Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Category: Pasture

Not an approaching storm…

…but an approaching lime truck. Our pH averaged about 5.8 across the farm and we decided to bring it back up over 6.0. We’re adding one to two tons of dolomitic lime per acre…depending on what soil testing revealed. I think this is the best investment you can make in a pasture. It not only […]

Living in a resort…

…that’s what my 18 years at Thistle Hill have felt like. The farm has been in the family a lot longer…almost 75 years. And now a new generation…the fourth…is beginning to take hold.  Grandson Church Humphreys is managing our Devon cattle herd and showing the same appreciation for the setting in the Blue Ridge mountains […]

Grass update….

We’ve never gone into the fall and winter with this much reserve grass. It’s called stockpiling and Church is stockpiling about 70 acres which is just over half our total acreage. The best I ever managed was about 40 acres. This field was underwater the first part of the year. We think it’s switchgrass…a native […]

Starting second pass…

…after about 45 days rest. Grandson Church says too many weeds though that’s not apparent in the picture. We calculate we have about 54,000 pounds animal weight per acre…just about a quarter of what we really need to see the results off mob grazing. At this level the cows can still afford to be selective. […]

Second pass…

…after a 45-day rest period, we’re bringing the main herd to where we started six weeks ago. The clover stand predominates…probably 60-70%. Church took the phrase “overseeding” too literally last winter. We may adjust paddock size this time around. We could use more trampling effect. Again trampled grass is particularly beneficial in the hot weather […]

The good, the bad and…

…alright, the ugly. We’ve certainly answered the question:  can you overseed fescue. Grandson Church did just that last January, using a small spreader between light late-season snowfalls. As you can see there was considerable success. You’ll also note some wayward red clover…perhaps in the bulk seed bag but also possibly from earlier years. This much […]

Watching grass grow….

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 […]

Here they come…

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 […]

That didn’t take long…

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 […]

So Jim Gerrish knows….

…we practice what he preaches. 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 […]