Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

In praise of Devon…

TDA 15

Photo by Carolyn Matthews

…it isn’t often a Devon develops a hoof problem.  But if it happens a half-mile from the working chute, it sure is nice to take the portable chute to the middle of nowhere and know she’ll load without a fuss.  Not even some portable panels were necessary.

Vet Tom Massey arrived just after the picture was taken and TDA 15 was cleaned right up.


The Thistle Hill Alumni club…

…posted by Brooke Henley on Facebook today. Brooke says she watched the calving from her window while enjoying her morning coffee.

The sire is Thistle Hill Equinox…with seven bull calves and four heifers so far this year. Two to go.

Our relationship with Brooke and husband Tom and their Spring Pastures farm in Maryland goes back many years. They’ve built their herd around Thistle Hill genetics.

Equinox is the son of our THF Churchill and the grandson of perhaps the finest cow in modern Devon history, Tilbrook Cashtiller. Not only did she win best of show every time she entered but her bull calves topped the English sales three consecutive years.

The Thistle Hill Alumni club…
Photo by Brooke Henley


Summer camp…

…for our two-year old heifers.  They’ll eventually be bred here at Slainte Farm and return home to calve.

For now it’s a welcome break in their routine and fresh grass!

Video by Curt Humphreys

And btw congratulations to our partners Mary and Mike on their recent marriage!


King of the hill…

…all English but made in the US! Our herd bull Essington…the result of a mating of Brian Drake’s Buttercup and Shiamala Comer’s Falcon…two leading English herds paired here thanks to embryo transplants. Essington is six years old.


Thistle Hill Farm - Essington
Photo by Curt Humphreys

Update: Defender…

…who seems on track to become one of our key herd bulls.


Right now Defender is on lease to the Rohwer’s Sun Eats Farm in Maryland.  Since he has taken charge Church has developed a thriving business supplying bulls to farms who can’t quite justify a full-time sire of their own.

And of course it helps us manage our large battery of bulls.  It also develops progeny history and of course gives a bull more opportunity for what a bull does!

Defender is new to the US…Church imported his semen and AI-ed to a Cashtiller granddaughter to give us the first American Defender.


What’s for dinner…

…a juicy beyond organic hormone and antibiotic free sirloin steak.

Curt went overboard with his seasoning on this one:

Photo by Carolyn Matthews

avocado oil and then a rub of black pepper, yellow mustard, coriander, lemon peel, garlic, celery seed, dill, Chile, cardamom, and salt!

Lightly and quickly grilled.

In a word:  delicious.


Off to summer camp…

…go eight Thistle Hill yearling heifers.  Once again Mary Perrine and Don Ferro have volunteered their adjoining pastures.

It’s a lovely setting at the base of Cobbler mountain and the girls and we appreciate the hospitality.

The two farms get lawnmowers and entertainment for the grandchildren and the heifers get loving care and civilizing and are well away from the bulls.


The waiting game…

…seems to be a subtitle for much of the year at Thistle Hill.  Right now we’ve confirmed the pregnancy of the cows we artificially inseminated(AI).


A2a is one of the AI recipients.  She’s one of two carrying calves by Grantland Granite of John Forelle’s Folly Farm.  That herd was dispersed several years ago.

Grantland was the name of  Bob Grant’s herd and Bob was an important figure and treasurer of the American Devon Association.  Gearld Fry bought his herd and Granite wound up with John Forelle.

I saw him at Folly Farm in about 2005 at the very first meeting of the North American Devon Association in Albany, New York.  Welcome to Thistle Hill.


Other recipients have been confirmed in calf by the famed Rotokawa 688 who probably more than any other bull launched the resurgence of Devon.  He was the grand sire of the outstanding English cow Cashtiller…perhaps the prettiest Devon ever.  He also sired our Thistle Hill Hope…another beauty that was the dam of more Thistle Hill calves than any other thanks to many flushes.

We also have confirmed pregnancies by Rotokawa 663 and the superb English bull Cutcombe Jaunty who has been key in our herd’s development.

That rounds out the AI recipients who’ll be calving in October.  But there are six calves coming from our companion embryo transfer work…calves by Champson Defender and the famous Potheridge President.

How will our pastures contain all these big egos!


The spring green-up…

…is well underway at Thistle Hill!  And Nala seems appreciative of the work we’ve done to improve the pastures.

Nala seems appreciative of the work we’ve done to improve the pastures.

The over-seeding we did a year ago has really taken hold.  Perennial rye and and cereal rye and several clovers have all thickened our sward significantly. 

Not apparent but a big contributing factor we feel certain was the conditioning of the soil with the work of turnips, radish and cow peas. 

The cover in the area pictured here was very thin and the soil quite sandy.  Our hope is that continued rotational grazing and the addition of more cover crops will put this pasture on a par with our very best.


One percenters…

…these pigs are in the one percent of pigs raised outside in pastures. They were out exploring and foraging today.


Thistle Hill Farm Pigs