Livestock Mission: To seek to cultivate a relationship with the land that benefits the fields, the farmers and the community. We strive to raise our animals with the utmost respect and highest ethical standards to create a full and happy life for them and a delicious, wholesome product.
Our livestock program at Carnation Farms is made up of 3 major parts. Cattle, Sheep, and Poultry/Rabbits. Each of these creatures serves an important purpose on our farm and our ultimate goal is to integrate them both with each other and with other pieces of the farm to create a holistic system in which we can all thrive.
We are the happy stewards of the largest herd of Belted Kingshire Cattle in the world. These amazing little cows are named for their development by Arlene and Richard Gradwohl, as well as Katie Haack and Jim Haack, right here in King County. The cows are a triple cross of miniature Hereford and Angus as well as mid sized Scottish Highlander. It is not hard to draw parallels between Carnation Farms history and the origin of this breed. Developed by expert geneticists in our very own king county, with Hereford genetics and in those classic red and white Carnation colors. These cows thrive on everything that grows here and make excellent gains even on that notorious canary reed grass (bane of all farmers). As many miniature cattle they are very docile and gentler on fences and equipment than many of their full sized counterparts, not to mention their marbling and flavor is exquisite.
We are of the opinion that sheep are one of the most versatile and multi-faceted animals that one can raise on a farm. There are so many different breeds with so many different characteristics. They provide meat, fiber and in some cases dairy which almost no other animal can do. They are small and lightweight making them incredibly easy to handle for one person and easy on pasture. Unlike goats, sheep are less hard on fences and only have teeth on their lower jaws which makes them more gentle grazers than goats. Add to that the fact that our sheep are well-socialized and friendly, which makes them perfect for education, and we have a triple threat! Here at Carnation Farms we raise two breeds of sheep, Romneys and Finnsheep. Romneys are a classic British longwool sheep breed known for their hardiness, fineness of wool, and healthy carcass size. Their development in rainy, marshy England makes them a great choice for our region. Finn sheep are a very old heritage breed from Finland. They are known most for their large litter of lambs, having two, three, or sometimes four or five lambs at a time. They also have hardy hooves and clean legs/faces/tails unlike their woolier counterparts which helps keep them cleaner. We have chosen to cross these two breeds to get the best of both worlds. By keeping Finn ewes and Romney rams we get multiple lambs from the Finn side and the increased carcass size and fine wool from the Romney side. The result is friendly, vigorous lambs with beautiful fleeces.
We continue to raise poultry on Carnation Farms as it is one of the most accessible proteins available to our local community. Because we can sell eggs and chicken in smaller “packages” (smaller amounts, unlike the whole and half shares we sell with beef and lamb) more people are able to access them financially. We generally raise Laying Hens, Broilers, Turkeys and Rabbits. We are taking 2023 off from raising broilers to reassess both our growing practices, financial feasibility and weather broilers fit into our sustainability model. We have also encountered a lot of complications with processing, much like the meat industry on the whole. From a purely sustainability-minded perspective, the most sustainable animals we can raise are the ones that we can grow the majority of feed for on the farm. Grains consume a high amount of oil to produce, not to mention ship, and the poultry diet consists largely of grains and legumes. As diesel, and consequently poultry feed, costs have skyrocketed in the last year we are forced to examine the future of raising this meat. This does, however, also give us the opportunity to explore other livestock/meat sources. One in particular that has always interested us is rabbit. We have a couple rabbits and have experimented with raising offspring for meat. The carcass size is comparable to a chicken and the meat is extremely flavorful and tender. Pair that with the fact that rabbits, when managed correctly, can subsist almost entirely off pasture alone and that they can breed and create their own offspring (we have to buy chicks from hatcheries as hatching is an extremely delicate and expensive operation), and rabbit starts to look mighty appetizing, and sustainable!
All of this is to say, in 2023 we are continuing to raise our laying hens as they are fairly low maintenance and our community has come to rely on our eggs. We are planning to raise a smaller amount of turkeys and are looking into trying out some heritage turkeys, and we are going to continue to experiment with rabbits!