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In Indianola sits Savannah Ridge Farms, owned by the Bailey family, where yaks are raised. Shane, Ron, and Colin handle the day to day tasks, but in busy times, Shane’s wife Amy, his step mom Debbie and his younger sister Grace helps out.
“I started farming when I was sixteen years old. I didn’t have any equipment, shed, grain bins or honestly any real knowledge of farming,” Shane told us. “I immediately fell in love with it and knew that I wanted to study production agriculture and pursue a career in it. My family and I have slowly grown our operation into what it is today.”
Shane, now thirty, grew up in Newman and attended Shiloh High School. After graduating high school, he attended the University of Illinois where he received a Bachelors Degree in Crop Science.
Savannah Ridge Farms might be one of a kind in the area. Instead of the usual cattle, this farm raises organic grass fed yaks. Yaks are extremely winter hardy and the Bailey’s are able to run them on a pasture all winter with no issues.
“Their calf birthing weights are low, around twenty-five pounds. So they rarely have any complications with giving birth,” Shane said. “They eat about one third of what a beef cow of similar weight would eat, so we are able to pasture more yaks per acre compared to cattle.”
Yaks are also known to be highly disease resistant, meaning they don’t need the usual hormones or antibiotics as other meat producing animals would. “Yak is a lean juicy red meat. It’s ninety-seven percent fat free and is lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than beef, but is higher in iron. The meat has a phenomenal almost sweet flavor profile.” Shane said.
The yak meat is not certified organic, but is one hundred percent grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free. The yak also graze on certified organic pastures. “Grass fed livestock makes the most sense for our operation. It’s important for us to raise a healthy, nutrient dense meat that we can market to our local communities.”
In addition to being somewhat fit for the area, yak are very self sufficient animals. From the spring through late fall, the Bailey’s rotationally graze them through forage crops.
“We set up five to seven acre paddocks and move the herd into a new paddock every four to five days,” Bailey said. “This ensures the herd is always on fresh forage and also prevents over grazing.”
During the winter, the paddock fencing is taken down and the herd has the entire field to graze. Throughout the winter, they are fed alfalfa hay.
Yaks also take longer to get to market weight than cattle. In a perfect setting, cattle are usually sent to market somewhere between eighteen to twenty-two months. “Yaks are ready for processing between six hundred to eight hundred pounds,” Bailey said. “Which takes three to four years.”
Right now, the family is on the tail end of calving season and currently have sixty-seven yaks. Out of the sixty-seven yaks, there’s one particular yak that has become an internet star. “You can thank my lovely wife for that, she handles a majority of our social media, especially the cute Lily videos,” Shane said.
A yak by the name of Lily was born on June 13th of last year. Lily’s mother, being a first time mother didn’t take to her. “We bottle fed Lily all of last summer. She’s kind of our unofficial farm mascot.” Lily has been featured in a handful of TikTok videos (@savannahridgefarms) and has been deemed the ‘Supervisor of the Farm’. She was reunited with the herd in September of 2021.
On their 575 acres, the family grows and harvests food grade organic white corn, wheat, oats and soybeans. To help with the soil health, they run a Horsch Joker high speed disk twice in the spring before planting. After planting, they will rotary hoe the field once or twice and follow that with two to three rows of cultivation.
Later this fall, Savannah Ridge Farms will have yak meat available to sell. The viable yaks, around four to six, will be processed and packaged at a local USDA inspected facility.
Once processed, the meat has to age two to three weeks before it is packaged and sold. “We are in the process of exploring the market and setting prices. We will post a price sheet on social media once its available.”
Five years ago, Shane and his family never thought the farm would be where it is now, leaving himself and everyone involved looking forward to what the future holds.
“Everyday is different. Depending on the time of year, the daily activities range from planting or cultivating organic row crops, moving the yaks into a new paddock, setting up new fencing, or getting ready for harvest. It seems like there is always something happening on the farm.”
Be sure to check out Savannah Ridge Farms on Facebook for updates on the daily activities of the farm and for pricing if you would like to purchase yak meat.
You can also watch their videos on TikTok by following @SavannahRidgeFarms.