Welcome to Painted Hand Farm

Painted Hand Farm is a 20 acre Civil War era farm located in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. We raise meat goats, veal calves, turkeys and organic vegetables using humane and sustainable agricultural practices.

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Monday, August 02, 2004

The Story of Tibet

Be Careful What You Wish For
You Just Might Get It!

This is the story of how I acquired a Yak whom I named Tibet. Follow along in my adventures of my new farming venture.

As a fledgling farmer, I joined a sustainable agriculture organization that was pretty active at the local level. There were veggie growers, fruit growers, flower growers, dairy owners, cheese makers, poultry producers, beef ranchers, fiber people with sheep, llamas, alpacas and then there was me—the meat goat farmer.

“I’m not milking no goats,” bellowed my dearly beloved each time I would state my desire to become a goat farmer in the early days of our relationship. The years went by and so did a steady stream of meat rabbits, turkeys, laying hens and pheasants. Renting kept the animal population reined in. Finally, to mark the turn of the millennium, we bought a Civil War era farm across the country, sight unseen, loaded up my horse, two dogs, a cat and my sweetie. Off we went to find bliss on our own patch of ground.

Granted, the animal residents didn’t come immediately since there was no fencing and the farm was in serious disrepair. I did manage to get a late spring start on a flock of laying hens and a few turkeys, though. They lived in an old tin shed from Sears the previous owner had left until we had a fenced-in barnyard in which to turn them loose. We added rabbits to the mix, but found they didn’t breed year-round as they had in the west. We pondered a hardier type of livestock. Goats were my answer, but my love’s reply was still the same, “I’m not milking no goats.”

It turned out that meat goat production was on the rise in the country. Evidently, to supply the demand for ethnic people, the United States was importing hundreds of thousands of meat goats a year. Raising them didn’t involve a serious outlay of cash as many of the exotic livestock pyramid schemes often did. So off we went to purchase our first two goats.

Within two years, two goats turned into twenty-two and we began selling the male kids for meat. Our customers were Italians, Moroccans, Bulgarians, Mexicans and Jamaicans. We had an instant market and were pleased with the way the farm was coming along.

Although the goats were specifically raised for meat, that first year after the two does freshened and the kids were weaned I tried my hand at milking. Sweetie built a milking stanchion for me and I bought myself a stainless-steel milking pail. But no one ever told me that goats need to get used to being milked.

That first week, every night I would come home from the office and spend the next hour trying to milk two goats that didn’t want to be milked. I got stepped on, kicked, covered with manure as well as milk when they would rear up and plunk their feet down right into my nice clean stainless steel bucket that had what little milk I had already stripped from their teats. My hands got sore. Milking is repetitive and unlike tapping on a keyboard all day, required a little more finesse.

The second week went much better as both the does and myself were getting used to the daily routine. With a couple gallons of fresh goat milk I decided to try my hand at making cheese. And what wonderful cheese it was. I was hooked.

Articles about ‘artisan cheeses’ started showing up in the food section of the New York Times, Food & Wine, Gourmet magazine and Bon Appetite. Dairies were adding creameries to their operation for value-added products which helped the family farm once again become sustainable. I began experimenting with different cheeses.

By the next freshening season, I had increased my herd and was now milking six goats, four of which were first time milkers. Once again I went through the challenge of getting a routine going. Fortunately, a local goat farmer who had switched from milk to meat goats offered to give me his old surge milker. After learning the difference between a vacuum compressor and an air compressor, we got the surge milker operational and milking six goats went from being an hour affair to less than 15 minutes. This was a snap. Unfortunately, my meat goats didn’t provide the quantity of milk I was hoping for and I began to scheme for a way to increase the amount of white liquid I coveted.

The original plan soon hatched after selling a market wether to a 4H kid. “The 4H Roundup in August 4,” she told me. Perfect. That was my birthday and because we would be at the auction watching our first 4H project, it would be the perfect time to purchase a nice fresh dairy goat that would provide at least a gallon, instead of only a quart each day. I had it all figured out, only August was months away.

During this time, while attending a PASA meeting, I met Melanie Dietrich-Cochran of Keswick Creamery. She lived a few miles away, had grown up in a dairy family and even had a college education in dairy sciences from one of the best agricultural colleges in the east. I picked her brain every opportunity I got. And then one day she asked, “Do you know about the one-cow exemption?” By the look on my face, she must have known I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. “You can sell all the cheese you make from one cow without having to be inspected and licensed,” she informed me. Bingo.

The next question was what type of cow to get. I did my homework and decided to purchase a Brown Swiss due to the volume of milk they produced. However, during my research, one particular statistic caught my eye. Yak’s milk had a butterfat content of 6-9 percent compared to the 2-4 percent of cow’s milk. That would mean since I got roughly a pound of cheese out of a gallon of milk I begged off from the local farmers, that a gallon of yak milk would double my yield.

Just for the fun of it, I researched yaks. My dream didn’t last long due to the facts that most yak ranches were in the west and the ones in the east weren’t anywhere near us. Add to that they were out of my price range and I was back at the Brown Swiss before long. But my interest in the yaks had been piqued.

Although they are bovids and can be bred to regular dairy bulls, they have a hump and horns like buffalo and shed a cashmere-grade downy fiber that is highly sought after by custom spinners and weavers. Their meat is lean like buffalo, but they do not require Fort Knox fencing to keep them contained. But the big selling point for me was their efficiency for converting forage into muscle. It takes twelve pounds of forage to gain a pound of meat in a cow, sixteen for a buffalo, but only six for a yak. The statistics were great, but my logistics were not. So I started looking for a Brown Swiss.
Another PASA meeting rolled around and this time I met a local spinner/weaver who raised wool sheep, angora goats, llamas and alpacas. During our conversation, I casually said that if she ever came across a yak for sale in any of her fiber circles, I would be interested. Little did I know that she would email me less than twenty-four hours later with news there was a yearling yak heifer less than two hours away and the price was in my budget. Looking at her message, I sat there dumbfounded. “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it,” has been a favorite manta of mine over the years and once again those words rang true.

I contacted the yak seller and found out that they had acquired the yak as a weanling. She had been kept with a herd of Scottish Highland cattle. While the gentleman had his dreams of one day having a whole herd of yaks, his wife did not share his vision. The yak had to go.

Now I still commute to a high-tech job everyday despite my hankering for farm life. Since the yak wasn’t far from my office, I decided I would drive out on my lunch hour one day and check her out. But then I got to thinking….

Why waste a trip out there just to look at her without taking along my stock trailer. If she’s healthy and I buy her, why not just load her up and take her along home. With the price of fuel these days, cutting down on driving was always at the forefront of my mind.

On a Friday morning before heading to work I asked my honey if he would help me hook up the trailer. “Why? I thought you were just going to look at the yak,” he said. At that moment, he knew that unless the yak only had three legs or was deathly ill, it would be coming home with me.

At the office, my co-workers questioned the trailer in tow. I casually told them at lunch I was going to look at a cow. I didn’t use the word ‘yak’. While everyone else went off for tacos and burgers, I was on my way to fulfill yet another dream.

When I arrived at the farm a swarm of pigmy goat kids greeting me before a lanky gent emerged from the barn. We made our introductions and he took me inside to where the yak was tied to a post. She was much smaller than I expected, maybe twelve hands. Her horns and head appeared disproportionate to the rest of her body. And that tail! It was snow white and full like a horse’s tail. I approached her and began to pet her. Whoosh! Up came a hind leg with lightening speed hoping to connect. Fortunately, I was not in her range of motion.

“Be careful there, she’s pretty wild,” said the owner. She had been in pasture with his herd of Highland cattle and hadn’t been handled at all. Yes, she was wild alright.

Fortunately, she stood well enough I could run my hands over her ribs and check her eyes and gums for anemia—a sure sign of a heavy worm load. She was lean, but well muscled and all her membranes appeared pink and healthy. “I’ll take her.”

Once we had settled up, I backed my trailer up to the doorway that was flush with the alleyway. The owner had called his Mennonite neighbor who soon arrived with his three young sons. I could tell by the way the Mennonite looked at me that he thought I was some kind of kook to be buying this wild, big-horned critter. Both men held firm on each horn while the oldest son untied the yak from the post. The men drug her down the alley and hoisted her front end into the trailer. She gladly hopped in the rest of the way and they shut the door. I now had the yak in my possession and back down the road I went.

The ride back to the office was uneventful. Upon my return it only took for one co-worker to say the word, ‘yak’ and everyone else was off to check her out. She was content to sit in her bedding and munch away on hay until the end of the day.

Home we went. Sweetie was mowing the lawn when I pulled in the driveway. Knowing that I’d need to be doing some serious taming, I opted to turn her out into the large paddock area next to the barn. I pulled the truck into the paddock, turned around and pulled out so the back of the trailer completely blocked the gateway. Then I swung open the trailer door and the yak emerged.

She trotted to the other end of the paddock where the guinea hens promptly gave her a raucous welcoming. I don’t know if she’d ever seen or heard a guinea before and the yak stood transfixed by their screeching long enough for me to pull forward and shut the paddock gate. Now the real work could begin.

Sweetie gave up his mowing long enough to inspect the newest addition to the farm. He put his hand over the fence to pet her and she promptly rammed her head into the mesh. “She’s still wild,” I said as he jumped back in surprise. He just shook his head and went back to mowing.

I decided to name the yak Tibet. It had a nice ring to it and seemed appropriate. Later, another friend would suggest “Yakoff.” Cute, but no thanks.

She explored her new home and started to settle in when I introduced her to my Quarter Horse mare, Bango. Bango is an extremely bomb-proof animal who has done her fair share of cattle work in her day. Last fall when I was out riding with a bunch of fox hunters we came across a loose dairy cow in the middle of a field. She was the only one who would go near enough to shoo it back to the milking parlor for the farmer. Cows are in her blood.

Bango entered the barn through her exterior stall door as always and then headed out through the barnyard stall door to head out to the paddock as she usually does every evening when I brink her in from pasture. Just as she approached the door leading from the barnyard out into the paddock Tibet appeared. There was a red blur as the horse spun around and retreated to the corner of her stall inside the barn. Equally startled, Tibet squirted back to the corner of the paddock away from the gate. Both snorted and grunted for a few minutes until curiosity got the best of them and the began to gradually peek around the corner and out the door to see who was who. It wasn’t long before they were nose to nose visiting through the fence cooing and grunting happy noises at each other. Despite their rapport, I opted to keep them separated not wanted a gored horse or a horse-kicked yak.

The next morning I fed Tibet a flake of grass hay. She played with it still appearing to be nervous. It was Saturday and both Ralph and I planned to work in front of the barn on projects which would keep us near the yak. While he sanded his toolbox and I planted a garden she hung out at the fence watching us work. My sister had sent us a CD of their friend’s band which was some grooving Dead-style jam music. After the first couple of songs, Tibet folded her feet up under her, laid down and began chewing her cud. Guess there is some truth to the adage music calms the wild beast. After the CD was done, we switched over to the radio. She didn’t really care for the Top 40 hip-hop stuff, ramming her head into the fence and grunting. When Ralph was finished and moved on to another project elsewhere, I played the CD for us again and she went back to hanging out and chewing cud. At least I can say the yak has good taste in music.

For the next few days I attempted to get Tibet to eat out of my hand. She would come no where near me and even grain dropped over the fence in a bucket went untouched. Tuesday evening a local long-time farmer friend of mine stopped by to deliver some hay and see the yak. “You got to hand feed them to get them tame,” he told me. Grabbing a handful of sweet feed, he put his hand over the fence. Tibet briefly touched her nose to his hand and quivered. “She’s still pretty scared. Take your time and she’ll calm down,” he told me.

To get her used to the sound of my voice and my company, every morning I would have my morning coffee sitting next to the fence after lowering a bucket of grain down the other side and I would read out loud to her. Each day she showed a little progress and by the end of the week she would come when I called her name and rattled the galvanized pail in which there was always goodies.

Eating out of my hand had still not been accomplished although she would readily eat the grain from the bucket. Even if I tried to offer grain before the bucket she still refused to come near my hand. I had to find something that was irresistible.

There’s a local Amish grocery seconds store called the Bent & Dent not far from the farm. I try to shop there especially for my human items that can also be used for animals such as Pepto-Bismol and disposable ready-made enemas. I’m sure the cashiers think I have serious digestive problems. My post yak acquisition trip to the store found me staring at a two pound container of marshmallow cream for thirty-five cents. I knew I had found the secret weapon.

That night I put a big spoonful of the gooey white cream into her grain. She rolled around the mass with her nose and finally gave it a lick. It was like a great light had come on and she began licking furiously so as not to let any of the sweet stuff be left on the pail when it was hoisted back over the fence. She licked that bucket slick until she was satisfied every molecule of marshmallow had been cleaned up.

It was the same routine the next morning, but that evening when the grain bucket was lowered over the fence she furiously rooted looking for the sweet treat she had so much enjoyed her last few meals. That’s when I squatted down to her level and cautiously put my marshmallow cream covered hand through the fence. She knew what it was and snorted in frustration. She shook her horns at me and rammed the fence. I stood fast. After about five minutes, she cautiously touched my fingers with her nose and jumped back. It didn’t bite her so she nosed it again, this time standing still. Then the tongue came out. One little lick and then a hasty retreat. She repeated this process until she had cleaned up about half of the treat before walking away. It was progress.

The next hurdle we overcame were the flies. Anyone who has ever been around cattle knows how flies congregate around their face and legs. Its kind of hard gentling a large animal when they are stomping their feet and shaking their head to keep the flies at bay. Applying fly spray to the horse was one thing, getting it on Tibet would be another.

Again, the solution to this riddle was revealed to me during farm chores. Since the very beginning, I’ve been fighting off Ralph when he approaches the dilemma of weeds and bug with the ‘local’ solution—chemicals. “But everyone around here used Preen and Roundup,” he would tell me and my reply is always the same, “We are not ‘everybody else’.” The farm had sat fallow for many years before we came and I wanted to use this to my advantage in organic production. I could start from scratch building the soil with my own organic amendments knowing darn well where everything came from. While an organic certification is still a long way off, I know that when the time comes there won’t be any trouble passing the requirements.

Growing organic doesn’t mean letting the pests have the run of the garden. Without my certified organic elixirs there would be nothing left of the cabbages, Asian vegetables or lettuces. I use a simple one-gallon pump sprayer which sends out a decent mist for several feet.

I continue the organic tradition with my fly control as well. Years ago I came across a Larry’s Natural Fly Spray that uses a concoction of essential oils such as eucalyptus, pennyroyal, sandalwood, citronella, etc. that we’ve found to be useful on livestock as well as humans. Ralph swears it’s the only thing that wards off biting deer flies. So I mixed up a batch in the pump sprayer and at the next grain feeding gave it a go. At first she wasn’t too keen on being sprayed, but she didn’t run away either. It took about two days for Tibet to put two and two together—stand for spraying equals no pesky flies. Fly spray is now part of our morning ritual.

Due to the height of the fence and the shortness of my legs, being able to reach over and touch the yak was next to impossible for me. Yet another brainstorm struck while brushing my horse. The handle of the brush was wood. There were a whole barrel of wooden broom and shovel handles in the barn. Two wood screws later and I had my new handy-dandy yak scratcher. Feeding time that night would bring on a new adventure.

Standing on a plastic chair to gain some height, I lowered the grain bucket over the fence with the lead rope. Tibet gave me a look as if to say, “What are you going to do now?” Quickly she found out. This time figuring out that what I was doing was a good thing only took a few minutes. She kicked when I scratched her flanks and shook her horns when I scratched her face so I concentrated on areas that didn’t bother her. By the third session she no longer cared where I touched her with my new tool. By now, she had been on the farm for exactly one week.

For the next week, the routine was fairly static—grain in the morning and scratch, grain in the evening and scratch. Each day I added more personal contact with Tibet by touching her horns, rubbing her hump and eventually working my way down her face.

However, it was evident if that for any reason the yak had to be confined it would take additional equipment. So I set about designing a catch-pen with a gate-chute. There was already an extra ten foot panel and four foot gate sitting on the wagon. I rounded up another ten foot gate that we had given to a neighbor and he had not yet used as well as purchasing a six foot gate, some chains and clips.

Saturday morning I mocked up the panels on the outside of the paddock. Being that the yak was on the inside of the paddock and unrestrained, Ralph and I set about installing the containment system in the safest way possible.

The catch-pen consisted of two ten foot panel, each set perpendicular to the fence in a corner of the paddock. The butt of one panel was chained to a fence post. All the fence posts on the farm are 6-8 inch pressure treated wood posts that were driven into the ground a minimum of twenty-four inches so this arrangement would offer good stability. The second panel was attached to a steel T-post set approximately two feet away from a wood post. Each pane was able to be installed from the safety of the outside of the paddock and then swung inward toward the fence. Then the four foot gate panel was set on the inside of the fence next to the two panels. It was attached using chains to the firs panel and then the pen was swung into place while the yak was pre-occupied at the opposite end of the paddock with a bucket of grain. Once the panels had been swung open and were in place, the last chains were attached creating a small catch-pen.

On the wood post to the right of the T-post and inside the catch-pen, we attached the six foot gate for the gate-chute. When the chute was not in use, it was flush with the fence. By swinging the gate open, it would be parallel to a panel where the yak could be contained. Chains across the back would prevent her from backing out and the fence in front would prevent her from moving forward. To release her, just open the gate back toward the fence.

After the entire structure was erected, I placed water and grain inside the catch-pen and waited. Within a few minutes, curiosity got the best of her and she entered. We shut the gate and she didn’t appear to mind the containment. Since then, each feeding has taken place in the corner where her head will be when the gate-chute is in use.

There are two reasons why I opted for this set-up. First, the catch-pen and gate-chute were inexpensive—much less than a commercial squeeze chute—as well as portable. When I worked for a cattle rancher in southern California years ago, we used to complain about having to dismantle, transport and re-assemble catch-pens and sorting pens. The rancher explained that he leased the property on which he ran his beef . “I’ll be damned if I’m going to build pens for someone else,” he would tell us.

The second reason was for safety. While cattle chutes and squeeze boxes are fine & dandy, I was worried about the wide horn base of the yak. Broken horns among the goats who struggle in the stanchion are common. I didn’t want the same problems with an old iron squeeze chute and the yak’s gorgeous, albeit dangerous, horns.

It also took two weeks for a subject to rear its head I knew would eventually happen. Instead of building a catch-pen, Ralph suggested moving the yak from the paddock to the round pen in the pasture. “And just how are we going to get her from one place to the other?” I questioned. There had been a steady stream of neighbors over to see the yak and it was only a matter of time before the local boys wanted to wrestle with the yak. “Well, I was thinking that between me, George, Dean and a few other guys, we could get her by the horns and the tail and just drag her over there,” he suggested. Needless to say, I let out a screeching protest and saved the yak from dose of local boy testosterone poisoning. The yak stayed put in the paddock.

The rest of the week found the yak in her catch-pen. She would bang the iron panels with her horns giving off a clanging sound I hadn’t heard since my old pal Officer (and budding cowboy) Tim Combs hit the stock panels with his head at the Policemen’s Rodeo while trying to bulldog a steer. We used to call it the “clang-clang” sound.

I continued with the regiment of using the yak scratcher at feeding time and touching her head and hump with my hands. Gradually, the aggressive charging of the fencing stopped and she began to look forward to my twice daily feeding visits. Although the charging behavior stopped, she was still liberal with the use of those horns.

Every year for the last 13 years, our wonderful little community of Newburg has hosted an event called the Rural Festival. During the course of the day, a pole barn is erected, hay would is cut, threshed, put into the barn and baled using horse-drawn and steam-powered antique farm implements. Another standard attraction at the festival was a oxen driver with a team that pulled a cart for rides around the park. This year I was going to visit the oxen driver.

As I arrived, spied a humongous pair of Ayrshire oxen with towering horns pulling their cart loaded people. Beside them walked a white-haired gentleman in his sixties wearing a pair of bib overalls and a cowboy hat leading the massive team with a simple lead rope in one hand and a goad in the other. A goad is the term used for stick or whip when working oxen I would soon learn.

As the team came to a halt and people began exiting the cart, I moved closer to the liver and white steers and began examining how they were hitched and rigged up to the cart. They each had a medium link length of chain around the base of their horns and where connected together by a length of similar chain between the two animals’ horns and one on their halters. The driver’s lead connected to a pigtail of chain off the nigh ox. The nigh ox is the yoked animal closest to the teamster and the off ox is the one on the other side, further away.

When I explained to the man why I was so interested, he became very animated and anxious to share his knowledge with me. “The base of the animals’ horns is very sensitive and the chain works on the same principle as a bit for a horse,” he explained. That concept I could easily understand, however, I honestly told him about the aggressive nature of my yak and that I needed to be able to handle her without being gored.

“I’ll tell you what you do,” he said, “You put this here kind of chain around her horns and then attach her to a post using a length of rope attached to the chain. When she tests that chain, that part of her head will get very sensitive and by the end of the week she’ll be walking up to you and giving to pressure on the rope.” He assured me I’d be able to lead her down the street like a puppy dog.

By then the cart was loaded with the next group of people and he walked off with his team in hand for a stroll around the park taking more people for a cart ride with his oxen team. He made it appear effortless.

At the end of the day as the festival was winding down, I noticed the teamster putting up his oxen after a day of work. They were unhitched from the yoke and standing next to the trailer. I approached to glean more information from the seasoned teamster.

“I knew you were going to come back and visit me,” the curly-qued mustached man said in a clipped southern draw. I closely inspected the equipment used for the ox, taking numerous digital pictures. Drilling him about gentling aggressive animals again, he turned to me and said, “I am sixty five years old and have been handling big animals for a long time. I hope you don’t think I’m gross or weird, but my Daddy told me this and it has worked for me on some of the meanest mules I’ve trained.” He then imparted his secret to me. “You need to urinate in their water bucket,” he said. However, with his accent it sounded like ewe-in-ate. I didn’t grasp what he was saying until he began telling me that animals identify the members of their herd by their bodily odors and that by ewe-in-ating in their water they accept you as a member of their herd. “I don’t do it all the time, mind you, but I do occasionally just to let them know I’m still here,” he said.

He gave me his business card and asked that I let him know how I progress with my yak. I headed home with the knowledge I could never have googled out of my browser—this was experience as well as knowledge. Gleefully, I went home knowing full well that the teamster has steered me in the right direction .

That evening I thought about what the oxen teamster had told me about urinating in the yak’s water. Her water tub was approximately 15 gallons. What would a few ounces of urine do? After all, it is supposed to be sterile. So I squatted on a bucket behind the barn and added the contents to her full water bucket. Immediately, the yak threw her tail up over her back and rushed to the water tub. She sniffed around the entire perimeter of the tub with rapid inhalations until she plunged her entire muzzle in the water and shook her face agitating the surface of the water. Raising her head out of the water, she licked her muzzle and repeated the process several times. I was now officially part of her herd.

The next day during my lunch hour, I made a trip to the hardware stored for a length of chain and O-clips to connect the chain around the base of Tibet’s horns. After explaining what my plans were to Ralph, he suggested that we rope her horns and tie her head tight to the post so I could attach the chain. But the yak has been extremely docile while eating her grain, letting me touch and rub around the base of her horns without moving her head or shaking those big horns at me. “Just let me know when you want to put the chain on your wild beast,” he told me. I seethed quietly in his doubt.

Now this is a quick aside. The day following the purchase of the chain I was laid off from my office job. It really came as no big surprise being that the company had been steadily losing business and I worked for a bunch of sexist pigs who couldn’t stand the thought of a successful woman. This gave me the perfect opportunity to spend the time training my yak I so desired. Again, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Waking up to the sound of the rooster crowing, the horse whinnying, the goats bleating and the yak grunting instead of the German National Anthem that played on our alarm clock put me in a good mood. After a leisurely cup of coffee, I went out to tend to the animals. As passed through the kitchen, I grabbed the bag of hardware off the table and headed toward the barn.

The night before I had roughly measured the width of Tibet’s horn set and estimated the amount of chain I would need. Using the bolt cutters, I clipped off a section of chain that would fit around her horns while leaving a pigtail to allow for growth. “Don’t make the chain too small because she’s going to grow,” the teamster had advised.

Armed with a can of cracked corn and crimped oats as well as the chain I headed toward the hair bovine grunting for her breakfast. With her face firmly planted in the pail, the yak barely noticed while I fashioned her ‘brain chain’ around the base of her horns—success. If it is one thing I have learned from my time spent around horse trainers, it is always end on a positive note. Ralph’s manta has always been, “slow and steady wins the race.”

The next morning it was time to attach the rope and remove the yak from her catch pen to being staked out in the paddock by the ‘brain chain’. Again, I took the opportunity of her diverted attention at breakfast to pass the rope through the chain and her halter. Then I attached the opposite end to a longer rope and threaded it through the catch pen gate and tied it off at the post to which she would be affixed. The rope was one I had purchased years ago at the Backcountry Horsemen’s Association Rendezvous for staking out hobbled horses. It had a loop braided on one end and a brass quick-clasp braided on the opposite end. It was perfect.

Before Tibet had finished her breakfast, I entered the paddock and opened the catch-pen door. She barely noticed. Exiting the paddock, I returned to the post and began tugging on the rope while asking the yak to ‘get-up’. She resisted the pressure at first, but not violently. Gradually, she took a few steps forward toward the gate of her private pen, but then would go no further. I took up the slack in the rope around the post and went to fetch some grain and hay to coax her out into the paddock closer to the post so I could remove the extra rope and attach the hobble rope attached to her horns directly to the post.

By the time I had returned, she had moved out of the catch-pen and was grazing closer to the post. When I pulled on the rope, she slowly gave to the pressure, only shaking her head slightly, and moved closer toward the post. Once she was firmly affixed to the post, I rewarded her with hay and more grain. Another step toward the taming of the yak.
Throughout the day I frequently checked on her. Once she tangled her rope around her horns and head. As I approached the fence, she walked up and stood still until I untangled her. Calmly, she went back to grazing. At that moment, I figured out my plan for teaching her to lead while remaining at in a safe spot. I would move her daily from one fence post to the next around the perimeter of the paddock. That way she would be exposed to fresh forage and moved away from her droppings.


  1. Anonymous5:35 PM

    Hi! Sounds like you've got a lot going on! Especially interesting was the part about urinating in the water bucket....

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  7. Do you have directions or a phone # for the bent and dent? My wife can't find it... :)
    We live near Carlisle, PA