Facilities For New Yak Owners

BY: Grant Pound

I was recently asked this: Hi, Grant. Could you take some time to share your thoughts on handling facilities for vetting, hoof trimming, grooming, etc? We are still working on getting a workable system going on a budget and having trouble deciding how extensive a system is warranted, as well as balancing pros and cons between headgates, full squeeze chutes and BRY type containment. What are your experiences and thoughts? Thanks!

A: My operation is small (usually under 15 yaks plus some alpacas and llama that hang around). I am also kind of cheap. Well, frugal anyway. I started out using portable panels that I bought on Craigslist, borrowed trailers, and no head gate. I managed to make it sort of work, but the vet was not too impressed with the setup. A minimal setup can put everyone at risk, even the yaks. I next sank in four posts with concrete and hung two six-foot gates between them. This made for a poor-man’s Bry chute. It never really contained the animals well enough and I had some that would try to jump out of it.

Next I bought an old squeeze chute on Craigslist. It was cheap, but I had to replace and rebuild a lot of parts. It worked, but was awkward for one person to use and it was limited to upper work (couldn’t get to the hooves). My next purchase was a headgate, but I never

installed it because I found a used Priefert chute and bought that for $1700. I think they are about $4500 new. I sold the old chute. The Priefert worked great, but I still had portable panels for crowding and some yaks can jump over them. They also had to have t-posts at each junction or the yaks will just go under or move them around. I work by myself a lot, or sometimes with a helper who isn’t very experienced. I have had a tough time sorting and getting yaks moved through to the chute.Finally I designed a system loosely based on Temple Grandin’s plans and including some suggestions from Gregor Dike. My yaks are quite used to me so I didn’t feel I had to be too literal with Temple’s ideas. I put wood posts in the ground and used big eye-screws to hang portable panels. I have about 12 gates in this system so I can move yaks up in ones and twos. It mostly works pretty great, but there are still times I am in the wrong place to open or close a gate. I have attached a diagram of how I layed it out. I had some space constraints as the yellow box on top is a shed.

I really like having a squeeze chute. It is probably the safest method for restraining an animal. I trained everyone (yaks, not helpers) to walk through it. Mine is portable (it has a two wheeled dolly thing that can be used to move it) so I had it out in the field with the yaks and let them play with it. This year’s calves got to go through it once a day for several weeks as I put on and removed halters. My bulls can fit in it, but it is tough. I just got an older bull and I can’t get him to go in. He’s 10 and has never been in a chute.

I think a headgate mounted on two posts would work, but I would still want to be able to squeeze them with a couple of gates.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have other questions.

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