Zoom was firmly on heat early this morning, so I inseminated her after noon. It was not a satisfactory experience. Heifers can be difficult to do, with their little, often indistinct cervixes but last year I'd had no trouble at all and thought I'd surmounted the problem, become an infallible expert. Obviously not. I think I found my way into the cervix but only as far as the first ring. I could as easily have been outside in the blind area beyond the cervix. In the page from this time last year I showed a picture of a cervix, if you're interested in reviewing that information.
Tough, dried Parsley Dropwort flowers create frustration when pulling in electric tape or wire like this. I couldn't pull it from where I was winding and had to walk all the way out to untangle this simple but annoying problem.
The electric string (I never quite decide what to call it, not being tape and not being wire, just strands of strong plastic fibre twisted with fine wire for electric conductivity - very useful, light stuff to use), had been half-way across Mushroom 3 to exclude the cows with their glued-on heat indicators from the trees where they might have rubbed them. Stephan will come and mow all the horrible flowers down in the next day or two.
Elizabeth, Sarah, Karl and the children came out for some pond time.
Karl had to issue some stern warnings to those other swimmers, not to capsize him while he was holding Wanairangi.
Zoom was on heat for hours. I took this photo at 4.20 just after she'd stood firmly for 856, and she was still standing at 7.25pm. Disappointed in my earlier effort and hoping a second attempt might be more successful, we brought her back to the yards and I tried again. Same result. Damn.
There was a cluster of activity like this late last night; I had to be careful in the dark, aware of where everyone was and what was going on. 775 and Gina 142 were both on heat, stalking around looking for action, with 714 in pursuit, also coming on heat.
This morning we brought them all in, Gina 142 got the big bull, Chisum, who is sire to four of this year's heifers and the other two got the Australian bull I'm using for the first time this year, named Bowmont Jackpot J310.
A couple of people I've spoken with recently asked how much each insemination costs and one thought it would be vastly more and one much less: the Jackpot straws cost me $37.50 each and the Chisum straws were $50. (All plus GST, handling, freight, etc.).
I have to ignore the cost of each straw as I withdraw it from the nitrogen in the bank, or I would get nervous and probably drop something. They are a small expense for fabulous calves.
Having a much-needed nap after lunch, we were rudely awakened, more than once, by the loud crows of our four roosters.
When we gave up trying to sleep, we immediately made preparations to carry out some noise control: Nigelson and his sons are no more. They will make very nice chicken dinners, as was the intention for the youngsters and as Nigelson may not be the best sire for chicks, we do not require his ongoing presence.
Mowing Flat 2. It was already one of the better-looking paddocks with less Parsley Dropwort than some but mowing always tidies things up for improved pasture quality.
807 and the bull did their thing this afternoon. He's been herding her and the calves for days, obviously aware of her impending oestrus well before it happened. Later on he was slightly less troublesome with the herding behaviour - earlier he wouldn't let them go through the gates or along the lane, presumably so he can keep "his cows" together and not have them wander off into the range of another bull.
Another huddle early this morning; this time it was Fancy 166, Ida 145 and Dreamliner 787 all turning tight circles around each other.
I walked around the rest of the Bush Flat checking cows and looking into the stream reserves for Ragwort plants but found something much more exciting: the first Kawakawa I've ever seen here. They're very common generally, just not here. I presume that is because they're tasty for cattle and this is another species I am beginning to see spreading now that the cattle are excluded from the stream banks.
We had a bit of rain, 12mm in the gauge. That'll make the grass a little greener.
A man phoned and asked if I had any budgies for sale. Since a previous enquiry last year, for which the yellow birds were intended, came to nothing, I said yes. We'll sort that out over the next few days.
No more pesky tough flowers in Mushroom 3 now! Well, inevitably there'll be a few but most of them are gone.
I always like the appearance of the clump of trees in the middle of the photo: there are so many subtle hues of green. They are Kahikatea, Totara and Pukatea.
At around 3pm I opened the gate for the cattle to come out of the Bush Flat. Down where the lane turns along to Flat 4 I drafted out Fancy 166, her daughter and three heifers ready to go on to the yards for Fancy's insemination.
Later on after returning those cattle to the mob I noticed a few cows standing and calling across the flats, as if their calves weren't with them: they weren't. Six had failed to come out of the paddock with everyone else. But they were quite willing to trot along once I went out to fetch them. Calves generally wait where they're left, until their mothers or I come back to find them.
Just on dark I inseminated Ida and Dreamliner. It's interesting to note how my cows behave during this process. Some of them are completely calm, others jumpy and nervous, trying to turn back in the race; some swish their tails violently, which can cause me some difficulty because I have a long steel inseminator in hand and am holding it gently so as to control the pressure applied within, and once or twice a tail has sent it flying out of my hand! A few cows get really twitchy as soon as the inseminator begins passing through the cervix - perhaps, as for some women, while the medical profession will tell us there are no nerves in there, that is not necessarily true. Those cows stamp their feet and shift back and forth so that the process takes longer than it would otherwise. Occasionally a cow will be particularly sensitive to the anal stretching required as I insert my left arm. I'm always careful to be gentle but for some that still isn't enough. My notes suggest that it's not necessarily the same for those individuals in every year.
If that all sounds terrible, it's all much gentler and rapidly concluded than the attentions of a randy bull.
For the first time since the Kotare chick hatched, this morning I was not subjected to swooping, dive-bombing attacks by the parent birds as I read the max/min thermometer under the nest hole: I presume the chick has fledged.
813 came on heat just before ten last night so just before ten this morning I inseminated her.
813 has been on and off my list of heifers I want to keep. Initially she was a favourite as a calf (and a second picture here) but showed troublesome behaviour after weaning. At pre-mating weight time last year she was only 350kg, not quite meeting my 360kg minimum and I wasn't sure I wanted to keep her by then anyway.
This year she's been behaving quite calmly, although getting her up into the race this morning was a little tricky and we ended up having 812 stand in the headbail just in front of 813 as I inseminated her, to keep her calm, which worked out nicely.
I presume this is an algal bloom. The alga is most probably native and we see this most summers when the water is warmer than usual.
Lawn rabbit lives, mostly, on our back lawn around the aviary. Stephan is convinced it is a child of Big Soft Rabbit because of the size and shape of its ears and head.
It also has a very beautiful hairdo.
When at the SPCA collecting the found budgie last week, I asked about BSRabbit and it transpires that he was sent south to Whangarei for de-sexing and then put up for adoption either there, or further south. That wasn't quite what I had anticipated. Seems like we may never get to feel those lovely big soft ears.
A search on the SPCA site turned up an adoption listing with a fairly likely-looking rabbit with a bent right ear! I have sent an enquiring message.
Will they make a beautiful child?
This lovely calf and the bull have the same sire, so I'm hoping the outcome of this mating might be similarly good.
807 was on heat on Sunday, the bull just happens to be here with her during milking time.
A couple of weeks ago I asked for suggestions of names for lovely 807, since I don't really want to continue calling her grey 807. Three suggestions arrived: Renée, referencing spy fiction, suggested Bond 807; Sue suggested Lady Jane Grey, which is very fitting but I don't think I want a cow called Jane or things could get a bit confused in this neighbourhood; Jachin suggested a clever grey cow could be named Grey Matter; and that sent me off on a hunt for the names of brain cells, leading to Glia. I keep trying it on her and I think it will work. I like a name with a story.
A lost scrotum. We put the rings on all but one of these bull calves on 26 November, so it's taken just over six weeks for this to fall off somebody. It was hard and dry and stinky.
About a week ago Stephan figured out that the motorbike had died because of its ancient spark plug, rather than anything more serious, so I started riding it again. This morning I fell off it - or rather I fell with it and was flung hard onto the ground. There was, I thought, a bee down my gumboot and in my panic to address the situation, I failed to put the stand down before getting off and once the bike went past the point at which the stand would have taken its weight, it took me with it. It's not the first time I've lost my presence of mind in such a way and the bike is too heavy for me to hold up once it is falling.
I lay on the ground whimpering for some time, until the pain in various bits of my bruised body subsided, then pulled myself out from under the bike and limped toward home. There was a bit of cellphone coverage there, so I rang Stephan for a lift. I am not on my best behaviour when in such a situation.
At home I found some earlier email correspondence with the bike shop in Hikurangi, which is the closest dealer of the new electric farm bikes I'd looked at when at the Fieldays last year, and bought one. The new bike will only be as heavy as me at around 68kg, have a low centre of gravity (because of the location of the battery) so I'll likely be able to hold it if it falls, won't make me breathe horrible fumes all the time and will be quiet as I slowly travel along behind my cows. I've been very much looking forward to all of those things for a long time but didn't feel I could justify replacing the old bike until I had to. But now the balance (as well as the bike) has tipped.
We're up to day 18 of the mating period and there are only five animals on my list still undone, after 745 came on this morning.
I brought them in from the Windmill paddock early this evening for 745's insemination and let them have a go at the long grass in the driveway that has been unavailable to them while I had an electric string alongside the driveway, to make it easier getting insemination cows in. They're quite a mass of beef, all together in a small area.
The cows spent the night in the Blackberry paddock and then mid-afternoon I moved them out to the Back Barn. I knew there wasn't much feed there but enough for a few hours and it's easier to move a mob like this in this direction out of the Blackberry. Just on dark I brought them back to Flat 1.
With bull 178 in the PW and the steer with the insem mob, I thought it prudent to erect some electric string around the gateway on the bull's side, so there'd be no trouble.