Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

A modern Tom Sawyer….

….grandson Luis came out to the farm after school Friday and managed to fish before the storms and dark rolled in.

Thistlehill Farm Bass
Photos by Luis Gentry

The final total was 11…including what looks to be a nice two-pound large mouth bass. Perfect pan size but Luis practices catch and release and so the bass and crappies and blue gill went back into the pond.

Storm at Thistlehill Farm
Photos by Luis Gentry

As we said, storms were closing in and they can be dangerous here…dangerous but beautiful!

David

A lovely young maiden at Cathy Cochran’s Oak Hill Farm.

She’s just two days old but seems older. Her sire is Thistle Hill’s King David. He spent the last breeding season at Oak Hill and contributed new genetics to Cathy’s award winning herd.

David’s sire was the English Bull Victory and the dam X2a…one of our top American cow lines.

We have a very limited number of bulls available for lease.

Meanwhile King David is back home awaiting his next assignment.

David

King David's heifer calf and dam X2a
Thistlehill Farm's King David

Watching grass grow….

Thistlehill Farm Grass

The definition of “boring” may be watching grass grow but whoever said that was certainly never a cattleman.

We’ve finally started strip grazing and here’s an after-action picture of the first paddock. The untouched grass is behind the electric wire in the background. This was the result on a half acre with 30 cow/calf pairs in the first day.

Church has decided to add eight more two year olds to increase the trampling and manure distribution.

We’d also like the main herd to clean up some of the weeds. Maybe on the next pass. This paddock will rest for about a month…depending on grass regrowth.

It’s trial and error while we adjust supply and consumption.

David

Here they come…

Main Devon Herd

The main Devon herd stretched out across Thistle Hill at sunset. No fuss or bother as they follow grandson Church for close to a half a mile.

Do they understand that luscious green grass awaits?

They do certainly trust Church’s leadership and sense of purpose. Outriders, sticks and herding dogs not necessary.

Once they’ve regrouped they’ll begin a daily rotation of fresh grass, roughly an acre at a time. They have to be this well trained after all because Church has college to attend and can’t be late.

After a few days they’ll be waiting for him at the entrance to the next paddock. He won’t even have to whistle!

David

That didn’t take long…

Thistle Hill Farm Grass

What a difference five days makes. Grass is now 8 to 10 inches.

We’ll have to move fast or risk falling impossibly behind. Grandson Church is erecting the stakes for one-acre paddocks and the main herd of 30 cows and their new calves will have an acre a day.

Look carefully and you’ll see a healthy stand of clover.

Thistlehill Farm dirt

Out of curiosity Church turned over a shovel of dirt. Look carefully near the top and left of the picture and you’ll see earthworms. I count five in less than a square foot. Again note the clover…and the organic matter. Enlarge all our blog pictures by simply tapping on them.

Healthy soil makes for healthy cows and healthy beef!

David

A spring morn update….

….and the grass is a long time coming. We’re keeping the main herd in this sacrifice pasture and continuing to feed hay. Just because we miscalculated we can’t ask the cows to pay for our mistake!

Thistle Hill Farm sacrifice pasture

Not only isn’t there enough yet, but this early the grass is “washy”…not as nutrient rich. On the other hand, you can’t see it but there is a beautiful stand of clover coming along. We estimate in a few weeks we’ll be able to move the herd to begin our serious rotational grazing.

The steer calf in the picture is half English…the full English cow sharing the hay was calved at Thistle Hill and is out of the Tilbrook and Cutcombe herds in England.

David

Lest we forget…

Thistlehill Farm English Heifer

…another pure English heifer…half sister to the two below…Ashott-Barton Tulip is the mother…and a line that stretches back as far as there have been Devon record books.

The origination was in the famed Champson herd. The sire is Cutcombe Jaunty.

Our current plan for Tulip is to let her calve at 3 and then decide whether to flush her.

David

Bribery update…

A few years ago, on an introductory trip to meet our partners in England, Church was given a wonderful gift by his grandmother: the right to select any heifer he wanted from the Ashott-Barton herd.

The young cow he selected—-without any prompting from me—was from the Bribery line which I had long coveted.

Because of import restrictions against live animals, we bred the heifer in England and shipped the frozen embryos to Thistle Hill. Five months later, here’s the result:

Bribery Calf
Bribery Calf

So Jim Gerrish knows….

…we practice what he preaches.

Thistlehill Farm Herd

The experts say the cows get about two-thirds of the best hay.  The rest is not wasted but trampled in creating organic matter and feeding the microbes. Add in the fertilizing the cows do as they roam around and our fertilizer bill is precisely “zero”.

We do need a minimum application of lime though…if the fields ever dry out.

David

Surprise…

The oldest cow in our herd at 16, M180, greeted us with a bull calf.

The oldest cow in our herd at 16, M180, greeted us with a bull calf.

(Keith pic surprise full but cropped a little top and bottom)

Baby is an 82 pound bull calf by an English bull, TDA Highwayman. M180 was purchased from Lakota ranch years ago and has produced a string of nice calves.

She preg checked open and gave no sign she was expecting. In fact, she had been at the top of the list in our discussion of potential culls. Back to the drawing board.

And did you notice the new green grass now that the snow has melted?

Baby is an 82 pound bull calf by an English bull, TDA Highwayman. M180 was purchased from Lakota ranch years ago and has produced a string of nice calves.

She preg checked open and gave no sign she was expecting. In fact, she had been at the top of the list in our discussion of potential culls. Back to the drawing board.

And did you notice the new green grass now that the snow has melted?

David