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2021 Commercial Breeder of the Year

Howard Hawkwood

I would like to thank the Alberta Hereford Association for the honour of being named  Commercial Hereford Breeder of the Year. It is very meaningful to me and my family.
 

I grew up on a dairy farm in the Bearspaw district in what is now Northwest Calgary. My  passion for Hereford cattle began in 1963 when my dad, Joe Hawkwood, purchased three  Hereford heifers. In 1970, we sold our dairy cows and bought more Hereford cows; my  ranching career had started. My Dad always said, “Focus on the cows because they will make  you money.”
 

I graduated from Olds College in Agricultural Production in 1976. In 1977, we purchased our  great herd sire, 99G, from Jones Hereford Ranches at Balzac, Alberta. I continued working  with my parents, Joe and Aurica, until 1987, when, with their support, I set out on my own. 

 

My wife, Nielle, and I ranch in the Lochend area west of Airdrie, Alberta. I started out with a  herd of mixed breed cows, and tried my hand with a few other breeds, but always made sure that there was a Hereford bull in the mix to provide replacement heifers. 

After a few years, I came back to 100% Hereford breeding. My reasons for choosing Herefords are many. They include remarkable longevity. I recently sold a cow with a
K tag; we are now in a J year. This cow never missed a calving season and her heifers are in the herd. I call her a  money maker. In addition, I find that Herefords provide excellent fertility and calving ease, good  disposition, high levels of feed efficiency and the ability to withstand changes in weather.  Herefords withstand the cold with thick hair coats while other breeds seek shelter; in summer  they are able to stay out and continue grazing while other breeds must find shade. 

I focus on the cows, so I look for a bull that has good weaning numbers as far as weights, feed  efficiency and maternal aspects. My clients are the feeders, so I focus on yearling weights in  bulls I buy; the effect on my herd’s genetics allows buyers to make a profit on my calves and  yearlings with the least amount of input. I use both horned and polled bulls, as these two are  almost distinct breeds, and I feel that they provide hybrid vigour to my herd. I sell my calves  and yearlings at Balog Auctions in Lethbridge and at Calgary Stockyards in Strathmore. 

I buy bulls from a variety of Alberta breeders, at the Calgary Bull Sale and other sales and through private treaties. I try to buy the best bulls that I can afford. In fact, I have been accused  of making purebred breeders pay more for their chosen bulls by bidding on them myself. I often bid on the 1st and 2nd place bulls at cattle shows, and believe that spending money on a  bull with great potential is justified by the positive effect it has on the quality of my cow herd.  

When buying bulls, I look for an individual that is thick and long, and not too short in height. I  look for a bull with a moderate birth weight for my cow herd and for one with a light to low  moderate birth weight and a smaller head for my heifers. Nielle and I are now breeding a herd  of 200 cows and 40 heifers. I try to maintain cows’ weight in the 1500 to 1600 lb. range.  

Our two sons, after seeing the struggles we encountered during the BSE crisis, have chosen other fields. Our older son, Joe, is an emergency room doctor at Medicine Hat Hospital. Our younger son, Dan, is a lawyer with Beaumont Church LLP in Calgary. They continue to help out at Branding, and provide us with valuable health and legal advice. We also have a new granddaughter - the future is bright! Howard Hawkwood
 

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Howard Hawkwood - 2021

 Left to Right: Joe Hawkwood, Aurica Hawkwood, Howard Hawkwood, Doug Jones - Purchase of 99G