— The Yakzz Team

The Yak Boys

Once you try yak, you'll never go back

Chandler & Holly Morton
4828 Kingston Ave.Highlands Ranch, CO 80130

October 14, 2016

The Benefit of Yak Production


There are a number of benefits to raising yaks vs. cattle. Granted, right now cattle prices are at record highs, and there is not an exchange or well developed market for trading and listing yak prices. So why raise yaks?

There are three key reasons why raising yaks is more profitable than cattle:

1. You can run two to three times more yaks on the same amount of grass compared to cattle. Yak females will only weigh between 600-800 lbs when mature, and it often takes 6 years to get close to that 800 lb mark - yaks do grow more slowly than cattle. Even when mature, they do quite well on less feed, pound for pound, than a cow of the same size, especially during the cold winter months. Yaks are adapted to survive brutally cold, harsh winters at high elevations with no one around to feed them. We have found yaks tend to prefer grass hay, or an alfalfa-grass mix, and don't care for grain, which also cuts down on feed costs.

2. Yak meat is in very limited supply and the demand is there at a premium price. Yak meat prices are considerably higher than cattle meat prices, and recently have been about one and a half times higher than beef prices. Yak is still something of an unknown to most consumers, but it is similar to bison, with very lean meat and a flavor profile very similar to beef. Bison has been well established in Colorado, and consumers are willing to pay for quality meat. At Yak Producers, we are working to build a market for yaks and yak meat akin to that of bison in the recent past. And just like bison, yak will always be a niche product, but it will command a significantly higher price than regular beef.

3. Yak fiber is valuable, and can be combed out each spring. Work must be done to build this market, but yak fiber is a very high quality product that is in demand. The retail price for yak fiber is roughly $6 per oz, and wholesale is closer to $3.50 to $4.00 per oz. The average yak will yield around 1 lb. of fiber per year, which can easily help offset feed costs.

While there are clearly benefits to yaks, these benefits do need to be weighed against some negative points about yaks. A few things to be aware of are:

1. Yaks simply take longer to grow than cattle, which translates to a longer production cycle. You must have the patience and resources necessary to build a herd. You will need to allow additional time for meat production, and expect females not to have a calf until they are two years old. However, a good cow will calve for 20 years or more, which provides an advantage over cattle. Yaks can be crossbred with cattle as well, which could be a good option for someone experienced with cattle. The male crosses are sterile, and can be harvested for meat at 18 months. The meat can still be sold as yak, and retains the lean characteristics of pure yak.

2. Yak breeding seems to be less consistent overall than cattle. This is likely because yaks have not been developed and refined and yak breeding has not been managed in this country like cattle herds have. Female yaks are not in heat for long, and if there are not enough bulls to cover them they may not get bred. A ratio of one good bull for 15 cows should be sufficient, but one bull for 12 cows would be better. Most calves are born from May to June, although this is certainly not the only times they will breed.

3. The yak market is still a small niche, which means the market is not as liquid or transparent as the cattle market. Overall, yaks are more profitable than cattle, but the market is still in its infancy. Yaks are less expensive to raise than cattle, and prices are higher as well, but yak is still a developing market in the United States, meaning that it remains untested. However, we foresee yak following in the footsteps of bison in the very near future.

We hope this information helps enlighten you about the reality of yak production in the US. If you would like additional information about yaks and yak production, please contact us!