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Yaks come to Cowboy Country.

The Latest in exotic ranching makes solid economic sense.

The National Western Stock Show held its first yak auction last year. But yak ranching is nothing new for Tad Puckett, who has 700 acres in Doyleville, 20 miles southeast of Gunnison.

Puckett's spread wouldn't support a cattle herd, but it's enough to support the second-largest yak herd in North America, some 150 head. Puckett also has a herd of about 10 elk he is crossbreeding to produce stately white elk, plus reindeer, bison and 40 European Wisent buffalo, the only private herd in North America. Puckett's breeding the bison with American buffalo to create a vigorous hybrid.

Puckett's exotic collection is no freak show. It represents a deliberate, perhaps far-sighted, decision to sidestep punishing cattle-ranching economics.

"It's all about return on investment," Puckett said. "With cattle I lost money. There are now too many cattle, and the numbers will never turn around. With exotic animals it's a different story. I can get $2,000 for a reindeer calf, and I have a waiting list."

Other animals draw big bucks, too: $10,000 for a white bison or white elk. And, "A female yak will bring me $3,000, and a bull will bring me $2,000, when a standard beef cow is bringing in only $600 and a bison under $1,000. Plus yaks don't tear down fences like bison, don't freeze like cattle when it drops to 30 below."
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Date:Jan 1, 2000
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