Sue Egger’s Sleeping Giant Yaks are the talk of the stock show
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Sue Egger calls for Cinco, Fred, Hester and Daffodil to come in from the pasture for a bucket of grain, they don’t talk back, yakety yak.
“That’s how I call (my yaks) — yakety yak,” Sue exclaims, recalling the 1958 single by The Coasters that reached number one on the charts.
Egger, a nurse at a dermatology clinic in Steamboat Springs, lives with her husband, Erick, on 40 acres on Routt County Road 46, not far from the head of The Sleeping Giant. But in her life away from work, she raises a small herd of yaks that she treats like pets.
“They’re big dogs with horns,” Egger said. “They’re really gentle.”
But they’re more than that.
Since January, Sleeping Giant Yaks is known for producing prize-winning yaks that rank among the best in North America.
The Eggers received a big surprise early in the New Year when Sue showed three of her yaks, among 103 exhibited at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, and came home with six ribbons including a reserve grand champion prize for her yearling heifer Cinco. A heifer is a young cow that has not produced its first calf.
“I was stunned,” Sue Egger said. “I thought she was cute, but I didn’t think she was a reserve grand champion.”
Egger had been to the National Western, which is virtually the only place in the country to show yaks, once before, winning a second place ribbon in the halter class. This time around, the Sleeping Giant Yaks returned form Denver with two blue ribbons, two second-place ribbons and a fifth place. It was Daffodil, who won a blue ribbon in the halter class for female calves.
Among the herd of seven yaks at Sleeping Giant are two breeding females, two younger heifers, a couple of steers and Baktu, the bull. Yaks originate from the Tibetan Plateau in Asia and are classified as members of the bovine group along with cows and bison.
The animals are typically raised for meat, but the soft fibers in their coats can also be blended with other fibers to make highly-sought after skeins of yarn. Although Egger has sold a small amount of yak fiber, she will never send one of her animals to slaughter, she vowed.
Instead, she hopes to train the two steers, Fred and Zak, to carry pack saddles and earn their feed as pack animals.
Erick Egger is a small-animal veterinary surgeon who does procedures in a number of communities, but he says his background really doesn’t translate to large animals like yaks.
Instead, they rely on Lee Meyring for their veterinary work. However, when one of their female yaks was having a difficult birth last year, Meyring was tied up with an emergency last spring, and Erick pulled the 50-pound calf.
Sue had a career as a veterinary technician before she went to nursing school, but says that work doesn’t translate to raising yaks.
The original motivation for Eggers to raise some form of livestock on their property was to regain its status as agricultural land for property tax purposes. After researching several types of livestock animals, the couple purchased their first there heifers from Harlan and Saundra Lear.
The irony is, the Eggers gained their ag tax status but they spend more on the yaks each year than the $900 tax savings.
Instead, Sue Egger has found a passion for yaks that don’t talk back.
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Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Manager Kris Middledorf estimated there are about 4,000 mountain lions in Colorado, though it’s difficult to say how many are in Routt County. Middledorf said human interaction with lions is rare, and humans being attacked by a lion is even more rare.