Track 1-08

Description

Yaks (Bos grunniens) and crossbreds of yaks with different local cattle breeds are important for the livelihood of local herders in the Himalayas. They are often kept in a system of transhumance comprising the use of different pasture sites for grazing along an altitudinal gradient throughout the year. The animals are moved upwards to the high altitude pastures in spring/early summer and gradually moved downwards in late summer/autumn. Yaks are suitable for very high altitudes as they are especially adapted to low oxygen partial pressure, forage scarcity and cold and harsh environment (Wiener et al. 2003). However, yak-cattle crossbreds have an advantage in terms of milk yield due to heterosis and can utilize the lower winter pasture sites better than yaks.

In the Taplejung District of Nepal, in the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA), two different yak crossbreds are most common. In the lower mountains of KCA, Nepalese common hill cattle (a Bos indicus genotype) are available and are crossed with yak bulls. In the higher mountain regions, closer to the Tibetan border, crosses of female yaks (called naks) with so-called Bhelang bulls of B. taurus genotype are produced. The aim of the study was to compare these crossbreds of yaks and cattle and relate them to yaks in terms of locomotive activity pattern, physiological responses and performance when grazing at two different altitudes along a transhumant route in the Himalayan Mountains.

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Activity, Physiology and Milk Production of Yaks and Two Different Yak Crossbreds Grazing Himalayan Pasture Sites at 4700 m and 3000 m

Yaks (Bos grunniens) and crossbreds of yaks with different local cattle breeds are important for the livelihood of local herders in the Himalayas. They are often kept in a system of transhumance comprising the use of different pasture sites for grazing along an altitudinal gradient throughout the year. The animals are moved upwards to the high altitude pastures in spring/early summer and gradually moved downwards in late summer/autumn. Yaks are suitable for very high altitudes as they are especially adapted to low oxygen partial pressure, forage scarcity and cold and harsh environment (Wiener et al. 2003). However, yak-cattle crossbreds have an advantage in terms of milk yield due to heterosis and can utilize the lower winter pasture sites better than yaks.

In the Taplejung District of Nepal, in the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA), two different yak crossbreds are most common. In the lower mountains of KCA, Nepalese common hill cattle (a Bos indicus genotype) are available and are crossed with yak bulls. In the higher mountain regions, closer to the Tibetan border, crosses of female yaks (called naks) with so-called Bhelang bulls of B. taurus genotype are produced. The aim of the study was to compare these crossbreds of yaks and cattle and relate them to yaks in terms of locomotive activity pattern, physiological responses and performance when grazing at two different altitudes along a transhumant route in the Himalayan Mountains.