We did some hot work this morning, putting the NAIT tags into the ears of the calves in Joe 90's mob, so I could draft some of the cows out into smaller groups.
We brought the two little bulls, 106 and 116 in and these nine cows and eight calves went off out to the Back Barn with 116. They are the cull mob, but more easily managed if they're in calf and not continually coming back on heat over the next three months. Some may even find new homes, rather than going to the works after weaning.
Four of the already-mated cows went out with 106. Joe 90's mating technique looks a bit hit and miss, although on past records all his cows will be in calf, so I'm not overly worried, just cautious. I'd rather they had a second chance with a different bull if they come back on heat again.
Storm has moved into the house. She's obviously a people-oriented bird and it's probably nice and cool on the concrete in the wafting breeze. This sort of thing is why we don't have carpet.
604 is much the same. We pumped another five litres of fluid into her and she took a few swallows at the trough as well, a whole seven! That's encouraging, even though it's a tiny amount of water for an adult cow.
613 and last year's daughter, 713, both in the insemination mob. 713 was calling, coming on heat.
Joe 90, cooling his toes in the stream.
The cattle will have less opportunity to access the streams like this as we continue the fencing along the riverbanks.
Stephan cleaned the tractor, so I could take some pictures ready to list it for auction on trademe (NZ's primary internet auction site).
Oops, a bit of a dumb thing to do: put young bull 106 in the Camp paddock with a few cows which have already been mated by Joe 90, then have a heifer in the Windmill Paddock next door come on heat. Just after 8pm 713 started standing, soon followed by Demelza.
The bull was far too excited for my liking and I wasn't convinced he'd stay where he should be - the fenced-off stream runs most of the length of the boundary between the two paddocks, and not all of the fenceline is electric. We moved the mob to the bottom of Flat 1 for the night, and they'll go to the yards first thing in the morning so I can inseminate 713, Demelza and 628, who came on as well.
The best-laid plans ...
It rained very heavily for a while overnight and the river came up and over the bridge, so I couldn't get the cows over to inseminate the three which needed to be done early this morning.
Hopefully the delay was not too long by the time we were able to walk Demelza through the last of the water and get her done, at a quarter to eleven. Stephan put some molasses in a blue bin and virtually led Demelza by the nose. She baulked a little at the water, but once she had her nose in the molasses again, she followed it. The others came over once the water was completely off the bridge.
There was a scary moment when one of the calves looked like she was about to step into the water go get across to her mother from the bank, instead of walking over the bridge. Cows are pretty good about floods, I think, but calves will sometimes leap into anything to get to their mothers.
604 drank more today and fought more when Stephan was holding her head to drench her with fluid and Magnesium.
Her son came easily to me in the paddock for his evening feed. We only have a two-litre bottle, so I have to refill it half-way through his four-litre feed.
Having moved young bull 106 out of the Camp Paddock, the insemination mob could go back to the Windmill. They're grazing their way across it, strip by strip, held back by electric tape. The only thing I need to be careful about is ensuring they have access to enough cool shade. That means I graze the paddock a little differently at this time of year than I might on cooler days in other seasons.
This is a Rata-Pohutukawa hybrid Roger (sister Jude's husband) gave us a few years ago. The flower colour is glorious.
Cousin Christina, Dan and Emma came with Doug (with whom we stayed in Queenstown) to spend New Year's Eve evening with us. Doug eventually coaxed Emma into the water.
Later on he plunged her back in by accident! None of us saw it happen, but apparently he tripped while swinging her around and they both ended up in the pond, Emma upside-down. But he dealt with it calmly and I don't think Emma was too traumatised and we warmed her up with a hot shower and dry clothes.
During the day I really thought it was time to shoot 604. Then she ate some grass I gave her - I did put it in her mouth, but she chewed and swallowed, rather than spitting it out.
When it came time to take her to the yards for her daily antibiotic injection, she seemed unwilling to move, so I jabbed her in the rump where she lay. Beef animals should always be injected into the neck, but I think that if 604 survives, a bit of muscle scarring isn't going to matter as much as letting her rest right now.
The air today was crystal-clear. It was an absolute stunner.
I took 604's calf to visit her this morning, after his feed. I wondered if she needed to see him. They sniffed each other, but she's not really interested in anything much.
Trying to lift her mood, I took her from the Pig Paddock to spend the day under the trees where there's lots of grass on the riverbank, where Zella sometimes grazes.
I found this eggshell when out hunting Ragwort in the Back Barn Paddock. I presume it is that of a Kukupa (or Kereru, the native Wood Pigeon).
This evening I observed that Gem 698, one of the twins, was coming on heat. She would need to be inseminated tomorrow morning, but as Stephan has to go trapping, I decided I'd send her to the bull. I'm not prepared to deal with either of those two on my own in the race, since they're the jumpiest of the heifers. I want them both to calve to the same sire, so Meg 699 went with her, along with 713 because she happened to draft out with them and I've already inseminated her.
The little black chicks are thriving, growing quickly. We moved them to a bigger cage when Storm arrived and needed the smaller cage on the lawn.
The Kauri in the native planting area produced one cone sometime last year and today I noticed it now has several more.
One of the recent ones is on the right, with the older one amongst the leaves to the left.
I spotted this little bantam on the ground, with her body plumped out and prompted her to move to see what might be underneath: three tiny just-hatched black chicks. I should have fetched the camera before moving her and then I'd have got a picture of them before she moved them away.
In the late afternoon I took them a second feed and heard some piercing cheeping from near the shed, where the hen's nest had presumably been. I found one lone, rather cold chick, huddled in one of the flat tyre inner-tubes. Whether it had got stuck there on their first walk, or chosen that dark space for safety and warmth, I'm not sure, but I took it down to the hen and put it right in front of her, hoping she'd let it snuggle in and warm up. (Next day there were four lively chicks.)
Finan in a cool spot in the garden. He used to disappear for most of every day, but since we've been forcing him to remain inside at night, he's become more of a sociable day-time cat. If you come to visit you'll probably never see him because he still hides from almost everyone except us; but with us he's a lovely, affectionate animal.
I needed to go and clear some Ragwort from the Camp Paddock and Jill was repeatedly asking if there was anything she could do, so we combined the two things. I decided to send Jill off on what should have been an easier path than I took, so I wouldn't have to wait for her and not get anything done. I'd cleared most of the plants I was looking for by the time she reached the one she was originally heading for. Jill's balance and physical confidence has decreased markedly over the last year. Dementia is obviously not selective in the functions it destroys.
Yesterday 604 had been willing to eat grass I fed her; today she would not. She was also looking markedly less comfortable, with some build-up of gas in her abdomen. She looked much rounder than she had done a couple of days ago and spent a fair part of the day standing up, presumably because it was less comfortable to lie down. She was drinking, but her overall appearance was not encouraging.
I sent a text to Stephan to let him know we had a sad job to do when he arrived home and let 604 out into Flat 1, where there's nice grass and easier access for the tractor. She didn't eat, she just lay down and looked miserable.
While I sat beside the pond around the other side of the shed and howled my misery, Stephan shot 604. After he'd done so, I walked back along to the paddock. I find it tremendously sad having to shoot such a lovely animal and very distressing that in the end there was no recovery and that perhaps we kept her going too long. But while she looked like she wasn't giving up, I didn't want to either, particularly because the vets had not been entirely negative in their predictions, indicating a possibility of recovery because she hadn't looked as bad as expected upon examination.
Once 604 was no longer suffering, I set about discovering what had ailed her. It was a scary job, cutting into the distended belly of my cow, since the vet had said she had peritonitis, which would have meant a bloody, pussy mess and I expected we might have an interesting few moments when the pressure was released.
However that was not the case. There was no peritonitis; her innards were clean and clear, with no sign of any sort of bleeding anywhere. Her intestines were full of gas and her rumen still full of grass and lots of fluid. Eventually, working around in the intestines, I discovered something very odd: one part of her gut had telescoped into another piece, causing an obstruction I couldn't pull apart even with some force. It's called an Intussusception and would have required surgical intervention, had it been diagnosed, with a less than 50% chance of recovery. I only wish I'd known that at the start, and we would not have prolonged her misery.
I have some interesting pictures of the problem and parts of my post-mortem examination process. I don't imagine they'll be of wide appeal, but please email me if you'd like to see them.
When I went back to the house Jill asked me, in a cheery voice, "how is your cow?" This has not been an easy week.
602, coming on heat, very obviously interested in the bull a while before she'd let him attempt the same sort of manoeuvres with her.
I put the insemination mob into Flat 3 yesterday afternoon (with access to the tree-line in 5a, if they got too hot in the late sun), but this morning needed to get them to the other end of the paddock where there are trees to shade them from the morning and mid-day sunshine. I created a lane down the side of the paddock and propelled them down to the other end.
693 had lost his shrivelled scrotum, the first I've observed to have dropped off since we applied the rings thirteen days ago.
The cows with young bull 106 also needed to move, but when I went to do so, noticed one of the calves had inexplicably ended up on the wrong side of one of the electric fences. It was Imagen's calf and I'd definitely observed her feeding him only a short time before.
There was no way I'd get him to go around the end of the fenceline in the middle of the quartered Flat 5 paddock without him ending up somewhere equally unhelpful, so when moving the rest of the mob through the gate at the other end, I drafted Imagen out into the lane and brought her down into the paddock to walk with her calf back to where they should have been.
It's interesting watching young Storm's head colour change. She'll look like quite a different bird by the end of the month.
Last year when friends Fran and L-J came to visit, they saw our need for a calf feeder like this and subsequently sent a spare one up to us. I thought we'd need it again sometime, but had hoped it wouldn't be this soon.
The blue feeder is really easy to clean, holds at least four litres and the calf took only a tiny bit of coaxing to latch onto the teat. Marvellous. What an easy calf. The vet the other day said we should wean the calf and put him on meal; but why would we do that when we have the best calf-food available in sufficient quantities? This was one of the reasons for having a house-cow. It costs us our cheese-making, but only for another three months.