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Hawkfield Cattle Goals: Angus and Other Breeds

Hawkfield Angus Cows

There is definitely still an “Angus” craze. Some people want to verify that their beef is indeed Angus, and that’s ok! But we want to be honest about our herd AND herd goals.

Let’s talk about breeds…

Before Angus, was the Hereford. To this day, many calves that look Angus may be partially Hereford. Baldwin Beef made Charolais beef cows an acceptable second to Angus, and now Homesteaders are finding they love raising Dexters and Highlanders. Beefmasters are a great choice, and for an all-purpose breed, Normandes.

It is very likely that if you are getting beef from a homesteader, you are getting a dairy steer or a mix of Angus and dairy steer. We know lots of folks who sell beef from their dairy breeds, and some of them swear there isn’t a taste difference as long as they are raised right (grassfed and grass finished). Our family’s first steers were dairy steers, and they tasted great! But we found we had to pay more at the butcher and got less actual beef per the hanging weight. From that point we decided to only use beef breeds in processing lineups.

Last year we kept back all of the steers we would need to process this year, and we plan to do the same with the current calves. Some go to auction (usually all the heifers we don’t plan to keep…), And the rest get separated out to join the steer herd rotation in our pastures.

OUR GOALS AS A CATTLE RANCH

There are some breeds that are simply better foragers, are great healthy Mama’s with low miscarriage/stillborn stats, and last but not least, the steers give more beef with hanging weight at the butchers. We have long had Angus Bulls for our herd…which meant any steer or heifer coming off our farm was at least 50% Angus. The majority of our brood-cows are Angus or Red Angus, but Charolais, some whiteface angus (Hereford & Angus cross), and some are Beefmasters, freckle our herd. Last fall we put our Normande bull in with our Angus Bull and all our cows. Our hope is that it will produce heifers that we can cherry-pick to stay in the herd, and steers that we can cherry-pick to stay and grow to be processed.

SO million Dollar Question… What’s going into your freezer from Hawkfield Manor??

That will depend on our goals being achieved in the coming years. Our hope is to add a Red Angus Bull. If bred to a black angus, it will produce black calves predominantly. If bred to a Charolais it could produce a lighter coated calf. If bred to a Normande mix, it could produce a more mottled red/tan/black coat and be more beefy/compact and a better forager. If bred to a beefmaster, it could produce a primary red color.

We hope you will enjoy future photos of our herd to watch as they slowly become a more varied breed that is more ideally suited for North Carolina climate extremes, Mob Grazing & foraging, better birth successes, and more varied coats colors. There may still be a few full-blood angus that are produced, but we hope to up the chances of red being the primary Angus coat color. We stand behind our choice to create a healthier and stronger herd of cattle, to continue offering beef to you and your family for years to come…even if it isn’t the beloved “angus” society pushes on farmers.

Peace & Hope,
Heather Hawkins

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Chicken Processing

Today we were talking about last week’s processing, and noted how much NICER it was this time compared to 2020! It definitely helped having the boys be 2 years older, but simply doing less chickens allows the entire process to be significantly more chill ,and lack stress.

Processing 2020

To anyone who has ever processed chickens, there is a distinct “smell”…Yet this time, there was a startling lack of that smell! I dispatched our happy plump boys in the woods, and was able to calmly place each in the cone, and thank it for feeding our family and giving its life.

Just 1 crate, 6 birds at a time, in the cool of evening with the calm sounds of the woods around us

Once they fell asleep fully drained, Jason carried them to the scalder, and made sure the water remained at the perfect temperature with the propane.

Tyler and Micah worked hard to hand pluck, which was definitely the only significant challenge of this batch. Our plucker had arrived but was significantly damaged. We hadn’t heard back from the company yet, and there was no time to wait for a replacement. The old fashion way it was!

Jon had the nasty part…gutting, legs, necks, and icing.

Once we got all washed up, leaving the birds to soak in their “Ice Tank”, it was time to bag the birds. The boys carried the chill tank so I could clean the birds up, pluck any stray feathers, weigh, shrink wrap, label, and freeze properly in one of our freezers.

We have already fulfilled one order and have 3 more to complete. All our equipment has been cleaned and put away for the next time.

Our Delaware roosters are still growing, and as a heritage breed it does take them longer to grow to “kill size”. But we are thankful for all the customers who have been so patient through this process, able to watch their birds live and grow as free-range poultry, and by next week will all have their birds securely in their freezers to feed their families.

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Egg Prices

We had MUCH to do this winter, creating fencing and readjusting our hens to the new farm. Last year’s feed price increases combined with sneaky hens freckling the property with their eggs in unknown hiding places, required us to raise prices much to our distress. We had hoped at the new farm we would see more egg production and less feed costs but this wasn’t the case, thus we kept our prices at $6.

The good news is that we believe in charging a FAIR price to our customers. Keeping our costs down doesn’t line our pockets, it makes your food more affordable.

This spring our hens are consistently laying in the nest boxes, they are consuming so much vegetation and bug life that they often neglect their feed bowls, and we have had many of our customers returning cartons or friends recycling cartons for us. All these contribute to bringing our costs down, and we are delighted to extend those savings to YOU!

While groceries may be going up in the store, for the time being we will be able to keep our egg prices at $5/dozen

We don’t know what the future holds, but hope the extra savings blesses you and your family.

Hope & Peace, Heather Hawkins @ Hawkfield Manor

Click here to purchase Eggs at $5/dozen for Local Delivery, Local Pickup, the Weekly Durham Farm Drop, or the Monthly Cary Farm Drop

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The Lamb

While I’m sure it seems that I MUST be about to write something of a religious content as it is coming up on Passover (aka Easter season), ironically our saga has almost nothing to do with the holiday(s)!

Yesterday a sweet set of twins was born to one of our barbados ewes. while she did an apparently wonderful job cleaning them both up initially, at some point she must have decided to reject one of her little boys. He was pretty weak, and his baaaaa was as loud as could be! The other ewes would head-but him once sniffing and realizing he wasn’t one of their own lambs, so he was getting pretty desperate. His mom would call him, he would make his way to her, but she wouldn’t let him nurse and she would then run off with the stronger brother.

Fern took an interest in him but really, she is about to have her own kid(s).

SO, back to the house he came for some love and affection from our children and our cousin! Emma gasped and almost fainted when she saw him in my arms as I walked through the door.

He took the bottle beautifully, and was coddled by everyone. They said his lamb poo looked like little semisweet chocolate baking pieces, and thank goodness for old linens to clean up some other “liquid” messes.

They did walk him a few times outside and he used the bathroom, even late into the night. I could tell Emma was worn out when I got up to make coffee. You know that frazzled “new mom” look when a woman has had a newborn that didn’t sleep all night? Yeah. Emma’s face was 100% new mom LOL! So we took him out to the pasture around 8:30am after the morning feeding.

He was doing great at noon for his next feeding, and this evening came back to the house for a few photos, to feed, and then Emma and I took him back out to the flock.

While they reject him, the other lambs don’t and he is able to still have that social interaction with them that is important.

While this is indeed an unfortunate circumstance that his mama rejected him, it is yet another reason I love these children growing up on a farm. Emma being able to have this experience is such a blessing, and the younger two absolutely adore having the little hooves pitter-pattering on our wood floors, and petting the little darling.

We hope to place him with a home soon, but in the meantime, will enjoy the bonding experience with “Cam” (Emma named him).

Peace & Hope,
Heather Hawkins

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Hawkfield Manor Dairy

I know this is a much-promised blog post, but it’s been hard to sit down and write it. We absolutely loved our customers, our two cows, and Jason’s goats. We had every intention of continuing to milk them this year. Life in general has so many curveballs, and farmlife seems to amplify the curveball machine.

After we calculated our monthly expenses related directly to dairy/cows, I literally cried. All those mornings leaving my sleeping toddler, missed schooling hours, the random injuries, multiple falls in mud and manure, spilled pails of milk, the cows going into heat dropping production in milk and shorting customers, the sweltering heat and frigid cold, locking up the calf every single night…and this was only when I was milking. Before I took over, Jonathan and the boys were milking daily and had their own sacrifices and bad days. To know after all our efforts, we were making a couple dollars each day? It was absolutely tragic. The worst was remembering the days when my kids would ask if there was any milk and all of it was already designated to regular customers (if you’ve never milked an animal, there can be huge fluctuations depending on heat cycles, storms, hot days, calf drinking more, or a spilled pail). Once we were settled in at the new homestead, we realized that even if we increased the prices to make a profit, it still wouldn’t make up for the sacrifices we would make as a family and farm. Thus, we made the decision to just keep the milk ourselves, fertilize our pastures with excess, and store up supply for the upcoming Anatolian puppy litter.

We always used high quality filters to process the milk
This was Magpie’s first calving. Her calf was a STINKER but man he was cute!
Expectant Magpie
Raw Butter
Any extra milk for our family went into jars (saved on jugs and labels) with color-coded lids for the kids to know what was the most fresh
Jason leading a homeschool tour, sharing about his goats
The usual scene when Jason had finished his morning chores
Jason (with a bit of help from Jonathan…) made his own goat stanchion. SO proud of all this kid accomplished, and I know he is proud of himself, too.
Jason snuggling the Puppies his goatsmilk sustained through weaning

Jason has done a phenomenal job with his goats, faithfully milking, processing, sanitizing, and giving them daily care. We couldn’t be prouder. But the reality is that he is turning 16 in 4 days. This year holds many obligations for him. Working on driving hours to get his license, enrolling in a community school course, clogging performances/practice/teaching, working here on the farm with Jon, and possibly a part time job once he gets his license. He would also have the same expenses as before, which kept him at about the same profits as us…a couple dollars a day. I would have thought the decision would have been easier for Him than myself, but it wasn’t. He was so conflicted. He truly loved milking and loved his goats. But he eventually realized that in this season of his life, he will not be able to commit to milking daily, let alone 2x day.

All Clean!

So in March, Jason decided to find new homes for Daisy, Fern, and Mongo, and I decided to only milk Magpie for our family’s needs. Suddenly I found myself wondering what in the world we were doing! Going out and milking a goat and processing takes a fraction of the time that milking a cow does. Putting up good natured & tame goat kids is so much more manageable than putting up a calf that doesn’t care to be away from his mama all night. Cleaning the entire milk machine, AND the pail, AND the filtering equipment, vs. a pail and the filtering equipment. While I personally prefer Normande milk, it makes more sense for our family to switch to goat milk.

And so, the decision was made…Jason will trade me Fern for a couple of our ewes/lambs, and Magpie will be devoted to raising a lovely Normande calf. As Fern is due within the month, the kid(s) will stay with mom through the spring and summer, so I have flexibility (it’s SO much easier to leave the kid(s) on the nanny for a day than to hire a farm helper!). Magpie is due in June, so we will make sure her calf gets established nursing, get her milk regulated, and leave him/her on Magpie so I won’t be doing double-duty milking for our family. Due to her production capabilities, keeping both of the nannies wouldn’t be ideal, so his Daisy is currently for sale to the right family/farm.

Fern & Yael
Benjamin & Me at Farmers Market

I am excited, but also sad. This is the right thing for Jason, the right thing for me, the right thing for our family, and the right thing for our farm. When we dried the girls up 4 months ago, we tried our best to find sources of milk to tide our customers over until we produced again, but we had lovely relationships with all of them. It’s very difficult to have to tell everyone, including the crazy long waitlist we had growing for the past 4 months of NEW potential customers, that we won’t be producing anymore. We know some of you may be reading this, and I want to say a HUGE thank you for supporting us and our family last year. You were such a blessing and became friends we cared about and sacrificed for. We hope to find you good local sources of dairy, if you haven’t already found one. Please reach out to us, and we will do our best to help.

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Puppies Going Home

This week will be a rough one for me.

These are my babies. I helped Esther deliver each one…made sure they could nurse. Weighed them every day for 2 weeks, and then every week, since they were born. I feed them 2-3 times a day, and snuggle each one every feeding.

They’ve been such a huge part of my life, and this week, we will say “Goodbye” to 2 of them earlier than I had anticipated (Due to travel and weather reasons).

Clipping Nails

Each one is SO unique and lovely.
Some love their goats, and prefer to lay with/near them in the barn.
Some are much more concerned about the Perimeter and watch/listen intently while they lay down with a broad view.
Some are the first to run up to us and want affection EVERY time.
Some are devoted to Esther…they watch her intently, follow her wherever she goes, even if it means abandoning a full food dish when hungry.

My consolation is that they will each make an amazing asset to the farms and families they will be joining. What a blessing and an honor to raise them up and provide them the foundation needed to be amazing Livestock Guardians.

Snow Puppies

Peace & Hope,
Heather Hawkins

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Raleigh Beef Prices

There are some tools out there that we use when pricing our beef and lamb. It’s important to know what the market value is of our products, after all.

Comparing our new prices to this (January), we hope you can appreciate how we have tried our best to keep pricing competitive and fair at Hawkfield Manor.

MY MARKET NEWS ~ GRASS FED BEEF PRICES {Raleigh}

We also want to note, that even grain-finished cows can be sold as Grass Fed. This means that a farmer can pasture his cattle, then pen them up and plump them up with corn and grains or silage, a month before processing. They legally can do this and market it as Grassfed, charging the maximum Grass-Fed Beef prices.

What can we say to this, except KNOW your farmer! Don’t just talk to them, as people can lie.

KNOW them.

Make the best choice for your family and pay a fair price for what you actually want: Grass-Fed, Grass-Finished Beef, with no added hormones or antibiotics.

Peace and Hope,
Heather Hawkins

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What Beef Pickup is like…

Beef Pickup is exhilarating, unpredictable, exhausting, and rewarding.

We arrive and unload the Lambs. They get tagged, completed cut sheets for the two families buying them are turned in, and say a quick “see you in a couple hours!” to the staff at the processor, and jump back into the truck/trailer to head back to Stumpy Hill Farm.

Jonathan and I have talked before about ranches/farms that have started small like us, gotten big, and have lost touch with the elements of this business…something we truly love and don’t want to give up. This is our livelihood, so it needs to grow and support our farm and family, but not at the cost of being hands-on.

We woke up at dark. Jon had loaded the sheep into the trailer with Jason, Tyler, and Micah, so we drove the dump truck to Stumpy Hill Farm (They have a special plug for the truck/trailer), swapped into the truck/trailer, and were on our way to the processor.

It takes about an hour. We talk, laugh, and dream every trip out there…and drink coffee! The sun rises, and the temperature climbs to 19 Degrees.

Lamb dropoff is almost always on a Thursday. But this Thursday was different. This Thursday we had received the call that our beef (that had been delayed due to staff shortages) was ready for pickup. Whew. Deep Breath!

For the past 2 years Hawkfield Manor Farm Store has been in one of the outbuildings at Stumpy Hill Farm. Those who have picked up know the white sign down by the road. All our freezers are there, the milk pickup fridge, and all our signs & prices. One of the amazing things about our new homestead, is the shop that is here with full power and enough room (and outlets) to house all of our freezers and fridges that the Farm Store requires. Back to the present……. All our freezers are there! We loaded up 6 freezers and our jumbo cooler, and set back on the road.

11AM – Arrive back at the processor. We pay, and then work with the staff in the back to SLOWLY bring out the racks of beef so we can get everyone’s orders into their correct freezer, make sure the cuts are as ordered on each cut sheet, and weigh the half that is going out that day. My friend’s husband arrived and Jon helped him get their half loaded while I continued to work with the 6 freezers and cooler.

I must say, WHAT a blessing my boys are. They are so incredibly helpful, each with their own gifts & strengths.

{Running a farm takes a team. We’re pretty sure ours is the BEST team ever!}

Micah keeps us smiling and cheerful; Tyler is quiet and listens to instructions incredibly well; Jason is organized…borderline OCD; All of them have become so strong in the past 2 years, and all of them insist on carrying the boxes for me when it comes time to load the van for the Farm Drops and local deliveries.

The rest of the day sees me driving to the Triangle area for Farm Drops, and Friday doing local deliveries. My stomach muscles hurt from bending into/out of the freezers, coolers, and boxes; then loading boxes onto/into peoples’ porches, homes, and cars.


In the end, it’s rewarding yet tiring…and a hot and creamy cup of coffee to warm my insides? It does my soul good.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into a not-so-typical day on Hawfield Manor…when the beef gets done, life stops to make sure local families are supplied with grassfed, grass-finished beef from our farm.

~Peace & Hope
Heather Hawkins
Hawkfield Manor

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First Blog “here”

Jonathan and I are a great team. He is the animal whisperer (NOT kidding. Ask any of the farmers around here that have seen him get a bull loaded…). I used to be a CPA’s personal assistant, and had 2 internships as a teen doing admin work. I definitely do my share of farm work around here, and can say I give 100%. Jon also gives 100%, and this is why Hawkfield Manor exists.

But until pigs fly it will be me, Heather, making all the blog posts!

My BFF loves WordPress, and I was going bonkers every time I made a change on our Wix website. It just didn’t work for my brain or style.

So here we go…Here’s to a great new beginning at Hawkfield Manor! We have great hopes for 2022, and can’t wait to share with you as they become a reality.

Peace and Hope,
Heather Hawkins

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Moving!?

Yes, but NOT FAR!

We are thrilled to be moving to a new homestead. It has acreage for our Sheep, a few goats, a family milk cow, and our chickens. On a personal note, it is an amazing home for our family, with more rooms/square footage, and potential for add-ons.

Sadly, because of both timing and condition of the farm needing some work, we have made the difficult decision to dry up some of our milking livestock, and find new homes for the rest.

This will allow other families to have their needs met while the animals are in their current life cycle/season, and producing well.

Dolcy, Clover, and the dexter bull calf, will be headed down to a couple farms in southern NC that have similar farming practices to ours, and we visited last year.

Jason’s goats will be going to a family that are customers at Hawkfield Manor, and we know they will have a GREAT life and be cared for dearly.

While this has been a HARD decision, we are delighted with the homes all of them will be going to!

What about our beef??

We are thankful that our new home is not even a mile from where our cattle currently have been born and raised the past 11 years, and they won’t be moving! Well….they will…cause we rotate them! But the land we have been working with our cows for years, will continue to host our herds. Because of this, we will continue to offer grass-fed, grass-finished beef without pause or starting over on new land. Our sheep are currently still on those pastures too, and will stay there until we repair the perimeter fences on the new properties pasture and can bring them over.

The farm store will stay where it is for now, until we are fully moved in, and can setup the new store location on our property.

STAY TUNED for news on that, as we enter 2022

Our “Little Blue Tractor” came to live with us, and will be an incredible asset on the farm for those big jobs, and homestead improvements.

Golem and Esther will have free reign of the pastures of goats and sheep,

and we are SO thankful as the area has been having increased reports of coyote activity/packs, and this property is surrounded by woods.

Our anticipation is great, but we thankfully will not be moving until AFTER the holiday season. Boxes are being filled slowly but surely, and decluttering full-swing. The children are excited, and so are we.