK website.
I have been a strong force in protecting the NAYR the highest resource of IYAK from the intentional hybridization with cattle for the short term gain of those promoting fraudulent yaks. The science from UC Davis and GeneSeek has supported this position and is a very effective tool for protecting the integrity of the NAYR.
IYAK is on the verge of new genomic based developments which will enhance the position of IYAK as a scientific based breed association with a view to the future. It will be an exciting time to be an IYAK member.
Holly Modjeski, Treasurer And chair Communications committee
Yaks on Yucca, Parker, Colorado
I originally became interested in yaks as an opportunity for a small acreage holder to raise a sustainable, manageable animal for personal use. Fiber, dairy and packing also make yak the perfect animal in my mind. I am interested in seeing where yak fit in with declining pastures and water availability in the Western United States. In 2013, I acquired my first yak and I have been in love with these majestic creatures ever since.
I started my business career 35 years ago after attending nursing school in Texas in the 1980s. I held positions as a Training Coordinator, Patient Advocate and Practice Manager. I owned several businesses including a catering business, practice management consulting business and medical transcription business. I graduated with honors from the University of Texas Paralegal Certification Program in 2002. I worked in Bankruptcy, Real Estate, Family Law and Criminal Defense. I also have an extensive accounting background.
I served as Chairman of the IYAK Nominations Committee in 2017 and am now the Chairman of the Communications Committee. I was asked to join the IYAK Board of Directors in 2017. I was appointed Treasurer by the Board in 2018. I envision an IYAK that is cutting edge in research and business development. I am dedicated to preserving the genetic integrity of yak in North America.
Nicole Porter Salvato, PhD, Board Member And Genetics Committee Member
Prairie Sky Ranch, Rolling Ground, Wisconsin
My family began cattle ranching in Texas in the 1920’s and has been involved in breeding cattle and horses ever since. We’ve been involved in breeding and racing thoroughbreds since the 1970’s. Today, Dan and I live on our yak and horse ranch in South West Wisconsin.
As well as being a prairie enthusiast and animal lover, I’m an academic. My research area of specialization is Developmental Psychobiology and epigenetics, with a doctorate from DePaul University and dissertation research at University of Chicago at the Institute of Mind and Biology. I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity to research butterflies, ungulates, bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and the great cats, at Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago Academy of Sciences, and various wildlife refuges. Later in my research career, I studied epidemiology in human disease.
I am fascinated by how we can harness scientific knowledge to help in the real world - particularly for yak conservation and to support our IYAK breeders.
Steve Hill, Board Member And Health Committee
Sunny Hill Ranch, Willow, Alaska
In 2009 Anita and I teamed up with a friend and bought a 2 y/o Yak bull and three cows, by the the time we went to pick them up 3 days later there was a calf also, we were hooked and it started this journey with these amazing animals!
I've been in Alaska for 35 years now and along the way I've been a member of the USAF, an Iron worker, a commercial fisherman, a plumber and the owner of a mechanical contracting company. That diverse background has prepared us well for being Yak ranchers in this crazy retirement project. While building a 320 acre ranch from scratch and trying to figure out these contrary beasts, we stumbled across the IYAK web site and made our way to Denver and the National Western Stock Show to find out how others deal with trimming hooves, and what to do with bottle babies. iYAK has become a passion with us and we are pleased to serve.
Suzanne Drumm, Secretary
Bentwood Alpacas & Yaks, Tully, New York
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.
Ironically because we owned alpacas we met our first yaks 4 years ago and fell in love immediately. We traded alpaca fiber for yak meat to serve in our restaurant and it was a huge hit. That was when we decided to add yaks to our farm. Since then, we have learned (the hard way sometimes) about the idiosyncrasies of yaks. The yak industry is full of very helpful, friendly, and experienced farmers who are willing to give advice. Our herd has grown much faster than we originally planned. We have 40 yaks.
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.
Chris Butz, Board Member And Chair Ethics Committee
Gill’s Pier Ranch, Northport, Michigan
My wife Angie and I moved to rural northwestern Michigan in 2007 to pursue a slower, more family-focused way of life. We have five (5) children so this lifestyle fit our family well as we also enjoy hunting, fishing and playing in the outdoors. A serial entrepreneur, we had been interested in the farming and ranching lifestyle for years.
Gill’s Pier Ranch began in 2014 and we purchased and converted winery and tasting room for our meat market in 2015. We run two farms on a total of 228 acres of amazing pastures fed by the rains and breezes that blow off of Lake Michigan. Our herd averages between 100-120 yaks between our northern Michigan location and Bow Creek Ranch’s pastures in Kansas.
While we have high-quality breedstock yaks, our main business is in the amazingly sweet and healthy meat that we sell both locally and nationally. We strive to be ecologically sensitive and to develop systems that optimize our time ranching while, at the same time, improving our yaks’ way of life. We are blessed to shepherd the most amazing animals and life couldn’t be better. Please don’t hesitate to drop me an email with any and all questions about these great animals and the excitement that comes with running a yak ranch.
Daniele Garner, Board Member And nutrition committee
Pettee Ranch, Fairplay, Colorado
I was raised in Fairplay, CO on Pettee Ranch located at 10,000 ft in elevation. The altitude makes for raising beef cattle difficult as they are more prone to respiratory and heart disease. My parents took an interest in yak in the late 90's after not only hearing about their disease resistance but also due to their nutrient rich, low cholesterol red meat. They purchased their first yak in 1998 and from there, created a small hobby herd of yak.
After finishing college in 2014, I moved home to take over the ranch from my folks. My husband Damon and I currently run around a 100 head of yak and a USDA meat business.
I do lots of work with land conservation and habitat partnership programs around our area. I have written grazing management plans, aided in stream restoration and provided grazing management in riparian areas that would otherwise be "fence out". In 2015 I was granted the Laurel Kagan Wiley Award for Excellence in Riparian Management, and gave a speech at the Colorado Watershed Assembly Conference. I enjoy systems thinking approach to land management and can offer grazing management help to our members.
Yak have become a passion of mine and IYAK works to preserve and enhance the future of yak. I am excited for all the new things to come. I will gladly answer any questions you may have or offer help and advice.
Patricia Young, Board Member And Fiber committee
Patricia Young worked at Tango Zulu Imports, a fair-trade shop in Port Gamble, and loved encountering cultures from across the globe, all via the products in the shop.
She has since become an expert (one of the only in the US) in Yak fiber. Well studied and exceptionally trained by specialists like the famed Wini Labrecque. Learn more about Fiber Arts here.
SOPHIA WEISS, Board Member And NUTRITION committee
of Firebird Farms, Ashland, Oregon
Photo and Bio TBA