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The week beginning the 8th of December 2007.


Saturday the 8th

some new fencing

While I've been having a catch-up day writing the website, Stephan's been doing some fencing.  This is part of the area we call the triangle, between the bridge and our house, with the driveway running alongside.  I use it as an observation area for two or three animals, but it has been a bit problematic because there has only been an electric tape fence to stop the animals wandering off into our tree reserve area; now there is a much safer boundary.

Stephan was banging in a post for a new gate at the bottom end of the triangle area and the bulls all came down to the end of the Pig Paddock, just across the bridge, to see what the noise was about.

These are #55 (son of Flora 15 and #26), #45 (son of Demelza and CA Future Direction) and behind them is #43 (son of Isis 06 and CA Future Direction).

#43 is just over two years old and has two daughters and a son in the calf crop this year.  I'll use him again this year over some of the cows and #45 will go over some of the yearling heifers and some cows.

bulls, watching
the cricket crease

Time for some more cricket pitch preparation...

Stephan took some river silt across the paddock in the tractor's front-end-loader bucket and spread it around in the dips and holes, then rolled them flat.

While walking this afternoon, I spotted the huge Northern Rata which grows in an area between the flats and the road, beginning to flower.  I haven't seen this tree flower before, so this is quite exciting.

Apparently the possums give them a really hard time, eating all the flower buds and eventually killing them off from the top.  Hopefully this flowering means we've reduced the possum numbers enough that they're not putting so much pressure on these rather vulnerable trees.

Northern Rata
lump on Isla's neck

After administering a copper injection to all the cows on the 2nd, Isla's neck has reacted as it usually does.  Some of the cows get very large and presumably painful swellings around the injection site, but they gradually subside.  I tell myself, and them, that without the copper they'd be feeling a lot less healthy overall, so it's worth the temporary discomfort.


Sunday the 9th

We went to a Far North Organic Growers field day today at Takou Bay.  The field-day's topic was Organic Pasture and Cattle management.  We are unlikely to 'go organic' any time in the very near future, but as it is our practice to farm as sustainably as we may, I'm always interested in gathering information from such field days.

Unfortunately it was extremely wet, all day!

field day gathering
Kaeo river

On our way home, coming back through Kaeo, the river was pretty full already.  It must be nerve-wracking living there these days, after the last two floods this year (both caused enormous amounts of damage to homes, farms and businesses in and around Kaeo).

We stopped at Mangonui, having dried out a bit with the heater in the ute, and had Fish'n'chips'n'scallops for dinner and very nice they were too!

Turning inland from Taipa to come home via Fairburns, we had to drive through some water (which apparently rose to flood levels later in the night) but at home the river was hardly up at all.


Monday the 10th

Rain, all day: can't take photos in the rain.


Tuesday the 11th

My bull buyer from last week had organised for her bull purchase to be collected early this morning.  He's going to live with a herd of purebred Angus heifers and cows within an hour's drive from here.

We went over and rounded the bulls up out of the Pig paddock into the yards.

bulls and a cattle truck
loading a bull onto the truck

Virago Connection 47 AB walked quietly up onto the truck and wandered quietly off at the other end and away with some cows.

You may notice in shots of loading cattle on to trucks, the drivers holding those wicked-looking electric prods.  Most of the drivers don't use them very much, and I'm not keen on their use without real need, especially when a little patience will see cattle move quite easily around here.  Sometimes though, when a quick zap on the rear will cause an animal to stop thinking about turning around again and instead get onto the truck, they're obviously quite handy.

After the truck had gone, we walked up the road to move the 21 heifers from the river flat paddock to the hill across the road.

This stump is all that remains of what was an eight-foot tall Cabbage tree, before some vandal from the Far North District Council's contracted mowing department chopped it off a few inches from the ground a few weeks ago.  We'd been watching its growth for some years.  I had some strong words with the FNDC and their contractors when I discovered they'd done this and we will be attempting to stop them from continuing to wage war on this pretty corner in future.

We were pleased to see there are a couple of shoots emerging from the trunk, so the tree will yet live!

Cabbage tree shoots
mowing the tree reserve

Stephan started mowing the tree reserve in front of our house today.  It's quite a job!

I'm very pleased with the growth of the trees we've planted, many of which I've grown from seed.  To see a key to the trees in the picture, click here.  (You can quickly flick between one window and the other by holding your thumb on the Alt key and clicking the Tab key.)

Isla and calf

Isla and ... what's-'er-name.


Wednesday the 12th

Sometimes I'm quite disorganised about important things.  I cannot, for instance, find any record of what's actually in the semen bank from last year.  Fortunately that's not too much of a problem, because there are not a great many straws in there and they're all in one canister of Greg's bank, which I brought home a couple of weeks ago, ready for the start of mating.  I took this picture this morning so I could refer to it at my leisure (rather than continually pulling the straws up into the warm air) and sort out how many of which bulls I still have in there.

The straw colours and coloured inserts allow indexing of the straws so, for instance, I know that those orange straws in the yellow insert are from a bull named Exclaim of Kaharau and there's one orange straw in the middle, clear insert which contains semen from a different bull from that in the white straws with it.

semen bank

I only used eleven straws last year, so was able to work forward from last year's record and backwards from this picture to determine what everything is.  One cannot take straws out and look at the printed information on their sides - a quick extraction into the warm air instantly condenses the moisture and ices over the printing; the semen inside the straws would also be damaged by such attempts.

When making preparations this morning to the gear I need to tag the calves this year, I realised I'd forgotten that an extra year had passed since I last ordered some ear tags, which means I don't have enough of them for all of this year's calves.  Years ago we used to buy blank tags and number them ourselves, but since the official TB eradication scheme has been in place, we have had to order officially numbered tags with our national herd number and bar code on every one.  I made sure we got to town in time this afternoon to go into our usual rural supplies store to put my order through, because they take around 10 days to arrive.

Pohutukawa in flower

There are Pohutukawa trees in flower all around Kaitaia.  It looks like being a good year for both Pohutukawa and Rata.

Across the road is the Kaitaia Intermediate School, at which my father taught for several years.

We were on our way north out of town, to visit my Godfather and sample a little of his wonderful home-brew beer.  I hadn't seen him for several weeks and when a chance arises, I take it.


Thursday the 13th

The flowers on the big Rata tree are beginning to bloom on the other side as well - looking down from the hill over the road this morning.

I took Saturday's picture from near the Totara tree in the distance to the left of the Rata in this picture.

Northern Rata
cows and calves

This is the elder mob of 22 calves and I have enough ear tags to do the whole lot of them, so I brought them in and when Stephan arrived home from doing something else, I got him to help me with the vaccinations, tagging and castrating.  There were four stud bull calves in the mob, two of which I wished not to have castrated and all four needed to have specifically allocated numbers, so we spent about half an hour quietly working the cattle around in the large yard to work out which cows and calves belonged together.  Once we'd worked out which were the stud ones, we were able to get on with the job.

There were a couple of rather obvious animals amongst them, which I'm quite sure you too can pick out!

Once we were up close with them, I was delighted with the size and quality of some of the bull calves.  I oughtn't to be surprised, since that's what I've been aiming to achieve.

Afterwards they went into Flat 1, so the little bulls with sore bits didn't have to walk too far.  Imagen and her calf are in the corner of the House paddock, watching them go by.

tagged calves

Friday the 14th

371 and heifer calf

Last evening and this morning I spent some time in the paddock with the newly-tagged calves, seeing who they were, in terms of which cows they belonged to.  It's easy when the calf is feeding.  Otherwise I look for the particular signs of intimacy which are only displayed by mothers and their offspring - a certain ease when touching each other, a turn of the head when passing closely by and so on - usually confirmed later by noting a feeding session.

Once I know which cows are their mothers, I also know which bulls were their sires and that's particularly interesting, since I used four of my own bulls last year, as well as two or three AI bulls.

At left is 371 and her latest heifer, sired by #26 - her calf last year was the very fat 539, daughter of Arran 20.

This is little 475, last daughter of Grey 16.  She was the calf I had to feed when her mother had blood instead of milk in her udder and we took a week to get her right (back in October 2004), after which she raised her lovely calf.  475 calved as a two-year-old last year and this is her first daughter, sired by #26.  Last year's calf obviously didn't have quite as much milk as he could have used, but this heifer looks nicely covered so far.

475 could do with some more feed; but as her family, with their Jersey background, are prone to this light-conditioned appearance I'm not too worried about her.

475 and heifer calf

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