Virtual Field Trip to Clear Spring Farm

Do you know what a yak is? Have you ever seen a baby yak? On this tour we will learn all about yaks with Melodee Smith from Clear Spring Farm. Students will discover how she takes care of the yak, why she raises yak and how yak fiber is harvested to make yarn.

About Clear Spring Farm

Melodee Smith is a co-owner and farmer at the Clear Spring Farm. The farm is located between Cannon Falls and Red Wing, Minnesota. Melodee has been raising yak for about ten years. Clear Spring Farm has about 40 yaks with 8 cows ready to have calves this May or June.

Last year's calves were shown in the beginning of the virtual field trip. When the yak calves are born, they weigh about 25 pounds. This is significantly smaller than a 60-90 pound calf that are born to beef or dairy cattle. After birth, many of the Clear Spring Farm yaks are bottle raised and become very friendly. Yaks have the face of a cow, a personality of a dog, shoulder hump like a bison, feet as nimble as goats, a horse tail and are as quiet as fish.

The black and white yaks at the Clear Spring Farm that look like Holstein dairy cow are called royal tibetan. The red yaks are called Native and Imperial Trim. Trim refers to the patten of the yak's coat and the 'native' or 'imperial' refers to the color of hair.

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The Purpose of Yaks

Melodee wanted to raise something that is unique, multipurpose and able to one day eat their meat. Yak meat is very low fat, high protein red meat. Another purpose of a yak is milk. Yaks are native to Mongolia, Asia and Tibet. People of these countries rely on yaks for meat and their milk. Yak milk is very high fat and nutritious. However, the yak on Clear Spring Farm are not milked.

Another purpose of a yak is a pack animal. Where they are native, yaks can have saddles on to be ridden or pack saddles on for nomadic [people who have no permanent home but rather wander from place to place] people to move around.

At Clear Spring Farm, they use their yaks for fiber. Yaks have a beautiful under coat that is dense and warm. When it is collected and processed, the yak coat makes a beautiful yarn for socks, mittens, and other things.

Yak Feed

Yak eat grass. In the summertime, Clear Spring Farm has their yak on pasture. In the wintertime, they eat dry hay from the summer before. Unlike beef or dairy cows, grain is a little too rich for the yak's system and it doesn't do them well. Babies, however, will get special calf feed* while they are on the bottle to boost their nutrition.

To learn more about more about the unique aspects of a yak and the yak coat to fiber making process, check out the virtual field trip video.

*"Creep Feed" was the term used in the virtual field trip by Melodee. It is a small pellet feed for young calves.

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