Yak producer looks for buyer for 250 head herd

Canada’s largest yak herd is for sale.

Phil Marsh says he will sell his 250-head herd for $1,000 a cow-calf pair, or give a discount for the entire herd.

“I’m open to offers,” said Marsh, who farms near McBride, B.C.

Marsh bought his first yaks in 2006 and has slowly expanded the herd. Meat from his herd is sold to a Vancouver wholesale company, which resells the top cuts to high end Vancouver restaurants.

“It’s a good business,” said Marsh.

He said he is selling the yaks be-cause his other business, converting biomass into biochar in Prince George, B.C., is taking top priority.

“The yak herd is getting sacrificed for bioenergy,” he said.

Yaks originated in northern China and Tibet and have been domesticated for 4,500 years. Tibetans used their meat, hair, hides, bones and milk and also used them as pack animals.

Cows average 600 to 800 pounds and stand 4.5 feet at the hump. Bulls weigh 1,200 to 1,500 lb. and reach 6.5 feet at the hump.

Yaks have handlebar horns, shoulder humps, horse-like tails and long shaggy hair that hang to the ground.

Marsh said he was attracted to yaks because of their minimal maintenance. They don’t require game fences, are easy calvers and don’t require special feed.

“They don’t need a game fence, nor are you going to be chased out of the pasture by them,” he said.

“I’d like to find a buyer for the cow herd, as opposed to butchering them.”

A yak carcass will bring $1,500 rail price, or $100 at the auction market.

“You get a steep discount at the auction.”

Marsh estimates there are fewer than 1,000 head in Canada, mostly in herds of four to five animals. The International Yak Association estimates there are 7,500 yaks in North America.

Canada exported yaks to the United States in the 1980s and 1990s to help expand that country’s industry.

Yaks were included in the border closure when BSE closed the border to cattle in 2003, but the border has never reopened to yaks.

“I could sell the entire herd into the U.S.,” Marsh said.

“It’s a bit frustrating.”

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