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Thistle Hill Farm Photo Gallery

Senior Bulls

Watson Carolina Hobo Magic
Carolina Hobo

Our herd of Devon seemed to blossom with the addition of Watson two years ago.  Purchased from Heather and Don Minto’s Watson Farm in Rhode Island, he has sired a string of great young males and females.  Watson is a son of Rotokawa 974.

Carolina Hobo joined our herd this year and we’re expecting great things from this Rotokawa 93 son, calved at Charles Sydnor’s Braeburn Farm in North Carolina.  Mom was a 982 daughter; 93 and 982 together, what more can be said?

Magic is a home grown bull, son of Rotokawa 93.  A small bull, only a Frame Score 1 but off the charts in rump width.  This bull packs a lot of meat and we’re seeing his first calves now.

Two-year olds...

U6 U2 Blizzard

Probably the most difficult judgment call of the year is deciding which bulls to keep, which to sell, and which to steer.  Each year Thistle Hill has a class of about 10 to 15 bull calves and from that number we keep 5 or 6 to monitor their development.  That’s the tough call.  In the next 18 months we find that gradually the bulls sort themselves.  And subconsciously, we do the same.  Some of them are just not “ready” to go when buyers show up.  Pictured above are the three 18 month old bulls that seemed to be the “best of class”.  On the left is U6, a son of Rotokawa 93 and a 93 half-sister.  In the center, U2, a son of Watson who contributed many great animals to our herd and has moved on to John Forelle’s Folly Farm in New York.  U2 will probably take up where Watson left off when we get to the first of the year.  But  on the right is a challenger, another Watson son, Blizzard.  Not the most recent picture of Blizzard but when he was six months.  We smile every time we think of him nursing, just as we smile when we hear the “experts” talk about trying to get a calf to wean at 50 or 60 per cent of its mom’s weight. 

We confess that, from the first, we haven’t been able to choose between U2 and Blizzard and our visitors haven’t been much help.  They’re evenly divided between the two.  But something will have to give soon.  We have another class coming along (see below) with 13 more great prospects!

Rotokawa 243 son
Rotokawa 93 son
Rotokawa 243 son

But before we leave this class, we don’t want to pass over two more exciting herd bull prospects.  First, this son of Rotokawa 93, grandson of the legendary 688.  Did you know there are more 93 sons working in Devon herds than any other bull?  And then there’s the final Ken McDowall-bred Rotokawa bull, 243.  Ken tells us he thinks 243 is his crowning achievement;  and we think one that has never received proper promotion because of the competition between Ken’s American partners. 

We believe Thistle Hill Farm has become one of the leading “one stop” herds for Devon genetics.  All of our bulls are raised strictly on grass without any of the “tricks” that are sometimes used to make a bull show well.

Bill Roberts of 12 Stones Grasslands Beef, who arranges the sale of animals across the country and sees more grass bulls than anyone we know, wrote  a note we particularly treasure:

“You have the nicest looking set of young bulls in the best condition I have seen to date.  Anyone can luck out with a good animal or two. 

You have tremendous "uniform quality" which is the mark of a great program.” 

We didn’t plan it that way; it’s the result of our effort over the years to develop the  herd bulls we need at Thistle Hill.  But we only provided the sweat; the “brains” were supplied by our fellow Devon breeders.

Bull Calves

688 Sons W2 (Watson son) W3 (Sunset son)
688 Sons
W2 (Watson son)
W3 (Sunset son)

If the past two years have been the era of Watson at Thistle Hill Farm, we suspect we’re entering a new phase.  Thanks to good friends Ken McDowall of Rotokawa fame in New Zealand and Dr. Bill Walker at Century Farms in South Carolina, we received some very rare semen from the great Rotokawa bull 688.  We put it to use immediately, and the above picture shows two of his embryo calves.  The one on the left was from our Wow Cow, Lakota 180; the one on the right is line bred, 688 to his daughter (THF R6) in our herd.  in all we have eleven 688 calves on the ground, 7 of them line bred bulls and heifers.

The center picture is of the son of a bull we developed right here, Magic.  As often happens, you look one day and there’s a little gem hidden in your herd.  W2 has drawn “ohhs and ahhs” from the top Devon breeders in the country.  His sire now works for the Tesnow family in Tennessee.  You never know what you have until you lose it.


Bred Heifers

T2 T3 T312

If your herd is like ours, every year is seems that the same numbers keep popping up among the”finishers”, the ones with the top calves.  R2 and R3 are like that.  One year they have bull calves, the next heifers, and always those calves place 1 and 2.  In 2008 they gave us the two heifers---T2 and T3---you see here and the pairings again were to Rotokawa sires.  Both are carrying calves by the well-known 93.  To the right is a 982 daughter,Thistle Hill 312, and she’s bred to a son of Rotokawa 974.  Needless to say, we’re looking forward to this pairing.  All three of these heifers are moderate sized Frame Score 3s with surprising capacity.

Yearling Heifers

U31 U256 93-1

These are just a few of the many top calves from the class of 2009, probably the best group of females we’ve had so far.  The dams of the first two were our pick out of the Trantham’s Lenoirs Creek herd when we founded our Devon herd a few years before.  You’ll probably recognize the number 256.  Her grandma is 18 years old and runner-up as the oldest, still-producing Devon cow in the country.  93-1 is an embryo calf by Rotokawa 93 and the great Lakota cow, 183.   She had 3 heifers in that flush and they’re all ready to breed.


W64 W1W

Just as the year before saw a bumper crop of heifers, 2010 was our year for bulls.  The result, of course, is few heifers for you to choose from.  But here are two of our top prospects from this class.  W64 was sired by Thistle Hill Magic, probably the thickest bull we’ve ever raised here.  He’s now on the job down in Kentucky.  W1W again is a calf sired by Watson.
This section would not be complete without mentioning that while heifers are scarce here on the farm as this is written, in few months their numbers will explode with the arrival of our embryo calves from a farm in the Shenandoah Valley where they’ve been with their recip mothers. There’ll be heifers from our “Wow Cow” by 688….and not incidentally a few line-bred 688 daughters.  You’ll want to watch for them.

A note of thanks:  we want to add here that obviously we owe a great deal to the famed Rotokawa herd.  We did not set out to be so “heavy” with Rotokawa genetics, but again and again, when it comes time to choose we wind up selecting Rotokawa.  So thanks to our good friends frequent consultants Ken McDowall of New Zealand and Ridge Shinn of Rotokawa/America.


Thistle Hill Farm · Hume, Virginia · info@thistlehill.net · (540) 364-2090