The week beginning the 5th of November 2016.
Saturday the 5th
flies

There were dozens of tiny flies on the surface of the big puddle in Mushroom 3 this morning as I passed.

flies

I couldn't see them very well, so took a picture to bring home and examine.  They are possibly Shore Flies, family Ephydridae.

hillside

Over the Road I found most of the cattle on the first slope but had to continue over the hill and down the other side to find the last few.  There are favourite spots in most paddocks, where cattle will gather for warmth or shade and there they were, down under the trees.  150 was stretched out, fast asleep.

I find it fascinating that in a photograph it's often really hard to distinguish between looking up or down a slope.  This could as easily be a photograph looking up the slope of the PW as it is the slope down the hill Over the Road.

Rata

I always pay attention to the big Northern Rata tree at this time of year, looking for any sign it might burst into crimson flower.  It doesn't look likely at present.

Sunday the 6th
cow and calf

6.10am and here was 750 with a little heifer calf.  She was the second of the two three-year-old first-timers and seems to have done everything right so far.

cows and calves

We brought more of the calves and cows in to the yards today, weighed the calves for the first time and inserted their numbered ear-tags.

Then it was off out to the back of the farm, including their first experience of crossing water, which is always an exciting moment (often not in a good way) requiring my undivided attention to make sure the calves stay with the cows and don't baulk at the water.  Sometimes I have to get very close and almost push them across.  Lots of them do theatrical leaps as far across as they can.  If I manage to keep them fairly calm and with the cows, the next crossing is slightly less frightening and by the time we got out to the crossing into the Spring paddock, they were almost used to the idea.

calf

818 must have missed out on lunch and continually attempted to catch up as the cattle moved along the lanes.

cattle in scrub

We went to the Tank paddock in the early evening, to check on the cattle there (the first four calves we tagged last week) and eventually spotted them gathered on this very steep slope amongst the trees.  They must either have opted to go up to the top from down here on the flat, or were coming down from the bit of grass up behind the tank.  Why this most difficult way, I do not know.  There's certainly no grass there where they're standing.

I had been going to move them if they looked like they wanted to but they wouldn't come down so we went away again.

Kahikatea

Here's some more Kahikatea pollen; to the left is a female tree, whose tiny green ovules are much the same colour as the leaves.  I found a useful reference confirming my observation that the trees are dioecious, i.e. either female or male, not both.

By 8pm I had convinced myself that 750 must not have fed her calf.  The little heifer was trembly and whenever I watched her trying to feed, she didn't seem to manage to get hold of a teat - it didn't help that her mother continually turned in circles as she tried.  I got some of Zella's last-year frozen colostrum out of the freezer and thawed and warmed it, before going out with the bottle just before it got completely dark.  It may have been a good time, since 750 is a nervous animal and might have been less calm if it had been properly light still.  I kept a very attentive eye on her behaviour as I tended to her calf, ready to throw myself through the electric fence to the lane, if I sensed danger.  But all went well, the calf was fed and 750 stood a few steps back and watched.  By the time I finished, both animals were only black shapes in the dark.

Monday the 7th
cow and calf

This morning the calf spent more time not managing to feed, then had a bit of a run around before coming back to her mother and finding breakfast.  All will be well now.

cow

703 spent about an hour wandering around with her tail out this morning.  Her udder seemed quite full and I began to wonder if we were finally going to see our own proof of time-separated twinning!  (Occasionally people report the birth of the twin of a calf born two or three weeks earlier, the second presumably conceived during the subsequent oestrus period after the first conception, which usually does not occur.)

But nothing as exciting as that happened.  I don't know why she was so obviously uncomfortable but she continued to graze throughout the morning so I left her alone and she eventually returned to normal.

Galah

Floss likes a shower, often getting quite noisy and excited when there's rain outside.  I wanted to see what she'd do with some hail!  I think she found it a little cold and challenging, being rather hard rain.  She kept ducking back in under the shelter of the overhanging roof, between dashes out into the rain and hail.

Tuesday the 8th
new lamb

A live lamb!

I watched this ewe for an hour this afternoon, sitting down, getting up, turning in circles and pawing the ground, before she eventually produced a membrane bag.  Half an hour later, the lamb's head appeared, so off we went to the yards again.  Both feet were actually presenting but the lamb's elbows were stuck and I had to pull his legs through the pelvis so he could be born.

I went back in to check for another lamb and found her feet, which she very firmly pulled back out of my way.  She was obviously quite happy where she was and I decided to leave the ewe to deliver her in her own time - and still being in the yards, I could easily get in and help when the time came, if necessary.

new lambs

Just over an hour later, the ewe successfully delivered the ewe lamb.  All by herself!  We have such a ridiculous flock of sheep, always needing help - and we know we're not helping by helping and making the problems worse in each generation.  We should cull the lot of them.

nesting goose

Madam Goose has been sitting on her infertile eggs for weeks.  We ate three of them which I remembered to gather at the beginning of her laying but then I got busy and so she incubated the rest and now she has flies for company, as the rotten eggs get more and more smelly.  Eventually she'll give up until next year.

cow and calf

716 looks like she's dozing in the sun as her son feeds.  I think she's quite a nice little cow even though she looks entirely unimpressive in this photo.

The calf has a bare bum after having scours for a while.  The diarrhoea irritates the hair and it falls out a few days after being coated.  It'll grow back again in a while.

calf

607's daughter, with her new ear tag, appears to have the same sort of personality as her mother at the same age.  She comes to investigate me regularly.  I think she's lovely.

Wednesday the 9th
ewes and lambs

Two little lambs beginning to explore the world.

Their mother has a blood-stained tail which is attracting masses of flies.  The last ewe should also lamb now and once she's delivered, we will have to shear these three ewes to reduce the risk of otherwise inevitable fly-strike.

cow and calf

At 2.30 this morning I was outstanding in my field, watching Demelza in labour.  At 3.30, when she delivered her latest daughter, I was back at the house making a cup of tea to take back to watch some more.  This is Demelza's tenth calf, the last eight of which have been heifers.

cauliflower

Stephan with another enormous cauliflower.

Angus cattle

These are the bums of the two last-calved heifers, Ida 145 and Henrietta 141.  I am very pleased with their body condition; they should do their calves well.

Angus cattle

Although one of the calves, Henrietta's daughter, is not looking terribly happy, with a nasty, light-coloured scour.  Here we were walking them in to weigh the calves and insert their number tags.

Afterwards we put them back in Flat 1, so they wouldn't have to walk too far again straight away.

A couple of Filipino men turned up in an unmarked van this afternoon, with a new satellite dish for our roof, our only possible internet provider having changed the satellite through which we will receive their patchy and very expensive service.  We now look even more like the Warkworth satellite station, although having become used to the other large dish, a slight increase in size hasn't made me notice it much more.

ewe

The last and fattest ewe, Yvette's daughter, was obviously in labour this afternoon but she was terribly distracted by the numbers of flies around her all the time and labour wasn't obviously progressing well.

After a membrane bag appeared and broke, leaving this streamer of membrane, I waited for the ewe to really get on with labour but while she lay and pushed from time to time, nothing much happened for the next hour.

We put her in the milking shed and, with some difficulty because of her size, tipped her over and Stephan gently held her down while I slopped lube on my hand and investigated her internally.  Usually during labour, the vagina becomes soft and expanded but in this ewe, it was not and I could barely get more than three fingers comfortably in.  It took me some minutes to gently work my hand through and in to find out what was happening to the lamb.  It was positioned well enough and I managed to get hold of each foot to begin pulling her up to be born but it took an enormous effort to get her out.  In despair, when the head was still only halfway through, I wiggled the lamb from side to side and suddenly out she came.

The labour had been a bit too long so while the lamb was alive, she wasn't very lively and took some vigorous rubbing with a towel to get her moving and breathing well.  The ewe was very attentive so we went away and left them for a while.

Later I returned and milked a bit of colostrum from the ewe to feed to the lamb in a bottle, and also managed to get her sucking a bit from her mother.  For such an untame ewe, she was very cooperative and tolerant of me.

Thursday the 10th
scouring calf

Henrietta's little daughter, now tagged 167, had a horribly messy bum this morning.  We quietly walked the little mob further out this morning before going in to town for a couple of appointments.

lamb

Back home again we decided to help the little lamb get another good feed, since I wasn't sure she'd managed on her own since last night.

lambs

The other two are looking very happy and bouncy.

Having made an appointment in Kerikeri which I didn't want to cancel, I was perturbed to find Zella obviously in labour, about five days earlier than she's ever calved before.  But this is her sixth calf and I'm quite sure she knows what she's doing and would probably prefer to do it on her own, so we went out.

When we came home four hours later, I could see her across the flats with her calf standing beside her.  Very good.

ewe and lambs

Then to an urgent task: shearing the poor ewes!  The presence of flies is a now-obvious reason for not lambing very late when the weather is warm.  We didn't want to shear the ewes when they were heavily pregnant but now they're not we need to get onto it immediately.

The twins weren't too confused about who their mother was when we put them back together.  Older lambs can sometimes fail to recognise their mothers after shearing.

lamb and ewe

Yvette's daughter is so fat.

I watched her lamb for a while, appearing to strain with her tail out but with nothing happening.  Usually tiny lambs will expel meconium first and then have several days of very sticky yellow poo.

When she was still lying with her tail out a couple of hours later, I picked her up to have a close look and found that while she had the usual puckering where her anus should be, there was no hole!  I could feel the pressure of her now-full rectum and she was occasionally whimpering in an unusual manner, obviously becoming distressed.

I rang the vet to find out if there was anything we could do about her, but not really.  An internet search discovered the problem in humans involves surgery and then usually more surgery, often leading to faecal incontinence and ongoing problems.  Just after dark, we shot her.  What a horrible thing to have to do to a pretty wee thing I'd already spent so much time getting going well!

I put her back in the paddock with her mother, who sat with her all night.

On the day we had given up listening to the increasingly surprising and depressing news about the American election, who would have thought the world needed another arsehole?  Did America get the one we needed here?  And other variations on the same bad joke.

Angus cattle

In the mean time, some other pretty little things out the back.  Non-flat paddocks with trees are why I like to number-tag the calves before they go out there, so I can make sure I've seen everyone when I check.

cow and calf

And Zella, with her bull calf.  While her skeletal form is visible, there's rather a lot of fat under her skin.  She's in tremendous condition.

She isn't the most beautiful creature in the world but she's very lovely and we look forward to enjoying all that milk again this season.

cattle

If you didn't have a calf this year, you might as well keep last year's with you.  746 and daughter 788, Over the Road this evening.  They hang around together much of the time.

Mothers and yearling daughters don't usually occupy the same mob but 746 was not in calf and I didn't want to send her away, so once her milk had dried up, there was no harm in their spending the winter together.  The other pair are Emergency and her daughter, 150, although I don't notice the same closeness between them.

Friday the 11th
cows and calves and thistles

We left it until this morning to bring Zella in for her first milking.

We have a fantastic crop of Scotch Thistles along some of the lanes.  They come up primarily in the lanes, occasionally in the paddocks, not really causing much of an issue so we don't spend a lot of energy controlling them.  We did eventually kill this lot and a whole lot out along the main farm lane to the back got sprayed.

sitting cow

While I keep seeing cows doing this from time to time, it still looks extraordinarily odd.  This is 750, sitting in the House paddock as we passed with the house cows.

Clematis seed

If they weren't so high up in the trees, I would gather some of these Clematis seeds and try to grow them.  I'll have to hope to find some on the ground once they start blowing away on the wind.

Angus calves

I opened the gate between the Spring and the Middle Back for the cows and calves and then tried to get them all to go across the muddy culvert, but several calves wouldn't even attempt it and, on my own, I couldn't block enough other options for escape to make them go, so had to leave them where they were, with the tape gate set so they could get underneath it to their mothers when hunger prompted them.

Some visitors arrived this afternoon, Rob, whom I've formerly only 'met' through the Lifestyle Block website forum and Carol, his wife.  We took them out in the ute to have a bit of a look around and then to check on the little heifer with the horrible scours.

cow and calf

When I found her, she was sitting looking a bit down in the dumps and she was very slow to get up.  She wobbled a bit as she walked toward her mother for a feed, but then proceeded to feed for some time, albeit a little less vigorously than normal.

I decided that as she was feeding and moving around, we would watch and wait and see how she is tomorrow.  Often calves will be a little unwell for short periods and then recover quite quickly, especially with scours, although the severity of her case is a bit unusual at such a young age - she's now 15 days old.



Calf tally: 20 heifers, 20 bulls (-1 dead) = 40 of 40, all finished!



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