RAPID CITY, S.D. - A Rapid City-area farmstead has successfully raised animals that are more accustomed to the cold, high-altitude areas of Tibet and central Asia.

Julie and Jim Smoragiewicz are raising 10 yaks at their Pennington County business, Yak Ridge Cabins and Farmstead, the Rapid City Journal reported.

The couple found that yaks enjoy climbing the Black Hills, where they can cool down in creeks and under trees. The animals may get too hot in other areas of South Dakota.

They also turn yak milk into soap and eat their meat, which the couple described as "incredibly lean." Yak hides and fiber can be used as throws and rugs, and the long, soft hypoallergenic fiber is turned into yarn.

Julie Smoragiewicz said they "like to really use as much of the animal as possible."

Smoragiewicz became interested in the animals after leaving her job in higher education. She considered raising goats and sheep, but learned that they often need help giving birth and babies need to be bottle fed.

She viewed goats and sheep as "high maintenance." But she called yaks sustainable animals because they eat less food and create less waste than cattle.

The animals can also give birth alone, and defend themselves against predators. They're friendlier than bison and cattle, allowing the couple to hand feed them and pull their loose fibers. Some enjoy being petted, according to the couple.

"They have unique personalities, and they're all different," she said. "They've just really been a lot of fun to have."

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