Several months ago we were contacted by Joe Neary from Colorado State University about collecting samples for a study of the altitude adaptations of yaks. He was interested in comparing the DNA markers with lowland cattle to determine genetic differences and disease resistance. The study was to be a collaborative effort between Colorado State University, Caudwell Xtreme Everest, University College London and the National Institute for Medical Research in London.
After a number of emails Joe set the data collection date of 8/30. All was good and we had the the minimum number of yaks in the pasture adjacent to our corrals. We contacted our good friends and partners at High Praire Yaks and Terry Roe to help with the yak rodeo. My wife and sons had completed to construction of a temporary catch pen the day before. We had been experiencing a significant number of cattle invasions over the last week. Patching fences (yak shaving) was taking up a ton of prep time preventing us from corralling the yaks the night before. I was a bit nervous but dad had it all figured out and by 8:00 am we had the herd corralled and ready to go.
The study required collecting DNA via nasal swab, hair follicle samples, blood, and muscle biopsy. There was small bit of real Yak Shaving involved and some yak shaving, yak shaving. The sample collection was not exactly as easy as planned but I think they were happy. The yaks have a distinct physiology that differs from tradition cattle and demanded more time in collecting the muscle biopsies than anticipated. I felt bad for our girls but they were treated very well with "good drugs" and excellent bedside manner. Pepper walked up to me after the crew left and seemed to want to talk about it!
The day went fairly smoothly and was generally uneventful. The CSU/UCL team was great to work with. Interestingly, Frank had worked with yaks in the past and had fond memories of one of IYAK's founding members, Jerry McRoberts. At some point in the day I herd Frank say,
It's like wearing a short sleeve shirt in the mountains.
I was busy catching a yak so I didn't get to ask Frank what that meant but I am sure it was as good as any Insight from Tyler.
Joe and Marianne are brother and sister team with similar research interests.
To review some of Joe's previous work check this out: High Mountain Disease in Cattle
An earlier study by CU can be found here: Functional and structural adaptation of the yak…
A huge thank you goes out to Scott from High Prairie Yaks, Terry, Kim, and Dad for all the help in making the day a success.
For more pictures of the day take a look at FLICKR: CSU Yak Study
Results are expected around Christmas time so stay tuned…..￼
Scott, Joe, Frank, Marianne, and Terry