Springridge Ranch, near Pincher Creek, Alberta, produces naturally raised, grass-fed, yak-cross beef that is high in essential fatty acids, low in cholesterol, and very yummy!
Please contact us via email: eatmoreyak@gmail(dot)com
Our little corner of the world has always been known for its wind. And not just any wind. Strong wind. It's why we now have so many windmills in the area. Winds are generally stronger in the spring and fall but lately, it's been at the extreme end of the spectrum. When it gets up past the 100 km/h range, it starts to get scary. In fact, when it gets past 120 km/h, it's the same as a category one hurricane in terms of wind strength. This is when roofs start to peel back. Buildings destroyed. Fires get out of control (why is anyone burning when the wind is blowing that hard anyway?). Bales roll down the field. Snowballs form on the ground in just the right temperature. Corral walls fall down. Windows blow out. Trees broken and uprooted. Yes, all of that has happened in our neck of the woods. Folks either learn to live with the wind, or they can't stand it and have to leave.
However, there is a plus side to it all. The winds in winter are sometimes the results of a weather pattern called chinooks. Chinooks can bring on some of the strongest winds, but along with that come sudden warmer temperatures and some spectacular sunrises...
One of the most distinct features of a chinook is the arch that forms in the western sky.
They can have a smooth edge...
This is a photo of an ususual summer chinook arch!
...or a rough edge.
The Aboriginals call chinooks "The Snow Eater". Why? As stated in Wikipedia, "A strong Chinook can make snow one foot deep almost vanish in one day".
The map on this page shows where the most chinooks occur, and we fall right into the red category.
So what do the critters do when the winds howl? The wild animals find shelter in trees or bushy areas. Or, like these prairie chickens, they hunker down and wait it out:
If the domestic animals don't have some bush to take shelter in, and if there's no barn or wood fence to stand behind, then they turn their backside to the wind. Here are our horses, taking shelter behind a board fence:
And here are the cows coming for their feed:
I apologize for the shaky camera, but when it's blowing that hard,
Springridge Ranch Yak-Cross Beef will be set up in the old Fields Store, Ranchland Mall in Pincher Creek, Alberta Friday, December 2 (3-8pm) and Saturday, December 3 (10am to 5pm). Stop by, taste some samples of our smokies, jerky stix and garlic sausage and stock up for the holidays!
Springridge Ranch Yak-Cross Beef will be set up at the Ranchland Mall in Pincher Creek, Alberta November 18 (3-8pm) and November 19 (10am-5pm). This is your chance to come by and stock up on something different for your Christmas entertaining this year - yak-cross beef!
A friend of mine spotted this little guy at a garage sale and bought it for us. Since then, he's become our mascot at Farmer's Market.
We added the Springridge Ranch sign and if you peel it away, underneath it says "Yahk, BC". Which got me wondering, how did Yahk, BC get it's name? And why did they add the "h"? So far, I've only been able to find a brief history of Yahk on the bottom half of this webpage, but it didn't explain the naming of this town. If anyone out there knows, please drop me a note!
"Cattle Drive" has always been an interesting term to me. After all, cattle don't drive, you gather them up and move them down the road or across pastures to their new feeding grounds.
First, there's the gather.
Then the herd has a tendency to rush out the gate and head
down the road in a hurry...
...until they settle down to a steady pace.
Depending where you travel, there can be a few obstacles along the way. The older cows have been down this road at least yearly and they barely blink an eye at their surroundings. Here's a bridge that a few of them have crossed several times in their life. It makes a different noise under their hooves than being on gravel, so the calves and even new horses can balk at the strange sound it makes. In those cases, it's wise to get off your horse and lead it across the first time or two!
Vehicles are a common sight.
And there are a few railway crossings.
This day, some of the younger cows were leading the pack and it took a little convincing to get them to cross the tracks. However, with some persistence, one finally ventured out and took those first steps...
...and the others soon followed.
As they all settled into their new digs, there was a chance to get a good look at some of the calves and see how they've grown. You may remember little raccoon eyes. Well, he isn't so little anymore!
It's alway satisfying to head home after a great morning ride
I thought I share a few more photos from the place where we bought the new yaks for our herd. In my previous post about our visit, you'll see a photo of the big royal yak bull. Here's another shot of him in the background running with the black yak bull. The black bull is also six years old and quite large, although Mr. Royal has him beat size-wise.
The following photo isn't the greatest, but it gives some perspective so you can see how big this bull is!
During our visit to the yak pen, yours truly was inches away from getting a yak horn in the kidney. One of the yak cows didn't like it when I made a move to get to a safer viewing spot and decided to give me the scare of my life. I knew there was a ruckus going on behind me but it was my husband who reported how close she actually came to me! I'm happy to report that I scaled the fence in record time. Yessiree, yaks can put on the afterburner when they decide to, which sure helps out during calving time with coyote control.
In the end, we bought four young bulls (none of which are shown above) and two heifers. Why so many bulls? Well, as they are young and take longer to mature, we didn't want to only buy only one and run the risk of not having a sound bull when breeding time rolls around.
Springridge Ranch is proud that Waymarker Hospitality featured our meat in one of three samples at the 2011 Calgary Rocky Mountain Wine Festival October 14-15, 2011. The chef prepared Yak Balls, which were yak-crossed meat balls in a rich mushroom sauce. To see the full menu of samples and participating restaurants, click here. The participants are listed in alphabetical order so look for Waymarker Hospitality on the last page. Vimy's Lounge and Grill, a restaurant in one of Waymarker's properties, also features Springridge Ranch Yak-Cross Beef Dip on their menu!
Wild yaks roam from approximately 10,000 to 18,000 feet on the Tibetan plateau and can survive temperatures that reach down to -40 deg C. As yaks were domesticated, they were brought to lower elevations. They are built for the cold, but in many cases have to adapt to a warmer environment.
On hot days, yaks try to cool themselves by panting.
In September, on one of the last really warm days we had, we went to look at a yak herd with the intention of buying a few to bring home. Below is the big six-year-old royal yak bull they had. He was also panting in the heat.
He is one. big. boy.
Even the calves had their tongues hanging out.
Check back next week when I'll share some photos of the new arrivals to Springridge Ranch!
This summer, while at Farmer's Market, we met artisan Joanne Block of Homespun Angoras Studio. Joanne raises rare Giant Angora Rabbits and she harvests and hand spins their fibre into a natural luxurious wool. She was keenly interested in learning about our business and if we had ever collected and/or sold our yak fibre. While we have saved the yak tail hair over the years, we have not collected the down fibre which the yaks shed in spring. We knew about the luxurious fibre that yaks produce, but we didn't have an outlet for it, nor did we have the time to harvest it properly. After all, the time to do this is in spring which is one of the busiest times on the ranch.
During the summer, we had the opportunity to gather the last down off of one little pure yak heifer. Joanne was so excited, she couldn't wait to start spinning it while at the same time demonstrating her talent for those of us who had never seen a wheel in action.
Besides spinning the down, Joanne is experimenting with turning some of our yak tail hair into a mecate, as mentioned in our last post.
Watch this space in the future for the results as we'll be sure to share them!
Interested in purchasing some of Joanne's products? Check out her Etsy store!
In the market for a spinning wheel? Joanne is a rep for Ashford Wheels and Looms. Contact her for more information.
There's the shorter, bushy tail of the pure yaks...
And the longer, not-quite-as-bushy tail of the yak-crosses...
Yak tails come in different colors...
Tail hair can be made into a variety of things, however, we don't have the tools or training to do that. Below are mecates, or rope reins traditionally made from the mane and tail hair of horses.
In recent years, we've found yak hair mecates in some western stores, but they aren't all that common. We've been keeping our eyes and ears open for a long time to find someone in Canada who would be able to transform the yak tail hair we've collected over the years into a mecate.
Or small shooflys for under the horse's chin...
Thank you Buddy for being my model!
Or large shooflys for under the horse's belly...
Well, we've found someone who hasn't done this sort of thing before, but they have plenty of experience with animal fibre and is willing to give it a whirl!
To find out more, watch this space next week for part two!
Number 5 is an old gal, in fact, she’s the oldest yak-cross cow in our herd.
Number 5 (right) with her calf in 2006
She was born in 1996 to a Black Angus mama who was bred to a yak bull. That was the first batch of yak-cross calves we had and she’s the only one left. The cowboy in our house likes Number 5, a lot. In fact he commented recently that he wished we had an entire herd like her. She’s protective once she drops her calf, enough to keep those ‘yotes away, but she has never been too nasty otherwise. Oh, she’ll let you know if you’re getting too close, but mostly she’s just a great even-headed, baby-producing, yak-cross cow.
Here she is, heavy in calf, early May 2011...
And here she is with her latest addition, born on May 19, 2011...
In July when we moved them to a new pasture...
And at the beginning of September when we moved the herd again.
You can see how much her calf has grown.
We hope to have this great old gal around for years to come!