by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
“It is a very exciting time for us at Pebble Mountain,” acknowledges Reevie Rockhill, owner, along with wife Vicki, of the approximately 380-acre Westville, Franklin County, New York, Registered Black Angus farm.
“Our mailing and GPS address is Constable, because Westville does not have a Post Office,” explained Rockhill. “We are about 2 miles from Canada — and the end of the earth!”
January 2018 marked 150 years that generations of Rockhill’s family have farmed at Pebble Mountain, “a milestone that we are very proud of.”
Rockhill says he bought his Grandparents’ farm, which was mostly inactive at the time, in March 1984, after he finished a tour of duty in the United States Marine Corps, where he spent 5 years as a helicopter mechanic and crew chief.
“I was a Sergeant when I left the Marines. I had two dreams in life: to be a policeman and to be a farmer.”
Rockhill fulfilled his first dream as Chief of Police for the Village of Carthage, NY.
“I retired in 2012 after 24 years as a police officer.”
Now he is fulfilling his second dream, farming his ancestral land.
Thorough research showed Rockhill that in January 1868, John Sanders, son of Moria Mott Rockhill, first started the farm on 34 acres of land.
“John Sanders carved a farm out of the forest and made his home here.”
Nearly all recent work at the farm was completely done by Reevie and Vicki, beginning while he was still on the Carthage Police Force.
“Our season at Pebble Mountain was generally from May to December. We did not go up north in the winter months. So, working weekends and vacations, it took us 10 years to fence in 241 acres of land on the south side of our farm.”
Rockhill said, “Infrastructure has been slow and challenging.”
“We began by marking out our property lines and finding old fences that had long been forgotten and were buried under leaves and twigs. Most of the time we were fortunate enough to locate corner posts because they were generally larger and more sturdy. Fences would be missing for hundreds of yards, before finding a single post or old wire. Often we were pulling up barbed wire that was buried 6 inches deep in leaves and sod. After finding some line we began cutting trees and brush that were in the way of new fencing. That included hauling logs out through the mud.”
Only about one-fourth mile of fencing was completed each year.
This task included a huge amount of physical labor for the couple and involved cutting and removing trees, clearing all brush and burning it, and cutting and sharpening their own cedar posts to build the fence.
“In some places we found old cedar rail fences still intact,” Rockhill reports. “Some of the rails were left in place and we built around them. Those rails had been in place since the 1800’s.”
“In May of 2013 we bought our first four Registered Black Angus animals. We bought one cow and three yearling heifers.”
As the herd grew, Rockhill’s realized the barn needed to grow as well, so, in November of 2013, a new barn was constructed.
“We built a free stall type pole barn 60-feet wide and 100-feet long. We could store all of our cattle and all of our hay in the barn for the first 2 years. We figured if we were going to have cows, the cows would have a barn for shelter. Our barn has six overhead doors in it. One door is always open so the cattle can roam freely in or out as they please. The barn is our hub of activity; it is our office, calving area, hay storage area, and place for veterinarians to tend to the cattle. Most of the time the barn is where we conduct business, sell cattle and show off our herd.”
Another 100 feet was added onto the barn for additional hay storage in 2015.
“It takes a lot of work to make hay, a lot of expense, and it is expensive to buy. With such a large investment in hay, we needed it stored inside and dry. We can put around 700 bales of hay in our new barn.”
Additional fencing and pastures have been added along the way.
“We are BQA qualified and we follow the protocols,” Reevie said. “We attend classes, seminars and training provided by Cornell University along with other courses of instruction to enhance our farming experience. We like to keep updated with new ideas, techniques and ideas. Vicki and I take care of the farm with no outside help.”
Rockhill says they seek out big-muscled sires for their herd.
“We start our insemination program on July 1st, each year, and expect to calve in April the following year.”
A.I. is used for almost all cows, with live bull coverage when a cow does not settle.
“We search the Sire Report and Sire Summary for top bulls from throughout the U.S. It doesn’t matter which stud company has the bull we need, we order it from them. We have used Genex, Select Sires, and AbS Global to order from. We look for tall sires to add stature, we look for high weaning weight and high yearling weights.
We set up our cattle with the Select Synch & CIDR and timed A.I. protocol. This synch works well for us. Last year during our first round of A.I. we settled 18 out of 20 cows. The next rounds went quite well also.”
This program ensures that calves are born within a tighter time frame.
“This spring we had 30 calves born in 2 weeks.”
Rockhill says marketing has always been the biggest obstacle to overcome.
“Trying to get the word out about our products, and convincing people to purchase our animals or our beef seems to be the difficult part of farming for us.”
Professional brochures are distributed, along with business cards and ads are placed in Country Folks, New York Beef Producers, New York Angus and local newspapers.
“We are constantly pinning our beef business cards to every bulletin board we find.”
The farm sells registered seed stock, registered bulls and registered heifers, as well as feeder calves and freezer beef.
“Our beef is home grown right here on our family farm in northern New York. Our cattle have never been given growth hormones, ionophores, or fed any animal by-products. Our pasture-raised cattle are fed grass, grain, corn silage and hay. Our beef is USDA inspected. Our beef is always processed at a USDA inspected processing facility.”
Rockhill passes along some advice to folks interested in becoming involved in the beef farming industry.
“A great never ending commitment is needed,” said Rockhill. “Keep focused on your herd. Buy quality equipment and maintain it. Any equipment that is abused or damaged has to be replaced and costs money. Build quality fences and check them all the time. Learn from the advice and experience of others, but don’t be afraid to try new ideas. Have a financial plan and stick to it.”
When this year’s crop is on the ground, Pebble Mountain expects to see a new-high number of cattle in their herd.
“We are expecting to reach a new plateau of around 135 head of cattle in the spring of 2018, marking our 150 anniversary with a new cattle record.”
Contact Pebble Mountain at: PEBBLEMOUNTAIN@hotmail.com or 518.925.3911.
“Pebble Mountain is the name of our farm,” said Reevie. “A spoof on Rockhill.”
Living the dream at Pebble Mountain
by Elizabeth A. Tomlin