Thorny Croft

Heritage breeds for regenerative farming

Easy of Management in Organic Systems

High Production in   Low Input Systems

Heritage Breeds We Co-evolved With

Since 1985

Thorny Croft is a family passion and small business. We have been selectively breeding all of our animals for those of you looking for the best stock for your Regen Ag small farms.

We choose our breeds and select for health and resilience in organic systems, easy to manage, for efficiency of conversion of pasture into milk, meat, and eggs, and for the ease with which they fit into regenerative agriculture systems, and small integrated farms building strong ecologies.

Breeds We Are Developing

Wiltshire Sheep Bred by Thorny Croft

Wiltshire Sheep

Taiamai had been breeding his flock of Wiltshire sheep for 18 years and he now has a flock that have been selected for their ability to thrive without any drenching or injections or even regular minerals on poor soils.

We don’t dock, crutch or shear any of our sheep and aim for 40mm wool length in winter and for lambs to be fully shed of their fleece in December/January. The pumice/ sand soils they are now on were hard for them initially, with poor lambing %’s but with heavy selection criteria and being very careful about bringing in rams we are very happy with our results.

These sheep also thrive under the Management Intensive Grazing regime and have been very easy to keep behind electric tape fences. Contact Taiamai to ask questions or to be notified when animals are available for sale. Contact details can be found on the bottom of this page. 

Dexter Cows

We have been developing this herd of Dexter’s for approx. 35 years. (I think we were next after Alex Meads to bring the semen into NZ)  Originally we chose Dexter’s because we were on heavy clay in Northland and because they were much lighter than most other breeds we thought they would pug the land less in winter. That definitely proved to be true.

Secondly we chose them because our pasture was rough and would never be ryegrass and clover, and Dexter’s were well known to be the best converters out there of rough pasture to milk and meat, over 35 odd years that has also proved to be true.

How quiet they are depends on genetics and how much they are handled. We have bred for the quiet cows, and always focused on the dual purpose milking/meat Dexters rather than one or the other. They have been managed organically the whole time we have had them and we have never drenched them at all. We have noticed that when managed following management intensive grazing practices, they thrive, and gain weight very fast.

Our cows have now been on poor pumice soils for ten years, and it was a shock to see how they went backwards when we came off clay soils. They’ve adapted now and so would be especially valuable to those on similar soils, and will do better than they do here on most other  soils.

Taiamai went to Germany a few years ago and did an apprenticeship with a traditional German butcher and at that butchery they regarded Dexter’s as the best meat breed of all, and in Germany they pay a premium because of the meat quality. As a home kill animal for us they are far easier to deal with, because of the smaller size and lighter weight.

We love having all three colours, black, dun and red, and we really love their beautiful faces, horns and and characters. All of our cows have names, and we have kept careful records,  naming them after their mother’s lines eg the wetland plant names, Maori tree names, etc etc. 

Dexters are wonderful cows to work and live with, providing us with milk meat and manure. They are great characters.  The matron of our herd is Kuta, and she is almost 20 years old,  still giving a calf every year. It has been wonderful watching how the relationships in the herd between the multiple generations creates a herd intelligence that they use and rely upon constantly. For us, watching how the animals adapted to this land over time, was a profound experience. Humans have longer generations but when you have a calf every year things co evolve very fast… so we’ see them as a structurally strong herd with all the generations and ages in there as well as being very connected to the land. Like us, humans  they become a reflection of the land they live on… epigenetics right before our eyes!

Contact Taiamai to ask questions or to be notified when animals are available for sale. Contact details can be found on the bottom of this page. 

Kune Kune Pig with piglets Bred by Thorny Croft
Kune Kune Piglet Bred by Thorny Croft

Kune Kune Pigs

Our extremely lucky Kune kune sow is currently completely overwhelmed by the food falling from the trees in her pig/chicken forage paddock. It is so exciting to see after 6 years of waiting just what the potential might be for keeping pigs 100% industrial food free.

We chose Kunes because they survive well over Winter on only grass. We planted a pig forage paddock of around 1 hectare with the aim of discovering just how many sows/piglets/pigs we could support with oaks, chestnuts, hazels, mulberries elderberries etc etc and lots of apples and plums, peaches etc. While the trees were small we only kept 1 sow with 2-3 of her young, to porker stage.

They’re all so fat this year and unable to eat all the dropping apples, chestnuts and acorns, so our challenge next year is to get the piglets born at the right time, early Spring, so they are finished when the acorns finish. It is obvious that the stocking rate on this hectare will go up exponentially. Give us another 6 years!

Contact Taiamai to ask questions or to be notified when animals are available for sale. Contact details can be found on the bottom of this page. 

Black Chicken Bred by Thorny Croft
Chickens and a Cock Bred By Thorny Croft

Chickens

Our family has a long story with chickens. We homeschooled our children and two of them
fell in love with poultry. The story has recently taken a new turn. After over 30 years with the best Brown Leghorns, Legbars and Golden Wyandottes, we realised that although we loved these birds and they became very tame and close to us, they essentially had not been bred to do well without an industrial food supply. They were all outstanding egg producers etc etc, but they were all also heavy feeders, requiring a large amount of food to produce a large amount of eggs… As we have been developing forest gardens and trialling other sources of food we have realised that we badly need chickens, and ducks, that are great foragers, and excellent converters of food to eggs or meat. We did a lot of research, and owe a lot to Ken Vincent, one of NZ’s most amazing poultry breeders from way back. And we also had a lot of experience, and we believe the three breeds of chickens we have now are certainly among the very most efficient converters of food to eggs, and meat, and ideally
suited to free range poultry systems where the aim is to get off industrial food. They are all excellent foragers, quiet birds and amazing layers. Golden Campines, Sicilian Buttercups and Araucanas! You’ll be hearing lots more about these 3 breeds, so keep an eye out.

Selling our beautiful Brown Leghorns to a friend was hard because we saw that we were losing the accumulated intelligence of the flock in terms of the way it had co evolved in our forest garden knowing many things that only come from  many generations living in that ecosystem. Our birds had learnt to know  the flower petals falling  from the trees  were edible, and many other things that will take a few generations to reestablish in a new flock,  and then pass on in the next generation and so create a process of coevolution just like we saw our sheep and cows do with the land when we moved here.  

Golden Campines were originally a Belgium breed that were bred to eat milk and grass behind the cows. They are a small bird, laying an average sized white shelled egg, they are excellent foragers, require minimal food for the number of eggs laid, and are a great small but well breasted table bird. They are a stunning looking bird, with golden necks, and with black and gold barring on their bodies. We had this breed 30 years ago, and have gone full circle. They are now Kays main laying flock. 

Taiamai has the Sicilian Buttercups. They are his favourite, chosen by Ken Vincent as one of the best three breeds for efficiency of production, meaning the lowest inputs for the highest outputs. They are a bigger bird than the Campines, so are a better table bird. They also lay a white eggs a little bigger than the Golden Campines. 

Araucana were recommended to us by a woman who was keeping birds in a similar way to us and she recommended them as being her favourite for efficiency of production for a home flockster. We have been super impressed with them in our urban garden situation . They’re the best foragers ever, lay loads of eggs, of various colours, and very easy to manage. Good table birds as well as egg producers.

Contact Taiamai to ask questions or to be notified when animals are available for sale. Contact details can be found on the bottom of this page. 

Geese in Grass Bred by Thorny Croft
Black Ducks Bred by Thorny Croft

Ducks

We are breeding Black Indian Runner ducks, because they are the best layers of beautiful medium-large duck eggs, and we chose to breed black because the hawks don’t go for them in the same way they do the white ducks. Indian Runner ducks require short grass, wetlands and wide areas to forage over if they are to do well without a lot of extra food. They forage over pasture looking mainly for the protein in the form of bugs and snails etc. It is the protein that produces the eggs. They will not lay well if not fed well. They are not good mothers and not quiet for children.

Cayuga ducks are also black and are larger ducks than Indian Runners, that waddle rather than run like the Indian Runners. They were our choice when the children were young because they are friendlier, good mothers, lay a lot of eggs, (not as many as the Indian Runners) and also a reasonable table bird. They should have black bills and feet and lay white eggs with a black film over it.

Silver Appleyard ducks are our choice of a heritage breed if you’re looking for a large meat duck. They are large and heavy, and require easy flat ground, and lots of food. They are stunning beautiful ducks.

Contact Taiamai to ask questions or to be notified when animals are available for sale. Contact details can be found on the bottom of this page. 

Chinese Weeder Geese

Chinese Weeder Geese, especially for self-reliance in regenerative systems. We use the geese instead of a weed eater, they  thrive on grass only ( must be short) . Poultry such as geese and muscovies are the way to go if it is meat you want ,and do not wish to buy industrial grain.  Their natural food is grass and bugs. Especially for self-reliance in regenerative systems. We are planning on making these available each Summer/Autumn beginning 2022.

Reach out to Taiamai to make an enquiry.