I walked the cows in for milking this morning and noticed that Zella's front legs were weirdly swollen. She didn't seem at all out of sorts and was walking normally.
When she was standing waiting after milking, I noticed her face, all covered in these odd lumps. She didn't seem to be distressed in any way but it looked very much like she'd been repeatedly stung by something. She wasn't swollen in her brisket, which, as a low point, I would have thought she might be, rather than down in her legs.
At 1pm the lumps were all over the lower part of her body and she seemed a bit depressed. I took photos and phoned the vet for reassurance that there wasn't anything other than insects or potentially something she'd eaten (except there isn't anything in the House paddock that isn't always there) that would cause this reaction.
I kept checking her, noting that she appeared a bit better again over the next couple of hours.
Stephan had an appointment at Whangarei Hospital for an MRI scan, a final check on the pain that took him there last year. Because his knee hurts if he holds it in one place for too long, he had asked cousin Christina if she would drive him there and back, which she kindly did. Emma said she'd like to come here and spend the day with me.
After taking care of some cheese Stephan hadn't quite had time to finish making and watching 746 having her calf across the flats through binoculars, we went out exploring in the Spring paddock again, to see how many of the orchids were now blooming.
There still weren't very many out. They seem to take quite a while. Everything is much drier than it was last time we walked out there with Ella and Emma a couple of weeks ago.
This watercourse is a relatively small trickle that comes through the boundary fence from the big Pine block behind us. How do all the huge rocks come to be here? They can't have come down with the water so does that mean this whole hillside is a mountain of boulders and these ones have been exposed by the running water over many, many years?
Some of the tiny tree orchid plants are now in bloom.
Everything is late this year.
A little later we walked over to have a look at 746's baby: it's a bull.
This is 746's second calf, having missed last year. She got really thin for a while but gradually came right again and seems fine now. Every time I look at her I think about Stephan carrying her on the first day of her life; couldn't do it now!
Walking back through the bush reserve adjacent to the House paddock we found this fallen log with beautiful bracket fungi along its length.
Along the riverbank the flax plants that Stephan transplanted from behind the house when he built my aviary, are now growing so well they're throwing up flower spikes - I think for the first time here. They were still a bit shocked by their move last year.
Funny cows. These two are Jemima 146 and Deva 135, in Flat 1 with their calves who are now seven and three days old respectively and they are both nervous enough to rush to their aid when they detect movement anywhere near the calves where they left them sleeping at the other end of the paddock.
We both walked up to get the cows in for Zella's milking and discovered her standing with her head extended, drooling, labouring to breathe! Her lumps had all gone away but it appeared that whatever had upset her was now working itself through her system internally. I thought she was about to collapse then and there.
Being in a cellphone reception coverage spot, I immediately rang the vet and described her current state and asked for urgent help. It would take the vet about an hour to get to us, so we very calmly and slowly walked Zella and the others in toward the yards - Zella was then eating anything in sight, so we figured she's survive a while yet. I went ahead to set up the yard gates as they were approaching the bridge and could hear Zella's breathing from that far away.
The vet said her lungs sounded clear but she was obviously having a reaction to whatever she'd been stung by and gave her steroid and antihistamine injections. Having watched the progression of this ailment throughout the day, I was reasonably confident that the single treatment would get her through the rest of her reaction, but hadn't wanted to risk that we hadn't yet seen the worst of it, in case her breathing became even more difficult. She had been really struggling to breathe, her whole belly sucking up whenever she inhaled.
The primary reassuring factor in my consideration was her present enthusiasm for eating. I had seen her sitting down for most of the day and suspected that she was now, overall, feeling a lot better than she had earlier, despite the breathing issue.
We took them quietly back over the bridge and Stephan milked her and apart from the horrendous breathing she seemed quite calm.
On the bridge was this scary spider! It ran off over the edge and disappeared.
Later in the evening Zella seemed brighter and while her breathing was still more laboured than usual, she no longer sounded like she might die at any time.
Being able to get a vet to make an emergency visit is something we're very glad of here. The vet in question is a sole practitioner, so has to cover all after-hours calls himself and came back to us on his way to attend a family gathering. There are some parts of this country and many other parts of the world where there is no such veterinary cover. It's tough on the people who provide the service but tougher on the animals where the service is not available.
In parts of the US, according to some of the discussion forum posts I regularly read, farmers do their best to provide emergency treatment as their own skills allow, often including the seemingly random use of drugs, particularly antibiotics. We think of ourselves as a civilized society but there are huge gaps in vital areas of care - both for people and for the animals we use and farm. It was no doubt once worse but I'm not sure we're getting anywhere very much better very quickly.
Zella was back to normal, but we can't keep her milk for 24 hours after the injections. I thought perhaps it might make good milkshakes for people with sting intolerances.
We later checked the whole paddock for signs of underground wasp nests she might have disturbed and then searched the bush reserve alongside the House paddock to see if any nests had fallen with the huge epiphytes from up in the Puriri trees. We found nothing.
What a gorgeous face! 746's son, sired by CA Future Direction, the carrier of both Arthrogryposis Multiplex (AM) and Neuropathic Hydrocephaly (NH), the two recessive genetic defects I've been dealing with since 2008. I have a few (expensively bought) straws of the bull left and decided I'd use one on 746, since if the calf was a bull, as this one is, it doesn't matter if he carries either gene since he'll be castrated. He'll be exceptionally good beef though.
What a shocking thought when looking at those gorgeous eyes!
If he were a heifer and grew up nicely, I would test him and find out which if either of the genes he'd inherited.
Jorja from next door had asked to come and watch a birth if one happened some time when she wasn't at school.
Gem went into labour this afternoon and I phoned Jorja and she came straight over. We watched Gem pace up and down the paddock a few times until she settled at the bottom end, near where she'd calved last year.
This calf is a bull and nobody in the twins competition guessed today for her, so all of us got both cows wrong, although Melanie almost got Gem right. Fortunately both cows did a great job of delivering healthy bull calves. I'd hoped Gem's would be a heifer, having inseminated her hoping for a better temperamental mix than I'd managed before with the bulls here, which had created mad daughters from both cows.
But now I know she was calm enough to inseminate, I might try it again. Meg remains much less calm in my presence. If she weren't the other half of Gem, she might already have been culled from the herd.
Queenly 149's calf, who is supposed to remain here in Flat 1 with her mother, has somehow ended up in Flat 2 twice in the last twelve hours. She must have fallen into the drain, climbed out the other side and gone through the fence. I brought her back this morning and she immediately tucked in for a feed, looking like she'd missed her breakfast.
The Pukeko family with their latest pair of chicks, picking through some litter from the floor of the aviary. (The pile of soil is waiting to be spread across the lawn to level it out.)
The Cabbage Tree flower stalks have emerged, two or three weeks later than usual. Some people think Cabbage Tree flowering time makes some prediction for the following summer; I think it is rather more likely determined by the nature of the preceding winter!
I spend my days watching for pacing cows and regularly counting calves. There were actually five in this picture of Flat 1, the fifth being an occasionally-visible black pair of ears in the grass alongside the drain on the other side of the paddock, in line with the back of Endberly in Flat 2. I had to go over and find her before I could see where she was from the house through binoculars.
After lining the sides with plastic, to prevent any leaching of the wood treatment chemicals into the garden soil, Stephan started filling the new garden bed. He went out and found some clay from a Route 356 bank which he still wants to reshape further and brought back a couple of loads in the tractor bucket. On top of that will go a load of garden mix he bought in town the other day, which has been sitting on the back of the ute in anticipation.
We moved the cows and calves from the Mushroom paddocks down across the stream to the Bush Flat this afternoon. So far the calves are all moving very well, going where I want them to with their mothers.
The Jasmine vine in the Bush Flat reserve is in flower. They're tiny blooms, so I have to take a lot of macro photos as the wind buffets the plant, hoping to get something well-enough focused for later enjoyment.
During my 10pm check I found 729 in labour and stayed to watch as she easily delivered a bull, covered in greeny gunk. Last year's son was the completely mad 829; I hope this year's calf has a more manageable nature. 729 and her mother, 613, while being very quiet animals themselves, have produced a few such calves and it may be time to consider their ongoing presence in the herd.
Gem's son was having a pee and she was licking it all away. Cows will lick up anything their calves produce in their first couple of days, less so later on. Newborn calves are still composed of nothing other than what came from the mother, so why not?
729's calf was licking her back and draping himself across her neck .
Endberly at 11.20 this morning, having spent the last three hours stalking around, then calling regularly, obviously in labour.
The presence of this bag of fluid looked very uncomfortable, beginning as a small blob, then quickly getting bigger as it filled with fluid and more membrane came out. Eventually it got too heavy for itself and ruptured, sploshing the fluid onto the ground and Endberly turned and slurped at the puddle.
I was watching with great anticipation, to see what kind of calf this one would be, since there are six different options in Endberly's case: either sex in black, charcoal fuzziness or silver straight hair. She produced a very ordinary black bull.
The calves in Flat 3 having their early evening dash.
The Bush Flat was still bathed in warm sunshine, where these two stood and curiously watched me as I checked the six cows and their calves.
On the right is 749's son and the other must be Fancy 126's son, from his facial pattern and size.
As I walked back toward the lane and my bike, a Pukeko dashed out of a hiding place nearby. If she'd stayed still I'd never have seen this nest in a clump of rushes.
Across the track in the Small Hill paddock I watched her watching me, accompanied by another adult bird. There would have been at least one other somewhere around, a sentry, another of the hen birds whose eggs are in the nest perhaps. The eggs are different shades of brown and slightly different shapes, so very likely those of different mothers, as is their usual practice. I don't know if different birds incubate or whether it is the job of one mother, since it's impossible to tell one from another - and one rarely sees them on the nest in any case.
Finally all five calves in Flat 1 are sleeping together in one place, so I don't have to keep looking in the drain for any of them.
I brought these three to the House paddock for my overnight convenience - closer to go and check them in the early hours as soon as I think 150 is getting close to calving. But there's not enough grass, so Stephan went and harvested more from the orchard.
They are Jet 777, Henrietta 141 and 150.
There are three of these just-hatched Spur-winged Plover chicks with their parents moving between the Windmill and Flat 1 paddocks. They're not fast enough yet to run far enough away for safety, so when a perceived threat arrives on the scene, they huddle down in hoped-for invisibility.
Looking at the picture, I noticed a tick in the corner of this one's eye. The ticks are everywhere in abundance this spring. I've had a couple of bites, myself, where they've crawled beneath my clothing and settled where I haven't noticed them. They're very itchy bites and are annoying for many days. Fortunately NZ ticks don't carry any human-infecting disease.
607 looked like she was in early labour after 2pm but I had to go away and take part in a teleconference for a couple of hours, so missed watching this nice little heifer (I think, through binoculars) born during the afternoon.
For her first four years this lovely cow produced bull calves and I hoped for a heifer or two. Jet 777 was her first daughter, now in waiting for her second calf and then there was another bull. Last year she produced the lovely, grey 807 and this year again a grey heifer, this one sired by young bull 151.
607 has a very sore front foot, but in late pregnancy I didn't want to make her walk all the way to the yards to check it, since it may resolve itself as the ground dries and when she's a bit lighter after calving anyway. So I left her here in the Frog paddock where she and her calf can remain for as long as they want to - as long as the grass doesn't run out.
Friend Brian joined us for dinner. In conversation later, we were comparing dreadful winter observations and I commented that 2008 was the previous "winter from hell" in my experience. He said that for him it was the winter before. I must go back and have a look at the pictures and data from that year and compare the two. It is quite possible that our experiences of those years were different on different soil types, with different stocking policies but I had thought everyone had judged 2008 the worst in recent times - before 2017.
These seven pairs from the flats moved very nicely along behind me this morning, as I went out to set up gates to their next grazing. Usually I daren't not follow them, because the cows often go too far ahead of their calves at the stream crossings but here were seven pairs when I walked back to meet them.
Once the calves have had their feet wet once, they seem to cope better with the next crossings. We're lucky they've had dry feet at all this spring! It's such a relief to have extended spells of fine weather at last.
The Clematis vine by the Back Barn gate has seed heads in place of its lovely flowers now. These are equally attractive, I think, although slightly less showy.
I see these trees - although I think it's actually just one tree, divided very low in its trunk - nearly every day but for some reason today it occurred to me that they'd be a good candidate for a photographic series entitled either "rude trees" or "intimate tree embraces".
Mental health is a curious thing. My yardstick is always how entertained I am by things around me. At present I'm more frequently amused than I have been, perhaps ever before, in my adult life.
There is a long story behind that change, which I may figure out how to tell one day. For the time being, I'm very pleased to note it.
I gave myself a terrible start when looking at my calving date spreadsheet, realising that somehow I'd missed bringing 750 in from the flats, despite her possible calving period having started three days ago. Asleep at the wheel!
The five in the Big Back North were fortunately near the gate, standing or sitting under the trees on the first slope - and 745 was out in the lane, since I'd not shut them in there two days ago. She looked surprisingly well-uddered for a cow not due for at least a week. Then, based on 745's appearance, I had a look at 775, whose due dates are similar and thought I'd better bring her in too.
I'd moved the five from the Tank paddock to the little Camp area earlier, so they could go on to join the six in the Back Barn.
This is the gorgeous Gina's daughter, with her mother behind.
Having nearly discarded Gina as too scatty for the herd as a yearling, I'm so pleased she quietened down and grew into this beautiful animal. She and Henrietta 141, her paternal half-sister, are exactly the kind of animal I aim to breed.
Hopefully this daughter will follow suit.
California Quail don't usually pose for my photographs but this one stayed where he was on the top of a gate into the Big Back for long enough for me to take his picture. Usually all I see and hear of them is a whirring flurry of wings and little bodies, hurtling themselves into the air in the direction of the nearest cover.
So many cute photos this week. Who wins?
I adore these little grey calves. I particularly like little grey heifer calves.
While I was thinking that the next 'replacement' heifers would most likely be those born at the beginning of calving, since there had been a run of them, this one will definitely also be on the list for consideration.
Clever cow. I don't often see them do this, going down on their knees to reach under the fences, probably because there aren't too many places where the bottom wire is sufficiently high to make it worthwhile.
It's good having a gap beneath the bottom wire, so the cattle keep the grass down directly under the fence, preventing it from growing up and shorting out the electric wires.