The weeks beginning 9th & 16th April 2005.
Saturday the 9th

I took no pictures this week.  Sometimes I just don't think about doing so, being busy simply getting on with things.

I weaned the stud bull calves today.  Below is their actual data and some projected figures.  Two hundred days is the age to which all recorded calves are adjusted for data comparison, being a usual weaning age of just over six and a half months.

Dam Bull
per day
weaning % projected 200day wgt projected weaning %
Quanda 25 173 238 1.202 522 46% 270 52%
Irene 26 169 262 1.321 642 41% 303 47%
Isla 27 168 286 1.476 584 49% 333 57%
Sybil 29 156 242 1.296 676 36% 299 44%

The weaning percentages, a simple calculation of the calf's body-weight as a proportion of that of his mother's, gives a useful comparison of the efficiency of the cows.  Isla, I am always pleased to see, is streaks ahead of the others because she's a very moderate sized animal, but obviously provides both some very good growth genes and the milk to support their expression.

I brought the two mobs of earlier-weaned cows together in the house paddock this afternoon, and then started sowing an Italian annual rye seed over the Kikuyu.  The seed supposedly falls through the grass as the cattle move around grazing, and they press it into the ground at the same time.  I remembered too late, how tricky it is to sow seed in the midst of a herd of cows, especially when some of them know that nice things often come from containers I carry and so follow me around, almost stepping on my heels, trying to get their noses into the bucket!

Just before I finished for the evening, the sky became very dark in the east and I could then hear heavy rain approaching, falling on the trees by the river, then reaching the roof of the house.  I resolved to carry on, since I knew I'd not get back to shelter before getting wet, but all I felt was a few small spits of moisture, while continuing to listen to the rain drumming on the roof of the house.  Rainfall around here can be extremely localised!  I checked the rain-gauge when I went back to the house and we'd only actually had 0.3mm there, during the short, but heavy, shower.

The rest of the week ...

On Tuesday I went over to Kaeo for a Native Trees on Farms seminar.  On Wednesday I went out with the weed wiper and attacked rushes around the place, sowed some more seed as I moved the cows to new paddocks and just generally enjoyed being out and active.

Saturday the 16th

We went out to a dinner/dance function this evening, hosted by the rural supplies company, RD1.  We paid $25 each for the tickets, which included dinner and presumably covered the cost of hiring the band, Hoo Dat, who played a range of popular music which seemed to appeal to the fairly wide age range in the hall.  We had quite a bit of fun and Stephan even danced, which is pretty unusual and may have been partly explained by his moderate intoxication.  I remained sober and sensible and drove us home just after 11pm.

At around the same time, it later transpired, the idiot Kaitaia arsonist was setting fire to the Primary School just over the river from the Community Centre where the function was held.  A few weeks ago we lost the old house which has been the home of the Community Arts Centre, where I learned pottery.  There have been a number of fires set around the town since then.

Sunday the 17th

A woman named Priscilla contacted me via the site the other day, asking what to do with a Pukeko she had raised.  I invited her to come and release it here, and she and her family and the bird duly arrived.  As soon as she set the bird on the ground, I could see why she had expressed concern that it wouldn't be able to survive in the wild: it had some sort of deformity, evident from the set of its wings and the way it walked and moved its head, which made it look very much like it wasn't able to see much at all.  We put it in one of the rather overgrown, unused chicken runs, which is bird-proof for anything which can't lift higher than eight feet off the ground and Priscilla left, with the idea that she'd sort out a larger long-term cage for the bird, since it seemed pretty obvious that was its only chance of survival.  However, the bird was obviously able to flap its way up the side of the cage and out and it disappeared by the end of the day!

Tuesday the 19th

It is the time of year when I must send some of the older, or less productive, cows off the farm.  I'm planning to send some of those cull cows over the road to the new neighbours' property (the bit which used to be part of this farm, now belonging to William and Lisa) to help get their pasture under control, before sending them away.  However there are four cows which have "health issues", so I rang stock agent, Anthony, yesterday to arrange for them to go to the works before the others.  To my surprise, I then had a call from the transport company to arrange to collect them early today.  What service!

four cows away

We brought the cows in, weighed them, painted our initials on their backs and inserted "Direct to Slaughter" Animal Health Board tags in the ears of the two older animals.  Every animal going to the works must have an individually numbered and bar-coded ear-tag, but some of our cows are older than the new system, so only have older hand-written ear-tags.

This is always a difficult time, since I've generally had a long-term relationship with the cows by the time they leave.  These four included 344 and 352, both daughters of Bertrand and both only just made it through last winter and spring, due to their size and consequent metabolic requirements.  Most of Bertrand's progeny have been far too big to thrive on the meagre rations of a Diggers Valley winter, so I've gradually weeded them out of the herd.  There are a few which have been of the smaller, more compact, traditional Angus shape and some of them have proved to be very good cows.  352 is a daughter of one of the 17 rather poor heifers I was landed with by my first very unreliable stock agent and has for the second year produced a small, slow-growing heifer calf.  344 is a huge animal, daughter of a Jersey/Hereford cow, sister of one of my best producing older cows and has produced two really nice male calves, but she requires far more feeding than all the other cows, so managing her in a healthy way through the low-growth times in the year has posed a real problem.
The other two cows are older: 117 is a daughter of our first Angus bull, Albert, failing now because her feet have cracked and walking is obviously quite uncomfortable for her; Queenly 486 of Taurikura is one of the animals I bought from the dispersal sale of the Taurikura herd at the Whangarei Heads in 1999.  She has been a lovely cow, grandmother of a significant proportion of the commercial herd, since I've used her son, Quadrille 07, for four years' breeding.  Unfortunately she has arthritis in her left hip or stifle joint and is finding getting around increasingly uncomfortable.

three calves leaving on a truck

After seven weeks of waiting, the three calves I first sold on the internet, via the Trademe website, are finally to go to their new home.  It turns out that Sean, who manages the stock part of Mangonui Haulage, had decided that I'd not want to send my calves away on an overnight trip, so hadn't given me the option.  I informed him, very politely under such provocation, that I didn't care what time of the day or night they went, as long as they jolly well did!
After a quick trip into town to buy some more drench, I brought all the young cattle in to the yards and weighed and drenched the others while waiting for the truck to turn up.  Now I can finally move the young stock around to other parts of the farm without having to bear in mind that they may suddenly need to come in to the yards!

Just after the truck left with the calves, Stephan went over the road to open the gate for the other young cattle to go into the hill paddock and discovered the missing Pukeko, burrowed into the grass at the side of the road.  We moved the cattle, then took the Pukeko home and put it into a cage with some food and water.

The other purchase I made in town this morning, was 200 metres of alkathene pipe.  The water which always runs from the springs in the hill over the road, has almost dried up.  The dams on (neighbour) William's bit are nearly empty and so the troughs which are usually filled from them, are no longer working.  The cattle over there are therefore having to suck what they can from the dwindling puddles where there is still a little water pooling near the boundary fence from our part of the hill.

Realising that unless we have some significant rain in the next few days (which continues to seem unlikely), the situation will only worsen, we talked to William about installing a temporary trough in the bottom corner of his land, for the use of our and his cattle.  I've long wanted a trough at that end of our hill paddock and also one in the little paddock which we call the Road-Flat, where the cattle can otherwise source water only from the river, which isn't always ideal - the banks get very boggy during the wet times of the year, so there's the chance of cattle becoming stuck and because of the constant flooding, it's not possible to provide reliable access for them down to the water, since any track would get washed out and changed with each lot of swirling water.

With reference to the aerial photograph of the farm, we plotted the distances between any other part of the existing water system and the point we wished to reach and then set out across the bottom of the flats with some bright builder's string to walk a path through a piece of bush and across the river, which looked like the shortest and best route for the new waterline.  I suggested we found our way through the trees first with the string, because we know how easy it is to drift away from a straight path when in the midst of thick undergrowth!  Once we'd set up what appeared to be a fairly direct line, we pulled the 200m pipe through the bush, then climbed part-way up a Totara tree to hold the line up out of the way of any flood waters as it crossed the river, and then along a fenceline between the bottom of the Road-Flat paddock and the road, to a culvert which runs under the road to the boundary of both bits of land on the other side.  We didn't have quite enough pipe to actually finish the job, so left it until the next day.

The Pukeko escaped again!  The gaps in the mesh of the cage into which I'd put it, are only 7.75cm x 7cm at their largest and of a thick metal mesh (the cage is for catching dogs).  That was a very skinny and determined bird!

Wednesday the 20th

Stephan bought another 400 metres of alkathene (it was available at a very good price and there are some other paddocks which have yet to have water provided) and a couple of troughs and got on with the job of yesterday.  Chantelle, Mike and the boys arrived and came out to watch and help.

setting out the alkathene line connecting the end of the line

In the right-hand photo, Stephan had pushed a length of pipe through the culvert under the road and then had to connect it to the long pipe from the rest of the farm's system.  He then put one trough behind where the boys are pictured, in William's paddock, and the other in the bottom corner of ours, to the left of the picture.

Thursday the 21st

A couple of months ago I booked a flight to Palmerston North to attend the wedding of my niece, Kathy, to her very nice Darryl, so today we went up to the airport and waited for the plane.  And waited.  It had apparently left Auckland twenty minutes late, but Noel who runs the airport, said they'd be able to make up some of that time on the way back down, if we were all quick to load.  Then in his hurry, he bent something which prevented the hold door from being closed.  I, and the 18 other passengers, waited and watched while the pilots dashed around the carpark, borrowing tools from people's vehicles so they could fix the back of the plane to enable us to leave.  It's a little nerve-wracking contemplating such a repair, in a hurry, by a couple of young guys whose expertise is in flying the machine, not fixing it!  However we eventually made it into the sky without flying to pieces.

Arriving in Auckland half an hour later than scheduled, there was only time for me to walk directly across to my connecting flight to Palmerston North, while a guy in a little truck found my bag and transferred that to the other plane.  Flying into Palmerston North just over an hour later, the pilot cheerfully announced that the temperature there had just plummeted to 10°C after a thunderstorm.  Getting out into that after leaving Kaitaia's usual 24° was somewhat shocking!

My hosts for Thursday and Friday nights were Fran and L-J, neither of whom I'd ever met or spoken to!  Fran and I have been long-time correspondents by email, after meeting through my favourite rural discussion forum at  Both of us had to get used to the fact that our accents were rather different from those we'd imagined during our written correspondence, Fran being from North America.  I had a delightful couple of evenings with them, and fitted in a morning's wicked shopping around the middle of the city - I'm not a keen shopper, but on holiday it's rather charming to do something quite different - and I even spent some money on something completely extravagant!