The weeks beginning the 22nd and 29th of May 2004
Sunday the 23rd

Stephan had arrived back from Auckland in time to attend a rehearsal for the play he is about to act in and discovered that there was still some question about one of the other actor's ability to learn her lines - a ridiculous situation in the last week before the production goes on stage!  The director suggested that an under-study might be necessary, so I said I'd borrow a copy of the play from an Auckland library and begin to learn the lines for the part.  And so I went from the airport to the theatre on my arrival home.

Because I was still feeling very unwell, I didn't do much around the farm for a couple of days, Stephan having moved most of the animals who needed shifting, on his return last week.

Wednesday the 26th
cows and heifer calves in the grassy yard

Because the weather is cooling, the grass growth is slowing, so it is time to wean the calves.  The weaners can then continue to eat the best pasture and their mothers can join the other cows on lesser feed for the winter, since they need only to be maintaining themselves and growing a small body within.

I've been waiting for some fine weather to do this job, because they also need to have the pour-on drench and at around $4.20 for the calves and $9 for most of the cows, I don't want the whole lot being washed off their backs before it has been properly absorbed!  The label says the liquid is rain-fast after at least two hours, so I prefer to give it a lot longer than that - sometimes difficult to predict around here.

part-way through drenching the cows and calves, in the yards

Part-way through the process, during which the cattle in the left-hand pen are coaxed up into the pen which leads into the race and each in turn walks onto the weighing platform, I record the weight in my notebook and then apply the required amount of drench to their backs and they are then allowed out into the right-hand pen area.

When finished I drafted the cows out and walked them out to their paddock, leaving access to the lane which borders the paddock into which I planned to put the calves.

Ruth walking the weaner heifers out to their new paddock

Then I took the calves out to their paddock, from where they could bellow their displeasure at being cut off from their mothers, for the next two or three days.
I weaned, as usual, on either side of a fence, most of which is electric, but they could stand on either side of a gate, so that if they wanted to touch noses, they could do so without electric shock!  Naturally I had to accept the destruction of a wide patch of grass on the calves' side of the fence, where they tramped up and down continually.

The calves' weaning weights were as follows:

CalfWeightAge & other details
421 255kg 8½ months, daughter of 99 and Lendrich 05
423 246kg 8¼ months, the very furry calf, daughter of 351 and Quadrille 07
426 251kg 8 months, daughter of 349 and Lendrich, saved from the sale at the last minute
428 243kg 8 months, daughter of red 83 and Lendrich
430 243kg 8 months, daughter of red 94 and Lendrich
443 257kg 7½ months, daughter of grey 16 and Merchiston Playboy
446 249kg 7½ months, daughter of 360 and Quadrille
449 242kg 7¼ months, daughter of 363 and Quadrille
452 277kg 7 months, daughter of 348 and Minerts Fortune 2000
456 234kg 8 months, daughter of Onix and Quadrille
Demelza 21 227kg 8 months, daughter of Abigail 08 and Glanworth Waigroup 619

The average daily gain from first weighing to the time of our usual weaning at around six months was just over 1kg/day, which is only 90% of the usual rate.  The average is raised by 452 whose daily growth was over .2kg/day greater than all the others!  The heifers' growth from that weighing in mid April until weaning today, dropped to an average .4kg/day.

The figures for last year's late-weaned heifer calves are on the page from 3 May 2003.

I had to go hunting for some cattle which weren't where they should have been, so walked rather further over a couple of days than I had the strength to in my fragile state and suffered a relapse of the horrid cold, so there are no photographs for several days - it was raining, too, so I didn't even take the camera out with me.

Stephan, in the mean time, spent far more hours than he ought to have done, at the theatre, finishing the set for the play and attending rehearsals.

Friday the 28th - Wednesday the 2nd of June
Wednesday to Come by Renée.
most of the cast of "Wednesday to Come" on stage

The play went on to great acclaim!  For a bloke who swore he was far too shy to act on stage, Stephan does rather well!  Adrienne, who played Iris and sits at the end of the table in the picture above, was very good.  She and I have acted together in the past and she has done several productions in the mean time, but I think this was her best yet.  The part demanded much of her and she delivered.

I played the part of the woman who sells the tickets to get in.  I acted it very well, but received no official review anywhere, despite an outstanding couple of performances!

At the end of the last performance on Wednesday night, the cast and various supporters sat around and drank wine, while Stephan and some helpers demolished the set.  By the time we left, it was just an empty stage again.

Wednesday the 2nd of June

As we were preparing to go out to the theatre this evening, I had a phone call from Jill, my mother, to say that fellow farmer and Angus-breeder, Beth Geddes, had rolled her four-wheeled motor-cycle this morning and been killed.  Beth hosted our last Women in Agribusiness day in April, and I had been looking forward to talking more with her at our next meeting.

Beth had been farming for about the last 16 years, since she began at 60, after retiring from a career in nursing.  She was enormously enthusiastic about what she did, had won prizes for her cattle in national beef carcase competitions, and obviously adored her land and animals.  I first met Beth several years ago because we both belonged to the Northland Angus Association.

Farming is a fairly dangerous occupation and we all know we have experiences which, with the difference of split seconds or millimetres, might have had quite different and appalling outcomes.  We go on because we love the life, take as much care as we can, but there's always the possibility that error, accident, timing, will take us out of the ordinary run of things and into harm's way.