Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

End of an era…

…with the auction of the Goldings herd in Cornwall, England.  Ivan Rowe, our partner in securing the fine English genetics, passed away last fall and this past weekend his incredible animals were auctioned.

Ivan, David and cow – Photo by Wooz Matthews

Back in 2010, Ivan gave us the pick of his herd…to breed and flush.  The cow I selected was Norah 21 and Ivan smiled when I made my choice.  He had already pulled her pedigree out from his herd book and it was laying there alone on the dining room table when we went inside.

Norah comes from a long line of champions…more than 40 when we stopped counting.  Her background includes sires from both the historic Clampit and Potheridge herds.

Norah’s progeny are on the ground now at Thistle Hill.  T35 below is her son (see “Standing by…”) and will be used with our heifers soon.

Norah stands with Tilbrook Cashtiller as the foundation of our English herd.  RIP mate.


It’s a dog’s life… Thistle Hill farm.  The term may not have originated here but…

Photo by Church Humphreys

Standing by…

A full English bull by Ashott Barton Millennium Falcon out of Goldings Norah.  An imported embryo calved and raised at Thistle Hill.

Photo by Church Humphreys

Really excited to see how this young three-year old boy does this fall.  TDA 35 is a full younger brother to Highwayman, and has been producing amazing calves at one of our partner farms for the past two years.  Here’s to hoping the trend continues!

Church Humphreys

Two little girls are we…

…on a foggy morning.  Both are about 18 months out of American Devon dams…but their English sires have had an impact!

Photo by Mary Perrine

The heifer on the left is out of my personal favorite…R2…an almost after-thought purchase and a cow that was a trouble free producer of great calves for 15 years.  This will be her last calf.

Her sire, now sold, was an English bull Wooz called Handsome Ransom.

The other heifer, against the fence, has U2 in her background…as well as two English greats…Cutcombe Jaunty and Ashott Barton Millenium Falcon.

As we’ve said before, we imported English genetics because pure traditional Devon are a disappearing breed in England and here.  But we not only wanted the English for their own sake but to improve American herds.


A virtual hug…

…to three families who welcome Thistle Hill cows to their property.  We couldn’t operate the way we do without them.

Cobbler Mountain

Mary Schindling Perrine sent this view of her farm…our cows in the foreground…Cobbler Mountain at sunrise.  Confederate raider John Mosby—the Gray Ghost—always made his getaways to Cobbler and the Union troops could never catch him.

The Perrines…and the Ferro’s adjacent…provide us with 20 acres of pasture for our young heifers.  We’re convinced that the tender and personal care of these two couples make our young ones even more gentle. 

Could I say our calves our “house broke”?  Well, grandchild broke anyway.

Just around the corner, the Rowland’s are keeping a close eye on our young steers.  They have about 20 acres they’re graciously sharing.

All these properties are about 10 minutes from Thistle Hill…close enough for us to check frequently too.  But the calves have never complained.

We call it Summer Camp!  Again thanks to the Perrines, Ferro’s and Rowland’s!


At the heart of our herd…

TDA7, daughter of the great Tilbrook Cashtiller who is still the finest cow of any breed we’ve ever seen!  We flushed Cashtiller twice in England and nine years ago TDA7 was born here along with five sisters and two brothers.

TDA7, daughter of the great Tilbrook Cashtiller

TDA7, like her mama, has aged gracefully…udders still as correct as a three-year-old.

Our friend and veteran cattleman Bill Roberts spotted 7’s dam Cashtiller on a visit to Gavin Hunter’s Tillbrook farm near Cambridge, England, and his judgment was confirmed by pictures and then our first visit along with 50 other Devon breeders on the 2010 tour. 

It was then that we formed a friendship with Tillbrook’s Gavin Hunter and arranged for Cashtiller embryos.  Cash was still producing but had retired from the show ring. 

Tilbrook Cashtiller
Tilbrook Cashtiller

Her record included three grand national championships…and almost as important (ok, more important) for three years in a row her bull calves topped the national sales.

Cashtiller genetics run deep at Thistle Hill…not only in our traditional English herd but a Cash son we named Churchill has made a major impact on our American herd as well.

And we still maintain a store of Cashtiller embryos from that first flush.  You never know.

The cost of doing business…

..Bayer, seeing the handwriting on the wall, has agreed to a ten-billion dollar out of court settlement to get rid of the lawsuits against its Roundup weed killer.  Juries haven’t accepted the various company-friendly investigations that cleared Roundup (aka: glysophate) of any connection with the cancer deaths of its users.

Ten-billion sounds like a lot but when allocated among potential claimants, its not very much.  Not only that, Bayer is free to continue marketing Roundup without any cancer warning on the label.

You can read the story by going to this website.


The Thistle Hill Alumni Club…

…and a recent graduate…Equinox.  He’s a combination of our top English lines.

Equinox - Thistle Hill Farm

Equinox is not quite two years old and at 900 pounds has a lot of growth yet to come.  But he went right to work covering the herd at Spring Pastures farm in Maryland.

The Equinox pedigree includes such top names as Falcon, Cashtiller, Buttercup…all the result of a ten year search we made through Devon country in their native England.

That dark ruby red haircoat and the spotless muzzle are two guarantees of a pure traditional Devon!

Reddi - Thistle Hill Farm

This is the second bull we sent to Spring Pastures Farm and owners Brooke Henley and Tom Garnett.  Reddi was the first…and after almost 10 years, he’s moved on to another farm in Pennsylvania!

Longevity is another attribute of the best Devon.


What could possibly go wrong…

…China will protect us!

The United States and China are wrapping up the agriculture portion of their trade talks and the two countries have agreed to open their markets to chickens.

China has a history of dumping its contaminated food products here…well other things too, including toys.  Our only protection is going to be an occasional audit…whatever that entails…after China’s chickens have already been shipped!

Here’s the story:

How will we know when we’re eating chicken from China? We won’t!


Our namesake…


…and a stubborn little plant!  The Canadian Thistle dominated our pastures 20 years ago…along with Rosa multiflora.  It’s taken a long time (and many grandchildren serving hard labor) to get both weeds to manageable proportions.

We simply keep cutting them to ground level and eventually the plant gets the message and quits trying.

The multiflora was an earlier brainchild of someone who wanted to duplicate European hedgerows on this property.

While neither is considered edible, we’ve heard of people successfully training their cows to consume thistles.  They simply spray the plants with fish oil,  the cattle love it and eventually the fish oil isn’t necessary.