The week beginning the 4th of February 2017.
Saturday the 4th

My morning milk processing routine involves straining Zella's milk through a muslin cloth, held in a sieve.  This morning, as soon as I applied soap to it afterwards, it felt slimy, a sign that there is a high level of somatic cells (white blood cells, usually indicating infection) in the milk.  That always alarms me, given Zella's history of mastitis.  Fortunately over the next couple of days, the problem resolved and we returned to normal again.  I suspect that various other stressors might set the same reaction off but it's hard to know if it's the recent heat or ongoing feed shortages which have caused the problem.

The weather is, as usual in early February, uninterruptedly sunny and extremely hot.

cows

At 8am everything was quiet amongst the insemination mob but at 11.30, these two were standing nose-to-tail and occasionally circling each other.  I eventually concluded that yearling 787 was coming back on heat again and that Emergency was not.

ground

Near the Back Barn gateway to the lane, I spotted the back of a NAIT tag on the ground, so looked around for the RFID front portion, figuring it couldn't have fallen far from the other half.

It wasn't particularly obvious, here in the centre of the photo.  It belongs to Gem 698, who lost hers within a day of sister Meg doing the same.

I watched 787 during the afternoon, eventually concluding she'd gone out of the standing heat phase and ought to be inseminated before we went out, rather than later when we came home.  Hopefully this time it will work!  With the heifers, I think it's the timing of insemination which has been my problem this year (except for 150's first time, which was a physical failure on my part).  The other two due around now show no sign of coming back on heat.

We went to a very cool party across in an adjacent valley, hosted by a music producer who's built a studio and was having a sort of official opening, with musician friends from Australia and around Aotearoa.  Stephan had been asked, as a big, strong fellow, to help get the enormous mixing board into the new building some months ago and Brian, through whom the invitation came, had helped with some of the studio's construction.  It was a really enjoyable gathering with lovely food, live music and lots of interesting people.  I arrived home very happy that I didn't have an insemination still to do!

Sunday the 5th
bees

Having a lot of bees around is, for me, a little scary.  I react in a really uncomfortable way to their stings, so crossing the stream near the new hives, to the Spring paddock this afternoon, required some conscious calmness and I hoped that if I thought kind thoughts toward the bees and took care not to step where most of them were gathering to drink, they'd let me pass without incident.

stick insect

Over the road I became aware of some interesting company somewhere about my person.  Stick insects can be quite large and it takes some self control not to swipe something so leggy away in fright.

I had to hope I'd got a good photo at such close range, and almost did.

timber

Stephan was off 'playing' with his friends and brought another load of beautiful wood home.

Sarah, Karl and the boys and Elizabeth and William came out to pick blackberries and swim and then we all had a barbecue dinner together and after the power came back on (it was apparently cut to the whole of Northland because of a big fire around the transmission lines south of Whangarei), Sarah made a delicious pie with the berries and we ate all the freshest cream.

Monday the 6th
Waitangi Day

RNZ (formerly Radio NZ) National, did a great programme of interviews this morning, interspersed with racist texts from people who don't like hearing about anything outside their own experience.  I guess they feel they have to be "balanced" and present the views of those who don't like what they're doing, but why we need to hear bigotry during such a positive programme on our national day, I cannot fathom.

The day at Waitangi was no doubt as lovely as always.

cow

Ridiculous, Zella!  This is scary threat behaviour and most of Ivy's descendants do it to us and it means absolutely no threat at all.  I would be going in the other direction if someone else's animal or a bull was doing this to me.

udder

Gem 698's udder has huge veins.

It's not a very big udder - and compared with dairy cow udders it's tiny - but she does grow pretty nice-looking calves.  Her current daughter is growing at just over 1kg/day, which isn't fantastic but is alright in this dry season.

Beef cow udders don't need to be as capacious as dairy udders since their milk harvesting is so different: a calf drinks four or five times a day, a total of seven to nine litres, where a dairy cow gets milked, at most, twice.

tree felling

Stephan spent the day tidying up where the big tree was felled, first practising what he'd learnt from Roger to successfully fell this dead tree without hitting any of the fence posts.  Once it was out of the way he was able to put the wires back on the fence, so we have a secure path to the bridge again.

cow

If I didn't know she was perfectly fine, I'd be startled to find a cow in this position!  They sleep in all sorts of odd poses.

heifer

Interesting.  This is unusual mucous.  The animal is Queenly 149, yearling daughter of 107 and she ended up being mated by bull 87 and I've been watching her for any sign of coming back on heat and if she does, I plan to inseminate her.

Pregnant cows, at this stage of the year, occasionally produce small amounts of thick, partly cloudy mucous, and then almost nothing for several months before they start again in the last three or so months as they near calving.  I don't recall ever seeing mucous like this and wonder if a pregnancy which began has slipped because of infection or something?  I managed to grab some of it a few days after this photo and it had no smell, so I'm curious rather than worried.

farm

There's the new tape gate between the Middle Back and PW, replacement for the steel gate which is now installed at the bottom of the hill as the entrance to Route 356.

hillside

Just a little further around from those cows was 613 and I sat down on the warm grass and watched as her calf also spotted her and set off in her direction.  It's interesting watching the recognition between various animals.  The cows and calves know exactly what each other looks like from any distance, amongst any number of others, just as we do.

Oddly, 813 then changed her mind and went back to where she'd come from as her mother carried on along the side of the hill.  Maybe she was just checking all was well.

trough

I've been cleaning troughs, emptying them and scrubbing their sides and ribbed bottoms of all the algae and slimy stuff.  In some cases, emptying them has also allowed repositioning, as in this case because the trough got shoved around by one of the bulls a couple of weeks ago and wasn't sitting on its flat bit of ground any more.

The best thing about this place in a long, hot, dry summer, is the constant supply of fresh, clean, beautiful water.

orchids and chrysalises

The Monarch caterpillars continue to survive until pupation (the wasps don't seem to be getting them at present) but because they often go and hide themselves amongst the leaves of the vegetable plants they regularly appear on the kitchen sink with the silverbeet.  I went through the garden a couple of days ago looking for them.  Those I found are pegged to the orchid flower spikes where they've already begun hatching into the beautiful butterflies.  The two dark ones to the left of the purple peg are getting ready to hatch.

cow

Jet 777 didn't really look like herself with lime dust all over her face this afternoon.  I suspect they don't much like eating the dusty grass but at present there aren't a lot of options.  I won't keep them here for long, just long enough for a snack on the grass which has grown since the lime went on.

Tuesday the 7th
cows on heat

743 has had some clear mucous over the last couple of days so while it's disappointing, it wasn't a huge surprise to see her on heat.  Also on, riding 743 and having just lost her heat detector, was Ida 145, for the first time (I've been able to detect with surety) since she calved.

The colours in this picture are just as they appeared on this misty, weirdly lit early morning.

Monarch Butterflies

Two Monarch butterflies, whose chrysalises had gone dark yesterday, hatched in the warmth today.  I'm delighted there are so many successfully breeding here.

cows and calves

This is the size of the little mobs we take in to the yards when someone needs inseminating.  I always ensure we take the cow's calf if she has one and the yearling heifers are often part of the group, since they don't have calves and are generally quite biddable.

I did 743 at 6pm and there were far too many flies for the comfort of either of us!

cow and calf

For some years we've been buying 20kg blocks of salt without any additives because those blocks are much harder than the multi-mineral option.  But they still dissolve in the rain quite quickly and 20kg is a heavy weight to lift.  When I recently enquired about getting more of the white blocks, the shop person asked if I'd seen the 50kg bags of Himalayan Rock Salt, which comes in chunks of a more manageable size.  I'd seen it before at various Fieldays but got the impression it was sold as a superior-priced option and so never investigated further.  But it's now a great deal cheaper than the 20kg blocks and it looks to be superior in other ways too.  Firstly it's solid crystal, not a reconstituted block, so should (I hope) survive rain a bit better than the blocks do.

I put the first blocks out today and the cattle were a bit hesitant at first, but then some of them wouldn't leave it alone.

Angus bull

I know he's not the best bull in the whole world but he's a very nice animal for our purposes.  Mr Big has such a lovely temperament.  I never take him for granted, always keeping an eye on where he is if I'm wandering around his territory but he's respectful of my directions and he will stop if I want him to, even if he wants to go somewhere in particular.  I'll miss him when his time comes, which it inevitably will before too long.

But while he's fertile and healthy, he'll stay.

Kahikatea fruit

My photo colours are a bit all over the place, I'm sorry.  I'm having some monitor difficulties - need to recalibrate, probably, as well as a suspicion that my eye lenses have changed my colour perception subtly.  In some lights I think I lose some colour depth.

At the end of a day in the evening light though, sometimes this isn't a bad representation of the colours one sees.  These are the Kahikatea berries on the female trees, which will start ripening to their fabulous oranges and reds in about another month.

Wednesday the 8th
wasp

Watching one of the cows grazing on the hillside Over the Road, I saw her suddenly back away from one spot and run some distance to other grass.  It was extremely hard to see what the problem was, but eventually I spotted a paper-wasp nest tucked into a tiny overhang of grass or soil, in the middle of nowhere.  In this picture there's one wasp visible, just above and right of the centre.  I placed a marker nearby and will have to return with some fly spray.

Cabbage Tree

I hadn't noticed it for some time but this is the same Ti Kauka (or Ti Kouka, it seems to get spelled either way) on the other side of the Back Barn boundary fence, whose top I snaffled for 356 to eat when he was stuck in 2004. I took other pictures of it in 2010 and 2007.  It has grown very tall.

cows

Here are three cows at a very strange angle which makes at least one of them look dreadful.  The point of the picture is that they're all of the same family, from three successive years and show an interesting difference in body condition.

cow

The oldest, at 4½, is 725, and at physical maturity she's in about average condition for the herd in mid-lactation and mid-drought.

cow

This is 3½ year-old 745 (725's sister) and the noticeable difference is the hollowing under her tail...

cow

...which is even more obvious in 2½ year-old 775 (725's daughter).

775 is a bit too thin for my liking, there not really being enough feed around for a growing heifer who's feeding a calf but she will catch up again.  The milk from that insignificant-looking udder is growing her daughter at just over a kilogram each day, which is good going under the prevailing conditions.

All three have come back on heat while with the bull, after I inseminated them the first time.  I'm disappointed, of course, but wonder if there's something common between them, perhaps in their ovulation timing after standing heat?  To miss all three seems odd.

rock salt

The cows have licked some facets of their salt blocks to a clear smoothness.  I'm glad they've decided it will suit them.

sheep

Stephan has been feeding the sheep and goose with maize again, in the interests of keeping them tame enough to muster.  The lambs started off being very timid but are gradually less so.  We didn't have any maize with us when I took this picture, so they weren't quite sure whether to come any closer.

timber

Stephan is very happy with his wood shed, with the new timber all fillet stacked on the left.

Thursday the 9th
dead Australian Sedge

Standing in the Big Back North, with the winter-pugged, summer-dried soil in the foreground.  There's some soil damage around this year which I'm sorry has happened.  We've really got to teach the cows to levitate.

Across in the South paddock are many dead Australian Sedge plants.  It's always so satisfying to see that result, after going around weed-wiping them.  They take a bit of effort, needing wiping in the middle of the clumps as well as around the outside, since they appear to be colonies of plants, not just individuals.

Friday the 10th
tractor

Stephan in his new chainsaw chaps, picking up firewood from Route 356, so he can start fencing soon.

Usually the cut firewood stays stacked out in the paddocks to dry, before being brought in the following or next year, when it's a bit lighter; but here it needs to be out of the way.

In the evening we took ourselves to town to see the Tour de Science, a short show presented by David Klein.  It was a bit of fun with some things to ponder.  It's so interesting going to different events and seeing entirely different audiences, in this case mostly people we don't know and some whose faces we're only slightly familiar with, all presumably resident in this small community.



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