Miryam tried milking this morning. Zella's so cooperative, accepting all comers.
We've rearranged a few things at the other end of the Over the Road hill paddock. I've long wanted a double boundary fence so I can use the paddock without having to consider the presence of stock on the neighbouring property. We've stopped those cattle from getting in to our paddock from the road when they get out there, but because the neighbour's grazier has continually changing mobs of cattle, they pose an ongoing risk to my cattle if they get together along the boundary fenceline and greet nose-to-nose. (Mostly my cattle don't seem to bother with neighbouring stock, but I don't watch them all the time and the youngsters are still sometimes quite curious.)
Beside the boundary fence Stephan has removed a bit of the adjacent bank to widen the area where we want to put the extra fence, so the cattle can still walk along beside it if they choose to.
Research has shown that under laboratory conditions BVD infective material will travel many metres from a sneezing or coughing infected animal, so eliminating that risk altogether would mean not farming near the boundaries at all. But what's the likelihood of one of the neighbouring animals standing and facing into our paddock and coughing at that moment? It is entirely possible, but I've decided to reduce the higher risk of cattle touching noses and transferring infective mucous that way.
I recall reading the results of an experiment in which uninfected cattle were kept in pens with at least one Persistently Infected animal (one which is always shedding the virus) and the findings were that even in close proximity not all the pen-mates were infected over a reasonable period of time. The other factor which influences my thinking is that even if I vaccinated my whole herd, if I didn't also ensure they had reduced contact with outside animals, there would still be a risk of infection, since most vaccination protection is around 90% in any population (some individuals will fail to mount an effective immune response after vaccination). Double-fencing the boundaries is a permanent risk management tool; annual vaccination is two more lots of cattle yarding every year.
The fence will be two-wire electric and there are also a couple of electric wires running along the top and middle of the boundary fence.
This trough was against the boundary fence (downhill behind me), but Stephan flattened a bit of ground a little up the hill and against the road fence when he was working on this area last year. As part of the next stage of works he brought some lime rock around in the tractor bucket to provide a good base for the trough in this new position and plumbed it in.
It's oddly hard to tell in the photo, but the fence is travelling up hill toward the top right corner of the picture.
Miryam's brother, Nigel, came up by car to collect his sister. The two of them brought the cows in this evening.
After enjoying a delicious ham dinner together we walked out to the road to have a look at the glow worms: they were fantastic! I don't recall seeing as many of them before. I thought they might have been stressed by the increased dust and vibration from all the huge trucks travelling up and down the road. But the other change has been more positive in that we have stopped the Council spraying the roadsides where the glow worms live.
Miryam and Nigel left this morning and we quietly got on with normal life without visitors again for a few hours...
Checking bull 134's mob this afternoon I noticed the heifers all looking at something in the trees and as I waited quietly these two feral pigs appeared. The things you see when you don't have a gun.
Back down in the Mushroom Paddock bull 133 was herding his cows.
The young bulls in particular do this quite often, generally when there's another bull within sight (in this case further across the flats) and one of their cows is coming on heat. Watching the social pecking order is fascinating: even the most senior cows defer to the movements of the young bull. If they're confident, cows will walk out from the area he's chosen but he'll run out and herd them back in to the group again. This sort of thing must take a great deal of energy!
The bull will sometimes corral them for long periods, preventing them from grazing or getting to water. I suspect it's this sort of stress-inducing behaviour which enables my insemination conception rates (in seasons when I do that) to exceed those of some of the bulls.
Ella caught a ride up from Auckland this afternoon with Elizabeth and William and two small boys, to come and stay with us for a week.
It is now obvious in several places around the farm that he who sprays the gorse wasn't on the job last summer! This is a slope in the Pines Paddock and there are many places like this. Gorse and scrub control are ongoing maintenance tasks.
I put Ella to work this afternoon, taking her with me on a Ragwort hunt.
A couple of car-loads of cousins came out for a swim this afternoon.
The children all love the pond, spending hours in there swimming, paddling around on the raft (and plastic kayaks they brought with them on this occasion).
There were several races around the island.
This is a very well-used pig track coming down from the back boundary into the Back Barn Paddock. If I had the time and energy, I'd go and sit near places like these and wait for the buggers with a rifle!
Over the Road Stephan is making great progress with the fence around the bottom of the paddock.
Just beyond this picture, there's an area of wet ground, as water comes down from two sources half-way up the hill. There are also a few Puriri trees at the base of the slope which we want to protect, so the whole area will be fenced into a reserve. The cattle quite like browsing around in there, but as a lot of it is quite boggy and there's a lot of tree cover, there's not a huge amount to eat. We've left them lots of other nice shady places to enjoy.
It's hard to remember what some places looked like before they were changed. Here there's a culvert where there was just a wet dribble which was regularly pugged by the cattle standing around under the trees. They generally seem to prefer to stay out of the mud, so where there are nice dry crossings, they'll use them.
When the other higher-priority fencing is finished over the summer, Stephan will come back and fence around this gully to the left and up the hill from here as well as the next one, formed by the other spring in the hillside. It is easiest from a fencing perspective to fence straight across the bottom of a gully to take in a wet area at the bottom of a slope, then separately fence "legs" up the hills around the source and course of the water.
I moved bull 133's mob from the Pines Paddock to the flats this morning but couldn't find Emma 93. Her son knew she was missing and didn't really want to go with the others, but I thought it best he stayed with the mob and made him go along the lane.
I came back a couple of times to call Emma and see if she had turned up yet, wondering if she'd gone through a hole in the fence into the PW, which was where I eventually spotted her when she came down to the trough after a couple of hours. After this she disappeared again for another hour, before finally wandering off toward the others, completely unconcerned about her distressed and hungry calf.
I practice calmness these days when cows go missing. There are fewer danger spots for them to get stuck in now and with all the cattle having spent their whole lives here, I hope they're less likely to get into trouble than in earlier years, since they know their territory well. Added to that is my knowledge that Emma is a loner, often disappears and knows where there's a hole in that particular fence. Ratbag!
Having finished the Over the Road fencing (of which I shall get some more pictures at some stage) Stephan started on this summer's major project: the long fence/s which will protect the stream all the way through the farm (except for occasional cattle access to the crossings). The Regional Council approved some funding for the project back in September and Stephan, on his own and with various helpers, has been preparing the top end of the Back Barn paddock since then, pruning large and removing small trees.
Mathew came out to give Stephan some help and together they thumped in and wired the first section. Stephan always enjoys some able company.
Son Ryan spent some time making a bridge across the stream.
I reckon this is child paradise! Except half of them now don't recognise it, because they'd prefer to play with little screens with pretty graphics. But what fun to build a bridge, a dam, make water do what you want it to, find interesting things ...
My Gerbera keeps producing conjoined twin flowers.
I planted another packet of seeds a while ago and now have another half dozen plants growing, so might have some other colours before too long.
These two Monarch Butterfly caterpillars were on the spindly Swan Plants I repotted into new potting mix a few weeks ago, hoping they'd grow a bit better than where they'd self-seeded in a pot on the deck. Eggs were laid on the leaves while they were out there and I carefully removed all but the two tiny caterpillars which had by then hatched and kept them in the greenhouse hoping that would keep them safe from the wasps which now kill most of them.
The caterpillars ate all the leaves on my plants and I went to Jane's garden to cut a few sprigs from her very large Swan Plants to keep them going until they pupate.
But within a day or two of this picture, both caterpillars had disappeared. I presume that even in the greenhouse the wasps have been able to track them down and kill them.
This track around a boggy hole in the Pines Paddock (I was hunting Ragwort) will end up with a fence around it so the cattle don't tramp around so close to the wet. It's one of those little gullies into which Stephan has already thrown a lot of tree prunings, hoping to discourage the cattle from going right through the wet bit.
Just lying around. Summer's lovely; warmth means the cattle don't have to work as hard to eat as much to keep themselves warm and so they spend a lot of time relaxing in the shade.
These are Fancy 126 and Erin 132.
749 was probably coming on heat, so bull 134 was staying close, waiting for his moment.
The rest of the clan came out in the afternoon for more swimming and a barbecue.
The drums make the pond look like a toxic waste dump, but provide much entertainment for those who try to ride them from the jetty - except when there are better options like kayaks available, of course.
I showed Sean how much the calf likes to lean against someone while he feeds, so he got in beside him, bare feet and all! He said he was quite comfortable being pressed between calf and rails; nice and warm. The calf tends not to move his feet around much once he's settled and Sean knew where and when to be particularly careful.
Mathew and the two boys set up their tent on the lawn for the night.
I love watching this sort of grooming session. These two seem to get together quite often and it's usually grey 607 getting the most attention, which she demands by moving herself into position and holding her head just so for Dexie 101 to lick her neck.
The blackberries are looking very promising this year and those I stop to eat are delicious.
In the end we didn't harvest very many, being busy with so many other things. Fortunately there are still a few in the freezer for Stephan to make me some jelly for the coming year.
Mathew and Stephan carried on with the fence around this side of the stream, having completed this bit and made a gate.
Back at home Sean repeatedly went down to the hen cages to check for eggs, eventually finding some. He carefully carried four up in his hands and then, for some reason transferred all of them to one hand, with one balanced on top of the other three and of course the inevitable happened. I watched, as if in slow motion, as two of them fell from his hands to the concrete floor, irrationally thinking, perhaps they won't break ...
There was complete silence and Sean looked up at me in horrified anticipation and I didn't say a thing for a moment or two, contemplating an appropriate reaction. Then we had a bit of fun.
Sean wrote a Humpty Dumpty story on some paper and I drew crying faces on what was left of the eggs and we carefully stepped around them all afternoon until the others came home to see what had happened.
Mathew and the boys packed up and left and we went out to get the cows in, I riding the bike. As he walked toward me up the lane, Stephan was holding this little bird in his hands, saying he'd seen it stumbling along the track after I'd passed, as if it had been hurt. We put it back on the ground and it appeared to be alright, looking for somewhere to hide in the grass. I believe it was a Skylark, one a little older than the one I'd been watching in the nest in Flat 1 a few weeks ago.
You may notice there's a new button on the front page of the site: "Today's Photo". I'm so behind with these weekly updates, I thought I'd prompt myself into some more regular writing by this method. I'm not sure how long it will work for, but I'll give it a try.