By Scott Condon
Aspen Times – December 21, 2004
A calf that has the distinction of probably being the first yak ever born in the Roaring Fork Valley has been named – drum roll, please – Stevie.
Stevie? What kind of a name is that for a yak?
It’s the name selected by the staff at Sustainable Settings Ranch six miles south of Carbondale on Highway 133. What the name lacks in creativity it makes up for in fairness.
Sustainable Settings director Brook LeVan said 112 people submitted names for a contest the ranch held after the beast was born in September. They received so many good entries, he said, that they took the lottery approach and pulled a name out of a hat.
"We left it up to the luck of the draw," LeVan said.
The winning entry was submitted by Jayme Sewell, who lives next door to the ranch.
The yak calf, like its name, came as a surprise. Sustainable Settings bought two heifers and a bull yak from a ranch in Crested Butte last March. Neither the seller nor the buyer knew at the time that the heifer named Thelma was pregnant.
Stevie the yak, center, stands in a field with other yaks at Sustainable Settings Ranch near Carbondale.
Stevie was a ball of long black hair that was hard to spot in the tall grass last fall. Now she has topped 70 pounds and developed horns. She will be weaned this winter to help her get used to people who visit the ranch. Sustainable Settings is a nonprofit organization that demonstrates sustainable agricultural practices and energy efficiency.
LeVan said he wants to see if the yak calf can be trained to pull a cart or carry a pack so it can become a beast of burden at the ranch. Yaks are often temperamental, so the outcome of the experiment isn’t a given.
"She’s getting an ‘A’ so far in getting along with others as she romps with the llama, sheep and other heifers throughout the day," LeVan said.
He bought the yaks, which are native to the Himalayas and rare in the United States, with plans to start a herd. They will be used as the "large ruminants" in an agricultural operation patterned after nature. They will be allowed to graze, along with sheep and a variety of fowl, for a short time on a rotating basis in the ranch’s pastures. The idea is to use grazing as a way to nurture rather than deplete the grass.
The ranch also wants to sell yak products – like milk, wool and meat.
Stevie wasn’t sired by the ranch’s bull, Jefe, so she can eventually be bred along with the two other heifers.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org