Jeffree Star's yak ranch is a relatively new venture for social media personality Jeffree Star, and it’s not something he’s doing all on his own.
Star has an experienced ranch manager from Wyoming named Wade Wohl who is working with him behind the scenes to “keep meat, on the table” and “keep yaks fluffy.”
Wohl, as it happens, is Star’s neighbor, and he’s no stranger to ranching.
“I’ve worked on a number of ranches throughout Wyoming,” Wohl told Cowboy State Daily. “Mainly cattle, and I have worked around swine. Yaks have definitely been a learning process, but it’s fun. Yaks are definitely a lot more unique than a regular beef cow.”
Yak’s Aren’t Cows
While yaks are much smaller than beef cows, that’s definitely deceptive and not something any would-be yak rancher should take for granted.
“Some of them can be very temperamental,” Wohl said. “Others are very gentle, like a dog. You can literally scratch their bellies and they flop on the ground.”
But when other yaks let you know you’re too close for their comfort zone, it’s wise to pay heed, Wohl said.
“Their horns can hurt very bad,” he said, adding that he knows this from firsthand experience.
“Thankfully, it didn’t break skin,” he said. “But it left a bruise scar, is I guess, the best way I can explain it.”
Wohl said he was just lucky that time that the way he was standing helped to block the blow. Otherwise, he might have needed stitches. He’s also been head-butted a time or two, as well as other tactics the yaks, who are pretty smart animals, come up with.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “It’s bound to happen, especially when you’re working around an animal with its own brain and its own personality and its own boundaries. You just have to learn not to take your eyes off them, and try to learn how to understand their posture and body language.”
Yaks Can Pack It Away
Star Yak ranch is presently running around 300 yaks, Wohl said, and the critters do know how to eat. A lot.
They’ve consumed 700 tons of hay from the spring of last year to now, Wohl said, which works out to about 25 pounds of hay per animal per day. That’s in addition to whatever forage they eat while out in the pasture.
Yaks are a thirsty bunch as well.
“We typically haul from 4,000 to 6,000 gallons of water every two days,” Wohl said.
Of course, with all that eating and drinking comes something else in great volume. Manure. Literal tons of it.
“Casper has been amazing to work with there,” Wohl said. “The landfill has basically told us they will take as much manure as we can possibly give them. That’s what they make their compost out of.”
That’s a few months-long process, turning yak manure into compost, Wohl said.
Yaks, like sheep, require shearing at least once a year, and sometimes twice.
“We try to groom them and collect their fiber early to mid-spring,” Wohl said.
That’s when their fur is thickest, and it’s also when they would begin to shed naturally. Without shearing, however, the long hair on the yaks would begin to mat back onto the animals.
“(Brushing) them helps their skin to breathe,” Wohl said. “It’s also a good way to make sure they don’t have any injuries that maybe you hadn’t noticed or anything like that. We literally go over every animal top to bottom.”
With the popularity of Star yak meat, Wohl said it’s possible the herd could eventually expand, though that’s something for Star to decide if and when the demand is there.
Working with Star has been amazing, Wohl added.
And despite all the over-the-top videos where Star uses makeup to completely transform his appearance, Wohl feels the guy behind the social media star is as down-to-earth as they come.
“I’ve traveled, I’ve done so much with the military, and I’ve met a lot of famous people,” Wohl said. “(Star) is just a normal human being. We hit it off as friends and eventually he offered me a job, and it’s been the greatest thing I’ve done.”
Wohl said he’s also been impressed with Star’s vision for the yak ranch and all the work he’s done.
“All of us have put so much time and effort into making this a reality,” he said. “The future is going to be phenomenal with what they’re doing out here,” Wohl said.
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.