In Tibet there are more yaks than there are people, and they are important companions who provide all the basic requirements for human life on the plateau.
Yak milk is made into butter, the key ingredient in Tibetan butter tea, as well as yoghurt and cheese. Yak meat is high in protein, and low in cholesterol. Yak wool can be used to make tents, knitted as sweaters, or weaved as rugs. Even yak dung, when dried and hardened, provides a useful fuel for cooking and heating.
During the winter months, our yak herd lives in our family home. They fill the whole bottom floor of our house, providing heat for the upper levels. We feed them with grass collected during the autumn, and vegetables such as turnips.
At this time of year, the yaks are out enjoying on the mountains, but before the spring grass is fully grown, we have to supplement their diet with deliveries from home every four or five days. The picture below shows mules carrying feed to the yaks at our family camp. I love these images from home. For many years I saw nothing of the land I used to tend and the life I once had, but these days friends and relatives send pictures through every day, and they are wonderfully evocative for me.