Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Some calves arrive…

…with “herd bull” tattooed” on their chest. That’s the case with this not-so-little guy who arrived recently. In this picture Equinox is just a few hours old and looking for horizons to conquer.

EquinoxHe’s descended from Buttercup, a pure Traditional Devon from Brian Drake’s herd in England. Sadly Brian has now fully retired and dispersed his herd.

The sire is TDA Churchill and he goes back to the great English champion Cashtiller, dam of four bull calves that topped the British annual sales. That’s a record that will probably stand forever. Cash, herself, won every Devon show she ever entered!

With that much history packed into his 70 pounds, this calf could almost be called “Great Expectations”!


Reversal of Dementia….

Yes, you heard that right- REVERSAL of dementia. I’ve been listening to some amazing talks over the last few days at the Integrative Medicine Menatl Health Conference here in Dallas.  Yesterday morning, Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of  The End of Alzheimer’s, spoke in two plenary sessions about his pioneering work in reversing cognitive decline with the ReCODE protocol.

His case presentations totally undermine the traditional medical model that once you have dementia there is no reversing it. It’s not easy though- not something a single molecule medicine is going to make a significant impact on. It takes a lot of commitment and work on the part of the patient.

Dr. Bredesen recommends extensive testing to determine each individual’s major routes to cognitive decline; likely there are somewhere between 25 and 50 contributing factors. He divides them up to major groups – inflammatory, trophic with not enough nutrients or hormones , and toxic, such as from mycotoxins or borrelia, and then works to provide each patient with their own individual program to reverse dementia.

Three of the biggest tools in the ReCODE protocol are my favorite integrative and functional tools- diet, exercise, and sleep, for whenever you are employing them you are hitting many different steps in your physiology and not just one. All of you connected to the Devon world would have been very happy to hear the words “grass-fed beef” announced on stage by Dr Bredesen.

Other dietary choices recommended repeatedly throughout the conference were non-GMO, nutrient dense, gluten free, and limited or no dairy and sugar.

Carolyn M. Matthews, MD; Director of Integrative and Functional Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center

End of the tease….

For the past three weeks, this young heifer has been going off by herself….a sure sign of an impending calf. But once Z103 was sure she had Church’s attention she would slip back into the herd.

This morning the game finally ended.
Saturday Morning Calf at Thistle Hill Farm

Born on daughter Carolyn’s birthday, that’s gotta be her name. But the family is still deciding.

Grandpa and sire are both English bulls who certainly have transmitted their deep ruby red hair coat. Wooz nicknamed grandpa “Handsome Ransom”. Over the years, I expect our herd will fill out with his beautiful coloring.


Another reason not to partake of junk food…

A prospective study in Europe looked at 471,495 individuals’ intake of junk food at baseline and then assessed the development of cancer over the next 15 years. Higher intake of junk food was associated with statistically significant increases of cancers of the colon-rectum, cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract and stomach, cancer of the lung in men, and postmenopausal breast and liver cancer in women.

One potential limitation of the study, published September 18, 2018,  is that junk food intake was assessed only once, at baseline, and may be a confounder for some other risk factor that is associated with the above cancers.

However, REAL food is likely always best: that is what we and our microbiomes evolved with. Think vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, berries, and quality sources of meat and fish.

Carolyn M. Matthews, MD; Director of Integrative and Functional Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center

Work Cited – Deschasaux, M. et al. Nutritional quality of food as represented by the FSAm-NPS nutrient profiling system underlying the Nutri-Score label and cancer risk in Europe: Results from the EPIC prospective cohort study. PLOS Med 15 (9):e1002651.doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed 1002651

Game day surprise….

…that’s what grandson Church called it. He arrived at Walker Century Farms to pick up six pregnant cows and discovered he’d only carry five back to Thistle Hill.

Thistlehill CalfThe trip to South Carolina was part of a major realignment of Traditional Devon females. But we’ll save that exciting news until later.

The heifer…should we call her Hurricane?…is out of TD 6 and TD Victory. Mother and daughter will catch up with the rest of their herd mates in about a month.


My current top tips for weight loss

Since 1990, the population of the United States has undergone a sea change in our weight and our health. In 1992 , according to the CDC, approximately 10-15% of our population was obese. By 2015, approximately 35% of the population was obese. Genetic mutations in a single generation cannot account for this big (no pun intended) change.

In the last 100 years we’ve had some huge changes in our environment that I believe are encouraging this push towards obesity: increasing sugar in our diet, antibiotics changing our microbiome, GMO foods, habitual snacking and feasting on high calorie, nutrient poor foods, and what I call “fake foods” – these are foods that have been modified in one way or another such that they no longer are close to nature, and not ones that our microbiome and our immune system have evolved with. These would be foods with emulsifiers, dyes, fillers, chemicals, preservatives, etc.

So here are my current recommendations to patients:

  1. Rather than focus on calories, focus on QUALITY. Eat only food that is as close to what it would have been 500 years ago, “REAL” food. Organic vegetables, organic fruits, whole milk and butter from grass fed cattle, first pressed organic olive oil, grass fed and grass finished cattle, pasture raised chicken feeding on bugs and not GMO pesticide laden grains.
  2. Limit your eating to 8-10 hours per day. A study from the Salk institute in LaJolla on mice gave two different groups of mice the same number of calories per day. One group had access to those calories ad libitum throughout the day. Another group had access to their food for only 8 hours a day, and they gained less weight and were healthier than the mice which were allowed to eat all day long.
  3. Part of whether we are overweight can relate to our microbiome, the collection of bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses that are intricately related to every single aspect of our physiology. Study after study shows that the diversity of vegetables in our diet is related to the diversity of bacteria in our microbiome. Try to include 6 to 8 vegetables every day and 1 to 2 fruits.
  4. Encourage low glycemic foods. These break down and are absorbed slowly, leading to a lower insulin response. Insulin is the hormone that is one of the main ones responsible for the most unhealthy weight gain, that around our waist. There are multiple lists available of glycemic index; in general, most vegetables will be low glycemic.
  5. Whenever you are eating, the combination of a protein, fat and carbohydrate will lower the glycemic load of that “eating occasion” and will leave you feeling more satisfied so that you aren’t hungry shortly thereafter.
  6. Eat the protein part of your meal first …this also lowers the insulin response.
  7. Avoid added sugar (desserts) and processed foods which come in a box, or a wrapper. Aim for unadulterated real foods which don’t have a label with several ingredients to comprise the majority of your diet.
  8. Try to get 30 to 60 minutes daily of some type of movement. You can’t exercise off the extra weight, but the exercise does “set the stage” for healthy mitochondria, weight loss, and better health. In general, I recommend movement (like walking, biking, tennis, bringing in the hay) most days of the week. Two to three days a week an activity like weight lifting, yoga, pilates, or stacking the hay is helpful for building muscle mass.

Carolyn M. Matthews, MD; Director of Integrative and Functional Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center

You can’t stop the Witzigs…

…when they are determined to add quality Devon to their herd!

Roger and Elaine Witzig picked up a full load of Thistle Hill Devon in Virginia and transported them back to Gridley, Illinois…in all they were on the road 32 hours!

Son Shannon took the photo of the arrival at 1:40 in the morning!

Thistle Hill Devon

The Witzigs purchase included two cows, two bred heifers and a young bull. We appreciate their confidence in Thistle Hill and invite you to drop by and share in the enthusiasm.


A red calf and “end times”…

…fools rush in, as they say, but we’re going to have to dissent from this announcement from the Temple Institute in Israel.

The Institute has hailed the birth of a pure red calf as a sign its time to build the Third Temple. Some Evangelicals consider it a sign of the end times.

What we are presented with here is a calf conceived in a Red Angus mother and the resultant embryo imported to Israel. There is no identification of the bull involved. Nor is there any identification of a pedigree much less one tracing back 2000 years.

The rabbis seem to have their genetics a bit weak. An earlier candidate for the red heifer turned out to be a bull…and another developed patches of white. A calf conceived to a Red Angus cow and implanted in an Israeli cow is still just a Red Angus.



It’s not just the English…

…that excites us at Thistle Hill. We have always been big fans of Rotokawa’s Ken McDowall and hosted him many times. Ken has been consulted often about our breeding decisions.

One day on one his visits he looked at a new bull calf and said, “David you’ve hit the jackpot.”

The name stuck…and now here is Jackpot’s son, THF Guardian.
Jackpot’s son, THF Guardian.Guardian not only displays Jackpot in his pedigree but Thistle Hill’s “2” Rotokawa line, producers of more top animals than any other.

Almost needless to say it all starts with Rotokawa 243, who Ken considers his top achievement.

As always you’re invited to come see for yourself.


For years saturated fat, eggs, and red meat have gotten a bad rap

For years saturated fat, eggs, and red meat have gotten a bad rap from both the government and from the medical community. My great uncle Boze had a heart attack in the 1990’s and was placed on an incredibly strict diet that allowed for no eggs and no red meat, though he could have margarine, which we now know is a huge mistake.

In 2016, researchers from the NIH and other major institutions published an interesting study in the British Medical Journal. They reviewed previously unpublished data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment which was  a study that took place in one nursing home and six state mental hospitals in Minnesota during 1968 to 1973. One group was fed a diet high in saturated fats; the intervention group received a diet that replaced the saturated fat with corn oil and corn oil margarine.

The interventional group that received the corn oil and corn oil margarine had a statistically significant reduction in their serum cholesterol levels as compared to the saturated fat control diet. However, there was a 22% higher risk of death for each 30 mg/dL reduction in serum cholesterol. There was no evidence of reduction in coronary atherosclerosis or reduced myocardial infarction by dropping the saturated fats.

Why then are we still seeing margarine on hospital trays?


Ramsden, Christopher E. et al. Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-1973). BMJ. 2016; 353:i1246