Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Introducing TDA 35….

Two year old bull - TDA 35

It was 10 years ago that I walked out in a pasture Cornwall, England with a grizzled old farmer named Ivan Rowe.  Ivan was introducing me to the best herd of cows I had ever seen! More than that he was offering me my pick to breed…flush the embryos…and ship back to the States.

It took at least an hour to walk through the herd but it wasn’t a difficult choice.  I spotted my candidate almost immediately and said “how about that one”?

“Well you did choose the best,” Ivan grumped.  And from that point on he’s always called me “mate”…the highest honor I’ve ever received.  Ivan is a lifelong judge of cattle, respected by the leading breeds.  For any breeder, especially an American, to be Ivan Rowe’s mate is better than any college degree.

The cow was Goldings Norah and we transported her to UK Sires near Penzance.  (Yes Gilbert and Sullivan fans, that Penzance!). The mating was to a bull that is the basis of our pure traditional English Devon herd:  Ashott Barton Millennium Falcon. 

The first flush gave us 16 excellent embryos; and the second another dozen.  No cow has been that prolific for us.  And the two year old bull, TDA 35, above is one of her progeny, set to go to work at Thistle Hill.


The next generation…

16-month old Thistle Hill Farm heifer.

…and a picture of the result of mating our oldest American cow with a young British bull.

The dam is 17 years old and still producing. But Church has decided it’s time to work in her replacement.

This 16-month old heifer will be filling some mighty big hooves. Mom produced a string of outstanding bull calves. So it was an easy decision to set aside F212 for the main herd.

The sire is Traditional Devon Highwayman…descended from the finest bull I ever saw in England…Ashott Barton Millennium.

So we feel we’ve bred the best of both worlds…English and American!


I see bacon in our future…

It was a moment of celebration…the day pigs made their renewed appearance on Thistle Hill pastures.

Thistlehill Farm Pigs

Nothing tops the flavor of fresh, naturally raised pork. I put it right up there with fresh off the vine tomatoes and off the stalk corn! Meat from these pigs will be available in the fall but you can reserve a half or a whole right now.

More on our new residents is on our home page.

Incidentally, try fresh corn sometime. Do what my wife’s farm family did years ago and carry a kettle of boiling water into the field…plop the ears right in…and have a feast. Fifteen minutes from stalk to stomach! Incredible taste!


Before it’s too late…

The question of foreign ownership of agricultural land has been simmering just below the surface for some years now. The US is fortunate that it has the resources to feed its population for the foreseeable future.

But some countries already are being forced to plan against starvation and increasingly are buying farmland here. The Saudis are feeding their dairy herds hay grown on land they own in Texas…and their farms are drawing water from California’s limited supply.

It’s estimated that foreign interests already own an area the size of Ohio…and that’s a figure two years out of date! The current controversies over borders and tariffs could well become insignificant compared to this question of survival.


Hanging out with the guys…

Thistlehill Farm Bulls
Photo by Curt Humphreys

…three of our bulls doing their own version of intensive grazing.  On the left Guardian, a Rotokawa-bred animal, and then two of our English bulls, Essington and Highwayman. The last two are both sired by the great Ashott-Barton bull, Millenium Falcon.

My guess is they’re all favoring the grass right there because an underground stream is just beneath.


The morning commute…

Thistlehill Farm
Photo by Curt Humphreys

…sometimes a 12-point buck crosses the path but usually there’s not that much traffic.  I can only shake my head when people ask if I ever get bored on the farm.


At the end of the rainbow…

Thistlehill Farm Pasture
Photo by Curt Humphreys

…there are cows in there somewhere! The wet weather this past year forced a late start on grazing. We’re now finally allocating a half acre every day to 35 cow/calf pars. And with this perfect growing weather they’ll be back in four weeks.

The good, the bad and…

…alright, the ugly. We’ve certainly answered the question:  can you overseed fescue.

Thistlehill Farm Clover
Photo by Curt Humphreys

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 clover will provide all the nitrogen our pastures could possibly need.

Now for the bad…a confession: this will certainly serve our goal, which was to provide warm season grazing; an antidote to the endophyte fescue. But as you can tell by the seed heads, we’ve let the orchard grass get ahead of us

The best solution now would probably be to run a mower over it lightly. But the cows are strip grazing and getting close.

And that’s the one drawback to strip grazing…the paddocks are very narrow and almost impossible to navigate a tractor and 15’ batwing. Have you ever had to cut off 600 feet of polywire from a batwing blade?


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!


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.


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