After a very slow start to winter, it has finally arrived! During both of the last two snow storms, I went out to try and get some nice wintery photos, but found it was snowing so hard, it actually made it hard to get good photos. The snow in the air was so thick and moving so fast, the camera struggled to focus on what I was asking it to focus on!
Nonetheless, I did get some fun photos. I love that both of the species I raise are so comfortable with winter. The yak, especially, are made for it. Their coats are so insulating, that they build up these huge snow blankets that they periodically have to shake off.
In the foreground of the above photo, that crackled white stuff is snow on a yak standing in front of the one I was trying to photograph! Look at how thick that is. I imagine it is quite warm and insulating, though probably a bit heavy. When they shake, the whole thing pops off in sheets. It's something to behold!
Even the littles seem completely unfazed. As usual, when they see me, the first thing they ask is, "did you bring food?"
The elk seem just as at home in the stuff, though the snow does not seem to build up on them in quite the same way as it does on the yak.
I am so happy to finally be getting a bit of winter. I moved North for a reason, you know! Plus, I am not ready to move into maple season yet. I need a post-holiday lull before going full tilt again! Well, I guess it's time to bundle up and feed and enjoy this winter weather while it lasts.
I have been waiting and waiting for Goldie to calve. She's had a ginormous udder for almost two weeks now, maybe longer, but with the way things have been going, I was starting to question whether we'd have any more calves at all (93 has had all kinds of weird issues and I have no idea whether to expect her to calve at this point or not), but when I went out to check on everyone this morning and found Goldie to be missing, I immediately went looking for her. Sure enough, she had found a quiet place to do her thing.
She had her back to me when I came up on her. Her tail kept me from seeing anything, but I could tell she was in labor. Little did I know that I caught her at the final push! What luck, I thought and started recording a video. Then Goldie got up and the calve came sliding out - which is not unusual at all, but this calf came out completely limp. I mean it's not like the calves usually catch themselves or anything, but they don't usually come out looking quite so much like a floppy rag doll. The sound it made when hitting the ground was so discouraging, I was sure it was dead.
You can hear my disappointment and concern in the video, but then Goldie started licking that calf. Mamas licking their calves is so, so important in stimulating the calf to come to and start breathing on their own and with its first twitch, I was so excited! Phew! Good grief. I wasn't sure I was ready to sustain another loss so soon.
I went out to check on them throughout the day and this calf, though it had a floppy start, it was up and nursing very quickly. It seems strong and sticks to mama like glue, which eases my mind a bit after the last loss due to the coyotes. Mama and baby hung out in the knoll where she gave birth pretty much the whole day, but just about dusk, I saw them come out and join the herd for an evening grazing session. I am now feeling cautiously optimistic that all will be well! Yay!
I rolled the dice a bit when I jumped into raising yak. I was looking another critter to go along with my elk and they seemed like a good choice for many reasons, but I'd never actually tried yak meat before I made the decision.
Fortunately, yak meat is even better than I had ever anticipated! It is amazing! I think it may be my favorite meat now. What makes it so special? I'm so glad you asked!
As you can see, it really isn't that different looking from very lean beef. In a lot of ways, it really tastes a lot like it, too... but it tastes a bit more robust. A bit more savory. And a lot more juicy, tender, and delicious, if you ask me. Because yak came about in the very high elevations of the Himalayas, it physically changed the meat to allow for the reduced oxygen atmosphere. Those changes mean that this meat, despite being very lean and healthy, is very juicy and tender when cooked.
Seriously, the first time I grilled a couple of steaks, I almost overcooked them because the meat does not firm up and dry out like beef when cooked. I have to use a thermometer when I cook yak steaks because I can't tell how done they are without it! What does that mean? It means you don't have to work so hard not to ruin a yak steak like you do with elk or venison (or even beef, for that matter). Yak steaks are tender and juicy despite how lean they are and it makes for an amazing eating experience!
I like to keep it simple and pan fry them in a little butter with a sprig of fresh rosemary for an aromatic flair. So, so good.
Here we have a tenderloin on the left and a New York strip steak on the right. I love the color and flavor the butter gives to these steaks! I made these steaks especially for photographing to show you how amazing they are, but I ended up eating both steaks as soon as I thought I took enough photos. I just couldn't stop - they were so good!
So juicy and delicious! These were cooked to medium rare (130F by a probe thermometer), but look how juicy and delicious they look. And, trust me, delicious they were!
Not only does yak taste great, but it is a healthy and more environmentally friendly choice than beef. Yak has roughly half the calories and less than half the fat of beef and yak utilize about one third the feed to produce meat as beef does. Sounds like a win, win, win to me!
It's really my favorite way for it to happen... I like to go out and be surprised, surprised by a healthy calf that just suddenly is there. Nature did what it was supposed to and all went well. After last year's lost calf, I find I've become a bit of a nervous nelly.
Obviously, I knew they were getting close, but when I went out to move the yak today, I was surprised to hear that unmistakable quiet pig squeak yak babies make. Let me show you what I mean:
I just love baby yak! They're like an interesting combination of cow and pig in the first week or two. Their little yak grunt is more like a pig grunt and they even kind of look piglet like, with their big pink noses (they don't all have pink noses, but when the muzzle is white, the nose is pink!).
I love that I can go right in there and say hi to the calf... well, as long as mama is otherwise occupied! ;-) In this case, mama had already left the pasture with the group as I was moving them I had already closed the gate before we all realized what had happened. This is a little girl and though she's a bit knock kneed, I think she'll probably grow out of it. This is 100's new calf - she was the one who had the live calf last year - and she seems quite a bit more robust than last year's wee one was in the first week. This one tried to head butt me three times already!!!
100 is such a good mama, so I know that little one is in good hands. After I left there, I went to feed the elk and noticed that 603 hadn't come to eat with everyone else, so I went hunting for her. Figures I didn't have my good camera with me, so this was my first peek at the new calf. Don't know the gender yet, but the coloration is a bit different than the calves we've had so far. S/he is more taupe colored than ruddy. It's very pretty!
After getting my big camera, I realized they had moved and baby crawled through a hole in the fence to another pasture leaving mama behind. I was a bit worried when I saw two of the other cows come over and paw at her/him. I probably don't need to worry, but in the wild, the cows go off by themselves to have their calves, so this is a bit of an artificial environment for calving. I went to get a bit more grain and everyone left the little one alone and 603 managed to get in the same pasture with baby and all the others. Then the ladies went back to check on the calf, but mama was there to make sure they behaved themselves. I've seen this with every new calf on the place: the other mamas have to come and check them out!
Fortunately, baby was along a fence line that I had access to, so I went to see if I could get a better look and maybe a few good pictures. Success! But as I got closer, it became apparent to me that 603 is bonded with her calf. No worries with this first time mom that she won't be taking care of her calf. She made it very clear that I was close enough with my camera. This is a mama who would be more than willing to stomp the tar out of me if that fence wasn't there!
At this point, I decided it was time to high tail it out of there and let her just get used to being a mom. Love that close up I got of the calf though (top photo on this post). And you know what!?! I think there might be another yak calf making an appearance tonight! We'll see what the morning brings! What a wonderfully surprising afternoon!
I love winter. I love snow. It's one of the reasons I pushed for moving to New Hampshire. But I also love spring, summer, and fall. Every season in its time. The great thing about four distinct seasons is that right about the time you start getting tired of one, it's about time to start moving into another. It's just been the last week or so that I've started catching myself longing for spring. It first happened while spending an hour excavating a gate so I could move Piggy into a different pasture. And then there was today.
It's been much warmer the last two weeks with plenty of days in the forties. And then - suddenly - we're back in the single digits... with a wind. Don't let that bright blue sky fool you. It was miserable out this morning. The moaning of the wind through the cracks of the windows in the house was epic and I was NOT looking forward to going out to feed this morning.
I put it off as long as I could, but we were still registering near zero wind chills mid-morning, so out I went. This is my DANG it's bright and cold scowl-y face. Wowza! The wind was howling!
As usual, the critters didn't seem to even notice, but they were awfully happy to see me. The only good thing about the cold was that after a week of slugging through deep, heavy, slushy snow, it had frozen back solid and I could walk on top of it again. Yay!
The ice in a few areas was getting a bit silly though. This patch almost got me yesterday and I practically pulled a muscle to keep from going down, but today I realized I had yak poop stepping stones and made good use of them coming and going. Thanks, yak. :-)
Speaking of yak... that wee one is now in a pasture with a hay feeder that she can't crawl under, so she's staying a lot cleaner! Look how fluffy she is! I just love to pet her.
Of course, that does come with a slight occupational hazard. They say yak fiber rivals Merino wool. Perhaps a yak wool sweater is in my future!!
Temperatures are headed back up to the forties tomorrow. Come on, Spring. I'm ready!!
We woke up to snow this morning. It wasn't a surprise or anything as they've been forecasting it all week, but it still is a bit odd waking up the day before Halloween to measurable snow.
The first thing I had to do was go out and put some hay out for the yak. I've been wanting to get around to it for a few days, but it was quite cold and rainy the last few, so I figured I'd wait for the precipitation to turn to snow. I have no issues working in the snow!
The yak were pretty excited for the hay! I also turned the newly made two steers in with the herd. There was some tussling. Okay, there was a fair bit of tussling! Interestingly, a lot of it was between the steers and the cows! Multiple times I saw Mr. Bull come and break them up because he apparently thought it was getting too intense. Herd mechanics are fascinating!
In this video, you can see Mr. Bull breaking up the fight between 93 and 418, our golden bull... err, steer. It's interesting to me for two reasons: first, 93 and 418 were very close before I separated the herd upon the arrival of the new group, and second, it was 93 who seemed to be instigating and actively seeking battle. You can clearly see Mr. Bull separating the two and standing between them, keeping them from going at it again.
Again, I find it interesting that 93 was so adamant about picking a fight with 418. They always hung out previously. In fact, I often wondered if 418 was her calf from a few years ago. Here they were the day 93 was in labor this June. It almost seemed like she was laying her head on his shoulder!
Anyway. Hard saying what all the fighting was about today, but Mr. Bull was having none of it!
After I hayed the yak, I went to go check on the elk. They were all grouped up in the upper reaches of the pasture and seemed pretty happy to see me. 603 let me pet her multiple times and that included parts of her face, too! Previously, she only let me touch her nose, but I almost was able to touch all the way up to between her eyes! Of course, she was grinding her teeth at me the whole time, which is an aggressive gesture for elk, so I'll only be trusting her so far. I still never go in the pasture on foot when they are near.
I missed catching a video of it, but while I was there, 604 stood up to nibble on some tips of the hemlock trees and managed to dump a ton of snow on herself! She wears it well, wouldn't you say?
The wee ones are experiencing their first cold weather, but they have thick furry coats and didn't seem bothered at all! Just another day being an elk, I guess!
And, of course, Big Guy was there, watching with his deep, penetrating stare the whole time I was out there. Always watching. Man, I like that critter!
I picked up our four new yak yesterday. They appear to be settling in well, although they seemed a bit surprised to see more yak when they arrived. They've been on a farm with beef cattle and a water buffalo, so they looked a bit surprised to be greeted by a small herd of critters that looked and talked like them!
I went out this morning to check on them and since the previous owners told me they enjoy a few slices of bread as a treat, I figured I'd give it a try. This girl, the "mother" of the bunch, is quite friendly and was very interested in eating out of my hand. The others are a bit more shy. The little golden cow, well... I'm going to have to watch her. She's charged at me a few times through the fence already, so I'm really going to have to be careful around her for now.
While I was out there, I suddenly heard a bunch of noisy slurping and turned to see what the heck was going on and was greeted with this sight:
Ummm. OK. So, mama has not weaned her "little" bull calf yet? Goodness! When he bunted while nursing, that poor cow's hind end was lifted a foot off the ground! Needless to say, after their quarantine/get used to the new place time is over, they will be separated. Sheesh!
I was initially told that the herd was a mama cow and three of her calves, but I'm actually starting to think that isn't quite the case. When I picked them up, I noticed this little golden cow has a bag on her (is "in" milk) but she is supposed to only be a two year old. When I ran them through the squeeze yesterday and weighed them, she is a full sized cow (weighs as much as the two cows I already have) and she is very tight with this little heifer calf. I'm starting to think that maybe this is her calf! I'll have to watch them. Maybe I'll see her nurse and can confirm.
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter, but inquiring minds like to know!!
As I was out there, suddenly, I realized that there was another yak in with the newbies - that little baby just walks right under the gates, the little stinker! So much for a quarantine!!
I had to remove her TWICE! I finally decided to rearrange some gates as I was concerned about her getting in with them and not figuring out how to get back to her mama. I'm going to give the newbies a few days to get used to the place and used to saying "hi" to the other yak through the fence before introducing them into the herd, but it should be interesting to see. Never a dull moment on the farm!!
This morning, the very first thing I did was go out to look at the baby. She was curled up in the grass sound asleep, but eventually mama convinced her to wake up and come over to the fence where I could get a better look at her.
She's still a bit wobbly on her feet, but she gets around pretty well. In this video, you can see her walking and talking. Oh, my goodness! Such funny little noises. Turn your volume up and listen for the little frog like sounds between mama's grunting. That's her!
And you're going to have to forgive me for this one, but did you know that Star Wars apparently modeled the AT-AT on baby yak? Don't believe me? Well, see for yourself!
All joking aside, though, she has to be one of the cutest things I've ever seen.
She looks so soft and fuzzy, it's all I can do not to go in there and snuggle with the little thing, but I'm pretty sure mama would have something to say about that.
She's a good mama. Even when she walks away a bit to graze, she's keeping a close eye on her little.
Pretty sure I'm not going to get much work done today. I think there may be a fair amount of baby watching in my schedule. Oh, darn. ;-)
If the poor girl hadn't been waddling around for weeks now looking like she had a beach ball between her legs, I'd have about given up on her ever calving! Her udder was all over the place... one day I'd go out and it'd be pretty swollen up and the next it would be a wrinkly old deflated bag. But lo and behold! Apparently, she calved this late afternoon. I'd looked out and seen her all day long and had not seen anything unusual until I went out to check the water around dusk and there she was, a cute little black and white speckled fuzz ball.
She must have been fairly new as she was wobbly and unsure of her feet, but she was dry and fluffy and mom was fussing all about her. Interestingly, Mr. Bull was a bit more assertive than usual as I approached the fence to get a peek. I think he might have been feeling a bit like a proud papa. ;-)
Baby was up and sucking for all she was worth. She was hungry; that being born is hard work!
She nursed and nursed!
As I walked down to fill the trough, they thought I was bringing them some grain, so they started coming across the pasture. That little baby was all wobbly but, just like the grown ups when they get excited, she was working her tail as she moved along. And her little hump. And her fuzz. My husband was right, at first glance, she looks like a little lamb, she's so fuzzy. Have I mentioned lately how much I love these guys?
While they were hanging around waiting for me to decide to get them some grain (clearly they never doubted that I would), mama and the young bull had a few "words." He's been a bit full of himself lately and she has not been bashful about telling him to stuff it. You go, girl!
Being dusk, getting good photos was a bit tricky and as soon as I turned around, baby was curled up sound asleep, so I'm really excited to go out tomorrow morning and say hello and get some new pictures of her. Rest up, little one! Welcome to the world!
I just love these guys. They are such funny little creatures and so fun to watch. Most of the time they are just so stinking lazy that I can't hardly get them to move twenty feet from where I left them, but when they get the bug to move, they are really exuberant!!
A few days ago, I moved them out to one of the "back forty" pastures to work on some grass that has grown with the little bit of rain we've gotten lately. It took me almost an hour of pied pipering to get them out there, leading them along with a bucket of grain. We got about two thirds of the way and they had to have a little rest. Sheesh!
Of course, the day after I moved them out there, #100 started to show a bag finally (meaning her udder is filling and she's finally getting close to calving)! Well, especially after my recent experience with yak calving, I wanted her close to the barn in case I need to assist, so I brought them home.
That, of course, meant that I had to pied piper them all the way back! Good grief! Well, I forgot to close the gate to keep them up by the barn and to my surprise, those yak decided to walk all the way back out to the other end of the pasture on their own! I was shocked!! So, I had to do it all over again today. They were pretty excited about their grain and when they got close, their excitement kind of got the best of them.
#93 is the younger cow that lost her calf a few months ago. She was looking a little rough for a while, but she is really looking healthy now. She's kind of on the low end of the totem pole, so she wanted to get to the feed trough first so she could get a few bites in before everyone else got there. She's so cute!!
Toward the end of the video, you can see #100 coming in to eat. She's trying her best to keep up with everyone, but she's tired and her tongue is sticking out! These guys do that all the time when they move too much too long (which is like anything more than 20 seconds of activity - honest - they are clearly not the most athletic of beasts). But she wasn't gonna let a little fatigue keep her from her grain!!
I have been watching this video non-stop today. I just love these guys. They're so much fun, and I'm so glad I took the plunge into yak! I'm looking forward to getting those four new ones here soon! I hope you enjoy this video as much as I have!