The week beginning 1st October 2005.
Saturday the 1st

Ivy isn't eating and there's nothing coming out the other end either.  I rang the vet and we decided she had a touch of milk fever, where a deficiency of Magnesium in the lovely freshly grown pasture she's been grazing has prevented her being able to internally mobilise her Calcium stores as her growing calves' demands on her rise, and her udder starts its production as she approaches calving.  (I'm not entirely familiar with what happens in the udder as it begins to make colostrum, but my intuition is that it's the start of that process which has brought on this metabolic crisis.)  She was doing a lot of sitting down, moving uncomfortably and grunting when she breathed, partly I think because she's quite bloated.  Because her rumen isn't moving as it should be, she has not been belching the gas which is produced by the microbiological activity therein.  Whenever she stood up and moved, she looked drunk and out of control of her legs!

I dashed into town and bought supplies, including Magnesium Oxide to give to Ivy with her Molasses, to try and address that part of the problem.  The vet had advised by phone that I just drench Ivy with an oral Calcium supplement, but on reading the bottle at the vet's practice, discovered that the cow needed to have rumen motility, which Ivy obviously doesn't at the moment.  The vet was too busy to quickly answer my questions about which was the best alternative treatment, so I selected the best thing I could find on their shelves for subcutaneous injection and went home to see what we could do for Ivy.

I brought #114 from the next paddock for company - she's currently nearly at the bottom of the cow pecking order, so is unlikely to push Ivy around - and we herded them into the lane and on their way to the yards.  Half-way there Ivy decided she wanted to go back to her paddock, so drunkenly lurched her way past us.  I decided we'd better let her have a rest, so when she sat down in the lane in front of the last closed gate, I shoved a great big needle into her neck and got some of the calcium/magnesium/glucose mix into her.  We then left her there for an hour, after which she was much more steady on her feet and we were able to coax her the rest of the way to the yards, where I injected the rest of the bag of fluid.

Afterwards I left the two cows in the little paddock near the yards, bringing Ivy Molasses and feed treats, some of which she ate.  Later in the evening, she was a completely different shape again, the gas in her rumen having been successfully belched up.  She still looked pretty down in the dumps, but at least she was in control of her muscles and her internal organs were working correctly again.

woolly sheep

While I carried on observing Ivy and checking on the other cattle, Stephan shore the sheep.  They've been due for shearing for a while, but we just kept putting it off.  They've been spending some of their time over on the neighbours' place, but as there is now a young puppy living there which is seldom tied up, I'm beginning to think we might have to make other arrangements!  One of those arrangements will be to take four dead sheep to the butcher for processing into mince and sausage-meat and there are a couple of others which will make very nice roasts.  That will leave five sheep: Yvette, Babette, Lamb, Dotty and Damian, who will be able to live permanently within our boundaries without recourse to the flats.

It's been quite odd not having lambs this year, but has certainly made things a bit easier, both in grazing management for the cattle and in regard to some of the distractions we've personally experienced during the last couple of months!

I moved the two heifers and their calves across to a lovely grassy paddock this afternoon.  The older calf tore up and down around the lane and the new paddock, tail high in the air.  Calves are such a delight to watch!

Sunday the 2nd

I spent quite a bit of time today checking on Ivy, making sure she was eating and not looking like she was slipping back into metabolic difficulty.  We took her into the yards in the afternoon and gave her the oral calcium supplement and I'm continuing to give her Magnesium with her Molasses.

Monday the 3rd

Ivy was looking fine this morning.

I hosted some people who came to have a look at the bulls with a view to buying one of the yearlings a little later in the season.  Stephan had kindly made a cake and some biscuits - apparently the children of the family (it's school holidays right now) will now insist that bulls are always bought here in the future.  Good plan!

When I went out to give Ivy another feed treat, I noticed that she'd quite suddenly developed a significant swelling under her jaw and down in her brisket!  She didn't look that great, so I went and phoned the vet for a chat.  He agreed that it might very well be a side-effect of the fluid injections the other day, but suggested there were some other, more serious, possibilities like impending heart failure.  I decided that it was more likely the former cause, and to keep her under observation.  But when I went back out to see Ivy, she seemed quite depressed and wasn't eating, so I arranged for one of the vets to come out and have a look at her.  I thought it better to make sure that she was alright, or if not, know early in the piece, so we might still have some options: we could for instance induce the calves to take pressure off Ivy, or do a caesarian section to rescue them from their dying mother.

Ivy Ivy

Craig, the vet, did a thorough inspection, listening to Ivy's heart, feeling her spine from underneath (via rectal exam) and making sure she wasn't actually in labour.  Because she's been looking slightly hunched and stepping from side to side on her back feet, Craig thought she'd perhaps been injured, either by the little bulls with which she was grazing, or while getting up and down in her unsteady state during Friday and Saturday.  But he suggested that it wasn't a serious injury, her spine feeling alright, and that it would resolve itself with rest, as long as we kept her on flat ground and reasonably quiet.

I've now extended the time for entering your guess in Ivy's part of the calving competition, right up until she calves.

Tuesday the 4th

Time for the first cute baby photos!  Here are 421's bull calf and 404's heifer.  The bull (left) is the son of Quadrille 07 and the heifer is daughter of Arran 20.  They'd just woken from an afternoon nap with their mums.

sleeping cattle

After checking the calves and heifers, I carried on out to the back of the farm, to move the cows from one paddock to another.

It's flowering time for some of the plants around the farm: at left below, the Bush Lawyer, which I noticed flowering last week, so some of the flowers are now past their best.  Apparently the fruit are edible, but I suspect they may be rather small.  At right is the lovely native Clematis, growing in the top of a Manuka or Kanuka tree.

Bush Lawyer Clematis in Manuka
Wednesday the 5th

With Chantelle for company, I drove to Whangarei today, to spend an hour lying in a claustrophobia-inducing tube inside a machine which did a great deal more than ping!  It's marvellous technology, that which allows the external scanning of one's internal organs, rather than having to be chopped up to see what might be going on!

When it became obvious that calving would be in progress by the time I needed to make this trip, Stephan and I decided that he would stay at home to keep an eye on the heifers, so I needn't worry about them.  As it turned out, the action only started as we drove back in the driveway.

449 and her calf

449, who I've been expecting to calve for days, was obviously in labour (the membrane bag with two feet visible was already coming out) when I looked across to the paddock from the house.  Chantelle and I dashed out to watch and then, because I said it'd probably be an hour before the calf was actually born, we went back to get a cup of tea.  I made it back to the paddock just before the calf popped out, but Chantelle was just a little too long and missed the moment.

449 made a great deal of noise during her contractions, but the calf was born exceptionally quickly.  449 was very quick to get to her feet and begin cleaning the calf, which also responded very quickly and began moves to find his feet.  Chantelle came back and soon afterwards Dylan, Stephan's Great-nephew, who's to stay for a couple of days, joined us.

The heifer standing behind 449 in the picture, whose number is 410, was very interested in the whole process and kept coming in for close inspections, passing between the calf and the drain (to the right in the picture) just as the calf flopped over from pushing up with his back legs.  410 got such a fright that she jumped, plunging her left foot into the abdomen of the calf on the ground!  From making extremely lively efforts to get up, he was suddenly very still, lying on his side and making no further attempts to move.  I felt quite sure he was not going to survive.

449 was an exceptionally good mother, continuing to lick him dry, nudging him gently with her head to try and push him up to a sitting position.  She didn't look terribly happy to have me approach very closely, but I went in and pushed the calf up a bit and eventually, after about half an hour the calf recovered enough to attempt to get up again.  Once on his feet he went in search of her udder and I managed to coax them away from the drain, so that whichever way he stumbled would be safe.  I left them for the night, hoping that there hadn't been any significant internal injury which would see him dead by morning!

Thursday the 6th
Puriri Moth

449's calf seemed fine this morning, just sleeping much of the time as calves naturally do in their first couple of days.


Stephan, Dylan and I went out to the back to move the pregnant cows and discovered this, still just alive, Puriri Moth.  It's about 5-6cm long.

Friday the 7th
410 in labour

This morning, 410, the heifer who stood on 449's calf, began her labour.  She seemed quite fixated on 449's calf, following it around and sniffing it.  I thought she'd get on with having her own calf and then transfer her attention to it when it was born.  I was wrong.

410's calf

She kept lowing to the nice dry calf as she pushed her own out, then got up and licked the dry one.  I pushed her around (by waving my arms at her) to see her own calf but as she sniffed him he lurched toward her and she shied away.  The other calf then went off with his mother and 410 followed them, leaving her slimy, wet baby alone.

Nothing I tried made any difference, so when they all went to the top of the paddock, I managed to draft 449 and the calf, with a couple of other heifers out into the lane and took the calf and his mother to join the others out of sight of 410!  There was no way she was moving from that corner of the paddock, from whence she was looking for some escape to follow that calf, so I set up the gates and let her and the remaining heifers out, then pushed them back around and down to the other end of the paddock.  Shutting her in a small area by that gateway to the paddock, I went back and carried her very wet and slippery calf the 40 or so metres down to his mother and popped him through the gate.  A few minutes later she began licking and talking to him and within half an hour he was standing and feeding, so I put them back into the paddock.