Development of AI for Yak Semen and the Potential Economic Benefits to Southern Region Yak, Small Acreage Farmers and Beef Producers

Progress report for FS21-335

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $14,998.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Zhi-ba Shing-ga Yaks (ZSY)
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
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Project Information

Abstract:

This project has two major components: The development of AI for yak semen process (from collection to impregnation) and educating small acreage farmers and beef producers concerning the potential benefits of introducing yaks and AI to their operations.

Developing successful AI techniques. There are two basic means of semen collection: electro-ejaculation and use of an artificial vagina. The ICAR-National Research Centre on Yak at Dirang, India recommends use of an artificial vagina (AV).  However, because of the danger associated with using an AV on a yak bull that has not been handled since a young age we will first work with electro-ejaculation and later use the AV (see below). We will determine the correct semen extender and freezing protocol, test the frozen semen, and find the best yak impregnation process. This work will be managed by Dr. Harrelson and MultiGen Reproductive Solutions (MRS), which will do the collection and preservation of the semen. Yak bulls and cows for this phase of the project will be provided by ZSY. The extender selection and freezing protocol will be based on information already provided to Dr. Harrelson by our Indian colleagues. (The ICAR-National Research Centre on Yak at Dirang, India claims about an 80% AI success rate with yaks.) MRS will use the yak semen collected by electro-ejaculation to test the extender and freezing protocol.

Concurrently, Gregor Dike, owner of ZSY will be working with younger bulls (one year old, six-month-old and bottle raised bulls) to train them for AV collection. The use of the three ages is to determine the optimum age for such training. As this is a two-year project, semen from the older bulls will be collected using an AV when they are over two years old. MRS will determine which method produces better semen for AI.

Yak impregnation will be managed by Dr. Harrelson at the ZSY farm. If necessary, MRS will assist. Success of implantation and subsequent fetal development will be determined by ultrasound. MRS will maintain semen collected during the project for use by interested small acreage farmers and beef producers.

All steps and outcomes will be documented and a final publication containing the collection procedure, extender and freezing protocol, and impregnation timing process will be produced as part of the part of the outreach materials

Educating small acreage farmers and beef producers:  Mary McCarty, Dr. Lehmkuhler and Gregor Dike will work on the multiple components of the outreach plan as explained in Part C. Key to the material development will be the establishment of a small acreage farm and beef producer focus group to review the material and make recommendations.

 

Yak Semen Selection: Dr. Ted Kalbfleisch, University of Kentucky will modify his “Match-A-Yak” program, which is designed to match bulls and yak cows to minimize coefficient of inbreeding to determine which bull given a set of bulls has the most genetic diversity. This component of the project will enable the selection of the best bulls for improving the overall genetics of a herd/the US herd.

Project Objectives:

 Our approach to solving how to treat yak semen, extender and freezing protocol, is based on the many years of successful work done at the ICAR-National Research Centre on Yak at Dirang, India. Dr. V. Paul at the Research Centre on Yak has provided information on the semen extender and freezing protocol to students of Dr. Harrelson.  As noted previously, Dr. Harrelson and MultiGen Reproductive Solutions (MRS) will apply this information to the yak semen extenders they will test (from which to make a final selection) and how the semen will be frozen. MRS will test the frozen semen for viability throughout the project. Dr. Harrelson and MRS will also select the methods of determining the optimal time for impregnation for yaks as their period of fertility is short and they do not show many visible signs. The goal will be to select the method which yields the highest pregnancy rate and that can be used on a typical small farm.

Electroejaculation and collection of semen with an artificial vagina (AV) will be done by at MRS. They will not only collect semen but determine the best method of collection in terms of quality for AI. (Note: The Research Centre on Yaks in India recommends collection using an AV.) Throughout the entire project Mr. Dike will be working with yak bulls (bottle fed through yearling) to train them for the mounting and handling required for AV semen collection. All decisions relating to selecting one method over another will be explained in the information developed for outreach. 

Dr. Ted Kalbfleisch will modify his “Match a Yak” software designed to select the bull which will yield the smallest coefficient of inbreeding for a given yak cow to allow him to select which bull from a set of bulls would bring greater genetic diversity. His work will ultimately be used to determine which bulls are the best for an AI yak semen program that will decrease the level of inbreeding in the southern and US yak herd.

Cooperative Extension Agent Mary McCarty, Dr. Lehmkuhler and Gregor Dike will work on the information developed for the critically important outreach component of the project. This is described in Section C. They will test the information developed on area beef producers to get feedback and do an iterative process of modification to develop the best way to present the materials to beef producers. Specific educational materials will be developed for yak breeders, small acreage and underserved farmers, and larger beef producers.

NOTE: Kelly VanKirk, of Greystone Farms located in Tennessee and Robert Cissell, of Nature’s Bridge Farm located in Virginia are yak meat producers and have agreed to review all steps and results of the project.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. MIchelle Arnold, DVM (Researcher)
  • Dr. Patricia Harrelson (Educator and Researcher)
  • Dr. Ted Kalbfleisch (Researcher)
  • Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler (Educator and Researcher)
  • Mary McCarty

Research

Materials and methods:

The project has two basic components: (1) The development of AI for yaks; and (2) providing information to Yak, Small Acreage Farmers and Beef Producers in the southern region. This section will address the work done on the development of AI for Yaks.
This project has been guided by four basic criteria: First, is to be able to demonstrate to yak breeders that yak AI can be developed without harm to yaks so the research had to include “lack of harm” to the bulls and cows as well; Second, the final process developed had to be easily implemented at AI businesses such as Select Sires, by Agricultural Departments at Universities or by veterinarians; Third, the cost of the equipment used had to be affordable so that it could be implemented at the local level; and, Fourth, to seek the knowledge of those who have worked on yak AI on a larger scale. In particular: ICAR-National Research Centre on Yaks in India which has been successfully working with yak AI for years and IMV Technologies which had produced a semen extender which they has used with yaks in France.
The process we followed in the development of the AI procedure was an incremental process in which we wanted to solve a series of questions one at a time. The process was defined by Dr. Patricia Harrelson and Dr. Philip Prater of the Department of Agricultural Sciences at Morehead State University. The questions were:
1. Can you collect yak semen successfully and without damage to the bull using electro-ejaculation? [The belief among most US yak owners is that bulls are damaged by electro-ejaculators and in India that electro-ejaculation does not work. ICAR uses an artificial vagina very successfully for semen collection but this requires training the yak bulls from a young age so semen can be safely collected.]
2. Can collected yak semen be successfully mixed using very simple equipment with the extender developed by IMV Technologies and an extender very successfully used by ICAR which Dr. Harrelson made based on the formula provided by ICAR to us?
3. Can the extender semen be cooled to 7 degrees Celsius for 4 hours without damage?
4. Can the cooled extended semen be frozen using the freezing rate protocols provided by ICAR and IMV Technologies using a very cheap homemade system to freeze the extended semen in liquid nitrogen rather than have to use a $45,000 machine.
5. Is the frozen extended semen viable after being frozen in liquid nitrogen for extended time?
6. Can yak cows be time sequenced like beef cattle using a standard CIDR insert? This included the question of whether they were anatomically capable of holding the CIDR in them after placement.
7. Given 1-6 can successfully be achieved, what is the success rate of the process?

Equipment: AS the work is being done at the Derrickson Agricultural Center at Morehead State University (MSU) we had access to squeeze chutes and handling equipment to control the yaks for both semen collection, CIDR insertion, insemination and ultra-sounding to determine pregnancy. MSU also had an electro-ejaculator, semen collection equipment, an ultrasound machine for cattle, microscopes, slides and stain (to check semen morphology and motility) as well as the basic laboratory equipment to make the semen extenders. The Department of Agricultural Sciences also obtained a grant to purchase a machine to measure bovine sperm concentration and a manual micro-pipet filler to fill the straws with extended semen. The ability to measure semen concentration was necessary so we would know if the yak bull was producing high quality semen and to know the sperm concentration of the extended semen we were using to fill the 0.25 cc straws for freezing.
The SSARE Project funds were used to help purchase the remaining equipment: A water bath, programmable laboratory refrigerator, tray to hold the straws for freezing, an AI kit, 2 liquid nitrogen tanks, timers and a digital thermometer to allow us to properly follow the freezing protocols by ICAR and IMV Technologies, the semen tray through liquid nitrogen vapor and into the liquid nitrogen itself, cryo-gloves and small laboratory items such as pipets, test tubes, etc.
We built the special $600 piece of equipment used to align the straws for loading on the freezing tray from 1” diameter threaded pipe aligned side by side to hold the straws and the freezing device from a high quality Styrofoam cooler and a homemade rack with a vertical threaded rod from which to lower the freezing rack into the liquid nitrogen in a slow controlled manner according to the freezing protocols.
The equipment was installed in a 7x12 foot cargo/box trailer in which we had installed a laboratory bench, lighting, a heater and small AC unit and all of the equipment. Having all of the equipment set up in the trailer allowed us to have the everything we needed physically close to where the semen was being collected which is very important since sperm are very fragile and quickly die if exposed to temperatures under 68 degrees F.

Project Research Activities To Date: (Results and Discussion are found in the third section of Materials and Methods)
Collection of yak semen:
This work was led by Dr. Philip Prater who is a specialist in bull reproduction and who has done cryopreservation of semen using very simple equipment (Hand lowering in liquid nitrogen).
Step 1: Four yak bulls whose ages ranged from 2 years to 10 years were brought to the handling facility. Dr. Prater performed a Breeding Soundness Examination on each of the bulls. This includes semen collection and evaluation of the mobility and morphology of the sperm as well as the volume of semen collected. Sperm concentration was also measured.
The semen from all four bulls was collected through a two-step process: First two to three minutes of manual stimulation of the seminal vesicles, prostate and cowper’s gland followed by the use of the small size bovine electro-ejaculator. This was done in early May, 2021.
Step 2: The youngest bull was eliminated from the project due to the small amount of semen produced. This was expected as yak bulls do yak bulls generally not being used for breeding until three years of age. The two four year old bulls and the ten year old bulls were brought back to recollect the next month to see if the older bull’s quality of semen improved and if the semen volume changed – this question had to be answered as yak breeders said that electro-ejaculation would not work if repeated,
Step 3: The one four year old bull was brought back in August for semen collection. The older bull was not brought back because the quality of the semen was not good enough for use in AI.
Step 4. The same bull used in step 3 was brought back in early October for semen collection.

Can yak semen be successfully mixed with the extender developed by IMV Technologies and an extender made with the formula provided by ICAR ? Tolerate cooling? And tolerate freezing?
The semen collected in June from the two four year old bulls was mixed with the two different types of extender using the protocols provided by IMV Technologies and ICAR. The “ICAR extender” was made by Dr. Harrelson following the directions provided. The IMV Technologies extender was simply required the addition of sterile water. All of this was done at the specified water bath temperatures for the semen and extenders. After the semen was mixed samples were drawn and viewed under a microscope to check sperm survival. After this was done the two types of extended semen were placed in straws using the micro-pipet and the cooled in the lab refrigerator for four hours according to the protocol. They were then taken out and sperm viability was checked.from two straws of each type of extender used. The remaining straws were then frozen according to ICAR and IMV Technologies protocol and preserved in liquid nitrogen.
Freezing the extended semen.
One of the four year old bulls was brought back in early August for semen collection and the semen was processed using both extenders. Samples were taken after mixing with the extender and after cooling to check sperm viability. Both types of extended semen were then frozen according to protocol.
Toleration of Freezing
Two straws of each type of extender used were removed from the liquid nitrogen after two days and after several weeks to check sperm viability.
Testing CIRD inserts and timed breeding protocol on yak cows
Cattle CIRD inserts were inserted in four yak cows following the times sequencing protocol for beef cattle. After ten days they were brought back to the MSU facility and checked to see if they were at the right time to be bred.
AI of yak cows
The four cows were bred using traditional AI methods.

Research of Bull Selection by Dr, Ted Kalbfleish, University of Kentucky
Only planning for the bull selection software and trial and the addition of two computer simulations to be done as part of the project have been done to date along with Dr. Kalbfleisch’s participation in the project conference held in November to teach participants about the importance of using genetics in their breeding practices.
1. The bull selection is going to be done based on a software program that has been developed which calculates the expected coefficient of inbreeding between a given bull and cow using the SNP data that nis generated during the DNA based registration process used by GeneSeek: The company that currently does all DNA analysis for USYAKS and IYAK yak registries. The plan is to modify the program so that the SNP profiles from the registrations of a group of bulls can be compared to determine which bull has the fewest SNPS which would produce homozygosity with the other bulls. This bull would then be the bull less likely of the group of bulls to increase the coefficient of inbreeding of the calves it sires. The use of this is to identify a good candidate for use in an AI program.

2. Farm Breeding Simulation: This would be a computer simulation which :models’ current yak breeder practices: using the same bulls over and over with the same yak cows and their offspring and the long term impact it has on the level of inbreeding within the b=herd. It is hoped that this can be done in a simple way with enough variables so that it can roughly predict what the outcomes for specific farms will be over time. The purpose of this is to demonstrate need t bring in outside genetics if a breeder is going to a have healthy breeding program.

3. AI Bull Breeding Simulation: This simulation will be used to estimate how many yak cows should a specific AI bull breed per year/lifetime without introducing its genetics too much into the gene pool. Ai needs to be used carefully or else it can cause great damage to the US yak herd gene poll (population about 6,000) through over use of any individual bull.

These three areas will be worked on during the second half of the project.

Research results and discussion:

Education and Outreach Activities
1. Our first activity was to send an announcement of the project with a brief description to Cooperative Extension Agents throughout the Southern Region. The letter identified the three target groups for the project: Current Yak Breeders, Small Acreage Farmers and Beef Producers and asked if the agents would pass on information to farmers they thought would be interested and also to provide them with our contact information so they might receive information directly. Included with the letter was “The Domestic Yak: A Potential Resource for Small Acreage Farmers and Meat Producers?”

Letter and article attached.

2. An abbreviated version of the “The Domestic Yak: A Potential Resource for the Small Acreage Farmer and Meat Producers?” was published in the Kentucky Beef Cattleman’s March 2021 Cow Country Journal (pages 56-57).. This publication is sent to all member beef producers in Kentucky and extends into Tennessee as well (over 10,000 recipients),

3. Mother Earth News has agreed to publish an article on Yaks in its 2022 fall issue. This is to be submitted by July. 2022. The hope is that this will reach a portion of the small acreage farmers.

4. Advertisements were taken out in The Cow and Pasture (Kentucky and parts of Tennessee) and in Grit magazine (national) for six months advertising yaks for sale to identify farmers who might be interested in yaks so we could send them information developed during the project.

Advertisements attached.

5. A Yak Husbandry Conference was held at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky on November 13, 2021 for yak breeders, people interested in learning about yaks and beef producers:
• brought To introduce people to the economic potential of yaks (Gregor Dike);
• To provide yak health information to current yak breeders and those interested in yaks (Dr. Michelle Arnold DVM University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Lab);
• To provide preliminary research based information of yak forage intake and weight gain as a function of forage (Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment);
• Explain the need for the use of genetics in Yak breeding programs (Dr. Ted Kalbfleisch, molecular geneticist, University of Kentucky);
• Explain the need for Breeding Soundness Examinations and perform one on a yak as a demonstration (Dr. Philip Prater, Morehead State University Department of Agricultural Sciences); and,
• To present the work done to date on developing a workable yak AI protocol (collection, cryopreservation, timed sequencing yak cows for breeding and performing artificial insemination on yaks. This was done through explanation and a demonstration of semen collection, inserting CIDR hormone inserts in two yak cows and artificially inseminating two yaks which had come into estrous through time based CIDR sequencing.

A lunch was served to all present which highlighted ground yak and yak roasts. The yak meat was prepared by Chef Robert Perry, University of Kentucky.
38 people attended the conference.

Information
• Attachment A provides the results of a post conference survey.
• Attachment B is a list of the subjects brought up by the attendees that they would like to see researched.
• An important consequence of the discussion at the end of the conference was a recommendation to modify the project. This modification is included as Attachment C.
• A significant outcome of the interest of those present at the conference and the enthusiasm of the researchers involved was the development of a yak research group which would address the issues raised and other basic issues which need to be addressed to improve yak husbandry (and as a result the economic potential of yaks) the same way beef husbandry has improved over the [past seventy years. Attachment D has the rational and organizational structure of his research group.

The conference was announced through direct emails sent to the membership of the International Yak Registry and USYAKS Registry, both of which have members across the United States. An invitation to the conference was also sent out to all Cooperative Extension Agents in the Southern Region to include in their newsletters.

Copies of the Conference announcement sent out are attached.

6. The talks at the conference were digitally recorded and have been posted on YouTube for people to view. Access to the site was sent out to all who attended the conference and the membership of IYAK and USYAKS yak registries, The channel link to the videos is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp7y2-DQ0mCDGgvGcWCuC4g or one can go to YouTube, and search "Yak Husbandry, Sales and Recipes”.

7. A second letter was sent to the Cooperative Extension Agents in the Southern Region with a brief description of the project including the target audience asking for their help by including an invitation in their newsletters for persons interested in receiving information on the project and the potential economic benefit of yaks could obtain the information directly from us. This was also sent out through the Cooperative Extension Agent network throughout the southern region.

Letter is attached

8. A website is currently being setup to provide access to the project’s information and other yak husbandry information as a way for small acreage farmers, yak breeders and beef producers who become interested in yaks in the southern region and across the US to have access to reliable information. The website will be YAK-HUSBANDRY-PRODUCTS-EATS@gmail.com and a brief description of its future content is attached.

9. SKAY, the research group which has developed out of this project has sent out a questionnaire to all yak breeders who are members of IYAK and USYAKS (the two yak registries) and all persons who attended the Conference as well as started a “monthly” zoom seminar on different areas yak breeders have expressed an interest in or that SKAY sees as needing to be introduced to breeders to help them begin to see what scientific/research based yak husbandry involvers.

Copy of the survey attached.

Notices for the first two seminars attached.

Participation Summary
1 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

6 Consultations
12 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Journal articles
7 Online trainings
2 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Tours
7 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

28 Farmers participated
7 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Education and Outreach Activities
1. Our first activity was to send an announcement of the project with a brief description to Cooperative Extension Agents throughout the Southern Region. The letter identified the three target groups for the project: Current Yak Breeders, Small Acreage Farmers and Beef Producers and asked if the agents would pass on information to farmers they thought would be interested and also to provide them with our contact information so they might receive information directly. Included with the letter was “The Domestic Yak: A Potential Resource for Small Acreage Farmers and Meat Producers?”

Article (without pictures) follows at end of this section.

2. An abbreviated version of the “The Domestic Yak: A Potential Resource for the Small Acreage Farmer and Meat Producers?” was published in the Kentucky Beef Cattleman’s March 2021 Cow Country Journal (pages 56-57).. This publication is sent to all member beef producers in Kentucky and extends into Tennessee as well (over 10,000 recipients),

3. Mother Earth News has agreed to publish an article on Yaks in its 2022 fall issue. This is to be submitted by July. 2022. The hope is that this will reach a portion of the small acreage farmers.

4. Advertisements were taken out in The Cow and Pasture (Kentucky and parts of Tennessee) and in Grit magazine (national) for six months advertising yaks for sale to identify farmers who might be interested in yaks so we could send them information developed during the project.

5. A Yak Husbandry Conference was held at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky on November 13, 2021 for yak breeders, people interested in learning about yaks and beef producers:
• brought To introduce people to the economic potential of yaks (Gregor Dike);
• To provide yak health information to current yak breeders and those interested in yaks (Dr. Michelle Arnold DVM University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Lab);
• To provide preliminary research based information of yak forage intake and weight gain as a function of forage (Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment);
• Explain the need for the use of genetics in Yak breeding programs (Dr. Ted Kalbfleisch, molecular geneticist, University of Kentucky);
• Explain the need for Breeding Soundness Examinations and perform one on a yak as a demonstration (Dr. Philip Prater, Morehead State University Department of Agricultural Sciences); and,
• To present the work done to date on developing a workable yak AI protocol (collection, cryopreservation, timed sequencing yak cows for breeding and performing artificial insemination on yaks. This was done through explanation and a demonstration of semen collection, inserting CIDR hormone inserts in two yak cows and artificially inseminating two yaks which had come into estrous through time based CIDR sequencing.
A lunch was served to all present which highlighted ground yak and yak roasts. The yak meat was prepared by Chef Robert Perry, University of Kentucky.
38 people attended the conference.

Information
• Attachment A provides the results of a post conference survey.
• A list of the subjects brought up by the attendees that they would like to see researched is included later in this report.
• An important consequence of the discussion at the end of the conference was a recommendation to modify the project.
• A significant outcome of the interest of those present at the conference and the enthusiasm of the researchers involved was the development of a yak research group which would address the issues raised and other basic issues which need to be addressed to improve yak husbandry (and as a result the economic potential of yaks) the same way beef husbandry has improved over the [past seventy years. Attachment D has the rational and organizational structure of his research group.

The conference was announced through direct emails sent to the membership of the International Yak Registry and USYAKS Registry, both of which have members across the United States. An invitation to the conference was also sent out to all Cooperative Extension Agents in the Southern Region to include in their newsletters.

Copies of the Conference announcement sent out are at the end of this section.

6. The talks at the conference were digitally recorded and have been posted on YouTube for people to view. Access to the site was sent out to all who attended the conference and the membership of IYAK and USYAKS yak registries, The channel link to the videos is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp7y2-DQ0mCDGgvGcWCuC4g or one can go to YouTube, and search "Yak Husbandry, Sales and Recipes”.

7. A second letter was sent to the Cooperative Extension Agents in the Southern Region with a brief description of the project including the target audience asking for their help by including an invitation in their newsletters for persons interested in receiving information on the project and the potential economic benefit of yaks could obtain the information directly from us. This was also sent out through the Cooperative Extension Agent network throughout the southern region.

8. A website is currently being setup to provide access to the project’s information and other yak husbandry information as a way for small acreage farmers, yak breeders and beef producers who become interested in yaks in the southern region and across the US to have access to reliable information. The website will be YAK-HUSBANDRY-PRODUCTS-EATS@gmail.com and a brief description of its future content is attached.

9. SKAY, the research group which has developed out of this project has sent out a questionnaire to all yak breeders who are members of IYAK and USYAKS (the two yak registries) and all persons who attended the Conference as well as started a “monthly” zoom seminar on different areas yak breeders have expressed an interest in or that SKAY sees as needing to be introduced to breeders to help them begin to see what scientific/research based yak husbandry involvers.

Notices for the first two seminars follow at end of this section.

Attachment 1: (pictures deleted)

The Domestic Yak: “A Potential Resource for Small Acreage Farmers and Meat Producers?”

Yaks are bovines which share a common ancestry with bos taurus (the majority of cattle breeds), bos indicus (eg. Brahman and Zebu cattle) and bison. What would become the Domestic Yak (bos grunniens) is believed to have diverged from this common ancestry between two and five million years ago becoming the Wild Yak (bos mutus) which were crossed with indigenous bos taurus roughly six thousand years ago. Today there are approximately 14.2 million yaks (Wild and Domestic) worldwide of which 13.8 million are in Chinese territories. There are roughly seventy-five hundred yaks in the United States, mainly in the northern Rocky Mountain region as they originally are a high altitude animal thriving at 12,000 feet in the Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau but also doing well in the hills of eastern Kentucky.

Thirteen hundred pound yak bull with six hundred pound yak cow.

Yaks have a number of qualities which could be used to bring increased revenue to both the small acreage farmer and the large beef producer. The main economic benefit yaks can bring to the table is meat. Yak meat is a rich red meat which is high in protein, has a high protein to calorie ratio, is leaner than bison and which contains Omega 3 oils. In terms of “healthiness” it has been compared to skinless chicken. The following is from an analysis performed by Certified Laboratories of the Midwest (Report #168765) of the meat of a yak which was grass fed at Zhi-ba Shing-ga Yaks in eastern Kentucky for two years. The results were as follows:

• Calories: 231/100 grams
• Carbohydrate: 2.86%
• Total Protein: 19.24%
• Cholesterol: 0.053%
• Oleic Fatty Acid: 4.92%
• Linoleic Fatty Acid: 0.2%
• Linolenic Fatty Acis: 0.11%
• Total Saturated Fats: 8.89%
• Total Monounstaurated Fats: 5.7%
• Total Trans Fats: 0.96%
• Omega 3: Alpha-Linoleic (ALA), Total Omega-3: 0.1%

Because there are so few yaks in the United States wherever yak meat is marketed the demand exceeds the supply. This results in a higher price: ground yak typically wholesales for $10/lb, retails at $14-$16/ with specialty cuts selling for $25-$35/pound. A yak farmer in Virginia sells hanging yak halves for $7/pound. Slaughter ready yak are now selling at $2.25/lb and are sought after by those in the yak meat business as demand is greater than supply. Why the high price? Taste and health qualities of the meat. But also because the available supply being low with so few yaks in the United States. It is important to note that the yak meat market has not been developed in the east or most of the west. Those who work at selling yak meat run out and struggle with supply. On the other hand, you can’t just take a slaughter ready yak to the auction and expect to get a good price. Those getting involved with yaks have to cultivate the market: To stores, to other yak meat sellers, directly to restaurants. It is a market that will take entrepreneurial work. Take a moment to look at yakmeat.org which is the website of Delyaks: A yak ranch that sells yak meat over the internet. One of the virtues of yak meat is the market price does not go up and down like beef. The yak market and yak based income can only grow as more farmers become involved.

Yak herd bull at Zhi-ba Shing-ga Yaks in eastern Kentucky.

What could yaks do for the larger scale meat producer? One of the amazing things about yaks is even though they are different species than bos taurus, they can cross breed. Yak AI researchers in India and China have developed a modified semen extender better suited for yaks that is resulting in 80% success rates in their AI programs. The interesting thing in the United States is that according to yak-hybrid meat producers in the United States meat from a 50-50 yak-beef cross can be marketed as USDA Certified yak meat. The yakxbeef hybrid will achieve slaughter weight faster and have a more marbled meat than the “pure” yak.

Genetic testing is available so one could label meat according to the percentage of yak genetics present: eg. 50% yak, %75% yak up to pure yak which would be 95% (the percent required for breed registration) as all yak, including the remaining Wild Yak on the Tibetan Plateau, have some degree of cattle introgression. The point being, the market potential for a yak hybrid and “pure” yak meat is wide open with creative work.
For both the large scale meat producer and the small acreage farmer, yaks can increase profit by decreasing costs. Yaks consume less forage than beef cattle, do not require as high a TDN, have an insulating undercoat of down to protect them from the effects of cold temperatures, and can finish on forage without supplemental feed. Yaks also have smaller calves, 25-35 pounds, reducing calving complications. All of these characteristics mean reduced production costs.

For the small acreage farmer yaks offer more possible revenue alternatives than meat. As noted previously, yaks grow a down fiber under their hair as insulation. This fiber (16-20 microns in diameter), which is “released” annually and can be combed out is of the same quality as cashmere (18.5 microns or less) . It can be marketed in raw form to fiber artists for up to $4/ounce. Fiber can be further processed into roving and yarn for value added products. Yak yarn sells for $30-$50 per skein depending on whether the fiber has been dehaired and what kind of fiber it is mixed with such as bamboo. Merino sheep wool or silk. It can also be felted. Their outer guard hair can be used to make ropes and rugs. Their hides are like a bear hide because of the dense longer hair and can marketed as can their skulls ($200-$300) because of their large horns.

Yak yarn (50% yak fiber, 40% merino wool, 10% bamboo)

In Asia yaks are milked to produce cheese and yak butter. Yaks do not produce much milk, only about a pint per day could be collected from a cow with a nursing calf. Tibetan nomads milk a string of yak cows based on the amount of butter and cheese they need for home and market. This is an underdeveloped business and market waiting to be developed in the United States.

In Tibet and the Himalayan Region, yaks have traditionally been the “jeep/tractor” within nomadic culture. Yaks were and are still used as pack animals and as oxen. In fact there is hybridization going on in areas where yaks are used as oxen in order to have larger, more powerful draft animals. Yaks are regularly used in the Himalayan region to carry equipment for trekkers and climbing gear and supplies to high elevation (13,000 foot elevation) base camps. Alpine Ascents in Alaska utilizes currently yaks to carry hikers equipment in remote mountain areas (www.alpineascents.com/treks/alaska-yak-trek/ ). Such a tourism side-business could be developed in the Appalachian and hiking regions of Kentucky.

Yak Husbandry: As previously noted, yaks have lower forage requirements than beef cattle. This does not mean they will do well on poor quality forage, but require less in terms of percent body weight requirements and TDN. There has not been much study of yak nutritional requirements in the United States. A small study is currently in progress under the direction of Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler at the University of Kentucky. Reduced absolute forage requirements will result in both small acreage and large meat production farm savings.

Yak calves weigh between 25 and 35 pounds at birth resulting in few calving issues. Gestation is 8.5 months. Yaks reach about 90% maturity at three years, cows should be 500lb or three years of age at calving and bulls think they are ready for action by age two. However, most breeders wait to three years of age before utilizing a young bull in their production herd. Bulls typically weight 1200 pounds or more while the cows are half the weight – and hence consume less forage than large beef cows require. Yaks are not hard on fences, do well on good quality grass and hay to achieve market weight and do not have diseases such as pinkeye and brisket disease. Other than good forage, the key health issues are parasite control, proper trace mineral levels (copper, zinc and selenium are essential) and annual vaccinations for respiratory diseases and clostridium diseases (Triangle 10 and Ultrabac 8 equivalents). With good care yaks will live into their twenties. Also, from anecdotal reports, yak meat does not “degrade” in texture or taste if older yaks are used for meat. Yak meat producers also state there is no difference in taste between meat from a yak bull or steer.

Yak mother with baby born earlier in the day.

Handling Equipment: Yaks require the same handling equipment as beef cattle: Good pasture fence (woven wire is typically used), squeeze chute for vaccinations and tagging, foot trimming if needed, combing out fiber to sell, and a handling pen and alley to move yaks into the squeeze chute or a loading chute. It is also recommended that they have some sort of protection the sun and bad weather such as a simple shed roof with wind break. Yaks are very curious so if you don’t want them in it, on it, or around it, they need to be fenced out. And, yaks are relational.

Further Information: One of the classic sources of yak information is “The Yak” 2nd edition by G. Wiener. This can be download as a PDF at no cost. Other information can be found at usyaks.org.
Pictures of “yak life” in Kentucky can be found at Zhi-ba Shing-ga Yaks on Facebook.

Attachment 2:

2021 Yak Husbandry Research Conference
Conference Capacity-50
Sponsored by
Morehead State University, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Morehead, Kentucky
The University of Kentucky Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Lexington, Kentucky
USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Grant, Southern Region
USYAKS (Yak Registry and Association)
Star Yak Ranch, Casper, Wyoming
Zhi-ba Shing-ga Yak Farm, Wellington, Kentucky

Saturday, November 13th
9am-5pm
Location: Derrickson Agricultural Complex, Morehead State University

This conference is for current yak producers, small acreage farmers, beef producers interested in possibly increasing the market value of their meat and those interested in developing yak operations.

Speakers
Dr. Michelle Arnold: University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory: Yak Health Management Considerations
Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler PhD, PAS: University of Kentucky Department of Animal and Food Sciences: Myth Busting: Nutrition of the Yak
Dr. Philip Prater: Morehead State University Department of Agricultural Sciences, Reproduction Specialist: Development of Artificial Insemination Program for Yaks: collection and semen evaluation
Dr. Patricia Harrelson: Morehead State University Department of Agricultural Sciences: Yak Semen Preservation Research Results to Date including Preservation Process
Dr. Ted Kalbfleisch: Bioinformatics Specialist, University of Kentucky: “How genetic technologies can inform your breeding decisions”

Gregor Dike, owner of Zhi-ba Shing-ga Yaks, Wellington, Kentucky: Why Beef Producers and Small Acreage Farmers should take note of the economic potential of yaks

Walfer Hernandez, Head Chef at The Barrel and The Easter, Washington D.C.: Will prepare a yak meat buffet using different cuts and preparations for attendees.

Working Demonstrations
Yak Semen Collection
Synchronizing yaks for insemination
******
Conference Schedule

Time Topic Speaker
8:00-9:00 am Registration / Vendor
9:00-9:30 Welcome & Why are we considering yaks? Greg Dike
9:30-10:15 Health Considerations of Yaks in the Southeast Dr. Michelle Arnold
10:15-10:30 Break
10:30-11:00 How genetic technologies can inform your breeding decisions Dr. Ted Kalbfleisch
11:00-11:30 Myth Busting: Nutrition of the Yak Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler
11:30-noon Is Your Bull Bad? Breeding Soundness Exams Dr. Phil Prater
noon-1:00 pm Lunch / Vendor
1:00-1:15 pm Q/A Yak Meat Prep Chef
1:15-2:30 pm Overview of Process of Estrus Synchronization & Semen Cryopreservation Dr. Patricia Harrelson & Dr. Phil Prater
2:30-4:00 pm Demonstrations: Semen collection, ultrasounding for pregnancy, CIDR device use/synchronization, (possible) insemination Dr. Patricia Harrelson & Dr. Phil Prater
4:00-4:30 pm Wrap-up & Evaluation Greg Dike

Hotels/Motels in the Morehead Area
Hampton Inn (606-780-0601) A block of 12 rooms will held until November 5th for those attending the Conference. Reservation code: YAKCON. Cost $99/night plus taxes.
Holiday Inn Express (606-784-5796)
Days Inn (606-783-1484)
Comfort Inn and Suites (606-780-7398)

Airports
Cincinnati International (Northern, KY)
Blue Grass Airport, (Lexington, KY)

Registration
(There is no charge for conference. We welcome you interest and participation.)

Name: _________________________________
Address: _______________________________________________________
Telephone: _______________________
Farm/Ranch Name: _______________________________________________
• Currently own yaks __________ Number of yaks___________
• Interested in yaks for the future ___________
• Small acreage farmer (no yaks) ___________
• Beef producer _________
Number of people attending: ________

Please scan and email to nct1108@yahoo.com
or
Mail via the postal service to
Gregor Dike, 57 Journeys End, Wellington, KY 40387

Questions
Contact Greg Dike
606-776-0022
nct1108@yahoo.com

Attachment A

2021 Kentucky Yak Husbandry Research Conference

On November 13, 2021 Morehead State University, University of Kentucky, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, and Shi-bah Zing-ga Yak farm co-hosted the first Kentucky Yak Husbandry Research Conference. A total of 33 participants and presenters were in attendance. Attendees traveled from Colorado, Wyoming, Illinois, New York, Tennessee, Indiana, Iowa and Kentucky.

Presenters shared information related to animal health, nutrition, genetics, reproductive physiology, artificial insemination and cryopreservation of yak semen. Demonstrations were performed on collecting semen for artificial insemination, estrus synchronization, and artificial insemination. A lunch was prepared showcasing yak meatballs and yak stew.

A total of 14 evaluations were completed by participants. Participants were asked their knowledge level both before and after the presentations for each topic using a 5-point Likert scale. Knowledge level increased for all topics as shown in the table below.

Topic Before After
Health Considerations 3.08 4.38
Genetic Technology 2.43 3.86
Nutrition 2.64 4.57
Bull BSE 2.43 4.21
Estrus Sync & Cryopreservation 2.31 4.31
Welcome & Wrap-up 2.75 4.17

Participants were asked what changes they intended to make as a result of attending the conference. Several indicated they intended to consider improving their nutritional programs and adjust mineral supplementation programs. Others indicated they hoped to utilize artificial insemination once the research proved it to be successful. When asked if they would recommend the program to someone, 100% said yes. The program successfully increased the knowledge and understanding of yak husbandry skills of attendees.

Attachment 3: First two advertisement for zoom yak information speaker series

#1Dr. Jeffrey Lehmkuhler

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
Is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Planning a Yak Breeding Program
Presenter: Dr. Darrh Bullock
Extension Professor, Beef Cattle Genetics
Beef Cattle Extension Specialist, Beef Breeding and Genetics
Time: Feb 23, 2022 08:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Dr. Darrh Bullock, University of Kentucky, will share information to assist in making breeding decisions. He will share information on the selection tools including ratios, estimated breeding values and Expected Progeny Differences that have been utilized in the beef industry. Additionally, Dr. Bullock will discuss how selection tools can be used in yak production.
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, or mobile device:
https://uky.zoom.us/j/81556423230?pwd=OEF3RkhLd2dmNWV1TmdSUTVpdUhYQT09
Password: YakGen
Or iPhone one-tap (US Toll): 13017158592,81556423230# or 13126266799,81556423230#
Or Telephone: Dial:
+1 301 715 8592 (US Toll)
+1 312 626 6799 (US Toll)
+1 646 876 9923 (US Toll)
+1 253 215 8782 (US Toll)
+1 346 248 7799 (US Toll)
+1 669 900 6833 (US Toll)
Meeting ID: 815 5642 3230
Password: 646081
International numbers available: https://uky.zoom.us/u/kbZgQTqybh

This presentation is the first in a series of presentations being organized by the newly formed Scientific Knowledge Advancement in Yaks Research Group led by faculty from the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University (SKAYRG).
Questions: Contact Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler at 859-257-2853 or jeff.lehmkuhler@uky.edu

#2

Livestock Judging Terminology

SKAY (Scientific Knowledge Advancement in Yaks Research Group)
Zoom Seminar Series

Mr. Zach Bartenslager

University of Kentucky Extension Associate, will discuss showring lingo and what it means.

Mr. Bartenslager has judged beef shows in several states and was a livestock judge instructor at the University of Tennessee before accepting a position at the University of Kentucky.

Seminar Date: Tuesday, March 8, 2022
8:30 PM EST/7:30 CST/6:30 MST

Registration is required to attend this seminar

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://uky.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYufuqtqDooHNAoYLVwYQv6do78HCFWktQu

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Jeff Lehmkuhler, Ph.D.
Extension Beef Cattle Specialist
University of Kentucky
810 W.P. Garrigus Bldg
Lexington, KY 40546

Phone: 859-257-2853
Email: jeff.lehmkuhler@uky.edu

Learning Outcomes

9 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

8 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Grant received that built upon this project
1 New working collaboration
Project outcomes:

Two of the unexpected outcomes of the project to date are the development of the SKAY Research Group made up of faculty and researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Food, Agriculture and Environment, The University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and the Morehead State University Department of Agricultural Sciences AND yak breeders all of whom attended the Yak Husbandry Conference held as part of this project. The work done under this project which was presented at the Conference brought forth a genuine desire on the part a number of yak breeders and faculty members who are part of the project to commit to work together on science based yak husbandry. The following paragraphs is a description of what SKAY is and the rational behind it.

Scientific Knowledge Advancement for Yaks Research Group (SKAY)

Background: If one looks at the development of the beef industry over the past seventy years it was literally transformed by the introduction of science. Nutrition, mineral, and forage requirements were scientifically determined that would best support the annual cycle of cattle to allow proper condition for conception, pregnancy, birth, lactation, weaning, reduced length of anestrous. Similarly, the requirements for the development of improved stocker cattle performance and factors impacting meat quality were discovered as well. Research also was directed toward the development of a systematized bull breeding soundness evaluation to increase fertility. The development of a database for registered cattle based on their pedigrees, progeny, their own performance as well as genomics has led to a robust prediction of the genetic merit of individuals through the development of Expected Progeny Difference (EPD) values. In 1971, the first National Sire Summary of 13 bulls and their EPDs was published. A few traits were reported but the number of calculated EPDs has grown over the years. Traits include calving ease, birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, yearling height, scrotal circumference, docility, meat characteristics, fertility, and other traits breeders are interested in. This research allowed breeders to make significant changes in the cattle performance. The national sire summary research also allowed for the ability to identify maternal and terminal sires which provided producers the ability to improve mating outcomes.

A great deal of research was done starting with the very basics of cattle husbandry. Much of the research brought great improvements and some did not. As an example, artificial insemination of beef cattle began in the early 1950’s, yet less than 15% of the beef herds utilize this technology while more than 60% of the dairy cows are bred with artificial insemination (AI). However, a large percentage of the beef seedstock industry utilizes AI, embryo transfer technology and some have adopted in-vitro fertilization and embryo splitting technology. The technology has allowed for rapid change in the genetic base of beef cattle. In this research-based development of the beef industry, research efforts were guided by industry input, observation, and knowledge gained from the research outcomes.

As technology advanced, animal scientists adapted new technology into their research. The bovine genome sequencing project began in 2003 on a Hereford cow L1 Dominette 01449 with international support totaling $53 million. The genome sequence was deposited into free publicly accessible databases to allow for further development of genetic tools by researchers across the globe. Other breeds were sampled and this information added to the databases. This genetic roadmap provided the development of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) tests to begin identifying regions of the genome that played a role in key traits such as parentage, coat color, polled/horned, growth, milk production, calving ease, meat traits and genetic defects .
Genomics testing allows for improving the accuracy of the genetic potential of an unproven sire or dam when incorporated with their EPDs. One key need though for development of the genetic tests was vast amounts of phenotypic data. One can’t make a genetic test for coat color without knowing the actual color phenotype of sire, dam and offspring. Some traits like growth are influenced by many genes making it more difficult to develop genetic tests for some traits. Also, the environment or management plays a key role in many traits such as milk production, fertility, and growth. Breed associations also began requiring whole herd reporting of production traits to build the database needed to improve EPDs. Later, breed associations eventually tied in genomic test results to develop genomically enhanced EPDs. What progress has been made with the implementation of the genetic tools such as EPDs? In 1972 the average yearling weight EPD for Angus was -35 and in 2021 it was 113. This means the average sire in 2021 would be expected to produce progeny or calves that at 12 months of age would weigh 148 pounds more than those sired in 1972. As a comparison, in the 1930’s the US average corn yield was approximately 30 bushels per acre and in 2020 was nearly 180. This gain is partially due to the development and adoption of hybrid seed corn, but also improved management. This is the power of knowledge gained from scientific research.

In yak husbandry, breeders still do not even have a definitive answer to how much and what quality of forage a yak needs to consume daily. We don’t know what trace mineral levels should be to prevent deficiencies. Additional information is needed to determine how much protein and energy are required by cows during pregnancy or when lactating as well as for yaks growing after weaning. What impact does nutrition have on fiber quality or different feeding practices impact meat quality? Yaks come from a narrow genetic pool in North America. Inbreeding depression could lead to reduced fertility, poor growth, smaller mature sizes, and increased genetic defects. Yet, without records and reporting, determining the impacts of inbreeding can be difficult to assess.
We all have our ways of raising yaks based on our own observations and beliefs just the way beef ranchers did fifty years ago. If we want to improve our herds and, as a consequence, the economics of our operations, we need to know the answers to basically the same questions the beef industry had to answer to improve to where it is today. Granted our emphasis will be slightly different to answer yak specific questions such as those relating to fiber, coat color, meat quality, fertility and milk production.

Simply put, the Scientific Knowledge Advancement for Yaks Research Group, SKAY, was formed to “guide” the yak husbandry research to bring improvement to the management similarly to what has occurred in other livestock species. SKAY has the advantage of the research road map from the work done in the beef industry. These scientists are the ones who, working with yak owners/breeders, can assist in identifying what needs to be done and avoid pitfalls in terms of the research needed to bring yaks to a more productive level; Be it as breeding stock, for meat, fiber or dairy production.
A word of caution. The improvement of the beef industry did not come from the improvement of the animal, it came about by changing how and what the beef producers did. It was new nutritional practices, new forage production practices, data driven mineral supplementation, bull soundness evaluations and body condition scoring, collection of data on each bull’s offspring to build expected progeny differences as a way to select a specific bull to bring desired improvements to herd offspring.

As such the yak breeder who wants to bring his/her herd to a higher production level will have to learn a new way of raising yak from the pasture they graze to their breeding program, the records they keep and the yaks they do not.

Scientific Knowledge Advancement for Yaks (Research Group) Membership. There are three types of members of SKAY:
I. Scientists and researchers who will do/guide research
II. Yak farmers/ranchers who will both provide input and needed data to the researchers and serve as research sites for the implementation of studies by the researchers (eg. A forage -weight gain study, data collection bulls such as scrotal diameter, birth and weaning weights of offspring, provide meat samples for analysis)
III. Those who work with “yak products”: chefs, fiber artists, nutritionists, etc. who desire to give input to the farmers/ranchers and *researchers as to what they need to best market yak products
Organizational Overview: SKAY will have a two-tiered Board. Tier #1 will consist of no more than 6 and not less than 4 scientists and researchers from universities and the private sector (Class I members) who will guide and conduct research and Tier #2 will be composed of not more than 4 and no less than 2 individuals from Classes II or III.
Type I members of the SKAYRG will be the members who determine which research specific will be done at a given time, design the research projects and carry them out, and chair research project committees whose members are SKAY members who are involved with the research project.
Type II and III members will:
• Bring to Tier 1 their specific needs in terms of husbandry and/or desired improvements for the markets they work within;
• Provide data needed by the researchers as they are able;
• Be sites for field tests and research projects related to their work with yaks/yak products; and,
• Serve on research project committees their farm or area of work (fiber, chef etc) is involved with.
NOTE: All SKAY members will be expected to provide input and contribute to the discussions and decision making at Board Meetings. This is a participatory organization.
Yak Registry/Association Affiliation: Whereas yak breeders who are members of SKAY may be members of specific yak registries or associations, SKAY will not be affiliated with any such registry or association. SKAY will be a completely independent research-focused group with respect to yak registries, organizations, yak related businesses and yak farms/ranches.
Meetings: All SKAY meetings will be conducted in such a way so that SKAY members can participate.
• Members will have voice but not vote with respect to Board decisions.
• Members will be notified about meetings by email at least one week prior to the meeting date.
• Meeting agendas and previous meeting minutes will be sent to members by email at least one week before the meeting.

The initial projects the yak breeders and presenters thought needed to be worked on are:SKAY Research Group
2022 Projects
Yak AI
Semen collection and cryopreservation
Sequencing: Timed + patches to detect mounting
Inseminate 10 yak cows
Information to southeastern region

8 bulls – repetitive collection every two weeks – measure volume, motility, morphology, concentration, testicular diameter

Semen collection every as a function of ambient temperature: volume, motility, morphology, concentration – collect 60 days after Temp

Yak bull leg profile = photography—can specify positions so other breeders can help with photo data
Yak Breeder Survey
USYAKS and extras
IYAK -Danielle Pettit
Chefs Survey
UK Meat Analysis – protein, fat, moisture – if works, get broad spectrum of samples
Reinvigorate the Trace Mineral Study
Forage Study Round 2
Yak Weight Tape development
Set up ranches that are collection partners
Set up SKAY Research Group
Zoom Scientist Speaker Series – USYAKS, IYAK, Heritage Yak Memberships
Website- research, restaurants, yak products

This coming together of ranchers and scientists will greatly contribute to the future sustainability and growth of the yak industry. The economic benefits will develop as science based yak husbandry develops, as AI is accessible to improve herd genetics and the genetic basis of desired traits relating to improved meat and fiber production are identified and utilized. Environmental benefits will follow the development of the yak meat industry through science based husbandry since forage raised and finished yak have a smaller carbon footprint than beef cattle as well as bringing a leaner, higher protein meat to the public. The move toward science based yak husbandry will result in the need for yak ranchers/farmers to come together to learn and to also be part of the scientific development through data collection in their herds (eg. collecting data to begin to develop EPDs for yaks similar to those in the beef industry.

The second unexpected outcome of the project to date is the identification of the need for a website where yak breeders can access science based husbandry information as there is so much misinformation about yaks and yak husbandry, One of the weaknesses of the project to date is not knowing in the three target groups did/ will get the information we send out through the Cooperative Extension network or articles such as was included in the KY Cattleman's Cow Country Journal or will be in the coming October 2022 issue of Mother Earth News. How to have the information available is key. The website with be a way for people to access the work of this project (including You Tube links to all the workshops and Conference seminars), the SKAY Research Group's work and other science based information. A simple internet search on yaks by an interested person should get them to the site once it is developed. And its content will grow as more research is done and the results added. A draft development description of the website follows:Website Name YAK-HUSBANDRY-PRODUCTS-EATS@gmail.com

(Pictures of yaks here in the beginning)
Welcome To
YAK-HUSBANDRY-PRODUCTS- EATS

The official website of SKAY
“The Scientific Knowledge Advancement for Yaks (Research Group)”

What You Will Find At This Website
Science based information for Yak Husbandry
Where to find Yak Meat, Fiber and Fiber Products For Sale
Restaurants Which Serve Yak Meat
Yak Meat Recipes
Events: Zoom Presentations, Conferences, Yak Related Events- put upcoming event right here with picture and details

SKAY Website Mission

To provide yak owners with information on yak husbandry which is science based and has been reviewed by SKAY Scientists (other term here) AND to provide consumers with information where to purchase yak products, restaurants which serve yak meat and recipes to prepare yak meat.
Note: The information on this website will grow as more information is developed/identified by SKAY.

At the conclusion of this website you will find the rational for the development of SKAY; a list and explanation of ongoing SKAY Research Projects; University faculty/Scientists involved in SKAY; and SKAY’s current Board of Directors

Science based information for Yak Husbandry
Pictures of Dr. Prater and Dr. Who, etc
• Paper on forage requirements – intro by us on how it applies to yaks
• Yak Nutrition – Jeff’s paper
• Jeffs presentation power point and conference presentation
• Trace Mineral issues
• Dr. Arnold’s summary to date and what she needs
o How to submit samples
o Contact us for tubes?
o Scholarship program for samples
• Dr. Arnold’s presentation power point and conference presentation
• Yak Genetics Ted’s powerpoint and presentation
• Genetics and Data needed to take yak husbandry to the next level Darrh Bullock’s presentation
• Yak Reproduction
o Dr. Prater Yak Bull BSE Powerpoint and presentation
• Description of AI issues with yaks…
o Dr. Prater and Dr. Harrelson presentation

NOTE: This website should be up with the SSARE Project information by June 1, 2022.

Recommendations:

Two recommendations for additional study were identified at the Yak Husbandry Conference and have been added to this project, They are 1) A study on the effect of repetitive semen collection on yak bulls (in terms of volume, sperm motility, morphology and concentration; and, 2) A study of the effect of ambient air temperature on the quality of semen produced by a yak bull over the course of a year. AS climate change is raising the ambient air temperature and changing weather patters, how doe this impact yak bull fertility (sperm quality)?

Other needed study which has arisen out of the work to date and those attending the Yak Husbandry Conference are:

1. A study of yak meat from yaks who have been raise under different feeding programs: eg strictly grass fed, raised with a grain supplement, raise with silage supplement etc. How do different feeding programs impact the meat quality characteristics?

2. A study to determine what are the proper trace mineral levels for yaks. This is unknown and is critical for developing optimal yak health, fertility, breeding and calving.

3. A program to collect enough date on an agreed upon set of traits that in the future could be linked with the genes which give rise to these traits.

4. Setting up a yak equivalent to the beef industry EPD system to select bulls for breeding programs.

Participants

No participants
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.