Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Grass is always greener—II

Just a quick add…pictures of the turnips we’re getting (with our hound) and the radishes.  Add in the roots we left behind and you get an idea of the wonderful impact in the soil!

Turnup

David

Radish

Home again…

…are three yearling bulls who were at summer camp…actually the pasture owned by neighbors, the Rowland’s.

Truthfully I’m not sure which is which….but these are sons of some great English herd genetics such as Champson, Essington Park and Ashott Barton.

We take our young cows away for the summer to ease the pressure on our grass.  That also means more here in our stockpile and easier to supplement with hay.

David

The grass is always greener…

…when you add cover crops!  And for the first time that’s what we’ve done.

Son-in-law Curt Humphreys and Coop manager Glenn Covington reviewed the results of the project this weekend
Photo by Carolyn Matthews

Son-in-law Curt Humphreys and Coop manager Glenn Covington reviewed the results of the project this weekend…and pronounced themselves satisfied.  Grandson Church had started the plan with Glen but he’s now off at Cornell Veterinary School.

turnip, radish, cow peas, clover, cereal rye and perennial rye.
Photo by Curt Humphreys

If you enlarge the picture you should be able to pick out turnip, radish, cow peas and the clover.  Tougher to see but they are there are Cereal Rye and perennial rye.  I never thought we’d get to the point where I’d think we’ve maxed on clover.  

Glenn is a little worried about possible bloat.  We have pastures that were not over-seeded and hay standing by just in case.

Incidentally we did use a no-til drill for the seeding…supplied by Glenn’s Farm and Home Coop!

David

A winning combination…

…of the outstanding Rotokawa 982 and our awesome X2a!

4 is a healthy 65-pound bull calf…an ai son of 982.

4 is a healthy 65-pound bull calf…an ai son of 982.  This sire was an unsung member of Ken McDowalls battery of great bulls.  Church came up with some of his hard to find semen not long ago.

We chose X2a whose pedigree goes way back among American Devon.  And the 2-line has been very good to Thistle Hill…producing a string of outstanding bulls and heifers.

David

The first bull calf…

…of the year weighs exactly 70 pounds.  And though mom is a heifer she has him well-disciplined.  No easy task with a rambunctious little bull calf!

Thistlehill Farm Bull Calf
Photo by Curt Humphreys

The sire of these early calves is TDA 35…an all English bull by Falcon out of Norah.

Mom is a good example of crossing our American herd with an English import.  In this case grandma is R2…a calf we spotted at Lakota Ranch 15 years ago…and it paid off for us and farms throughout the East.

The English grandsire was a bull we nicknamed Handsome Ransom and, while early, this guy is well-proportioned just like grandpa.

Never was good at fractions but I guess this makes 3 a three-quarter English Devon.

David

Back in the bull pen…

…and oblivious to his achievements in the pasture…is TDA35.  This young bull has sired this year’s heifer candidates.

The son of Goldings Norah by Ashott Barton Falcon..TDA 35 has an outstanding background on paper.

The son of Goldings Norah by Ashott Barton Falcon..TDA 35 has an outstanding background on paper.

This is his first real test.

David

Let the calving begin…

…and we start with our first-calf heifers.

F21 is a Bribery embryo daughter and this is first born…a little heifer by a young Thistle Hill bull out of Goldings Norah.

F21 is a Bribery embryo daughter and this is first born…a little heifer by a young Thistle Hill bull out of Goldings Norah.

In fact this is a combination of the herds of many of our great English partners…Cutcombe, Ashott Barton and Goldings.  It’s great fun now that our English herd is maturing to begin to paint our own history with them at Thistle Hill!

Only 26 more calves to go!

David

The future…

…is in good hands!  Two yearling bulls we have high hopes for.

Essington Jr. and Champson Defender calf.

In the background is one of the first calves from our herd bull Essington.  He’s from a premier English herd that was the work for many decades of Brian Drake…a herd that now sadly belongs to history.

In the foreground is the first American descendant of another historic English line, Champson.  He’s by Champson Defender.

Grandson Church came up with some Champson semen at UK Sires that, frankly, didn’t look very promising but decided to try it.  He hit on the very first attempt and so we now have three pure, traditional English bloodlines on our Virginia pastures.

Just for good measure a second Defender calf is due next month.  Nice going, Church!

Finally for those who haven’t been following our English Devon project…it began about 10 years ago when we discovered that the traditional herds were disappearing due to cross-breeding.

Today it is almost impossible to come up with a pure, traditional Devon bull in England…or here for that matter.  

Thistle Hill has become the sole repository for those genetics faster than we ever imagined.

David

A good omen…

A rainbow finds daughter Carolyn inspecting one of our newly-seeded pastures.

…as a rainbow finds daughter Carolyn inspecting one of our newly-seeded pastures.  It’s been 10 days since we seeded a cover crop of ryes, clovers, turnips, radishes and cow peas.

Cow peas

It’s the cow peas clearly winning the germination race but if you look closely you can see the ryes breaking the surface.

We let the cows graze the planned seeding areas lower than usual.  Otherwise we did no special prep work but depending on a no-till drill to set the seeds.

Our thanks to Glen Covingtin of the MarshAll Coop for consulting on our project.

David

A partial victory…

…with Bayer pulling it’s Round-up herbicide from the home market.

The major ingredient in Round-up is glyphosate…linked to cancers including non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Round-up will still be available for agricultural use despite continuing court cases against the product.

The story in full

David