WELLINGTON, KENTUCKY (WDKY-TV)– When Greg Dike goes to check on his herd, it’s almost like he’s traveling to another country. His cows and bulls look a little funny because they’re not from around these parts.
“They’re just kind of neat, interesting animals to deal with,” he says.
Right now, there are 85 yaks on this Menifee County farm. These extremely furry animals with the smooth horns are typically found in the Himalaya mountains of Tibet and Nepal.
He says he was on a trip to northern India a few years ago where he met a lot of Tibetan refugees.
“They’re the ones who started talking about yaks, their virtues and that sort of thing,” Dike said. “When I came back, I found a yak in Ohio and thought I’d give it a try, what the heck.”
He says he soon discovered if you have one yak, you need to have at least two, “because they see everything as a predator if they’re isolated from other yaks.” He says after getting chased out of the field a couple of times, be set out to find more yaks to form a herd.
Dike says he really got an education after meeting with yak producers at a convention in Colorado. He learned how versatile they are. Their fiber is in demand for yarn and their meat is high in protein, leaner than beef and sells for twice the price.
“People I know that have had elk and bison will choose the yak over it.”
Even though the bulls can weigh over a thousand pounds, he says they’re usually gentle and the much-smaller cows are quiet… not yakety yaks. Dike says a lot of people just make pets of them.
“They’re not aggressive and as you make them more as pet, they can become obnoxiously friendly.”
Despite the difference in the climate they’re used to, Dike says yaks do well in Kentucky, as long as they have shade and plenty of water. He’d like to see them become more common here. He believes they could be real money-makers for local farmers.
“One of the things about the meat is the price is stable and goes up. The demand is far greater than the supply,” he said.
Their yaks sell in the $2,000 price range, which is half of what they go for in Colorado and Montana. There are only about 7,500 yaks in the whole country.
He and his wife, Linda, have named their 70-acre ranch “Zhi-Ba Shinga,” which means “Peace Farm” in Tibetan. It is a peaceful place indeed, that brings a little bit of the Himalayas to Appalachia.
“They have a spirituality about them,” Dike says. “There’s a wisdom they just seem to have.”