I began my routine 2am checks on the heifers this morning. Having estimated that the twins would calve today, I thought it wise to take my own predictions seriously. I feel most comfortable when I have at least some idea of when a labour has begun and if there's trouble, I need to know how long it's been going on.
We took eight Topmilk bins out to the Back Barn paddock this afternoon, so I could start giving the rest of the cows their pre-calving Magnesium. All I had to do was call for a while and bang on one of the bins and all the cows came running. White-faced 660, on the right, isn't in calf and as the youngest in the mob she gets chased away from her bin pretty quickly. If she'd been in calf this year, she'd have been in a special care, extra feed mob as she'd still be growing as she approached her third birthday and second calving. With no pregnancy, I figured she'd get enough with the pregnant cows.
701's son with his very clear facial seam. He's doing well, having finally become active after spending his first four days "lying in", as calves usually do when they're very young. They feed in the morning and again in the evening and sleep for the whole of the day in between. I think they often get up for a feed at around 11pm as well.
I haven't noticed a lot of Clematis in flower this year. Either it's late, or it's not a very flowery year for it.
Late last night 475 was obviously in labour, but it was quite early in the process. By 2.50am when I checked, she had a standing-up calf beside her, so I left them to it.
This morning I find the calf is a daughter. 475 has nice daughters, this one sired by young bull 106. I'll have to do some work on the pedigree pages so I can examine what I've produced this time around. (I don't start charting them until I know the sex of the calf.)
Damara and the cute tiny bull.
Peter and Lilo arrived with cakes! Peter said he'd bake me a birthday cake and now, because he's late, he baked me two. I'm pretty happy with that. I'd just been saying to Stephan it was time he baked me another cake. (I probably shouldn't mention that I was making that suggestion after having only just finished the last banana cake. I find I need cake after getting up every morning at two o'clock.)
Peter said he is wearing his Lederhosen for Oktoberfest. Leather trousers: who'd have thought? I'd certainly never given the name much consideration. Goat leather, apparently, and very fetching.
Lilo and I went for a walk and noticed Demelza with an interesting little bubble of pink: her Bartholin's Gland cyst must have refilled. I have checked but not noticed it for some time. There's nothing to see when she's standing, so I'll have to try for a close look sometime when she's resting - the problem is that whenever I appear, she gets up because she thinks I'm bringing Molasses.
We went over to see 475's little calf and watched her squirt some yellow fluid out her rear. Close examination showed it to be very much like thin liquid meconium, which is odd and something I've not seen before. I'll keep an eye on her; but in the mean time she's bouncing around and feeding as she should.
Athena, last daughter of Isla and grand-daughter of Irene, was very alert this morning when I checked on her and although there were no outward signs of labour, that was obviously what was going on. There was something in the set of her ears and a difference in her face from usual, which drew my particular attention. I like being able to detect such subtle behavioural changes. These animals are really fascinating.
I went away and left Athena to get on with things, since she needed to walk up and down the paddock for a while, sit down, get up, think some more...
I had some lunch and went back out to have another look - she'd picked a spot on the other side of all the tall grass growing along the drain reserve between Flat 2 and Flat 1, so I couldn't see much of her from the house. I thought nothing had happened and was a little concerned, until I noticed these two little feet.
Athena was quite happy to have me near, so I stayed and watched and then, just because I can, I helped her a bit. I mostly wanted to stroke that tongue. Then I grasped the legs and helped the calf to be born. Pulling gently on the legs helps just a little as the cow pushes. She could do it perfectly well on her own, but I like being part of the process.
It's a bull!
Athena shouted in his ears in her excitement, as she licked all the goo from his body. Some cows make the most frightful racket about their new calves.
What a cute face. His sire is Joe 90, so I'll think about whether or not he gets to grow up to be a big bull, or leave the farm as a steer.
This is only the second afterbirth I've found this season - I took Curly's away from her the other day. The other four must have eaten theirs all up without bother.
The twins. I wish I could tell how close they are to calving. Heifers are really difficult to pick.
475's daughter with the loose squirty rear now has very sticky, very normal yellow poo. I'm pleased that wasn't a real problem.
There was a short and very violent thunder storm early this afternoon, but after the dark and gloomy morning under thick cloud, the storm was all over after about ten minutes of very heavy rain and then the sun came out.
Here we go: Gem 698 had a foot sticking out beneath her tail when I first checked this morning. She'd appeared quite normal at 2.40am, so can't have been in labour for very long.
I watched for a while in the paddock, but as she wouldn't let me anywhere near her and the calf's face and feet were clear of any membranes, I went off for breakfast and to warm up and watch from the house. When I thought I could see this dark body lying behind her, I jumped on the bike and sped up to check all was alright. As I approached, I could see the calf shaking its head, so immediately relaxed - and Gem continued relaxing, for at least the next three or four minutes as I watched.
She was still flat-out as the calf started moving to get up.
It was only the occasional flicker of her ears that convinced me she was even alive! Heifers do this though, which is why I'm so vigilant during their calving.
Eventually Gem gathered herself, sat up and acknowledged her new son's presence.
She got up and began licking the calf and then the other heifers came over for a look...
...except for one notable absence: Meg stood alone some distance away. Was she jealous, or did she know what was going on without looking?
The Twins Competition page shows who guessed this one correctly.
Then a very disturbing thing (for me) occurred: as I was continuing to take pictures my camera stopped focussing correctly and then it made a funny noise and then IT DIED! Yet another CANON camera death. I like these cameras (the Powershot G series) a lot, for their picture quality, ease of use, size and so on, but this is the second camera to die in a similar fashion in five years. Damn. And blast.
I went home, thankfully discovered I could get the photos off the camera successfully, but its lens won't retract. It seems to have suffered a very similar demise to the G10, but without the complete collapse of the internal lens structure.
I can't rule out that the environments in which I use my camera, and the extent to which I use it, i.e. every day, everywhere, all the time, contribute to their unexpectedly short lives, but I'm still disappointed. I looked up the reviews for whatever the latest model would prove to be - the G16 - and then looked for a retailer other than the Photo Warehouse and had a lovely chat with a man from Camera and Camera in Auckland, who has immediately couriered me a new camera. I'd rather not have to afford a new one, but I can't afford not to have one either.
I intercepted the new camera's progress to rural delivery today and had it held in town for Stephan to collect when he had to go in for something else (otherwise I would not have received it until after five or six this evening). By lunch time I had charged the battery and was ready to go again.
I found this climbing plant on the edge of the reserve in the Bush Flat paddock as I passed along the fenceline. It has a variety of leaf shapes, which made identification a bit tricky - until I found a description of Parsonsia capsularis, Kaiwhiria or Akakiore, otherwise known as New Zealand Jasmine.
I couldn't detect any fragrance, but the flowers are new and there was a fairly stiff breeze blowing, so I'll try again on a warm, still day.
It's always exciting to discover a new plant I've not seen here before.
Gem and son.
Zella's out in the Swamp paddock with Dexie, grazing on the area last fertilized with some Selenium. I've made sure they've all been there for some time during the season and next time we put fert on everywhere else, I'll have to remember to have it put in. Selenium is one of the elements in short supply in New Zealand soils and while tests we've done showed the cattle had adequate stores, there used to be the occasional problem with retained membranes after calving, which is connected with Selenium levels.
I re-arranged some cows again, putting Emma and Eva with their mother, Demelza and bringing the other two from the "thin mob" to join Imagen, now that Athena has calved. I put Imagen, 571 and 657 into the Pig Paddock. When I took them their Molasses and Magnesium in the afternoon, 571 stood and looked at me from the old pig sty. She needs to have the Magnesium, so I took it over to her: "room service, madam?"
So many cows, so here are some orchids for those who like flowers. Earina mucronata is blooming all around the farm, although these plants are some I hadn't spotted in earlier years, in one of the big Puriri trees up in the Chickens' paddock where the sheep are grazing.
I took the photo rather late in the day; I'll go back sometime when the light's better, when there's no wind and it eventually stops raining every five minutes!
My lovely Amaryllis plant was chomped by slugs or snails, so that it barely has the strength to hold the flowers up now. I'm pleased it has done this well, even though it's a bit bent over.
I wanted to go to a TB update meeting in town at 2.30pm, but 488 was stalking around with her tail out, so I stayed home to supervise her calving - one of the heifers was also looking suspicious and I wasn't sure how quickly she'd get on with her labour.
The calf was small and easily born, but 488 got up a bit sooner than was entirely convenient for the calf and it swung around behind her.
With front feet just touching the ground, the calf had to wait until a final contraction pushed its hips out enough for it to fall to the ground.
A little bull, son of bull 116. I was hoping for a last heifer from this cow, and had kept her primarily because she was one of the few in calf to that bull before I sold him and fancied having one more of her daughters.
703 had an uneventful labour. I watched for a while to ensure there were two feet presenting. The membrane bag over them remained intact, so I stepped in and broke it with my pen before going off to mix the afternoon's Molasses for everyone. I thought I'd get back in time to see the calf born, but things must have gone very smoothly and just before I arrived, it was all over.
703 is the first of Joe 90's daughters to calve. The sire of this one is Kessler's Frontman, the low birthweight semen sire I bought for the heifers last year.