Zella and her daughter, a rather light-coloured, jersey-looking little calf. They both seem happy enough.
I'll leave them to settle for a day or so before we start thinking about getting Zella in to milk her - although later in the day I managed to quietly extract enough milk to feed the lamb, since I'd run out of the goats' milk Lilo had kindly provided.
Near Zella was 634 with her now four-day-old calf, running circles around her mother.
They're fun to watch. When still quite young like this, they stay close to their mothers. In a day or two this calf will be venturing further afield and have her mother running after her constantly, trying to keep her near.
When she'd done enough laps in one direction, she turned around and went the other way.
Finan is NOT happy!
Usually, during the day, he trots off toward the river bank and spends his day safely away from people - hopefully snoozing in a warm spot, rather than hunting the wildlife! Being confined to the house is obviously really uncomfortable for him. We have to make sure we operate a double door system to ensure he can't escape as we come and go from outside.
Imagen, on the left, and 479 with a calf born in the early hours. That calf has a white patch on one of her rear feet, to my surprise! The cow is part Jersey and Hereford, so the white presumably comes from there. She has a lot of white under her belly as well. She's the first calf of bull #90.
In the picture, the calf is in mid-gallop around her mother. All of the calves are remarkably lively this year! I'm very pleased.
At 10.30 I noticed Emma 93 in labour, pacing around, and at 12.30 there were a couple of reassuring feet. She was making only slow progress, so I provided some help by holding the calf so it didn't keep slipping back into her between contractions. She'd have completed the birth on her own, but holding the calf and adding a bit of forward pull force speeds things up and the heifer doesn't get so tired.
Dad stands in the background, #87, with his head down.
This is her baby's tongue, which preceded the nose out of her body. I love these magic moments, holding parts of an obviously alive creature before it's even born. There are backward-facing rasps near the tip of the tongue, which make it feel like that of a cat.
This isn't the first contact I've had with this calf, the creature which kicked my exploring arm back in June, when I thought Emma had slipped her pregnancy.
Out at last, and I quietly withdrew and left the two of them to get to know each other face-to-face. The calf is a bull.
Twenty minutes later when I looked again, the calf was up and feeding.
The pressure is now on Stephan to complete the milking shed, since we want a calf-pen to accommodate Zella's calf overnight when they're separated from each other. We don't need to start doing that for a few days, but it's time this shed was made ready!
Stephan bought a solid chain to put around Zella's back end while she's being milked. He wants to train her to stand quietly for milking without the necessity to continually bribe her with Molasses, as is the case with Imagen.
Good healthy calf poo! Nice consistency, good colour. It only stays this colour for the first few days, until the calves start nibbling at things in their environment, and experimenting with eating grass.
Each year the Clematis plants flower a little differently. This year some of those in the lower part of the 20 Acre Bush Block are more noticeable than in other years, but some of the usually very striking plants are less visible.
Riding home this evening after doling out Magnesium and molasses to the cows, I had to slow down, as usual, for the twins, who've taken to standing in the lane. As I slowly approach them, they push back under the wires into their paddock. The lower two wires of this three-wire fence are still turned off.
We're treating Finan very affectionately at the moment, keeping him as happy as we can under these rather trying circumstances. I've been taking his collar off for short periods so that he can eat and do a little bit of grooming, but I've had to put it back on again quite quickly, since he's determined to lick the drain and surrounds. As my friend (and vet) Mary-Ruth pointed out, it would take only a split second for him to get hold of the drain and break it, which would probably then necessitate surgery to extract any remnants left in the wound. Better to put up with his exasperation with the collar for a few days, than to prolong the event by too much empathetic lenience!
479, with the calf born this morning, made threatening motions toward me this evening, so I took great care to remain at some distance from her calf. She's not usually this nervous. It's interesting that they can change from one calving to the next, while remaining quite placid during the rest of the season.
I heard a frog today in the Frog Paddock! It's always reassuring to hear them there, even though they remain almost entirely invisible.
This afternoon I watched 528's calf being born. This one was born with clear birth fluids, unlike her other calves.
The calf is a bull. So far there are seven heifers and three bull calves.
The milking shed calf-pen, mostly complete - only latches to be installed on the gates. The head area for the cow is only as wide as an ordinary race, with the exit door operated by a pole along the wall on the right. There's a little gate where the calf-pen angles out from the bail, so that Stephan can duck in and refill the molasses bin if necessary. The extra width will allow him to squat or sit there and milk the cow. We think it'll work alright. We just made it all up, trying to think of everything which might happen.
This evening we walked Zella and her calf across from Flat 2, and put her into the shed and Stephan milked her while I stood at her shoulder and said soothing things and rubbed her back and face. She behaved exceptionally well for an animal which has never been handled in this precise way before.
Afterwards we put her out in the little triangle area and a bit later Stephan walked Imagen in from further out on the farm, to join Zella. He has decided he'd like to milk both cows, and since we've run out of bacon, he'd like to rear a couple of pigs again.
We milked Zella again this morning and then the two cows and the calf went to the Riverbank area for the day. I'm keeping a close eye on Imagen, because if she goes into labour, I'd like to get her to a safer place - areas bordered by steep riverbanks are not good calving sites.
From the Mushroom Paddock where the currently calving cows are grazing, I can regularly count the six cows over the road in the distance. I haven't been for a close look at them since putting them over there, because I'm reasonably confident about their expected calving dates, and they're not due yet.
However, I did get one wrong today, in the other little mob in the Frog Paddock, where 539 gave birth to her calf in a bit of scrub on the other side of a very boggy patch of ground, across the river. I went to check on her again just before dark, and she headed off up the hill with the calf, at which point I left her to it. They're both mobile: that's all I need to know.
According to my reasonably confident calculations, her calf was only up to day 270 of its gestation, born eight days before I expected.
During my late-night check I noticed that Eva was standing looking quite distracted. Bearing in mind that her paddock mate is mad Athena, her great aunt who steals calves, I gave them both some more grass, and in the process put Eva through the tape so she was separated from Athena, just in case.
This morning Eva was feeding this little heifer calf, making Matariki the winner of the Calving Date Competition!
That was all over and done with rather more quickly than I anticipated.
I'm glad they're both safe and well!
This calf is looking pretty good so far. She's only five days old, but she's looking solid and healthy.
All that facial mud is the result of 571 rubbing herself on the exposed soil bank where the paddock drops from one level to another. The cows love it, which is probably why it never gets a chance to grow any grass!
I went hunting for 539 and her calf, wanting to ensure all was well. There are some nasty holes in that paddock up on the bushy slopes and I couldn't imagine how the cow would get her calf safely out of the area in which she had calved.
I decided to try and track them, since the ground was soft enough for them to have left clear tracks, if I could find them.
I did fairly well, based on some educated guess-work and a bit of intuitive knowledge about cows and was heading in the right direction, following the occasional appearance of cow and calf foot-prints, when I heard the blaring cry of a calf meeting an electric fence down at the bottom of the hill! I had thought they were quite a lot closer to me than that, because I could hear 539's low reassuring moo on several occasions. But it's a noise which travels far and well and they weren't really close-by at all.
Down the bottom they were both looking a bit upset, so I quietly moved around them to open a gate, through which the cow went without the calf ... Eventually he ended up jumping into the stream and I headed off to turn off the fences, so that he could get back to his mother without further shocks. These things don't always go as well as I hope.
Today became a busy day, just when the one thing I wanted to do was lie down on the couch with my sneezes, hot temperature and nasty feeling of becoming ill again!
Grey 607 had produced a grey calf sometime in the early hours. Queenly 23 was standing with what looked like a horribly still and flat little black smudge, with its head thrown back over its shoulder at an odd angle. As I walked toward them with a sinking feeling, I saw that the calf was breathing! Maybe she'd spent the last part of her uterine life with her head over her shoulder and liked it that way?
Athena 72 had calved and was sitting quietly in the Mushroom 3 paddock, where I'd put her yesterday to get her away from any other imminently calving cows. I didn't disturb her to see what kind of calf she'd had, just checked to make sure both looked as they should.
At 10.25 I found 628, daughter of 572, looking like this. Half an hour later I gave her a bit of help, as I had Emma 93 the other day, just holding the calf with steady pressure during contractions, until it was out.
A heifer. I'm really impressed with this animal, the daughter of a two-year-old heifer, calving as one herself. People have always said one should not keep the heifer calves of two-year-olds for breeding, because they're generally smaller than those of older cows, but this animal is a definite exception to that rule! I look forward to seeing if 628's daughter is as good as she was.
607 with her second son, a gorgeous light grey. He'll change to the same colour as her, eventually. It's always fun seeing whether the grey cows have grey or black calves.
607 was in labour at midnight, but she looked unhappy about my presence, so I left her to it and went off to bed!
Queenly 23 with her daughter later in the morning; I've been trying to get a nice daughter out of this cow for many years. Her first calf was bull #49, whom I liked, but later proved to be a carrier of the NH defect from his sire. Her first daughter was a mad thing called Joy (she wasn't any, but named after my Aunt Joy who bought me the semen straw as a present), who subsequently went to the works in the back of a truck with its door open! Next son, #77 was born in the year we found out about the AM and NH defects and I castrated all the bull calves. Daughter #100, not being quite up to the standard I was looking for, now lives near Mangawhai. Perhaps this year this calf will be my keeper. Her sire was #89.
Athena and her newborn calf, alone in their paddock.
Cute calves, the son and daughter of heifers 634 and Emma 93, whose mothers were both away down the Flat 2 paddock grazing.
Just when I thought I really ought to lie down and have a snooze, I realised Imagen had been stamping her feet and marching around for a bit longer than she ought to have done and went out to keep a closer eye on her. Eventually I saw a foot, then two, then realised they were not up the right way! Good grief.
It's quite interesting working out the differences between front and back foot presentation, so that I can often make that call without having to do any internal inspection.
I'm not sure where the other leg had gone, but it wasn't far inside when Nathan went looking for it (I called the vet as we went past the house, and by the time Imagen was up in the crush pen at the end of the race, he was driving in the gate). Nathan pinched between the calf's toes and said he'd got no response so the calf was probably dead. I told him it was just asleep, since Imagen hadn't been in labour very long.
With calving chains looped around the legs and attached to a rope and pulley set-up, I somewhat feebly hauled on the rope while Nathan ensured all was happening correctly inside Imagen, in between giving me some help and then expertly catching the calf as it came out. The calf gasped (of course) as soon as he was on the ground, and Nathan gave Imagen a prophylactic antibiotic shot, along with an anti-inflammatory, since we'd naturally had to handle her fairly roughly to get the calf out quickly.
We let Imagen out of the race, and for Nathan's safety (just in case Imagen objected to his presence) put her through the other gate from the direction I planned to carry the calf, which we then did, leaving him lying on the grass by the cat-walk, then letting Imagen out.
But things did not go as they should from that point. I'm not sure what the problem was in particular, there being more than one potential cause. Imagen had been licking and very interested in Zella's calf while she was in labour, but not to the extent that I was worried about her getting confused. Nathan had decided to pump a lot of lubricant into Imagen before starting work to pull the calf out, something he's not done here before, and in retrospect, I will not allow him to do again. I can see that if a cow had been in labour for a long time and things had dried out, that it would be potentially useful, but Imagen was not in that state and I have a strong suspicion that the foreign smell all over her calf contributed to her rejection of him. She was not interested in licking him and pushed him over very roughly as he began to get to his feet.
When Stephan arrived home, we took the calf over to the new calf pen in the milking shed and milked Imagen and fed him the colostrum.
Ordinarily we'd put the cow in the headbail and make her feed the calf until she would do so voluntarily and if she did not eventually cooperate, she'd have bought herself a one-way ticket to the works. But this is Imagen and Stephan plans to milk her anyway. I know from the things we had to do to her when she had her various Mastitis infections, that she will not readily tolerate being mucked about with in the yards, and it is possible that she'd not allow Stephan to milk her at all if that process was drawn out too long. Weighing everything up, we've decided we'll bottle-rear the calf (on his mother's milk).
It's nice to be using the wheel-barrow as live calf transport for a change, rather than as a hearse!
628 and her daughter. Two years is a short time to wait between the birth of a calf and the birth of her calf!
Today was a five-calf day! I'm not sure if I've ever had one of those before. That's 12% of the herd in one day.
After spending yesterday feeling off-colour, feverish, sneezy and pathetic, I woke up this morning feeling quite normal. Presumably whatever attempted to ail me was something my immune system already recognised and valiantly fought off, despite my inability to rest.
Calf meconium, the first stool produced after birth. When it first appears it's black and tarry, with a slight dark red tinge to it, which when exposed to the air takes on a dark green tinge.
456 had been looking pensive last night and then standing around for hours today before looking like she was obviously in labour from about 11.30 this morning. She should have got on with things properly within an hour or so, so at 2pm, when she was still wandering around with her tail out but nothing else happening, even when she lay down, I decided I'd try and find out what was going on inside.
There aren't many cows in the world who would allow this sort of interference! I was quite surprised she allowed me to do it. I could feel the calf's two front feet and its teeth (hard to tell what all the soft bits are, so the presence of some small hard obvious things is helpful!), but the calf was upside-down in relation to the cow, which isn't how they get out!
Through the fence, despite having already had her own calf, Athena was showing all the same signs as she did before she calved, in response to imminent birth in another cow. She's going to get herself culled if she keeps this up!
We walked 456 and a couple of others down to the yards and put her in the race so I could have a safer feel and see whether or not we needed a vet to help with her. By the time she was there, the calf had rolled around a bit, but still hadn't come up into the pelvis properly. Fortunately it was easy enough to pull up and I could almost pull its feet out and by then its head was engaging in the pelvis as it should. I felt reasonably confident that 456 would now be able to carry on herself, so we let her back out of the race and into the grassy loading ramp area.
As soon as she lay down, the bag I'd felt appeared, soon followed by feet and nose and I went around and helped her, thinking she'd been in labour for some time and it could be useful to keep things going reasonably quickly now.
I pulled the calf free and 456 got up to clean it, a bull.
We both waited and watched and within ten minutes he was on his feet and looking for a feed.
You can do a lot of standing around watching things when you're a farmer! It's pretty cool.
Calves which focus on and follow people can be very dangerous, in that their mothers sometimes attack the creature they think is stealing their calf! Fortunately this cow is obviously a very quiet sort of individual.
Forty minutes after his birth, the calf was walking with his mother back to their paddock. I didn't need them to go very far, but the calf just kept on going, without any sign of distress, so I left them to it.
He must have tired about halfway along the Windmill Paddock lane, and settled down for a sleep, while his mother delivered and began to eat her afterbirth.
But as it was beginning to get dark, they continued on up the lane and I eventually pushed them a little, to ensure they ended up safely in the paddock, rather than anywhere the calf could wander off on his own into danger.
Back in the paddock 561 was in the middle of producing a daughter.
Two-year-old 639 in very obvious labour, pacing around with her tail out.
In this picture the calf's head and front half are on the ground, at the moment the heifer is pushing to expel the hips.
Here a split-second later the back end of the calf is being propelled over the top of the rest of the body, which meant that the calf's head ended up underneath, with the neck seriously kinked! Calves will often fall into that position when dropped from a standing delivery, one which I believe probably kills some calves, when they're unable to take their first breaths easily.
I walked quickly to the calf and unfolded it, discovered it was a bull and withdrew to let the heifer get on with her work in peace.
The birthing process, from the time she laid down (after pacing around for an hour), took 40 minutes.
Curly, Stella's favourite cow, standing looking thoughtful, a few hours before I found her with her newborn daughter during my late-night check.