Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program 2021

Grants and Contracts Details


Abstract Little research has been conducted on yaks in North America leading to misinformation on animal husbandry. An example, forage intake is commonly touted to be 1% of body weight on internet sites. Misguidance on animal management due simply to a lack of research can lead to malnourishment and animal welfare issues derailing an alternative sustainable livestock system. Further, there are no enterprise budgets, nutritional recommendations, or other management information available for yak production in the Southeast to aid those considering a yak enterprise. At a recent yak husbandry and research conference in Kentucky, more than 30 participants from eight states attended. When asked what information was needed to improve their yak operations, many management items were shared including feeding, artificial insemination, selecting a bull, fiber quality, training of yaks, genetics, and market development. Yaks were imported to North America in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s to hybridize with cattle. Searching the literature, one finds limited information on the animal husbandry of yaks in North America. Most of the feeding recommendations are based on limited studies from China and India. These studies have limited robustness from a scientific stance and are under different production settings. While in China, I visited yak research stations and visited with herders. I was impressed they grazed animals year-round with minimal supplementation. Their management results in substantial weight loss in the winter resulting in reduced performance and reproduction efficiency. An FAO publication reports that females will come into estrus the first time between 13-30 months. This is a substantially large range and likely due to the plane of nutrition. Yaks are raised within a grass-based system. Those growing yaks for meat are also producing predominately grass-fed meat. Yaks are a natural fit for the steeper hillsides of the Appalachian foothills as a grazing ruminant that would also allow diversification of farms in the region. Their smaller mature size allows for greater numbers per unit of land compared to cattle. Previous SSARE funding allowed us to develop a pasture finishing beef worksheet. The worksheet requires inputs for gains by month to project finish dates as well as information related to economics to develop breakevens and project profit/loss. Preliminary data from our on-farm efforts with growing yaks suggest that winter gains may range between -0.2 to +0.4 pound per day, and we have no grazing performance information. Yaks also produce a high-quality fiber for clothes. Again, a lack information related to the fiber yield of yaks makes it difficult to build into an enterprise budget. As there is currently no information available for yak year-round performance, we are proposing to conduct on-farm research to collect production related information to allows these inputs to be used to develop resources for raising yaks in the Southeast and North America. The educational tools will help those already raising yaks as well as those considering adding yaks to their farming operation.
Effective start/end date4/1/223/31/24


  • University of Georgia: $19,979.00


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