Thistle Hill Farm – Blog

…doing what comes naturally

Thistle Hill Alumni Club….

IMG_0230….has opened a new branch at Franchesca’s Dawn Farm near Halifax, VA.  Not long ago Amie Herrara purchased one of herd bulls—U2—and here are the first results.  Amie was worried that one of her heifers was too small to successfully calve, but U2 handled the assignment.

Amie writes:  “we’ve been pleased with them all!  The calves are growing so much better than our pastIMG_0263 calves.  I just wanted to let you know how much we appreciate having the big guy in our herd.”

For some reason, Wooz named U2 “Double Trouble” and it’s her one mistake.  He played a big role in the development of our herd and we’re pleased he’s living up to his reputation in Halifax.

The proof is in….

….the progeny!

FullSizeRenderTraditional Devon™ Churchill continues to turn out splendid calves both here at Thistle Hill and at Bill and Nancy Walker’s Century Farms at Anderson, South Carolina….where this young lady is pictured.

Churchill was the very first embryo calf we imported six years ago and he’s had trial runs now at both farms.  Today he is pastured at Thistle Hill, making friends with the girls in our main herd.

Texas floods….

….it’s not only the human tragedy.  Lois Ayelstock of Blue Ridge Meats has a link to some dramatic footage of cattle fighting for their lives.


Thistle Hill alumni club….

….THF Red Lad X3, though his current owners Brooke Henley and Tom Garnett call him “Reddy” for short.  He’s been at the heart of the grass fed beef  business that Brook and Tom’s Spring Pastures Farm near Middletown, Maryland has been developing.  You can see why they love him and why he’s one of our favorite bulls.

THF Red Lad U3



Brooke and Tom have also done some innovative things on their farm and right now they’re experimenting with over-seeding summer annuals.  You can keep up with their various experiments by going to their Facebook page:


We knew her “when”….

….Thistle Hill is fortunate in the company it gets.  I guess it’s because we try so many things and have become a real world laboratory.  We’ve hosted visitors from around the world and learned from them all.

One who stopped by last year was Sarah Flack, a young forage expert.  She was writing a book (see the link below describing her visit) and now a mutual friend, Jim Gerrish, reports that Sarah’s book is coming out.   We consider Jim at the top of the list of forage experts and that he would give a boost to someone new to the field is, as they say, “the mark of the man”.  (You have to scroll down a little to read about the book.

We’re certainly looking forward to the book and we wanted to mention that, like Jim Gerrish, Sarah combines book-learning with real world experience.  Her father, Doug has been a major force in the Milking Devon world….a man always noted for sharing his knowledge.  It runs in the family apparently.

Now here is a link to our original post about Sarah’s visit to Thistle Hill.

Not in your wildest dreams…

Needed: short term pasture….

….in the Petersburg-Richmond area of central Virginia.  A young farm couple we work with needs a pasture for about 15 cows…some with calves….for 90 days.  If you can help out, please contact us here at Thistle Hill.  We’ll all appreciate it.



New on the scene….

….well new to me anyway.  Tammi Jonas is an Australian farmer (cattle and pigs) who departed vegetarianism several years ago to become not only an omnivore but a butchers.  And not incidentally, an advocate for “natural” farming.

Ms Jonas recently attended a pork producers meeting in Australia and found her worst fears confirmed.  Pigs are a big business with the dirty work done by little farmers but the ground rules dictated by Big Ag and Big Pharma.

The situation is exactly the same here in the States.

Big Pharma, Big Food… who really controls the pig industry?

Extra company….

…..throw another steak on the grill!


No, this isn’t at Thistle Hill.  We thank our friend and webmaster Keith Smith for the link.

Looking for volunteers….

….and here they are from the main herd. A big week at Thistle Hill as we implant embryos from the two heifers we purchased in England.  There are four more waiting in another pasture….young cows who’ve had just one or two calves.

Again, we’re congratulating ourselves for choosing Red Devon some years ago….they are calm and easy to handle in this sensitive project.  You can see the current calves relaxing just outside the pen.  The process takes about 10-15 minutes per cow, including moving them into the chute and headgate.


Dr. Tom Massey of Rose Hill Veterinary Service did the implant work this time.  We enjoy working with Tom because he provides a running commentary and keeps us “in the loop” on the decision-making.IMG_0563

Two of the recips were finally rejected because of small cysts on their uterus.  And two others just didn’t feel right.

So the final total was 12….and now we wait a month before pregnancy checking to learn how many “took”.  A stressful wait.


Eat. More. Fat.

….they’re having the same difficulty in England as here in the States….breaking down the “settled science” that fat makes you fat.  In fact, the right fat makes you thin…and healthy.