I thought Dushi was on heat last evening but after standing for one of the others once, she showed no more sign. She was part of the reason for bringing them all the way down to the flats late last evening, so I could easily watch her, not too far from home.
From the amount of noise the bull was making in the House paddock during the hours before dawn, I'd say she came properly on heat around then.
The frustrated, noisy bull.
We took Dushi to the yards at 11am and again I failed at heifer insemination. I might have to find another job.
Afterwards it was time for the mob to leave Flat 1 and go along to Flat 3.
869 is the last calf in the picture, slowly making her way up the paddock well behind the others. I watched her as she passed, trying to work out if there was anything wrong with her. She didn't look unwell, just content to take her time.
Stella caught a ride up from Auckland with Karl, Sarah's partner, arriving mid-afternoon. It was lovely to see them both and we got to keep Stella!
She and I went out to find blackberries.
742 was on heat this morning and Eva's attitude suggested it wouldn't be too long before she is too.
While I was walking around amongst them, I noticed Gertrude 162's sudden interest in 742 being mounted by the steer. She got up from lying, went directly over to them and allowed 742 to mount her. So she's on too!
Those two, along with Eva and 773 are the only ones I'm still waiting for. To yesterday, day 20 of the first 21-day cycle, 88% of the cows had come on heat and been inseminated by me or the bull. In the dairy industry the expectation is 90% in the first cycle and a dairy-vet acquaintance told me that in beef herds the rate is generally lower, because a suckling calf will suppress the return to oestrus in a way simply taking milk from a cow will not. I had not realised there was a difference.
As I was checking the cows, I counted a flock of nine Putangitangi (Paradise Ducks), as they flipped and dove their way down from high in the sky. Young birds often perform highly entertaining aerobatics, exploring their new ability to fly.
They're late returning to our flats this year, after the annual moult. It may be that some will never return, if their usual moulting place was the Kaitaia oxidation ponds, where hundreds of birds have died from botulism during the summer.
They look like a family group of two mature birds with seven youngsters - obviously juveniles because of the only-partial whiteness of the young female birds' heads (I had to zoom in on my photo significantly to see that detail).
Stella turns 17 in a few days. It has been a great pleasure to be closely (although not constantly) involved in the lives of the two young women in our immediate family, so that we have the ongoing delight of watching their development as people. Sometimes they change astonishingly quickly between visits.
Stella and I walked across the flats to go and have a fencing consultation with Stephan (and it seems I failed to take any pictures of what he was doing). There are only two bits of the farm remaining without streamside fencing, one being the Road Flat paddock (and the other the peninsula on which the sheep live), where I've had an electric tape serving the purpose for some time now. It is that fence that Stephan went to sort out today. It's a simple job, requiring only a two-wire electric to keep the cattle away from the edges, joining up with the fence that currently protects the orchard. From the gate out of the bottom of Flat 4, he will form a simple lane down to the stream crossing, to protect the big Puriri on the bank.
At 5pm I inseminated 742 and then Gertrude 162 and had that "heifer problem" again. She was full of air in funny places from so much mounting activity during the day, and unsettled while I was working and I could not find my way through her cervix.
After I'd inseminated Eva (with the same semen again as last year, the sire of lovely 190), I watched Gertrude stand firmly for the steer and resolved to give her a little time with the bull on our way back to the paddock. Better to have her definitely pregnant today than to wait another three weeks to see if I got lucky with the insemination. I'll do a DNA test on the calf if I need to, to see who's the sire.
176 is a polite little bull, following calmly enough along the lane until Gertrude stopped, at which point he carefully mounted her, made sure everything was in the right place and concluded his business with little fuss. And again and again and that should be enough and so I turned him away from her, propelled him back down the lane to the gate he'd come from and put him back with Zella and Glia.
So here at the end of day 21, the submission rate for my cows and heifers has reached 97%. Excellent! Only one more cow, 773, yet to come on heat and it is possible I missed an earlier occasion, rather than that it didn't happen - although presumably "submission" actually means mated within the period.
Now the anxious excitement begins: on day 1 of the second 21-day cycle, I start watching for signs of anyone coming back on heat.
811 is the first almost-definitely pregnant heifer: she's had no mucous at all in the last couple of weeks and seems entirely content and peaceful now.
I wonder if this is trouble brewing? White-faced cows often develop cancers on their eyelids and I am suspicious that the odd little growth near the corner of 746's eye may be such a lesion. Hopefully it's just a build up of eye gunk and will have disappeared next time I look.
Flat-out calves sleeping in the shade in Mushroom 2.
183 was snuffling, her eye, tongue and legs twitching, as she dashed around in her dreams. Funny how they sleep with their eyes open sometimes.
Stella and I went walking in her favourite place in the Tank paddock, then on up one of the steep slopes to the boundary, which we've had to begin thinking about replacing. Negotiations with three sets of neighbours are in progress, which is proving interesting.
Late last night I looked at 607, suddenly without the ear-tag she's worn all her life and thought, who are you? It's always weird when they lose their number tags, even when they're absolutely recognisable otherwise.
773 was coming on heat during my first check this morning.
Stella said she'd like to come for a walk up the Bush Hill to see the new trees I'd found, so we drove over and parked in the shade in Flat 4 and set off up the slope.
This is what happens to a dead possum in very hot weather: it seems to melt.
I don't know what this fern is; another for later identification.
It's an interesting plant, growing widely across an open area on the hillside.
At the top of the hill in our reserve, is a little sunny patch of Kikuyu grass.
The boundary fence was just behind me and we went over it and into the Buselich Reserve.
It was lovely, easy walking in some places. I always try and take a different route through the bush, although near the top, we ended up on some familiar paths.
We sat down under the big Kawaka trees.
As I set the GPS down on my hat I noticed this little tree between my legs: I'm pretty sure it's a Ramarama. Funny the things one nearly sits on in the bush.
Thankfully, so far we've seen no sign of the Myrtle Rust fungus. Ramarama are reported to be particularly susceptible to it.
Coming down through the reserve in a new direction, I was surprised when we reached our boundary fence. Then we pushed our way through the scrub in our reserve and discovered the pink ribbons marking the spider orchids. They had these extraordinarily long stems extending their ovaries far beyond the height of the flowers.
I found some stems and ovaries like this on other plants around the other side of the hill and had wanted to come and check if these were the same. Interesting.
When I went out to set up the yards for 773's insemination, I disturbed the Pig paddock's Pukeko family. There are five chicks and one of the adults had found a dead mouse and was taking it away to a safe place to pull it apart for the chicks.
This morning Brian came and collected Stephan and Stella and they all went to Whangarei. Stella caught the bus back to Auckland while Brian and Stephan picked up a new car for an acquaintance and also went to the bike shop to collect my new transport.
It's little and light and they just lifted it carefully to the ground.
I went for a spin. Extraordinary to take off and go faster and faster and hear only the crunch of the gravel under the wheels.
All the cows and calves had been in this paddock where I stood to take the photo of Eva, standing alone and entirely still, after everyone else had left. She really can be very uncooperative. I walked down and stroked her for a while, before prompting her to walk up to the gate and join the others.
A Pukeko on sentry duty in the Windmill, crouching down, hoping I couldn't see it. I think I'd surprised it by arriving so quietly on my bike.
This is a very hot summer, I have inseminated everyone I'd planned to once and the first cows all appear to be pregnant; I'm tired and would quite like to cease my intensive heat-detection and we have a very nice young bull who will willingly and more ably do the job for the rest of the mating period. We had to go to town this afternoon, so I phoned the man who keeps the bank I borrow and arranged to return it, before its liquid Nitrogen level drops too far, and Stephan took it back while I attended an appointment.
Back at home I brought the insemination mob in to the yards, drafted out those who are closely related to bull 176, along with the four cows who've already passed their "return" date, so are presumably already pregnant, ready to go with the other bull, 178.
The remaining 45 animals from the insem mob went out along the lanes and I let bull 176 out the top of Flat 1 to join them.
They went out to the Bush Flat, which Stephan mowed a few days ago. There's not a lot of grass here but it's pretty short everywhere now.
Everyone ran madly up to the end of the paddock, then back down toward the gate, several of them coming over to rub and roll their heads around in the cut rushes in the winter-wet area. The bull dashed around, checking how everyone smelt.
I've again been spending hours with our yards plan, recalculating the timber we'll need to buy. I'd originally drawn the plan based on using six-metre lengths wherever possible but then realised it would be a great deal better to bring the maximum distance between posts down to around 2.4m and work with 4.8m timber lengths. So I redrew my plan, worked it all out again. Then to ensure we bought sufficient timber for the gates, I had to go through and carefully calculate all of that as well - I want to get everything delivered together to avoid adding lots of transport cost and inconvenience.
The order will also include all the fencing materials for the boundary replacement and, while we're at it, materials for all the subdivision and remaining reserves work we want to do.