Monday, May 19, 2008

Yak 'Napping: Bringing Our First Calf Home

Meet Tashi, the first yak born on Vermont soil! Here he is at three days old.


How to describe our first yak 'napping? (And what verb to use? Removing? Shanghai'ing? Extracting?)

Some context - we want many of our yaks born in Vermont to be comfortable around people, so we can bring our four-legged hairy friends to farmer's markets, use them as pack and plow animals, and yes, ride them, like that crazy CEO in Seattle we talked about last week.

The only way to do this is to bring our yaks into the human family from a very early age - removing them from their mothers and their herd at the tender age of five days or so, bottle feeding them (yes, we are serious) using raw cow's milk, and setting them up in comfortable "digs" (in our case, an 8 x 10 foot corral in the yard).

Laugh if you will. But this process is called "domestication" (right?), and people have been doing practicing it for 10,000 years or so, give or take.

So here we are, with a five day old yak calf and only the experience of others to go on.

Thank goodness (again) we've got a business partner who know no fear. Dave Hartshorn got up in the "upper west side" on Friday afternoon (that's our westernmost pasture paddock) and single-handedly wrested Tashi away from the herd, while almost being gored by several yaks in the process. He is fearless, our neighbor, and we are the better for him (again).

Once he got Stormy and Tashi down to the corral, it was relatively simple to separate mother and calf, nothing a lasso, a corral gate, and some distraction couldn't take care of.

Mother Stormy was not pleased, and who can blame her? She grunted vociferously after we removed Tashi from her care, and returned to the corral several times over the next few days, sometimes in the company of other yaks in the herd, to methodically search the enclosure for signs of her young one, grunting in each of the corral's four corners to satisfy her own sense of loss. The three mothers of the six of us understand this sentiment deep in their bones, and we consoled ourselves by reminding each other than Tashi and the herd would be much better off in the long run, being able to safely and successfully interact with humans (and eventually, the herd once again) after finishing their training.

We brought Tashi home in a dog crate and set him up in the "yak pad" in the yard. All the comforts of home.




1 comment:

Jenny said...

Hi Phineas,

I'm writing a novel with yak in it and came across your post. I'm just about to write the scene about getting the new calf away from mama to bottle feed. Can you give me any more details on that process? Since it's fiction, the more problems the better. I was thinking the teenaged kid might even get out in the pasture on a mountain bike, throw the mama for a loop. This is a start-up farm. No ATVs, which is what a guy in Minn. uses. Thanks for any help. My email is dunningj@stolaf.edu if it's easier to email directly.

Jenny Dunning