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The week beginning the 12th of May 2007.


Saturday the 12th

I took a stroll through the first oversown paddock this evening, to see how the two grass cultivars we had sown there compared in their growth.  I walked down through the top of the paddock which I'd sown with Tabu and there were very few plants!  Stephan had sowed the next section with Feast II and there were vastly more new plants visible and down in the bottom half of the paddock, which I'd done myself, there was a very satisfactory coverage of new plants visible.

I had arranged to buy the seed over the telephone and had Stephan pick it up, with the request that it be fresh new seed and what I received was Tabu harvested in January 2005 and Feast II harvested in September 2005.  I wasn't terribly impressed, but figured if that was the newest I was going to get, I needed to get on and sow it.  I shall be taking the rest of the bag of Tabu back to PGGWrightson and requesting a refund on the whole lot - I'm just glad I didn't waste any more of my energy throwing that seed out anywhere else!


Sunday the 13th

I haven't yet decided how to proceed with my clostridial disease coverage in the cattle.  Last year I gave a number of them 7in1 (5in1 plus two leptospirosis vaccines) because of an incorrect pricing indication from the vet, so a number of them would now continue their clostridial disease coverage if I gave them a 7in1 again.  In the past the calves had their required sensitizer and booster shots of 5in1, then separate vaccinations for Leptospirosis, and the latter were repeated annually and the 5in1 allowed to lapse.  We have been fortunate not to have lost any animals from clostridial diseases (including tetanus, black leg, malignant oedema etc.) in my time here, but Stephan's veterinary father, Patrick, had diagnosed one such death some years ago, and the bugs are widespread, so it's likely there remains some risk to the cattle and it's too late when one or more die, to wish you'd vaccinated the lot of them!  I could give them the Lepto vaccine and a 5in1 separately, which would be somewhat cheaper, but that requires two jabs along with the associated time and handling costs.  I have a little time to think about it.

yearling heifers

In the mean time, there only being six pregnant heifers, I decided I'd do them with the 7in1.  The one non-pregnant heifer didn't get it, since she'll be off before very long to the works.  I put them in the Flat 2 paddock afterwards, since they haven't yet had their copper shots, and will have to come back in again in a day or two.  In the picture, the right-most animal is R3 Ranu 31 and the others are the R2 heifers, 494, 506, 517, Ranu 34, Irene 35 and Delilah 36 (not in that order in the picture - my guess, from their body-shapes are left to right: 35, 506, 34, 494, 36, 517).

I brought Ivy and her as-yet-untagged calf in next and the calf had her booster shot of vaccine and we finally put #57 in her ear!  She was a feisty little thing in the race, which is probably a result of little handling and having lived very much on her own with her mother and the grey heifer for most of her life.  She needs to learn some manners!

Last night, with the help of one of my many spreadsheets, I worked out that most of the heifer calves are now over 200 days of age and could well be weaned - while I still have grass and before it becomes a matter of urgency, should the weather turn cold and the grass stop growing.  I brought the 52-head mob in and we weighed all of them, then drafted the heifers and cows for weaning and sent the cows to the House paddock, then the calves went out to join Ivy and her daughter, in the Windmill Paddock.
These are the nineteen heifer calves, on their way from the yards, wondering where their mothers have gone off to!

19 weaned heifer calves
calves and cows, now separated

The cows on the right in the house paddock, walking up the paddock as their calves and Ivy travel up the lane beside them.  The previously-weaned mob of nineteen cows (mothers of the steers and three which had no living calf) are in the Camp paddock, just beyond these cows.  I've deliberately put them on either side of one fence so they can begin to get reacquainted, before I mix them together as one mob again in a few days' time.

Back in the yards I vaccinated the youngest heifers who needed their booster 7in1 shots and sent the seven pairs off to graze on the flats.  The youngest heifer (other than Ivy's) is still only 5½ months old, so I don't really want to wean the last few just yet.

I still don't know what I'm going to do with all these heifers - if you're a farming reader and you want to find some heifers for sale, I may be able to help!  The cattle market prices have dropped quickly with the dry weather, and I really don't want to sell good heifers I could hang on to for a low price when their actual value remains the same, but it is the market which says they're now less valuable than they were a month ago.  Cattle usually sell on a price/kg rather than on their value for potential breeding.  To complicate that, these animals would sell on today's price/kg, and by the time they'd be ready to go to the works, who knows what the price might be?  If I can find a market wherein the heifers are bought for breeding, then one might expect, as with bull sales, that they'd have a per-head value which had little to do with the meat price if they were sent to the works.

bull #45

Because I have begun receiving enquiries about my little bulls, I needed to make a decision about which one I would keep this year.  Last year, because there were only a handful of yearling heifers to mate, I wasn't too worried about having a bull to put over them after AI and in the end used #40, not a great animal, but I felt it was better my heifers were pregnant than empty for the year.  This year I may keep a larger number of the heifers through until mating, so will need a bull for them.

Demelza's son, #45, has the right sort of EBVs, actual growth pattern and physical attributes to suit my breeding programme, so I've chosen him.


Monday the 14th

38 animals yelling at each other are very noisy neighbours!  Speaking of neighbours, we have new ones, again, in the house which Stephan originally built at the front of the farm.  He and his parents lived in the old cottage there when they bought this place in 1977, until it was destroyed by fire in the mid 80s and the new one built on the site.  The couple who bought it from Muriel and Patrick were still there when I arrived and since then there have been three other couples in the house for various stretches of time, the latest for only a few months before they drifted away from each other and to live and work elsewhere - the ones who left their sheep to fend for themselves!  The house has now changed ownership and a new family has taken up residence.  They're probably wondering what sort of neighbourhood they've joined, with all this racket!


Tuesday the 15th

The heifer calves, standing in the corner of the Windmill paddock, looking longingly towards their mothers.

weaned heifers

I moved the 19 previously-weaned cows from the Camp paddock to the second Mushroom paddock and then took the newly-weaned mob along the lane past their daughters to the first Mushroom paddock.  My plan is to mix the two mobs tomorrow, but overnight this will leave the cows and calves as almost-neighbours again, so as not to create too much separation anxiety all of a sudden!  The calves walked up the paddock as their mothers went up the lane.

calves and cows, now separated

When moving the first mob, I was horrified to see #359 with a large swelling under her jaw!  I hadn't checked on those cows for a couple of days.  She is in great condition otherwise and appears well enough.  If this "bottle-jaw" is an indicator of liver-fluke infection I'm in a bit of a bind, since I really don't want to drench her for it at this stage - she's on the cull list and due to go off to the works at some time in the next few weeks.  The Meat Withholding Period on the drench we use is 91 days, which would very much constrict my decision-making if I used it on her.  I'll watch her for a few days and see how she looks.

After they were all out of the way, I got the yearling heifers out of their paddock to take them to the yards for their copper injections.  They all got a bit silly at one point and one of the heifers knocked another one into a shallow drain, where she lost her footing and ended up on her back!  Because the hollow was exactly the same shape as her back, she was cast for several seconds and I didn't manage to see how she eventually righted herself, since there were still several black bodies in between me and her.  I was relieved to see it was the non-pregnant heifer, not any of the others and as she seemed alright, we carried on down to the yards and since she still seemed alright I gave her a copper shot and that didn't affect her either - they're supposed to be kept quiet around copper administration!  Lucky I hadn't booked her a trip to the works this week: I should think she'll be a bit bruised.


Wednesday the 16th

The weather looked pretty good today so I put the scales in the race and weighed the heifers and gave them a pour-on drench (all except 494 because of the 91-day withholding period).  I was then very pleased when it didn't rain, all day!  This pour-on has a longer period required before rain can fall on it with no effect than the other ones I've previously used and at around $5/head, I don't want it wasted!

During the afternoon I sowed another paddock with Rye seed and while marching up and down, learnt some lines of a play I might do.


Thursday the 17th

I have discovered over the years, that Stephan sets dangerous traps for me all over the farm - culverts with holes in them, tree-stumps left for me to fall over, rocks in the river which aren't as stable as they look for stepping-stones - all his fault!  He's been using Bloo's truck to collect rock from a local quarry for the tracks and spreading it and going back for more, leaving tidying things up until the end of the day.  I didn't give this very much thought this afternoon, as I loaded a bag of seed onto the back of the bike and set out to go and sow the paddock the cows are in, until the bike disappeared from underneath me when the back wheel rolled over a large, hidden, boulder under the smaller fine rocks around it!  As it fell, through that hideous slow-motion awareness one has in such situations, I could feel my left ankle being twisted as the bike's weight came down on my leg and could only think of the weeks I've already spent on crutches this year!  I managed to move myself so that the twisting lessened and gradually extracted myself from beneath the machine and limped the short distance across the House paddock to home, where I inspected my various (fortunately minor, but painful) injuries.  I spent the afternoon sleeping on the couch and taking regular doses of Arnica.


Friday the 18th

More grass-seed sowing today.  If I'm not careful, I shall get fit!  My ankle cracked alarmingly as I started, after yesterday's mishap, but seemed alright, so I carried on, as one does.

This evening was the annual Kaitaia Vet club dinner.  It unfortunately clashed with another dinner in town which drew from the same crowd, so there were not as many as expected.  The after-dinner speaker was Nathan Gray, introduced in glowing terms by Greg who'd arranged for his visit, and so we prepared ourselves to be entertained.  I don't think I've ever listened to someone in such a setting who had less humour or humility.  Nathan Gray wrote First Pass Under Heaven about his trek along the Great Wall of China and if he writes as he speaks, it's not a book I'll ever read.  I recalled that I had heard something about the woman who travelled for some of the time with him, Polly Greeks, who then wrote her own book about her journey called Embracing the Dragon: A woman’s journey along the Great Wall of China.  I found a review of her book and have to say that having "met" Nathan Gray, I agree entirely with the sentiment of the reviewer's penultimate paragraph!

I did observe a number of men talking to Mr Gray after his piece, so perhaps it was different for them.


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