723 produced her third son sometime before dawn. I was rather hoping she might have a daughter, since her first two calves were very calm animals.
At noon we were descended upon by 15 people! The Tailby family matriarch, Phyllis, will turn 90 at the end of this month and everyone who could, has come up for a family celebration this evening.
Elizabeth stayed home cooking an enormous ham Stephan and I had wrestled from the freezer during the week so we could chop a bit off the end to make it possible for it to fit in an ordinary oven. (We must have the other leg but had it cut into three good-sized hams.) The enormous whole leg had been tagged for this celebration since the pig was killed.)
Nearly everyone else who was resident at their place came here for the afternoon, going dam building in the stream, walking in the bush and swimming in the pond, although the weather was a bit cold despite the sunshine.
Because we're still helping Imagen and her calf, I didn't want to put them away somewhere in a paddock, so they spent the day grazing the lanes (which are about the only fresh grass on the flats anyway). The calf found a nice, warm, sheltered spot beside the drain and Imagen spent much of the day standing or grazing near him. Fortunately she's very quiet so I could ride past and others could quite safely walk past her without creating too much disturbance.
(Zella is sitting in the other lane, two cows to the right of Imagen.)
At a quarter past three, I checked on Eva and found her streaming mucous, sniffing the ground, obviously beginning the active phase of her labour after looking pensive for most of the day. I went back to ask if anyone wanted to come and watch her calve? Simon and (roundly pregnant) Anna, walked up the track to watch the process.
It took some time for Eva to produce anything we could see, but the calf was eventually quite speedily born, to Anna's great delight, obviously taking birth notes on how easily the event might occur.
I left Anna and Simon watching the calf's first attempts to get up and went back to see if we still had any other visitors; but most of them had gone home.
When the others had left, I rang Jacob and congratulated him on winning the Calving Date Competition! Apparently he was much more excited than he seemed on the phone, running out and telling his mother as soon as he'd hung up.
I hope the other competition entrants have caught up with that news in the mean time via the Competition or Today's Photo pages, since the publication of this page has been delayed by various types of chaos.
We went out (I wasn't altogether sure about breaking my no-going-out-during-October rule) and had a very pleasant evening at the 90th birthday party. The enormous ham was delicious, beautifully cooked and glazed by Elizabeth.
When we arrived home I went straight out to check on Dexie 121, expecting she'd already have had her calf, since she was looking fractious when we left (hence my discomfort in going out). She had two small feet showing and of course I had no idea how long she might have been like that, so had to wait around and make sure something more happened soon.
It was over half an hour before she lay down to do any pushing, then another several minutes before she settled down again and suddenly there was the calf on the ground! Both she and her mother, Dexie 101, have delivered their calves extremely quickly this year. The calf is a bull and seeing all was well, I left them to it.
Eva's daughter. She has such little calves for such a big cow.
Sometimes I figure the content of a picture is more important than its quality: 606, in early labour, stood and enjoyed some massage to her rump this morning.
She then paced around for an hour with her tail out before eventually producing a membrane bag. Jacob (Calving Competition Winner) rang and asked if he could come over, so he and I went out to watch 606 calve. We waited for two hours and then gave up and went home for some lunch.
I then watched her through my binoculars from a window. She eventually did her usual spinning trick when she thought the calf ought to be behind her, flinging it out onto the ground as she turned.
These two were at the Windmill trough together while we were sitting watching 606.
What were they saying?
When Jacob rang this morning, he asked if he could come and have his weekend on the farm immediately? I talked with his mother and she was quite happy for Jacob to do as he wished tonight. So after lunch he ran home and packed his required belongings and was back in double-quick time, because I'd said we'd need to go and find 742's calf in the Tank paddock, as soon as we'd had a quick cup of tea.
The three of us climbed the hill behind the tank. Just before the last steep climb to where I'd seen the calf when he was born, something made me look into the bush along what was once a track around the side of the hill and there was a little black shape, sitting silently, pretending invisibility. I snuck around behind him for a closer look but concluded it would be safest to leave him as he was and the three of us went looking for evidence that he'd been feeding successfully.
742 appeared to have been spending time in a small clearing on the ridge and eventually I found the reassurance I was looking for: several globs of calf poo. I carefully broke a bit open to show Jacob they were sticky, yellow inside. This is the only calf in this paddock, so there was no question about its origin.
As we clambered back down the slope, it was obvious that 742 knew exactly where her calf was.
This Pukeko egg was one in a nest by the stream but something has eaten it. This is not a hatched shell but a chewed one.
Jacob and I walked out to move the bulls. He told me that his class-mates hadn't believed him when he told them that he'd been out moving bulls with me on foot; his friends all maintained that Angus bulls are big, fierce, dangerous animals which must be moved on quads (not that a quad would provide much protection from an aggressive bull!)
So here, Jacob's non-believers, this is how fierce and dangerous big black bulls are. (They might look small in this picture but Mr Big on the left, was last weighed at 890kg.)
Parsonsia capsularis. I still fail to detect any fragrance at all in the flowers.
Jacob has said several times that he'd like to walk up into our Bush Block, so today Stephan prepared some trap bait and they set off to service the traps.
When I thought it was about time for them to emerge from the bush, I drove the ute around to collect them, since they would carry their footwear back from the block, because of the recent trespass of the neighbour's cattle.
While waiting, I walked along a bit of the fenceline; this manure was obviously deposited by the stray cattle many weeks ago. We possibly have a much bigger problem on our hands than just the damage to the reserve. I've had cattle in the adjacent paddocks throughout the winter and it would appear that the neighbour's animal (one or more?) was here for many weeks, potentially having nose-to-nose contact with my cattle through the Bush Block fence. If the straying animal is a BVD carrier, any of my pregnant cattle could have contracted the virus, endangering their unborn calves.
We know our herd is naive, so we will have to take a number of blood samples from the cows to test for antibodies, to find out if there has been any infection. If the neighbour had their own yards, it might be worth taking blood from the animal we know was in here but I am not certain she was the only one.
This is a very worrying possibility.
Stephan and Jacob then called me on the radio to say they'd be walking across the Bush Flat very soon, so I went back to the ute and waited for them. It is irksome to have to apply our biosecurity measures to parts of our own farm! They both carried their footwear to prevent transporting any foreign cattle faecal matter from the Bush Block onto our pastures.
Here is Jacob with Eva and her daughter in the background. We would have gone a bit closer except for the obvious nervousness of 703, who almost looked as if she'd like to chase us out of the paddock.
Henrietta 141 and her grandmother, Demelza.
These three were giving me suspicious looks because I'd just pounced on their paddock-mate, little calf of 701, who has been limping, to spray iodine between her toes, where it appears she has something like fungal scald, which we often see in the sheep but I don't think I've ever seen in a calf. [The following day she looked even more lame, but in another leg; I'm not sure what's wrong with her but navel ill is a strong possibility (bugs get in through the navel when they're first born, track into the liver, somehow end up in the joints which causes the animal to limp), which requires treatment to avoid complications. We ended up giving her a course of antibiotics along with the regular iodine spray.]
What a cute face! 613's daughter.
I found 742 sitting with her calf half-way down the Tank paddock hill today. They seem perfectly happy where they are but it's a bit of a pain having to go there to check on them, which is why I prefer to have all the calving cows on the flats together.
Curly's latest daughter must have razor-sharp teeth! Some time later I noticed her suckling this teat from the other side, which explained why the damage is where it is - her front teeth would be on this side of the teat. Those brand new incisors are razor sharp, as evidenced by a wound I am having to keep covered on one finger, due to a brush with Imagen's calf's teeth while trying to get him feeding.
There's not much grass in Mushroom 2 but it has had a few days' growth since it was last grazed and it's the only option I have for the two remaining heifers to safely graze where I can easily regularly observe them.
My calculations estimate they'll calve tomorrow and on the 29th. They didn't seem particularly interested in the Molasses, which isn't unusual when it's first introduced. As heifers they don't really need the Magnesium I mix in, but it's handy to get them accustomed to the treat and the Magnesium is slightly sedative, calming them down during the disruption they're about to experience.
606's daughter is a hider, wandering off into odd places to sleep the day away. Yesterday she hid in the drain alongside the House paddock and it took me ages to find her, trying to work out where her mother could have been looking and calling. Today 606 was pacing up and down the stream fenceline, calling into the area near the old swimming hole. I couldn't see the calf so crossed the stream and carefully made my way along, looking in all the dark little places and down into the water in case she'd slipped in.
Eventually, just past the swimming hole, near our nice little summer picnic spot, I saw her curled up in the ferns. She must have slipped into the steam this morning and then clambered up this side before settling down to sleep. She was just behind the tree on the left, the swimming hole back over my right shoulder and her mother, pacing the fenceline in the middle of the picture on the other side of the stream.
Stephan had started walking in my direction when he found my bike parked in the lane, so he came to help me get the calf back over the stream. If I'd left her there, it was likely she would not have found the one easy way back up to her mother out of the stream when she woke up and could have spent the night being wet, cold and hungry.
As soon as I began creeping toward her, I could tell she was going to be trouble: wide-eyed and motionless she watched me until she bolted, hurtling down into the stream-bed, then running into the deep bend in the stream because her mother had called from the other side, swimming into the deepest part as Stephan arrived and jumped in. Then she swam back toward me and, trembling wildly from fright, looked as though she'd try and bite me if I got any nearer! We eventually caught her and with blaring cries which made everyone else run around in alarm, she protested and struggled as Stephan carried her up the bank and, after trying to calm her a little as her mother sniffed her under the bottom wire of the fence, we let her go. Having realised her mother was there, she was calm enough not to bolt again and get into more trouble.
Then we went out for nephew Jonathan's birthday dinner, another very pleasant meal and celebration. Char-Lien had created some delicious Chinese dishes and made a chocolate mud cake and we even got to bring a bit of that home!
When we came home I checked on the heifers and 606, finding her calf quietly sleeping beside her in the dark. The hiding lying-in behaviour of calves is a day-time thing; at night they stay with their resting mothers.
We're having horribly windy weather, making everyone, cattle and us, fractious. It always happens in spring and it's very unpleasant.
Once they've finished lying in, the calves often sleep together in little nursery groups, often with one of the cows nearby. This little calf got up as I stopped to take their picture, having a long, luxurious stretch before wandering quietly off in the direction of the grazing cows.
A weird calf photo. This is 613's cute daughter again but looking very strange, with milk foam dribbling from either side of her mouth. Presumably she was trying to catch a whiff of me on the wind as I passed.
Stephan went out to finish the Mushroom 1 fence details - these short rails to replace the broken bits the bulls had fought through and the electric feed wires along the top, with a spring gate to pull across above the gate during weaning.
Then he completed the changes to the reserve fence around the big Puriri, which we changed slightly to allow more root space and to protect an improved drain which should carry water away from the track and down to the existing culvert below the tree.
I took Floss out with me on a couple of rides today, to check around the cattle and see how Stephan was getting on. She seems to enjoy such outings, tucking her head in to my neck under the edge of my helmet as we go. If she turns around she gets too much wind up her feathers and is inclined to blow off, which is alarming, because I certainly don't want to run her over! I adjust my bike mirrors so I can watch her as we ride.
742's calf has finally reached the bottom of the Tank paddock hill, spending his day sleeping in the blackberry patch, to which 742 returned to feed him late this afternoon.
606's daughter had returned to the House paddock lane drain for the day. Early this morning I saw her heading off into the reserve at the other end of the paddock and made her go back to her mother. At least here she's safe. This is day three, so hopefully after today she'll stay with her mother rather than going off into inconvenient hiding places.
Henrietta 141's calf must have been born about half an hour before I arrived at 6.25 this morning. I thought she was newer than that until she got up and stood steadily on all four legs.
I like it when heifers calve easily and get on with their job without complications.
710 sitting oddly, on her way to getting up. I have a strong suspicion this posture has something to do with scratching or rubbing a bit of the body not otherwise easily reached, rather than actually sitting. Somewhere I thought there was a picture of her mother doing the same thing, but I can't find it.
There are several blackbirds around in our garden this year, this one sitting right up on top of our biggest Kauri. One of the males spends a lot of his day fighting with his reflection wherever he finds it; in the door window on the deck, in the kitchen window as he stands on the chair outside, in a bit of glass leaning against the cowshed wall, or even in the round, stainless steel drum which was once part of a clothes drier, up near the tractor shed.
There is one place on the farm with some grass, because it's hard to get to easily: the Road Flat. The sun was still shining on the hills when Stephan arrived home after 6pm from helping someone somewhere else, so I suggested we take the non-pregnant cattle up the road, now that the evening "rush hour" had ended (maybe half a dozen vehicles or so?) and the logging trucks had stopped for the day.
They moved very well, mostly at a run, with me running ahead of them to make sure they didn't gallop past me down the final slope before the gateway.
This will keep them happy for a few days!
Our timing is good, with the Parsley Dropwort plants just starting to grow their flower stems; the cattle will graze them while they're still soft and palatable.
What a ratbag! 714's white-eyebrowed calf was sneaking in to suckle Jet 777 from behind while she was confused by the comfort of licking her daughter in front. Young heifers tend to be the only animals who will accidentally allow this sort of thing, because everything's a bit new to them and they haven't quite sorted out all the sensations they're now subject to.
I stopped and chased the naughty calf away. He has an ample supply of milk from his own mother and should not be allowed to tax a young heifer in her first lactation.
Jet's calf is looking lovely so far. She was so slight and thin at birth but is filling out really quickly now, at nearly two weeks old.
We have some slightly-scouring calves around already. At 20 days old, it's a smidgen early for Coccidiosis in Ellie's daughter, but presumably might be - the protozoan parasite they pick up as soon as they're born. Generally it causes a bit of scouring but soon passes; only occasionally have we seen it progress to blood scours and in one or two cases, discernible illness in calves.
It could be worth taking a sample to test and confirm but in the one year we did so, the Coccidia levels were so high there was no doubt and the presentation in years since has always been the same.
Today was sheep vaccination day again, four weeks after the first shot we gave them. The 5in1 vaccine is primarily to protect their lambs, which will receive the resulting antibodies in the ewes' colostrum.
Stephan's regular visits with maize to accustom the ewes to being enticed into the yards is proving invaluable! When released, they're very quick to run away again.
Healthy babies doing their usual evening dash. Watching little calves playing is the great delight of this time of year, as they run as fast as they can with their skinny tails straight up in the air (I didn't quite catch that moment in this photo, obviously). It's something they only do regularly as youngsters, just like children.