This is fabulous (not the photo, admittedly that's pretty poor, taken from a distance into a dark corner): after I fed her a bottle of milk, little Julia went straight to her mother and began feeding! It always amazes me how strong that instinct remains, even though a calf's first feeds have been from a hard rubber teat and my bottle.
The heifer's udder is still very small, so I will continue to feed the calf and hope the heifer begins to produce more milk if her daughter carries on demanding it.
I watched Queenly 107's calf feeding when I was out checking the big mob, going from teat to teat - even getting the supernumerary one at the back, by the look of it - but missing the full, unsuckled one right in front of his nose! Silly thing.
I told Eva that most people had guessed that today would be the day, but as you can see, she didn't much care.
Caesarian 721 and her calf moved from the driveway along the lane together, but then the calf went through the fence and disappeared into the long grass on the riverbank. I found her where she'd settled down under one of the flax bushes and checked on her often during the day to ensure she hadn't fallen over the edge. Inevitably she did.
In the picture she's sleeping just to the right of the flax bush, after dropping down about eighteen inches where the bank has dropped away. Fortunately there are lots of ferns there and it's still quite stable. I got her up and back to the little grazing area and prompted her mother to come nearer to reunite them.
It was drugs all round today: the daily dose of antibiotic for 721 with the addition of another three-day pain-relief injection and I also gave 719 (difficult calving and subsequent uterine infection) a second dose of long-acting antibiotic, because although she's looking a great deal better, she's not back to full strength and I'd rather support her return to complete health than have to watch and worry that she might be getting sick again.
Early this morning 721's gaze showed me where her calf was, far away in the centre of the picture, a little black spot. When I got over there, I could see the path she'd taken through the dewy grass not too long beforehand, straight down into the drain. She's obviously gaining strength and coordination in being able to get herself out again.
I've carried a little too much weight lately for the good of my back, so called Stephan over to pick the calf up and take her back to her mother.
I gave her a litre of milk by bottle and she then again latched onto her mother. Excellent.
I kept watch over the calf all day to ensure she didn't end up anywhere tricky again and had to go out for a look at one point, having not been able to see her anywhere: she was tucked behind this thistle, so I couldn't see her from the house.
Some of the frozen colostrum I saved from Zella last year smells really awful and I've used up everything else, so we acquired some fresh milk from Imagen this afternoon to continue offering to little Julia.
It's strange to think that this tiny thing should still be floating, sleeping, inside her mother for another two weeks. She's as soft and silky as she looks.
The twins are still on their own in Flat 2 and Meg's daughter is looking fantastic. She's bulky and lively and strongly suggesting that these two will turn into really good cows.
I went out at 10.30 tonight with a bottle for little Julia and found her prancing around her mother. It took ages for me to catch her and then she wouldn't take the bottle. I suspect she's now getting enough from her mother; her behaviour certainly suggests so.
It's lovely out in the moonlight on still nights. It's easy to see the shape of the cattle without a torch, which makes moving amongst them easier. The other thing I've meant to remark upon is the beauty of the Totara trees in the torchlight at night: at the end of every branchlet is a spray of new growth which light up like a fluorescent sprinkle of lights all over the trees. They're beautiful.
Little 726 calf (who lost it completely last Friday) got a bit of a fright when I came past on my bike this morning, but settled as soon as she reached the other calves. She's the tagless one in the middle.
When I ride along the lanes the calves are often sleeping by the fence and I slow down, talk to them as I go past, try to do it so they remain sitting down. It takes a bit of time, but the rewards are long-term, with animals becoming less nervous about me, the bike, or any other passing traffic.
I've been feeling really anxious about my heifers, my breeding decisions and farming care for the last few days, with all the trouble this year. Then 729 restored my faith this afternoon, easily delivering a bull calf in half an hour from the presentation of feet to the calf hitting the ground. That's a good time even for a cow.
The yearling mob has been grazing over at Jane's place, but with the approach of Guy Fawkes in a couple of days, I wanted to move them away from anywhere there might potentially be fireworks let off.
It's been raining heavily again and both streams were running fast. This is where they meet and the amount of silt in the main stream coming down the valley is a great deal more than runs off our paddocks and comes down on the left.
The screaming fighting of a couple of possums drew us outside this evening, as they both scrambled up my deck-side Cabbage Tree. I held the torch on them while Stephan went and fetched the rifle and shot them both.
I don't know why the leaves on the right-hand branch are going yellow. Perhaps the branch has been damaged by too much possum shooting!
I went out at 10.30 for my late check on the calving cows and could hear two lots of the low mooing typical of new mothers around calving time. One was coming from 729, still getting to know her new calf and the other from Flat 4, where Eva was already in labour.
I hung around and watched her until her much-anticipated calf was born at 11.19, a bull. I'm surprised to have had four bulls from that lovely gift of five straws of Pono of Kawatiri. You'd think, on balance of probability, there'd have been at least one heifer! I've only had one heifer from that bull, years ago, the lovely Iona.
Here is Eva and her son. Bernie from Melbourne, has won the Calving Competition having guessed the closest time. Congratulations to him and thank you all for participating again.
The four Pukeko chicks from the Pig Paddock are all still alive and now quite well grown. They're reasonably calm about my presence, since I've talked to them and their family every time I've gone past wherever they are. I think they're gorgeous at this age, much slenderer than they'll be as adults, but with all the characteristic behaviours of their parents, aunts, uncles, whichever relatives make up their family group.
Last night I took the goslings' mother hen away and put her back with the others. I'll now have to tame these two so they're not frightened of me every time I come near them.
What's worse than finding worms in the centre of half a strawberry? Having already eaten the other half!
It wasn't even a very tasty fruit. I don't know what type of larvae they are.
Stephan went out with a spray bottle of glyphosate concentrate, cut the various weed trees growing along the drain running up between Flat 1 and the lane and sprayed the glyphosate on the stumps. There was Chinese Privet, Flowering Cherry and something else I hadn't conclusively identified, but which should not have been there. They were all still quite small, so had not fruited to spread further yet.
He also pruned the Totara which have grown up along the fence. It would be silly to cut them down now they've attained some useful shelter-giving size where there are no other trees to give shade.
Eva's calf looks just like her.
Tiny calves are so sweet. Sadly they don't like to be cuddled.
The goslings are like a slow lawn-mower. Because the cage is small I move them regularly during the day and they have now been over most of the lawn. I've now moved them around the back of the house for some fresh feed.
I went to move the cows and calves in the Swamp paddock and heard two Tui above the track having a singing duel, one very close behind me. Usually they're too high in the trees to get decent photos.
I had been worried that I'd not seen 729 feeding her calf yet. I thought her udder was looking a little uneven, but sometimes that will happen when they've been lying on one side or the other. Last night I felt her teats and thought they were a little sticky, but still wasn't convinced until I saw some yellow poo under the calf's tail and then there they were, doing it as I watched. Good.
Dexie 121 on the left is the last of the two-year-olds left to calve. She's carrying a Kessler's Frontman calf and as a large-bodied animal should have no difficulty in calving.
Little grey goose doesn't try and hide away from me quite so much now. Until now, every time I've opened the lid of the cage, she's run into the sleeping section.
The daily walk for 721, from Flat 1 to the yards for her antibiotic injection. I'm amazed that she's still so cooperative, bearing in mind how unpleasant it all is, but she seems to have accepted it as her lot. She has also accepted that we take her away from her calf (who's usually sleeping) and take her somewhere entirely on her own.
So far she's looking quite well. She has a little fluid pooling under her belly from time to time, and the skin around the wound feels and sounds as though there are bubbles or fluid beneath, which I hope is not a bad sign of anything. The wound itself is clean and dry and with some black wound powder applied, it is free of flies.
The weather was foul today, with a bitterly cold southerly and rain with hail! We spent a lot of the day inside, apart from my regular checks in the maternity paddocks. 721 had her last antibiotic jab (and hopefully won't need further assistance). Discovering daughter Julia's navel was infected, I gave her some penicillin, which I will continue for a few days.
In the afternoon I potted some plants, something I've not had time for at this time of year for a long time. I've grown some more Gazania and Gerbera plants, which all needed separating from their germination groups and potting separately. Some of my Kauri seedlings which had looked rather dried out have recently sprouted new growth and are now also in larger pots.
I've been watching Imagen's son growing like a weed. He looks particularly big when standing next to little Julia, who's in the same paddock (with her mother on the other side of an electric tape). He's twice the size she is.
Having checked on Dexie 121 in the early hours of the last three mornings, I was glad to see her begin her labour this morning in daylight. She's the last of the two-year-olds to calve.
And she took a very long time about it! After she'd been pacing about for a couple of hours with her tail out and lain down a few times to push, I walked over to have a closer look and then sat under one of the big Puriri trees to continue watching her. I stayed there for an hour and a half as first a membrane bag appeared, then eventually the tips of two hooves. I got a bit cold under the tree and it was lunchtime, so I walked back to the house. I kept watching her as I made lunch, not appearing to make much more progress; but after I'd not looked for about ten minutes, I checked again and there she was licking her calf.
We both walked over to have a look: Dexie has a daughter. We now have 13 heifers and 18 bull calves, born with an average gestation (not including the premature Julia) of 277.6 days (276 for the heifers, 279 for the bulls).
This little calf had already had her first feed, just after she learnt how to stand.
This is the big mob (17 cows and 15 calves) on the move.
The temperatures have been cold (really nasty when I've ridden out in the middle of the night!) and the grass isn't growing much. It's not an uncommon problem at this time of year, but I always worry when the cows need to eat well and until there's better grass growth they use up their own bodies' resources to make milk for their calves. Fortunately they then spend the summer on fast-growing Kikuyu and quickly regain lost condition.
Good heavens! I've not been down to look at the fabulous orchids because the ones in the greenhouse are still at a much earlier stage and I assumed these would be too. But here they are in the late afternoon (I used the flash because I was photographing into the sun) still partially open.
I have lost any sense of the passing of the last two weeks; how did I ever have time to be the Kaitaia NCEA Exam Centre Manager as well? Admittedly I've dropped calving back by two weeks but even so, I'm pleased that in this unusually difficult year I haven't had to divert my attention away from the animals to organise the exams. I feel a delightful sense of freedom.