Up at first light this morning (now around 6.30) to get heifer 788 in for insemination. They were only in the Windmill paddock but it took about an hour to get them out of the paddock and down the lane. The yearling heifers have become so quiet that they're sometimes quite difficult to get moving. While that can be frustrating, I'm very pleased, particularly since last years' calves were a jumpy lot. They're not now! I like quiet cattle.
788 continued showing no active sign of being on heat, other than a slight tendency to graze near the fence closest to the bull across the stream.
Yesterday in town we bought Zella a mat to stand on while being milked. We had both noticed that she was shuffling her feet a lot on the concrete, a sign she's really not comfortable on the hard surface. This mat, sold for this purpose, is stupidly not long enough for a cow! But since it's also too wide, we'll cut it down the length and put a couple of bits at the front so she can get all four feet on it at once.
Out checking the mob in the Pines today, I spotted this perfect egg on the ground. I think it belongs to a pheasant but wonder how it got here. There must be a nest nearby or a predator has dropped it for some reason after stealing it. I also found a smaller white eggshell, with pinkish spots on the wide end, the shell of a Tui chick.
Lynn and Kees came out for dinner. This is how we get the tractor serviced, these days, by enticing them both with dinner and Kees sees to the tractor while he's here, since he's so busy most of the time, being an excellent diesel mechanic.
Lynn and I went out to look at and move the cattle and talked cows, websites and about her new app-building enterprise.
Young Lance returned for a visit today, having been away for ages. Now 20, he's suddenly adult and more comfortable in conversation. He spent more than a year in Indonesia and then, on his return, found a job on a dairy farm during last year and seems happy with it, which is hugely satisfying for us, having spent a lot of time with him during his adolescence.
I thought Lance would want to go off and join Brian and Stephan as they felled some trees on Jane's place but instead he stayed and talked with me in the shade by the pond.
Meanwhile, these two were having a great time, cutting down a tree, carting its bits away on Brian's trailer to Oscar's mill over the hill.
I took a photo of this butterfly for later identification. It is a Yellow Admiral.
I spent ages walking around the Big Back North, looking for these two and when I eventually came back down the hill to the gate, here were the bull and 725. She was the most awful cow to inseminate, jumping around in the race and constantly fidgeting, so I decided then she'd go to the bull for a follow-up if she needed it. And here she is back on heat.
The little non-mating mob has been grazing in the Road Flat paddock for ages and it occurred to me today that perhaps they ought to be moved. They came very easily back across the stream and then followed me across Flat 4 and down the lane, before going out to graze next to the insemination mob. I need to start consolidating some of the mobs, before we completely run out of grass, so those which don't need to be with a bull or in my insem. mob, can go Over the Road.
I took a container with me to pick blackberries, when I checked on the cattle in the Tank paddock. The berries are delicious!
Heifer 788 had some bloody mucous this morning, indicating that she has ovulated, so hopefully it was at the right time for that egg to be fertilised by the semen I provided two days ago. Blood after ovulation isn't always seen but I suspect it does usually appear and can disappear just as quickly if you're not looking at the right time. My three-hourly checks during the days are catching most of these signs this year.
I really like 613's daughter, 813. She's a daughter of bull 137 and she's plump, growing at 1.2kg/day to last weighing and is very quiet. Having sent her sire off to the works at the end of last season because of his unpleasant temperament, I'm pleased he hasn't passed that trait on to all his calves. A handful of them are a bit nervous but several are very quiet.
Stephan brought home a load of Casuarina from the logs he and Brian took to the mill. It'll all need to be fillet stacked in the shed to dry.
The lambs are plump and healthy. The little ewe (centre) is a pretty little thing, with more of an open face than her brother. Their mother has slimmed down a lot since their birth. The two lambs now lift her off her back feet when they start to feed, bunting her udder for milk.
As for Piggy, Stephan has sort of trained her to roll over when he scratches her stomach. How this creature will ever end up as bacon, I do not know.
She won't stay in her electric-tape outer pen though. Stephan let her out and she trotted about for a minute or two and then sprinted for the barrier and went straight through it with a squeal. She stays around though, so I suggested we wind up the tape and that she only comes out occasionally for supervised free-range time. There's no point shocking her if she's never going to respect the tape barrier anyway.
The grass is Australian Sedge, growing like crazy at present. It's cutting, unpalatable stuff, so even though it's about the only thing growing around here, it's still no good for the animals to eat.
The tallest tree in our near skyline is a Tasmanian Blackwood on Jane's boundary. It grows on this side of the stream and it and one other are the only two still alive. Something has killed all the others William planted when he owned that property.
With access to a mill, Stephan asked Jane if she'd mind him cutting it down, before it dies - if it isn't felled soon, it will stand and rot and eventually fall down on its own, probably in an inconvenient or damaging direction. Blackwood is very nice timber.
Because it was such a large tree, Stephan phoned and asked Roger Gale if he'd come and do the job, and whether he'd mind doing a bit of tree-felling instruction at the same time?
Big trees are so immensely heavy that you really do want to be able to predict and determine where they'll drop. Doing that well all depends on the angles of the cuts you make, the direction the larger branches are growing and how the tree may be leaning as it grows.
Here Roger was explaining the cuts he'd made in the first dead tree he felled to clear the path for the big one, the left-most trunk in the picture.
As soon as the main excitement had passed, I went off out the back to go around 151's mob again in the Big Back North paddock. Yesterday afternoon I'd not been able to find one of the calves, although I kept thinking I could hear him somewhere and thought he was amongst the trees in a gully with some of the others.
He wasn't at the bottom of the hill with everyone else and his mother, although not calling, had a pretty tight-looking udder. I set off up the hill with great nervousness, checked the first gully where 723's calf got stuck two years ago, then went across to the next gully and realised that it was there that I'd kept hearing what I thought was a calf noise from behind me yesterday, when I was first looking; there was a quiet little moo from under the ground ahead of me. What a relief to find him alive!
I walked in from the top left of this picture, to stand on the other side of those green Mexican Devilweed leaves, on a natural sort of bridge, where the gully from up over my left shoulder goes underground for a short distance. Looking straight down about four feet beneath where I stood, was the back end of 819.
His head was directly underneath me, in a tunnel which didn't allow him much movement and he couldn't go forward or backwards. Fortunately he was able to stand, or he might have been a great deal worse off.
I went back down the hill, back home on my bike, to find that Roger had gone and Stephan and Brian were thinking about stopping for lunch. I suggested a bit of calf rescue first and Brian remembered he had something urgent to go off and do.
Stephan grabbed his shovel, spade and chainsaw (just in case) and we went off in the ute to see what we could do.
Here I stood back where I'd first looked down on the calf as Stephan carefully made his way down into the hole.
Having removed some of the tree prunings which were in the hole, he carefully dug down behind the calf, to make more room for the animal to turn around, as well as making a path we hoped he'd then be able to scramble back up once he was facing back up the hill.
When there was only just enough room and the calf was beginning to want to turn, Stephan pulled him back a bit by the tail then grabbed his ears to turn his head and out he came, in a rush. I had to dash up to the right to stop him leaping into the midst of all those sticks over the rest of the hole, where he'd doubtless have become stuck again.
Rescued animals always look just a little resentful of the close intrusion into their space! Or maybe that's sincere gratitude and relief.
This calf was in a much better state than the last one we rescued out here, quite steady on his feet for all that he must have been awfully hungry. We followed him down the hill in the hot sunshine.
He immediately found his mother and had a good long feed, although it was interrupted by the bull trying to shove him around because he was covered in such interesting-smelling mud.
Getting him out had taken only about half an hour once we were there. Hot and thirsty, we went home for lunch.
The rest of the day I had to spend reading in preparation for a Vet Council committee teleconference, so I had no time to go back and check on 819 again but presumed, since he'd looked so good, that all would be well.
As I was feeling as though I was running out of reading time before the 5.30 call, I had a call from the Switzer retirement home to say one of the budgies was looking as though it were dying and could I please come and do something? Oh dear.
Sometime a little after eight we went off to town, with a green budgie to swap for the dying one. Stephan dropped me off and went of to pick up more of his lovely wood, to make good use of the trip.
Dying budgie was sitting up on the perch with the other one, looking perfectly fine but I suspected, having observed the behaviour the other day, that it had developed an odd habit of hanging itself over the width of a little beaded ladder, possibly chewing on the beads, but it certainly did give the appearance of a near-death slump. I caught it and immediately upon bringing it out of the cage it got free and flew across the room, fortunately ignoring all open windows and, panting from the unaccustomed activity, landed where I could easily catch it again. Then I had to hold it in my shirt while I unstuck the "safety" tape I'd wrapped around the little carry box with the replacement budgie inside, inside the cage so he wouldn't escape as well.
Fortunately there were only three or four residents wandering about and none of them took the slightest bit of notice of my extraordinary activity and would probably have forgotten anyway, had they done so.
Having secured "dying" budgie in the box, I tried to make my way quietly out of the home but every time I moved, the resident of my little carry box squawked in a very cross manner, so that I had to make a number of explanations as I walked through the building.
Dying budgie continues to survive quite healthily in my aviary with the others, despite now having no tail, since a handful of feathers came away in my hand as I bundled her into the box, wanting to make very sure she didn't get away again.
I took this picture not particularly because a dead pheasant is remarkable but because of the personal aftermath, which came about because I remarked to myself that there must be few cats and rats in the area, since the pheasant has not been eaten. And I was off. All it took was "cats and rats ... and elephants, but sure as you're born, You're never gonna see no unicorn!"
Does this happen to everyone? Even a single word, often uttered by Stephan, will turn itself into a song lyric which then goes around and around in my head for hours, possibly days, of maddening repetition.
We have more beehives on the farm. I didn't go any closer, Jonny having brought these out only early this morning - 12.30am, to be exact! I know that because he had very bright headlights as he passed the house. He had intended to be at least a couple of hours earlier.
Jonny came out a couple of days ago to see this little corner of the Back Barn because I thought, with its northerly aspect and shelter behind, it would be a great bee home. And it's accessible throughout the year, with our nicely metalled track.
I weed-wiped those Australian Sedge plants a week or so ago (with 30% Glyphosate and some wetting agent) and am very pleased to see them obviously dying.
819 is looking fine, other than still being rather muddy. This was my second walk up this hill today, since I'd been unable to find him earlier.
Oddly, the bull was still active with 725, three days after I first saw them together. I'm not quite sure what that might mean.
The grass now being critically short around the farm, I took this mob in to the yards to draft out all those cows who've been through their possible return to heat after first mating, i.e. they're presumably pregnant and don't need the bull any more.
As they all made their way along the lane, 750 discovered the bit of salt left in the Topmilk bin I'd given to the young cattle a couple of days ago. I'd failed to buy more salt blocks, so had brought some loose salt out to them and some had remained stuck inside the bin after they (inevitably) tipped it over.
I had waited on the bike for her for a while, then eventually got off to prompt her to go on and join the others but she very determinedly went back around me to finish the salt! I really must get some more for them.
Sodium is not taken up by Kikuyu grass, so we always provide salt during the summer when it is growing (which it isn't very much in the drought).
I drafted eight animals out of 151's mob to go Over the Road and eleven to go back into my insemination mob, leaving him eight of his cows and their calves.
Usually I prefer to mix cattle together somewhere on the flats, rather than have them meet each other for the first time in a while Over the Road, with its various hill-related hazards, but there's just no grass anywhere down here, so I put the first group straight over, before sending 151 and his cows out to the Spring and bringing in the next mob.
From bull 87's mob I put sixteen Over the Road and put Curly and her calf back with the insems. 87 went with 146, 135 and their calves out to the Swamp.
Lastly I brought the insemination mob in, and drafted six cows and their calves out and put them Over the Road, creating a big new mob of 47 head.
The new insemination mob seemed to very quietly accept each other's presence again and were surprisingly content in the Pig paddock, so they stayed there for the night, close enough to see and call to friends across the road if they missed them.
Then we walked around the road to the other end and wound up the electric tape we'd previously put along part of the boundary. Anca, a woman with a fondness for trees, rather than livestock, now lives on the other side of the fence, so we no longer need to keep our cattle away from the fence on this side because of the presence of cattle on the other.
We climbed to the top of the hill and surveyed our realm. The lime on Flats 2, 3 and 5 is still obvious. The cattle seemed quite settled and peaceful with their abundant feed.
As the light faded, we walked down the far boundary (to the left) with the tape and standards, having discovered that cattle had earlier been on that boundary amongst the pine trees. They may have been there by accident but if it happened once, presumably it may happen again and we're better safe than sorry. I've done quite enough BVD testing for one decade.
Before sending the insemination mob out to another paddock, we brought three of them in to the yards and applied new Kamar heat detectors to their backs. There wasn't any point putting one on Curly, since her daughter would doubtless immediately chew it off, but I know when she'll come back on heat if she does and should be able to spot that without the indicator. The three were animals potentially due back on heat in the next few days and that I feel less sure of detecting easily.
Cattle really like flax and Zella has gradually figured out that the electric wires along here are not on. This morning she had almost pushed her way through the fence into the midst of the flax and was blissfully chomping away.
I want to keep a fairly close eye on the cows now to make sure everyone who should be really is pregnant, so walked up the hill Over the Road. Most of them were in their favourite shady spot, on the other side of the reserve. It's beautifully cool here, under the big trees, with the breeze nearly always coming up and over the ridge to the right.
749 is still licking mud and dust out of her son's coat. He seems quite happy with the attention.
That milk must be good to leave such a creamy smear across the nose! I love watching calves.
Just after 10pm I went out on the bike to the Blackberry paddock to check the insemination cows. In the dark I could see 746's and 788's white faces oddly together and when I got off the bike, I realised they were all standing in an unsettled bunch... and at the same moment I heard a strange noise behind me, hoped it was the odd huffing of mating Kiwi (do they make such a noise?) and then with alarm, saw a great big dog sitting on the other side of the wooden Route 356 gate!
My first thought was, would he wait there while I went back for the rifle? Then I heard someone calling the dog and he came toward me and squeezed under the gate. I started walking with him toward the back of the farm, in the direction of the calling voice and suddenly there was another dog circling me! I'm really not keen on dogs I don't know and particularly not in the dark with my cattle all freaked out and some unknown stranger in the vicinity.
It turned out that the guy didn't have a torch, so he couldn't come to collect the dogs and I didn't want to just let them go, in case they didn't go directly to him, so I walked back to the bike and rode home with them closely following me. Stephan woke up, came out and tied them up and I went back to check the cows, who were still alarmed. I had to wait for them to calm down a bit before walking amongst them in the dark.
The two dogs spent the night securely contained.
The dogs' owner turned up at an early but civilized hour this morning, was very pleasant and apologetic, assured me his dogs are Kiwi Aversion trained and promised to bring me the certificates. I know who he is, where he lives and his mother-in-law! I may have to track those certificates down.
At least his dogs were obviously well treated, not the cowering, scarred pig dogs we often see around. I'm not generally inclined to allow such dogs to leave the property if I find them here but the guy was out trying to find them late into the night after he'd lost track of them while hunting. Many hunters in this area simply don't bother. It's astonishing that any Kiwi live around here still at all.
Brian came round early in the day and he and Stephan set to work hauling the big tree out from across the stream and onto the driveway.
Here they'd already pulled it by about a quarter of its length and made the first cut and were now deciding how to approach the next pull and cut.
Brian's winch was an impressive bit of machinery.
We are the land of orange tractors!
We all conferred on where best to cut the log, since it had to be cut for transport. I told them I was channelling their dead woodworking friend who always made the perfect cuts.
Then with the winch off and the forks on, Brian loaded the logs onto his special trailer and they took them off to the mill.
The two of them looked like they were having the best day!
I had a moment of panic this afternoon, seeing that little drop of very red blood at the bottom of Queenly 107's vulva and thinking she must have ovulated; but then realised the blood colour was wrong: ovulation blood is always a bit darker because it is not that fresh. This blood was from a wound. Queenly must have sat down too near something sharp, which pierced her vulval skin and bled. It must have been pretty sore and probably hurts every time she urinates. I'll check it over the next few days, make sure it's healing well.
Most of the mob were, as usual, in their lovely shady spot.
My 10pm check tonight was in the Bush Flat paddock and soon after I arrived there, I heard a male Kiwi calling from somewhere very close! I walked quickly in the direction of the call but didn't see anything. That was thrilling!