Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

The latest arrival…

…a combination of an English bull with the best of our American herd.  Dam THF U3 and sire from the wonderful old Essington herd in England.

THF U3 and her bull calf

Wooz and I were just getting started in Devon and visiting Lakota Ranch when I saw the grandmother of this little guy being born!  I asked for her on the spot and Jeremy Engh promised eventual delivery!

She turned into the prettiest American cow I’d ever seen…and Jeremy took grief from his Dad when he later came upon her on a visit to Thistle Hill.

We eventually bred grandma to Watson…a descendant of the Rotokawa line.  And the progeny have been equally beautiful.

Cows generally go off away from the herd when they calf but 3 went way off…into a flood plain along the River Jordan.  (Yes you do cross over the Jordan to come to our slice of paradise!)

With this special genetics such as this we’ll be sure to track the development of this little guy!


A tale of two cows…

…our first heifer calf finally…THF 3…posing with her two mamas.

The birth mother is on the left…TDA04…a pure traditional English Devon.  The other cow is a young cow whose calf was born stillborn earlier in the day.

TDA15 wandered around lost until this baby came along.  Whether she thinks it’s hers or just wants to help, we don’t know.

Fortunately TDA04 is an old hand and isn’t chasing her away.  I expect eventually both cows will wind up nursing her and this 65-pound heifer calf will thrive!

A happy ending.


Our latest mama…

…is one of our favorites heifers and she’s handling motherhood like an old pro.


The baby is a 70-pound bull calf…a blend of our American “2” line with the English bull Highwayman.  The “2’s” were always Wooz’ favorite and Highwayman’s grandsire was England’s famed Millennium. 

Mama is camped out a safe distance from the herd and once she is sure Junior will behave they’ll rejoin the others.

E192 has handled pregnancy and delivery and early motherhood exactly as we hoped.

(And once we take away the temporary electric fence we’ll knock down the wingstem!)


Here they come…

…our first calf of the season is a pure traditional English Devon…THF 1.  He’s an 80-pound baby bull.


The mom is from our great Cashtiller line…the cow that won three straight national championships over there.

The sire is a mystery though. The calf may be the result of an AI with Champson Defender or the cover bull who was put in a few days afterwards.  This birth comes right at the dividing line between the two.

The size of the calf makes us think Defender will turn out to be the dad.  An 80-pound preemie doesn’t seem likely but we’ll just have to wait for the DNA results.


Update on F100…

…aka THF Prince…an English bull approaching his second birthday.


This was the result of Wooz’ final pairing…selecting animals originating in Shiamala Comer’s Ashott Barton herd in England.  We purchased one of her outstanding Tulip heifers and bred her to Jaunty..originally a Cutcombe bull that won many prizes.

As a result, we not only have Prince but a full sister to build on…plus another pair of Ashott Barton heifers out of Bribery also sired by Jaunty.

So Wooz’ imprint on the Thistle Hill herd will certainly be a lasting one.


The vegan wars…

…have spilled into print.  There are three giants in the chemical artificial burger fight…and it ain’t pretty.  Neighbor Joel Salatin is enjoying the fight, though, and you can read his blog –


Scenes we’d rather not see…

..son-in-law Curt Humphreys was out bushhogging the other day when he flushed two young coyotes.

Photo by Curt Humphreys

With calving just around the corner this is a worry we’d just as soon not have.  We hear coyotes howling fairly often…but from the nearby mountains.  Actual sightings though are rare.

We’ve never lost a newborn to coyotes but others have.  Not much we can do except hope this scare from the bushhog chased them back into the hills.


Awaiting the final grade…

…in just a few weeks. For the first time our bull sire battery will be joined by Thistle Hill Essington…a pure traditional English Devon bull.

EssingtonPhoto by Church Humphreys

Essington will have to wait though for the first group of calves to finish…that will be this year’s AI group and the first by our grandson Church.

Essington will have to wait though for the first group of calves to finish…that will be this year’s AI group and the first by our grandson Church.  That and the fact it should introduce a new English bloodline to our herd has us all a bit tense.

Back to Essington:  he’s out of the Essington Park herd which under Brian Drake was one of the winningest herds in English Devon.  Buttercup was the dam and the splendid Falcon was the sire.  Full name:  Ashott-Barton Millennium Falcon and the breeder Shiamala Comer.

It should result in some superb pairings…both in our main and English herds.  In all, 29 calves should be on the ground by the end of September. 

You’re invited to join us for an inspection.  And make sure to get a cigar from both Essington and Church!


Fox guarding the hen house…

…that’s how the self-proclaimed Lunatic Farmer Joel Salatin describes the latest advisory committee to the USDA’s meat and poultry inspection division.

Salatin joins Greg Gunthorp in pointing out that the watch dogs include solely Big Ag and its academia sycophants but leaves out any representation from the “little guys”.

In fact, the big processors include two from a Brazilian giant that has been scandal-plagued in recent years.  Joel writes the following to his Congressman and suggests we all do.


The Rotokawa renewal…

…takes a big jump with the purchase of about 100 straws of the top bulls ever produced by Ken McDowall.

They’re all here…688, 667, 982 and all the others in a purchase Church just concluded with veteran breeder Don Minto in Rhode Island.  Don was in the group that first imported Rotokawa heifers and his Watson farm was a showplace for the Devon breed.

When he and Heather decided to downsize, we jumped at the chance to purchase his collection.  It included not only the Rotokawa greats but probably the most famous English bull of all: Potheridge President and his son President’s Favorite.

To have this much firepower at our call is a breeder’s dream and we will be leaning on Ken, as we have through the years, to get this right.

We also are indebted to Don and Heather Minto for entrusting this valuable collection of Rotokawa semen to us.  And we are in their debt for the first Rotokawa bull we ever purchased, Watson.  We date the blossoming of our herd to Watson.  And the wisdom and friendship of the Mintoes over the years is something we will always treasure.

So with this one purchase we’ve renewed our commitment to two historic herds…Rotokawa and English Devon.