The week beginning the 10th of October 2015.
Saturday the 10th
Angus heifer and calves

Erin 132, her son and the earlier-born calf of 745...

Angus calf

... who now looks a great deal chunkier than he did on day two.

Angus heifer

743, who will be two tomorrow.  She's the next heifer I expect to calve, so I have been paying close attention to the state of her udder and her general behaviour, watching for indications of the start of labour.

Angus cattle

When I went out to check around at eleven, this huddle of heifers at the end of Flat 4 hinted at some new excitement: 714 had just calved.

These are the R3/4 heifer group, some of which should now actually be referred to as cows.  It's all about physical maturity, rather than whether or not they've produced calves, which is used as the marker between a heifer and a cow in some people's terminology.

cow and calf

And what a very pretty calf she is!

geese in stream

The young geese, now she has left her nest of infertile eggs, have settled down in their behaviour again but are wandering all over the place.  They didn't seem to like water much earlier in their lives, but swimming along the stream is how I think they got out of the Sheep grazing area.

Angus calf

613's daughter, two days old.  Her sire was Imagen's son, 133; I have high hopes for her.

heifer and calf

I managed to have a bit of a snooze this afternoon and wouldn't you know it, one of the heifers was calving!  When I rode along the lane, I could see her licking a very flat little black thing and ran across the paddock to see if there was anything I could do.  The calf must have been delivered from her standing mother and had landed with her head turned back under her shoulder, so while she could breathe a little, it wasn't doing her much good.  I pulled her head around straight and tickled her nose with a bit of grass to make her sneeze and cough a bit and really get going.  All was well.

There's a lot of green-brown birth fluid around this year - in this family it's not too surprising, but I am beginning to wonder if I should go back through my notes and see if Irene's family has increased its occurrence, since most of them are now related through her sons.

Sunday the 11th
duck and ducklings

Two of the ducklings have disappeared.  There are so many stray and feral cats around; but the predators could also have been a hawk or eels.

heifer and calf

746's daughter with her now white face, since it's been well cleaned by her mother.

It's so lovely seeing these young heifers with their own calves, particularly when animals like 746 have such memorable beginnings of their own.

newborn calf

743 started looking fractious just after eleven and I watched her through the day to see when she'd really get on with her labour.  Usually when a cow or heifer stalks around with her tail out for a while, she will eventually lie down and do a bit of pushing with her contractions.  If that doesn't happen, I start to suspect that the calf isn't in the correct position for labour to advance.  I spent a lot of time wondering and worrying about that over these few hours!  But every now and then, just before my time limit was reached, she did something different and I held off taking her in to the yards.  It was a very long labour and it is hard to say why that may have been.

Eventually there was a membrane bag and some fluid and then ages afterwards the second bag and some feet.  It took her two hours from the appearance of the feet for the head to be delivered, which is twice as long as usual.  I'd gone off for a cuppa for a little while and returned to see her stumble and fall down on her back legs because the calf must have pinched a nerve.  I ran over and, talking quietly to her so she didn't try to get up again, moved in to grab the calf's legs and help by pulling.  It felt like I had to pull quite hard, but thinking about it afterwards, that was as much because she really wasn't pushing well enough.  I wondered if she'd had a pinched nerve somewhere all the way through, which had prevented her responding to contractions properly.

I pulled the calf out - I usually stand after the head is through, so I can get more pull for the chest and then some upward twist so the hips swivel a little as they come through the mother's pelvis - then laid him down and rubbed his skin with my fingers, since I wasn't sure how long 743 would take to get up, if she could.

After a few minutes I dragged him round to her head and that prompted her to move pretty quickly, standing and only stumbling a little.

His tongue was quite swollen but seemed to go down within a few minutes.  Over the next 24 hours he was noticeably swollen under his jaw, but that too soon subsided and appeared to cause him no problems.

two heifers, two calves

Once he was up and about, I took this picture to compare his size with his day-older half-sister.  He doesn't look as though he's any bigger than she is, so I doubt it was his size causing his mother's difficulties.

Dexie 121 was in labour at 10.30 this evening and I waited around for a while to make sure all was well; but it was cold and she wasn't really getting on with things while I was watching.  I was very tired having been out at 2.30 this morning and not having had a nap during the day because of 743's activities, so I decided that as most of the cows don't need any attention from me at all, more likely than not Dexie's calf would be just fine if I went to bed.

Monday the 12th

Dexie and her little daughter were together in the paddock this morning, all well.  The calf's sire was Imagen's 133.

cute calf

If being cute was all it took to earn a place in this herd, this heifer would be here forever!  Look at those gorgeous little stripes on her lower eyelids.

Angus cow

Demelza is the only still-pregnant animal in the Windmill Paddock and since she's the oldest cow in the herd, I want to continue giving her the Magnesium and molasses each night.  The others don't really need it so much now and fortunately because she's top cow, I can dish it out to Demelza and the others can't take it off her, for all that they circle like ravenous sharks.

Angus cow and calf

Queenly 107 produced a daughter fairly quickly this afternoon, although as with the two previous calves it got a bit stuck at the chest.  She must be a funny shape.  Last year's son has unsatisfactorily small testicles, so he won't be passing on any problems and we'll see how this heifer turns out.  Her sire is 128, so her future will partly depend on the genetic test for the AM gene.

seagulls

I saw these two gulls the other day and after I moved one visible afterbirth from where it lay in a paddock, they went away.  Today they were back and found another I'd missed.  I chased them off and hid it under a tree.  I have a sense that big sea birds which visit other farms are not really guests I want to encourage.

black rabbit

Little Black Rabbit was on our back lawn this evening, having come across from Flat 1.  It really gets around!

Tuesday the 13th
butchering chickens

Stephan helped a friend cull a number of hens yesterday afternoon and after gutting and partially plucking them when he arrived home, he chopped them all up into bait-sized pieces today and salted them in buckets for later use in traps.

cutting dead tree

Yes, I know, undertaking an unsafe act ... but propping a ladder up against the Cabbage Tree trunk wouldn't have been a safe option either, since we weren't sure how rotten it might have been.

Stephan cut it down in pieces so it didn't fall and break anything around the deck.  Now there's an odd sort of space where the tree was and until the base of the trunk rots away, we can't plant another tree.  They have a very deep tap root but it's not a hard wood, so it shouldn't be long before I can start another tree in place of the dead one.  I have a cutting growing from a large old Cabbage Tree nearby, which is presumably immune to what killed this one.

Emergency had a little heifer calf beside her when I went out at 9.45 this evening, all cleaned up and resting with her mother.  I called Stephan on the radio and told him we had a mini Emergency and he thought I meant he had to get out of bed to come and help me.
It's looking like a heifer year: nine heifers, five bulls so far.

Wednesday the 14th
cow and calf

When I came out at six this morning, Zella had an extra pair of eyes shining in the torchlight beside her and in another paddock 725 was licking her just-born daughter clean.

Here is 725's daughter later in the morning, ready for visitors.

Angus calf

Emergency's daughter, born last night.

cows and calf

Endberly produced a black daughter, just before 9.30am.

cow chasing geese

Dexie 101 took exception to the presence of the geese when they were grazing out around the yards this afternoon.  She doesn't even have a calf to protect yet!

My action photography wasn't that great.

cow and calf

With a day's notice I ought to have had all the milking equipment ready, but I was distracted and busy with other things.  So while I made sure the bucket and processing gear were all clean and ready, Stephan slowly walked Zella and her new baby and Imagen in from Flat 5 to the little Housecow paddock, where the cows happily found more grass than they've seen for a while.  I had meant to move them yesterday evening, closer to home, but got distracted and forgot.  It's always easier to move a pregnant cow than a cow with a very young calf, but they came down the lanes quite easily.

We put Zella and the calf into the milking shed and Stephan milked half a bucket of slightly bloody colostrum from her engorged udder.  She was surprisingly calm, as was the calf.  Normally it's rather a fraught business, first time back in the shed.

Thursday the 15th
heifer and calf

Oh!  I didn't even check on this heifer last night, because I wasn't expecting her to calve yet - she'd only reached 272 days gestation and her udder wasn't particularly well developed.  But she appears to have managed alright and she and her daughter were well away from the other heifers, beside the lane fence in 5d early this morning.

heifer's udder

To see whether or not the calf had fed, I used the camera flash to take a couple of pictures into the gloom around her udder: the teats on this side have both been suckled, evidenced by their clean and slightly shiny appearance.

cow and calf in shed

Back at home we got Zella and her son back in to the shed for the morning's milking, which didn't go nearly as calmly as last night.  It wasn't too bad, but when Zella had had enough, she shot backwards out of the bail, nearly bowling Stephan and the bucket of milk over.  Best to use the chain behind her we think, for the first few milkings!

calf and birds

When I ride up the track alongside the Windmill Paddock, a pair of adult Spur-winged Plovers fly around above me, shrieking because their two chicks are somewhere either on the track ahead of me, or just out in the paddock.  They're nearly fully feathered but can't yet fly, and run as fast as they can away from me as I approach.  In the paddock there are other challenges: today one of the little calves kept bouncing around chasing them whenever they were near.

cows and calves

Looking back into the paddock from just a little further along the track, the cows and calves were either relaxing or grazing in the sunshine.  Spring weather is lovely when it's warm and fine.

pig wallow

The last six cows on my calving list (apart from Meg 699 who's with Gem, of course) are out the back in the Spring paddock and I check on them every couple of days at the moment.  I couldn't find four of them this morning, so walked around the entire paddock looking, before I found them back at the top of the hill near the start.

I think this muddy puddle in the track along the top of the paddock is a pig wallow and it looked rather like its occupant had only just left.

Gazania

The Gazania plants I grew from seed last year have been far more successful than my earlier attempts and they're very pretty on bright, warm, sunny days.

Still in pots, I'll have to find places to plant them out for the summer.  I'll also have to check how toxic they might be for stock, before doing so.

Amarylis flowers

My first Amarylis is blooming again and many of its progeny from two years ago are still growing well, although not yet mature enough to flower.

Amarylis flower

This one was given to me for my birthday by Alan, who gave me the first one.  I was delighted to discover it is quite different from the earlier plant.

Angus heifers fighting

Late this afternoon 749 walked her little calf down to join the others in 5b.  For some reason 743 and 749 then took exception to each other and started fighting, turning around and around each other with their heads shoved in under the other's back leg.  I suspect there was a bit of udder suckling going on as well, but because of their upset state, not intention to ingest milk.  Fortunately the little calves stayed well out of the way, with only 745's fast calf dashing around them in circles.

Friday the 16th
sheep

Better not forget we have sheep!  Dotty is now senior ewe, following Lamb's death.  Lamb was Dotty's elder sister from the previous year.

sedge

I've kept the sheep in the area still called the Chickens Paddock for longer than I normally would, but they're all very fat and could do with a reduced intake for a little while.  Starving them won't do though, so I moved them out of here this morning, now that it looks more like a bowling green than pasture.

The sedge I weed-wiped last season is satisfyingly dead.  I'll come back for another go sometime soon to kill more of the plants I've not yet done.

Quince tree

In the same area there are two old, fallen-over Quince trees beside the stream, now in blossom again.  There used to be Pear trees here too, but they were ancient and had been neglected for too long by the time we tried to bring them back to good order and they died.

Stephan made Quince Jelly last year and it was very nice.  We just have to get our timing right to harvest the fruit before the possums do.

heifer and calf

749 had retreated to Flat 5d again, so this afternoon I enticed her back toward the rest of the mob with some Molasses, before gently herding her and the rest of the calves through to Flat 3.

749 is in excellent condition and I'm extremely pleased with her.  She's the two-year-old daughter of her then two-year-old mother and the family appears to be repaying my faith in their likely ability very well.

Grandmother 601 was a poor sort of animal, rarely managing to maintain good condition.  Her lovely face is here with the other heifers of her year. 

I've long been suspicious about those carriers of the lethal genes, AM and NH, wondering if their presence in a carrier animal conferred some sub-lethal effects which changed their metabolism in ways which could not be measured but showed up in this environment.  All of the carriers looked worse than they should have done based on family history.  601's mother, sisters, daughter and grand-daughter are all easy cows to keep, where 601 was always quite thin.  I doubt I'll ever know, but it's a theory I like.

Galah and hens

I took Floss out for a walk on my shoulder as I shifted the tapes in the House Paddock for Zella and Imagen, who were in by the milking shed.  Floss's clipped wing feathers have grown sufficiently that she now gets a bit of lift if she flaps, although not quite enough to arrest a fast fall to the ground, with a bit of a bounce when she hits it.  Then she set off across the paddock for a while before she spotted the chickens ranging across the grass and made determined progress to join them.  I'm not sure that the two species would get on, so caught up with her and took her home.