Pearl 779, who's going to the works with the cull cows and bull sometime soon. I had high hopes for her once, hence her name ("Twin-set and Pearl", as she was the first daughter of one of the twins) but her temperament is unsatisfactory and she's permanently noisy! She calls loudly and often, regularly leading me outside to find out who's calling and what's wrong. Nothing is; she's just loud.
We went for dinner with our neighbours, in the house that Stephan built after accidentally burning the original farm house down during renovations in the early 80s. It was funny, standing in that kitchen with him, where we used to flirtatiously hang out together thirty years ago. It's nice having friendly neighbours.
I had to draft the bull and the two heifers back out of the cull mob because the bull turned out to be a herder: when someone is coming on heat, he runs around controlling everyone, keeping them all bunched up together in a corner of the paddock. As a result, lovely old 475 has sustained some sort of back injury, presumably from having to get away from him quickly, and I've now moved her and the other cows quietly on to lush feed so she has some recovery time without having to move around too much. She'll come right but could do without being hassled!
The other heifer ready for the works is Eileen 143, one of Demelza's daughters who's never settled down enough for me to want to keep her and today she must have been smelling like she was coming on heat, prompting the bull to hold the two heifers down near this gate. There are no other bulls around, so I'm not sure who he thinks he's keeping them away from.
I don't want him hassling them so much and stopping them from grazing so went out and brought the heifers through the gate to the little streambank area where there was lots of grass and left the bull in Flat 1 where he could stay near them by the fence if he chose to.
Bull behaviour is interesting to watch, especially when a yearling bull goes in to a mob where there are strong leader cows; even those top cows respond to his "direction". Testosterone rules, it seems.
The stock agent says it may still be three weeks until the cattle can go to the works so I figure it'll be a sensible idea to get 143 in calf, so she won't be on heat when they go. I let the bull back in with the heifers today and while this is obviously all wrong, he did eventually get it right. 143 gradually went off heat again and they all returned to quiet grazing.
I brought the pregnant heifers in to the yards, having found 743 still limping on a very sore foot I had seen yesterday but had hoped was just a passing pain from something stuck between her toes. We put her into the head bail and picked up her foot, looking for something poking into her soft skin. There was a possible stone culprit, so we washed her foot, sprayed it with iodine, let them all back down into the Pig paddock for the night to see if she felt better the next day.
743 was still limping today, looking like she was being stung every time she put her foot on the ground. Time for the vet again.
There was a bit of obvious infection in the inner side of her inner claw, but not really enough to definitely explain her pain. Having cut back to expose and excise the infection, the vet stopped, gave her a prophylactic penicillin injection and some pain relief and we let her out to graze again. She looked fine, which was probably mostly the effect of the drugs, although she did appear to get better over the next several days. Good.
This evening our much-anticipated visitors arrived. Bill Penney owned this farm (and some more acreage then still part of the property) until about 1951, when he sold and went to Waiwera, where his grand-daughter, Janice, still farms, running an organic Dairy operation. Janice and her partner, Tim, came to stay with us for a couple of nights.
There was a heavy rain warning for last night and I woke several times to check the river level. It was never very high when I looked but the state of the driveway this morning indicates that it did come up to a level that should have woken me with the noise!
Another speed-hump on the driveway, where the gravel has been washed into a big pile. At least it's still here, not all in the stream.
The flood had come right across the Pig paddock again, through the yards and fences. I can't believe we didn't hear it. Now we'll have to pick all the Tradescantia out of the debris again.
The four of us walked to the top of the hill Over the Road, for a view of the farm and back over to the block we assume was once part of the same property.
Looking down from here, we could also see the newly-battened boundary fence along the edge of our Bush Hill reserve. It's just visible along behind that tank against the bush.
Janice and Tim are lovely, warm people, with whom we enjoyed lots of very pleasant conversation.
Janice went to shut a gate for me across the stream (I was wearing my leaky boots), after we sent the young cattle along the lane. As I watched her coming back along the track, I thought of her walking in her grand-father's footsteps.
Tim with Demelza this evening. Demelza is actually rather a nice fit for the housecow pair, since she's very socially interactive. I think she'll enjoy her new life with Zella and us, rather than being out in the bigger mob around the rest of the farm.
The four of us went next door this morning for the final field day of the Dairy Focus Farm programme in which those farmers have been participating. It's the equivalent of the Monitor Farms programmes which have run over the years in the beef sector, primarily to demonstrate to farmers in the same sector how things might be done better. In this case it enabled an inexperienced young couple to access the ongoing support and guidance of a committee of long-term dairy farmers and consultants.
For us, on the two occasions we've attended the field days, it has been an opportunity to look at a completely different farming system and approach on land, soils and climatic conditions almost identical to our own. It's also a real pleasure to look back our way at the bits of our place we can see, and the big bush-clad hills behind the farm.
Janice and Tim happily cooperated with my biosecurity wishes, bringing separate gumboots for our farm and the one we visited. After the field day we drove up the road to have a look at the orchard and run any remaining mud and crap off the wheels before going home.
Janice also particularly wanted to have a look at the Road Flat paddock where the orchard is, because we had all concluded that the large drain which runs along parallel to the road is one her grandfather dug with a bulldozer, in an attempt to re-route the stream in the 1940s. None of us could quite work out what he would have achieved although it is possible he thought that if he could make the water go straight through the farm, flooding time would be reduced. But apparently this caused enhanced flooding downstream and his neighbours protested, taking him to court to make him undo this work, so he had to fill in the upstream end. This part of the drain was open until we suggested the council contractors dump the bits of tree from the corner work in here, because I'd quite like to fill it in at some stage.
We had a look around the orchard while we were there. Any remaining apples had disappeared, several of the trees now having broken branches, presumably because of possums raiding the fruit - although Stephan suspects the culprits could be Pukeko. But the three persimmons were ready to be picked, so we brought them home before something else found them.
We spent a lot of time going through each other's photo albums, Janice most interested in the oldest of our farm photos, from the early years of Stephan's family's residence here, when they lived in the original house. Janice's photos were fascinating, with huge old trees still standing, some of whose faint remains we're familiar with and others we still know. The farm's infrastructure has changed so much over time that it's a bit hard to figure out where fences now divide what were then larger paddocks.
Janice and Tim then went on their way to visit family in the area, before heading back home tomorrow. Their visit and others like it have been one of the best things about writing this website. People we might otherwise never have met, make contact with us and have invariably been lovely.
As we brought young 743 back to the yards for another penicillin injection (to continue protection while her foot repairs itself), I noted these Kiwi footprints in a cowpat in the bottom yard. I wish I could capture a bird on the trail camera - which isn't actually out anywhere to do so at present, but whenever it has been, it hasn't.
Then it was Zella's turn for her fourth day of the second round of antibiotic treatment for her mastitis infection. She's not happy about it but is cooperating and I'm not happy about it but just set my mind to doing it, two big jabs of intra-muscular fluid, divided because she needs 16mls in each syringe. It's going in her rump, since Zella will never be anyone's beef and that's the safest place to repeatedly jab her (for me). Injections like this are supposed to go into a neck muscle but that would mean putting her in the head bail and she'd be unlikely to cooperate with that more than once!
I take these photos of all the terrible Australian Sedge in the Middle Back, in the hope that one day I'll be able to link back to them as "before" views, alongside clear photos of our successful control of this awful weed.
I went to see the cows, called them all down to the new gate and they galloped through into the PW.