Mud in February? Never.
I think even in the years we had big floods in February, which used to be quite common, we rarely had a lot of mud because the rainfall was short-lived and the ground very soon dried out again. This year the water is sitting around and making mud because there have been so many rainy days.
We took all the cows and calves to the yards because the youngest calves were due their booster vaccinations. We did them, then put the scales into the race and weighed all the calves, as well as a few of the younger mothers, who also got some pour-on drench to help them along - I'm primarily concerned about them having liver fluke, as I suspect their copper levels haven't been optimal.
Then we drafted ten pairs out of the big mob, because managing 78 animals in one group and keeping them on the flats is a bit harder than only 58, for the next couple of weeks until I stop inseminating. The ten out are those I am fairly sure are pregnant, having passed their first three-week return dates without incident.
Fifty-eight cows, calves and yearlings on their way to Flat 5b.
The other twenty can now go out into the hilly paddocks since I don't need to keep checking them so often - once a day will do, instead of every three hours.
Too fat, Zoom! She's four months old, 221kg, which is 23kg more than the biggest steer calf who's a week younger, 30kg more than the next group of the biggest calves.
Far too much of her weight is fat. My concern is that heifers can lay down fat in their udder tissue which may inhibit their ability to milk well as adults. But in this case I'm not sure I can do much about it. We already take more than half of Zella's milk. Despite that, Zoom is gaining over 1.4kg per day.
The rest of the calves' weights are mostly very pleasing. Four are not quite making 1kg/day, those of heifers Genie 150, Imagen 155, 788 and Queenly 149 (not surprising, given her almost non-start with such a tough birth). Three calves have gained under 1.1kg per day, those of the other two heifer mums, 792 and 787 and little Dexie 146. The rest are gaining above 1.1kg, most above 1.2kg, with the top five above 1.3kg. Even Eva, who looked so thin and possibly ill before calving, is growing Dushi 170 at 1.29kg per day. The average weight is just under 168kg at an average 107 days.
The growth-per-day figure is partly influenced by when the calves are first weighed. In their first week or two they pack on weight very quickly if they get a good start, a rate that gradually diminishes until it flattens out around 1.1-1.2kg/day in this herd in an ordinary season. I'm not too bothered about the reliability of those figures, more the trends they indicate, that essentially back up what's observable visually. Weighing is certainly extremely useful when comparing calves of differing ages and sizes, as they always are, to see how quickly they have grown, which cows are the best mothers and milkers, which sires I might use again.
Sunset over the trees from the yards (photographed at 8.13pm) after we weighed Zoom and Spot before they were separated for the night.
I always look at the big Northern Rata tree (the tallest in the sun's rays). This evening it occurred to me that it is possible that any human being who has ever walked this land, has been in the presence of that ancient tree.
It would not always have been that big, of course, but in its early years its foliage would have been visible in the top of the older tree in whose crown it originally grew. Various sources tell me they live for 1000 years but I suspect that's just a guess. They obviously take many decades to grow even a moderately-sized main vine trunk to the ground; it must take centuries to form the entire huge trunk of such a tree.
During the summer I do a lot of trough cleaning, primarily because of the amount of algal growth in the water - in some troughs great tendrils of green algae grow from the sides out into the centre, so that the cows can't avoid slurping it up. I doubt it does them any harm but it can't be as pleasant as drinking clear water. Usually the water in the centre is still clear.
But the water in the trough at the top of the House paddock was weirdly reddish-brown and over the last couple of days I kept wondering what was wrong, eventually remembering to take the sucking hose up to siphon it out. In the bottom was a big pile of dried (not so dry now, but had obviously been hard and dry) poo. Presumably one of the cattle had been engaged in a characteristic show of belligerence to someone else passing by, pawing at the ground, and had flicked a big dry cow pat into the trough. Yuck!
We're still suffering a wearying and wearing noise issue: new people who moved in just up the valley last year, have failed to sort out their solar power preferences and are still running a generator for 16 hours every day. Apparently this is to allow them to run an internet-based business; so I looked them up. They state that they are "NZ Owned, Operated and Made - this means that when you buy from [us] you are not only buying locally to help reduce you (sic) environmental and carbon footstep (sic) but you are also supporting a New Zealand based business." Not sure about that environmental and carbon footstomp when you use so much diesel to conduct said business! They turned the generator off while I was out checking the cattle at 10.30 tonight and the silence was utter bliss.
In the warm and enveloping quiet I watched an enormous orange glow on the Eastern horizon, as the moon rose.
I got trodden on this morning, something I try to avoid. I was stroking grey 807 (unavoidable, since she follows me around until I stop, with her nose almost touching me) and she moved in response to someone else's movement, right onto my toe. It was very pink and sore for the rest of the morning. I'll have to be a bit more careful with her.
During my check I laid a hand on Ida 145's rump, since I thought she would come back on heat today, but she felt quite cool. Then about twenty minutes later she got up and immediately tried to mount 743's head and showed all the signs of coming on.
Later in the morning she seemed quiet again, so I followed her around for a bit to see if anyone else paid her any attention, which they didn't.
After lunch she was much the same but at 4pm I got her up from where she sat and she stood still as Dexie 121 mounted her. As today was her 21-day return date since her first (unsuccessful) insemination, I took these signs to mean she was on heat, even if not very obviously so and in the evening took her in for insemination. I again found it difficult. I know she's capable of being pregnant and calving, since she's done it once but I'm having trouble making her so again.
This is not supposed to be a small stream but the top of a dry culvert. The culvert pipe is quite deep down in the gully that ran through here and with heavy rain, lots of debris has come down and blocked it.
We haven't quite got culverts sorted yet, in terms of how to install them and have them reliably fix the problems we were trying to address. Resources and climatic issues are as usual problematic. We need a digger, some metal and some drying weather.
I think Fancy's son is quite a good looking little bull. He nearly wasn't one, because I detected an early level of nervousness I didn't like. But he settled down and I'm glad he did.
I saw Gina standing with her head pressed against her daughter when I came out early this morning. She remained like this for a while, even after I approached to take this photo.
Mid-morning Ida 145 was showing all the signs of being on heat still or instead of yesterday. Having had difficulty inseminating her, I decided she could have a go with the bull, as her last chance, so moved the mob into Flat 5c so I could draft her into 5d as they went through the gate, to which it would be easiest to bring the middle bull. A couple of other cows got through the gate with her but as they weren't on heat, I didn't worry.
The bull came in, paid a lot of attention to one of the other cows and when he eventually got near enough to Ida to detect her oestrus state, she moved away from him, at a run, and kept running! I have no idea why; she was definitely still in standing heat only half an hour before.
I figured she'd settle down, so went away to have a sleep for a couple of hours and when I returned, Ida was sitting on her own, the bull nowhere near her and there was no sign at all that the bull had mated her - there'd usually be some white in her mucous from his semen but it was still just her own clear mucous I could see. If a bull has mated a cow he'll also usually have left lick and saliva marks on her back, of which there were none.
As Ida was still well within insemination time, I decided I'd give her one more go. I drafted the bull back out of the paddock and took the three cows down to the yards. This time the insemination was much more satisfactory, although getting the inseminator through the last part of the cervix was difficult, which might be why I had failed before.
Heat detection is a tricky thing. If you get it wrong you waste an expensive straw of semen but using a second straw is probably not as expensive as losing the three weeks until the cow comes back on heat again - and in Ida's case today, it was 'get pregnant this time or go to the works'.
I must remember, come calving time, that I cannot be absolutely sure about the sire of her calf, since it could conceivably be the bull, even though I think he didn't mate her. With so many Harry-sired calves expected, it may be easy to tell if hers is one of them or not.
This morning 729 had welts on her skin like Zella had earlier in the season, but fortunately without the same allergic reaction.
The other thing that might look like this is early ringworm but I'm fairly certain it won't be that. It must have been wasp stings again.
Stephan is about to begin fencing the lower wet area in the Middle Back, which I have long wanted to protect - and to protect the cattle from, since there are parts which are potentially hazardous for them.
We had a consultation about where the fence should go and discussed this stand of big Kanuka, which really need to be cleared. They'll make the most fantastic firewood!
While there I went for another look at the mown sedge. It'll be a lovely paddock if ever we can beat that weed.
This is an indication of the ground water level: this hole that Imagen made beside the track, is usually dry at this time of year and if water ever gathers here after rain, it soon drains away. Not this year.
All that white electric tape in the background is the outline of the new yards, or at least Stephan's latest plan for them. We need to come out and walk around through the spaces and see how it all feels.
We've been trying to get this cat for a long time. The trap is a big steel one with a very strong spring and is a fast and humane way to kill.
When set it sits on the board just in front of the piece of rabbit, the cat puts its head through, pushing some fine wires which dislodge the keeper and the trap snaps onto the cat's neck.
It takes all sorts of traps to catch feral cats. This cat has ignored live capture traps, modified yellow Timms traps, the smaller spring traps but fell for this one.
That's two so far this year.
I let the hen and chicks out for the first time today, figuring they'd do better including the variety of foods their mother can find for them around the garden, than on only the chick crumbles they've had to date.
When they were a few days old and one had more feathers than the others, I thought we had a rooster and three hen chicks; but now they look very much the same.
At last! Two cows came on heat today, 775, who may have been on three weeks ago without enough sure sign for me to do anything about it and here, 787, on day 88 since calving. That's not a spectacularly long interval for a heifer, just seemed a long time because she was one of the later calvers.
Ida 145, doing the mounting, has often been an active participant whenever anyone else has been on heat this season. Perhaps the lack of lactation changes her hormone profile, so that she's more sensitive to the others, in a way the milking cows often are not.
Half a dozen big Kanuka cut down into a big pile of firewood. The wood will stay here until next or the following summer, until it's sufficiently sap-dry for burning. It's heavy to carry out when fresh, so easier to leave it here in a pile and shift it later.
The alien has landed!
A Northland Regional Council officer has been in touch with me for some months, hoping to bring a dust monitor out here to see what our air quality is like near the gravel road, with all the logging truck traffic.
Unfortunately this is not really the summer to monitor dust, since it keeps raining and there isn't much chance of any. But there might be, sometime, and this thing will sense how much there is.
It was raining while the three people were installing the equipment, so I had to lend them an umbrella to keep things dry at critical stages.
Heavy rain warnings arrived by email this morning and evening.
During my 5pm check I found Fancy 126 had welts around her left side at the front of her body, like 729's two days ago. By 8.30pm they had spread back to her rump. She appeared unperturbed, grazing normally. 729's were still obvious around her back end.
Early this morning there was the most tremendous noise from out to the east, up in the clouds. I wondered what might be about to happen! Nothing much, as it turned out.
I presumed it was very heavy rain but a look at the rain radar when I got home showed none. It must have been wind.
Despite the rain warnings, there was only 23mm in the gauge this morning, although the warning is still active for Northland today.
Fancy's skin lumps have mostly disappeared, apart from a few along beside her spine.
The hen and chicks are of course taking liberties now they have some. Chickens on the deck is a mess waiting to happen.
Writing as I am some weeks after this photograph, I can see what I didn't want to see then: those chicks have very big, solid legs: roosters, all four.
Just after noon I found Genie 150 with a red indicator but showing no particular sign that she was on heat - it's always possible someone has "bounced" her, i.e. attempted a mount she didn't welcome but she couldn't get out of the way before the indicator was squashed. White-faced 788's was also red, although she was showing more sign of heat, being followed by the enthusiastic bull calf and occasionally looking toward the adult bulls' paddock.
I moved them down to Flat 1, so I could more easily observe them all during the afternoon. Neither was particularly active but I was able to note both standing for the other at various times, from the house.
Just before it got dark, I inseminated the two heifers and put a new indicator on Imagen 155, who'd shown signs of coming back on heat.
The first Putangitangi (Paradise Ducks) flew in while we were getting the cows in; back from the annual moult.