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New Jersey Farm Finds Success With Yaks
Yaks fit well with Eric and Susan Mandatta’s desire to raise something exotic on their Silver Cuff Farm in Stockton, N.J. Their interest in the breed began when they purchased four heifers 5 years ago. The Tibetan animals have become a passion that led to research and education, as well as making new friends.
The Mandattas focus on breeding stock, collecting down fiber and hair for fiber artists, and selectively milking the yaks to make soap and butter, as yaks are not high-volume dairy producers.
They spent a couple of years looking for the right bull.
“We wanted a certain bloodline and lineage that we could trace since the gene pool in the U.S. is so shallow. We also looked at temperament, the symmetry of horns, and conformation,” Eric says.
He was enamored by how versatile yaks are for Tibetans, who use everything from their dung for heat, to their milk, meat and hair to packing and trekking.
“Yaks don’t need a lot of land and leave a low carbon footprint,” Eric says. They eat a fraction of what Angus cattle eat, but they also mature slower and weigh less. Cows are 600 to 700 lbs. and bulls weigh 1,200 to 1,800 lbs.
Very hardy and self-sufficient, they rarely need help with calving and do well on orchard grass, free choice mineral, and occasional alfalfa at Silver Cuff Farm.
The Mandattas currently have 14 animals in their herd, annually trimming hooves and combing them to collect fiber in the spring. Each yak averages a fiber harvest of about one pound per year.
“The down undercoat is so fine in microns that it rivals other luxury animal fibers. The outer hair is thicker and water-repellant,” Susan says. The hair has no lanolin and is antimicrobial and scent-free.
“Their fiber is so niche. There are less than 10,000 yaks in the U.S., and less than 500 are combed for a fiber harvest,” Susan says, so the fiber and yarn can sell for a premium price to fiber artisans. She and Kat Tylee, owner of Little Hawk Yarns LLC in Oregon, promote and educate people about yak fiber on their podcast, The Yakademics.
Some yak owners raise them for meat, which is sweeter, leaner and healthier than beef.
Prices for yaks range from $1,000 for meat animals to upwards of $20,000 and beyond for breeding stock with good bloodlines and temperament.
For more information, there are yak associations, USYAKS, a Science-Based Registry (www.usyaks.org) and the International Yak Association (www.iyak.org).
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Silver Cuff Farm, LLC, Eric & Susan Mandatta, Stockton, N.J. 08559 (ph 609-218-8714; emanland@hotmail.com; www.silvercufffarm.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #2