From left: Derek, Brett and Terrance Majeau and Terrance and Brett’s children Braxton, Jaylyn, and Quinn pose on the family farm. – Stephen Dafoe
by Stephen Dafoe
Terrance Majeau’s fascination with an unusual idea has transformed a family farm into a pioneer for healthier red meat.
Three years ago, Terrance discovered yaks online, fascinated by their efficiency in grass feeding compared to traditional cattle. Without hesitation, he shared this newfound inspiration with his brother, Derek, who responded with an unequivocal “Let’s do it!” within 45 minutes.
After a trip to Rimbey to look at a herd and sample the meat, the Majeau brothers embarked on a unique journey into yak farming, marking a shift in their family’s agricultural legacy.
Today, Prairie Yak Farms is a testament to the family’s commitment to raising lean, heart-healthy red meat that defies conventional standards, providing a tasty alternative to beef.
“When I first did the research, I saw how efficient they were at grass feeding compared to beef. That was a huge thing,” Derek Majeau said. “They eat about a third of what beef does so that we can pasture a lot more with a lot less.”
Prairie Yak Farms Ltd’s herd is entirely grass-fed, without any grain finishing, which they say shortens the animal’s lifespan.
Yaks are lighter than cattle when it comes to total weight. Terrance Majeau explained that a bull yak can weigh 1400 to 1500 pounds.
“You can get a little more if you push them, but around 1400 pounds is where your bulls are, and cows are around 900 pounds,” he noted.
However, the Majeau family is not raising their herd for the size and weight; they focus on the quality of the meat, known for its leanness and sweet taste. Yak meat has been compared to bison and even elk, although it lacks a gamey taste.
Yaks, the highest-elevation mammals originating in Tibet, can hold a significant amount of oxygen in their blood and lungs. This attributes to the high 3% Omega-3 content in the meat.
It’s a red meat, but it’s lean and heart-healthy,” Terrance’s wife and partner Brett Majeau said. “It’s good in all the omegas and less in the bad fats—cholesterols, triglycerides, lots of those unhealthy fats. It’s comparable to skinless chicken when you do the side-by-side, but it’s a red meat.”
Above: Terrance Majeau feeds one of the Yak at Prairie Yak Farms Ltd. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
Not their first farming experience
The Majeau brothers are fourth-generation farmers who grew up on the family grain and hog farm in Sturgeon County.
“They had a dairy, and they had a beef feedlot. That was sold when we were very young,” Terrance Majeau said. “Now, we’re bringing livestock back.”
Brother Derek said transitioning to yak on the family farm has been a great experience. “We’ve always had a passion for animals, and we’ve always liked chores, so we’re stubborn that way and want to keep livestock around but at an easier level,” he said.
One of those more manageable aspects is calving yaks, which Derek finds easy due to the calf’s weight of 40 pounds or less.
“That was one of the triggers that we were interested in because we didn’t want a full-scale kind of operation,” he said.
Terrance adds that they are usually present when the calves are due. “If we want to tag them, we need to do it within the first 24 hours; otherwise, the calf is pretty fast,” he said. “So, we like to monitor them, check on the calf, and ensure everyone is healthy, but we also let them do their thing.”
Above: Yak bulls grow to a weight of roughly 1400 pounds. The Majeaus have approximately 106 yak in their herd. – Stephen Dafoe Photo
Farm to Table
Prairie Yak Farms has approximately 106 head of yak at the Majeau homestead farm and another location in Rivière Qui Barre, nearly triple where they started in 2020.
“They were supposed to come home with ten, but they came home with 35,” joked Brett Majeau, noting 33 were pregnant.
Although the herd started three years ago, Prairie Yak Farms product has only been available for about a month. Getting the herd to the required weight and size took three years.
Currently, the Majeaus sell their yak meat directly to consumers on a farm-to-table basis, and they are exploring partnerships with butcher shops.
They also plan to offer halves and wholes for those who want to stock their freezers.
Derek Majeau encourages area residents to explore yak, particularly for the health benefits of lean red yak meat.
“We have not had any reviews that are not good about the taste,” he said. “The taste is there.”