Thistle Hill goes “global”….

by David

20140915_121409….we really enjoy entertaining visitors at Thistle Hill.  We always learn more from our guests than they ever learn from us.  Just a fresh set of eyes makes us see things we just never focused on.

This week we hosted a delegation of cattle and dairymen and women from South Africa and they brought with them an agronomist from Australia, Christine Jones.

20140916_18 (2)The group had skipped breakfast and arrived from Washington torn between our pastures and our buffet.  Food won out!  I haven’t had beer for breakfast, much less burgers and brats, since I was flying for SAC, but Thistle Hill meats are perfect any time.

Stomachs satisfied, they set out on what was to be a brief tour and turned out to be an almost day-long seminar in pasture management….conducted by our guests.  It’s the first time visitors20140916_43 have asked for a shovel as they set out…and they quickly uncovered our “dirty little secret”!  Little dirt!

Despite our efforts to increase top soil and organic matter, in fact much of our land sits on shale underpinned by solid rock.  Roots in our grass go down about four inches and then start to grow side-ways.  Still, the South Africans were impressed with the health of the grass, over-coming its handicap.20140916_48

Some of our fields are pretty good though…and that’s where we’re stockpiling grass for the winter.  Usually group tours are led by an expert but everyone in this group was an expert and it was fun listening as the self-conducted a seminar on pasture management.

Our bulls made quite an impression.  Red Devon are not common20140916_71 in South Africa apparently.   We think they’d be perfect down there.

Their curiosity at least partly satisfied, the group headed off in a caravan of three cars for Charlottesville and then to Joel Salatin’s “Polyface” farm in the Shenandoah Valley.  We rushed inside to write down ideas and get to work!

And we promise never to tell anyone our guests had cookies and beer for breakfast!