Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Hi-tech preg check…

Dr Kiel Hausler of Rose Hill Vets using ultrasound to preg check one of our young cows. The wranglers are son Church to the left and son-in-law Curt to the right.

…Dr Kiel Hausler of Rose Hill Vets using ultrasound to preg check one of our young cows.

It’s a little more reliable predicting calving days and it has the added benefit of revealing the sex of the embryo.

The wranglers are son Church to the left and son-in-law Curt to the right.

Putting more than 50 cows and calves through the chute can leave you pretty wiped out.

David

Curt Zonked

Three little maids are we…

…enjoying a snack while their Moms are being preg checked.

Three little maids are we…

Actually they’re not entirely in the clear.  They’ll also being getting their shots tho that’s not the trauma their male counterparts have to endure.  This is also steering day!

David

Two young bulls…

…pictured at just over a year old…that we held back to monitor development.

H242 and H243

H242 (nearer the camera) and H243 were chosen to grow out here at Thistle Hill…selected from a class of about a dozen bulls.

H242 in the foreground doing  well in the early stages.  We’re particularly pleased with his heart girth.  He and his herdmate, H243, were both sired by a pure English bull in our inventory, Essington.

H243 is descended from the Champson Tulip line, one of the most renowned in England.  Tulip has been a little elusive for us so we are keeping an eye on this young bull.

David

Just friends…

…we hope.  Our cover bull Prince…who is causing something of a stir in Devon circles…and is our cover bull this year.

Prince and WDM2

Prince is on the left…sharing some unrolled hay with a cow we hope he doesn’t get to friendly with.  WMD2 is the female…a cow we hope is carrying a Potheridge President embryo.

The job of the cover bull is to find any cow that is open…that is where the embryo hasn’t taken…and finish the job.  By the calendar two cycles should have passed without heat…so we’re hoping this Tête-à-tête-is just a coincidence.; that she is indeed carrying the Potheridge embryo.

We won’t know for sure until there’s a pregnancy check…in fact, not until there’s a DNA reading.

Either way we have high hopes for the calf.  President was probably the most famous bull of all time but his progeny have all but disappeared.  Prince is an English bull from the Tulip line, almost as well-known.

In all we implanted a half dozen Potheridge President embryos this year.  One recip definitely went into heat and was serviced by Prince.  We’ll be sure to post the final results.

David

This weekend one of our bull-renters delivered a litter of six piglets to Thistle Hill Farm.

It was cold and gusty, and I was glad their hay-filled pigloo didn’t blow away.

These four brothers and two sisters are Tamworth Berkshire crosses.

These four brothers and two sisters are Tamworth Berkshire crosses. Originally from central England, Tamworths are known for their red color and long abdomen, which makes for wonderful bacon. The Berkshires are black, sometimes with white spots, and produce meat that is not only full of flavor but tender as well.

Tamworth Berkshire crosses

Our pigs, unlike most pigs who when conventionally raised are in pens where there’s not even room to turn around, will be reared in a pasture and given a non-GMO feed to supplement the grass and acorns in the pasture.

Carolyn Matthews

Ready to start…

…the main herd reporting for their preg check. The calves have been separated to be worked separately…vaccinations, dehorning, steering. Curt is the chief wrangler today…waiting for the signal to start bringing them in.

David

Thistle Hill Main Herd
Photo by Mackenzie Mason

We had an exciting day yesterday

Son Church was home from his first year at Cornell veterinary school and we had one of our favorite vets out for a day of vaccinations, ultrasounds, weights and castrations. We’ve been waiting with baited breath to hear the results of our January AI’s and ET’s…and we are thrilled with the news: 3 Potheridge Presidents, 3 Champson Defenders, a Cutcombe Jaunty, a 663, a 688, and two Grantland Granites.

Carolyn Matthews

Our guard donkeys…

…have asked for equal time with the farm dogs we featured awhile back.

Jenny, pictured here, and Jack are our miniature donkeys…a kind of early warning system protecting our herd from stray dogs and coyotes.

Jenny, pictured here, and Jack are our miniature donkeys…a kind of early warning system protecting our herd from stray dogs and coyotes.

They stay with the herd year around no matter the weather.  They’re incredibly low maintenance…and they survive on the grass alone…no supplements and never seem to get sick.  They’re 20 years old now and still going strong!

David

From the kitchens of Thistle Hill…

…and yes while we have two kitchens…son Church continues his triumphs on the Kamado Joe grill.

This time it’s a pork belly smoked by that apple wood tree we harvested a few weeks ago.

This time it’s a pork belly smoked by that apple wood tree we harvested a few weeks ago.

Church recommends scoring the fat side diagonally and then rubbing all sides with Bone Suckin’ Seasoning and extra brown sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Place over indirect heat and smoke until the meat reaches 200 degrees. 

My preference is to hold off and make a midnight sandwich.  While pork belly isn’t very popular in the States, I have Asian  friends who consider this the peak of American cuisine!  It is also very popular in Scandinavia, Latin America and my native Alsace-Lorraine.

David

Our cows…

…are built around the great English cow Tilbrook Cashtiller.  She won three consecutive national grand championships and a host of ribbons and silver.  And to top it off three of her sons were the top selling bulls in the annual Devon breeders sale.  We’re indebted to Tibrook’s Gavin Hunter…who again today is serving as president of the British Society …for permitting us to flush Cash twice!

TDA 7
TDA 7

TDA 7 was out of that first flush 12 years ago and not showing her age.  Her sire was another British champion, Cutcombe Jaunty.  Cashtiller is gone now but we have several of her daughters and granddaughters and other descendants in our herd…and some embryos for the future.

TDA 20
TDA 20

TDA 20 is a special cow with Essington and Cutcombe genetics…and is a Cashtiller granddaughter as well.  Brian Drake of Essington Park was a leader among English breeders for 50 years and a respected judge for the British Society.  His herd was small compared to many but the quality was unmatched by any herd we’ve ever seen.

TDA 23
TDA 23

TDA 23 was an English pairing and an early use of Ashott Barton’s Falcon…a stunning bull we found on Ivan Rowe’s Goldings farm.  We mated him to a cow from Brian Drake’s Essington Farm.  There are no two more experienced Devon breeders in all of England than Ivan and Brian.  Both lamented the dilution of the Devon breed with outside genetics and after 70 years in the business gracefully exited the Devon scene.

WMD2
WMD 2

WMD 2 has joined us through a circuitous route.  Her dam was the daughter of a beautiful cow, Lakota’s R6.  Mom was sold to Bill Ketner’s farm in West Virginia and while hauling a bull one day Church spotted 2…and the rest is history.  Her sire was the English bull Highwayman.  The result is this cow who looks more traditional than some of her herdmates.  Note the deep Ruby red hair coat!

F212
F212

F212 is another Highwayman son out of M180, a cow that deserves a webpage of her own.  Before we began our English concentration, M180 was practically a bull machine!  Many years the sale of her progeny paid the herd’s feed bill.  Visitors think her name should be Thank God since we always related that we had about 10 bull calves before (thank God) a heifer, 212, came along!

TDA 18
TDA 18

TDA 18…another Cashtiller daughter.  She’s out of 7 (see above) and sired by Thistle Hill Highwayman so she’s got all our great English lines in this one package.  An obvious candidate for eventual flushing.

With more than 40 females of all ages this is by no means a complete inventory of the Thistle Hill herd…English and American…bred and open younger heifers.

To arrange a visit at this perfect time of year in Virginia contact Church:

(214) 802-1283

David