The seven bull calves, on their first move since commencing their independent "adult" lives, checking out the big boys, who had to have a bit of a show-off scuffle as the little guys went past.
Grey heifer, 516, still looks rather different from her sisters, but I believe she is beginning to improve. After my last consultations with the vet and his belief that the udder swelling is injury-related, I decided to leave it and see what happened. I'm pretty sure it is gradually getting smaller: the roundness from the rear is less and the front teat area is less swollen than it was a month ago.
I'm still hopeful that this will eventually resolve and that I will, in a couple of years, be posting photos of this calf's first weaned calf! Time will tell.
Especially for Joyce, Bendy's long-time internet guardian angel in the USA. Joyce and her daughter raised a lamb at around the time Bendy was small and after writing about Bendy's imminent departure for the works some time ago, I received a sad email from Joyce, lamenting his loss - at which point Bendy's first adult teeth erupted and he was no longer able to go the works as "lamb" and has remained here ever since.
He's still slightly bent in his legs and feet and is occasionally a right pain, but every time I think of doing something to get rid of him, I think of Joyce. Lucky Bendy!
The first major storm of this autumn and the beginning of the power cuts. The power went down in Auckland today for several hours, creating havoc; here in Diggers Valley it was out for slightly longer and I had to light the fire. At least here we're not under several inches of snow, as are those away down south!
The Northland Women in Agribusiness group met again today, this time on a farm at the edge of the Puketi Kauri forest. Our hosts, June and Ian Wilson, have won a number of environmental awards and are involved with both Forest and Bird and the Puketi Forest Trust, which is involved in a huge amount of pest trapping in the forest and surrounding areas.
They have fenced off some significant areas of native bush, which are gradually returning to their natural state and include numbers of Matai trees (which are apparently not common in large numbers in northland) and various native tree-dwelling orchids.
I brought the fat cow mob in to the yards, gave them the 7in1 vaccine - except for the three cull cows in the mob - and then at the end, put Quilla 14 into the race and got a plastic glove and some lube and did an internal examination to discover whatever I could about her. (Quilla is not in calf and was injured by the bull during mating early this year - I forgot to ask the vet to examine her when he was here!) I'm pretty good at finding cervix and uterus when I have an inseminator in my other hand, but palpating wandering organs without that 'pointer' is not a skill I possess, so I gave up on the rectal examination attempt and got a clean glove and more lube and did a vaginal examination instead. Her cervix was not as I would expect it to feel, quite chopped up on one side. Having recently read someone's account of a caesarean section on a cow whose cervix had been damaged and had, in healing, adhered to the side of the vagina, preventing natural birth, I decided that since Quilla is not pregnant and obviously unwilling to allow the bulls near her during heat, she must go.
I then drafted the four cull cows from the mob and went out to get the four recently weaned bull-mothers, vaccinated them, then drafted Isis and Sybil into the cull mob. Those six cows spent the next hour chasing each other around to such an extent that I changed my original plans for the larger mob and sent Isla and Quanda back out to spend a night next door to the rest of the fat cows, before they get mixed in with them on a flat paddock tomorrow! I try really hard not to put the cows into situations where a couple of them will be picked on by all the others: it's far too stressful, both for me, watching, and for them!
Taking the cull cows out onto the flats for their last few days grazing, I had intended to put Arran 20 in with them, but as one was just at the end of standing heat, I decided to leave him out of the mob until she was finished. Not that it would matter very much if she got pregnant, but Quilla's injury occurred when I put her in with the bull last year when she was already hot and whatever the situation was which caused her to be injured in that case, I certainly didn't want to tempt fate again now. Arran can go in with them tomorrow and Quilla shouldn't come back on heat until at least next Friday, by which time she will be dead.
Above from left to right are 302, 350 and Sybil 808. 302 is a daughter of Albert, our first Angus bull and 46, a Hereford/Friesian cross cow, which I had to cull because her udder was so badly collapsing, a common fault in cows of that breeding. 302 has ended up with a similar problem, so I decided that her calf last year would be her last. She has left one lovely daughter in the herd, due to calve for the first time this year. 302 would have been seven years old this spring.
350, (R6 - six years old this spring) should have been a better-producing cow than she is. Her mother had several stunning steer calves and 350 was her only heifer and I have kept her in the herd longer than I ought to have done. 350's last calf wasn't too bad, in the end, but the others have been runty slow-growing things which are not the sort of animal I wish to produce and sell.
Sybil 808 (R11) is one of the four cows I bought from Takou Bay stud three years ago. She's had two bull calves here, the first sold last year, #29, is a good looking animal, but this year's calf is a disappointment. Sybil was added to the cull list last winter when I noticed she had begun losing her front teeth - they seem to be falling out, one at a time, which makes it difficult for her to graze efficiently, especially when the grass is short.
Above from left to right are Isis 06, Quilla 14 and Arran 20.
Isis is one of Ivy's daughters, beautifully ugly from the day she was born in 2000, but has a nice nature. She's a big, heavy cow, presumably inherited from her large USA sire but her fertility has left something to be desired. The first year she calved a dead bull, the second an unimpressive heifer, last year a beautiful bull, but now she's not in calf, despite multiple opportunities! She is the one cow on the farm who will push through the flood-gates to get to whatever is on the other side, whether it be on our property or not, including onto the road! She has been a bit of a pain.
Quilla has been knocked out of the breeding herd by last year's internal injury. I'm sorry to lose her, since she's so far only produced one calf and is daughter of lovely Queenly 486, my first carefully researched stud-cow purchase.
Arran is going the way most breeding bulls do: there's not much use for them in herds once they've sired a couple of years' calves and their daughters reach breeding age. His fate will be that of most of my elder bulls each year, as their position is taken by the next up-and-coming yearling bull. If my breeding programme is heading in the right direction, each year's new bull should be better than the bull from two year's before, so the older bulls must always make way for the younger, improved models! Arran is only R3, so he's not had a long life; I have tried to ensure he's had a good one.
393 is not pictured. She is one of Bertrand's daughters and currently the only cow in the entire herd who I won't confidently walk behind: she kicks! She also waves her head around menacingly at me and that sort of behaviour is something I won't tolerate, so she's going, leaving no surviving relatives.
Isla and Quanda mixed quite quietly in with the other 21 cows, having done most of their snorting and ground pawing at each other on either side of the fence overnight.
The FEC (Faecal Egg Count) and blood-test results are back. The bulls are all negative for EBL and BVD and the heifers show some Liver Fluke infection, as I expected. The worm egg counts range from 50/g to 1100/g, so some of them have significant parasite numbers and others are doing reasonably well. I shall drench on the next fine day, then we'll do another count to ensure the numbers have been adequately reduced, although having not drenched at the same time as the first count, it won't be a properly conducted reduction test.
Walking out to check some of the cattle this afternoon, I was accompanied for a short distance by this small creature. A Fantail, or Piwakawaka, chirping and clicking its beak as it caught the tiny insects stirred up from the grass as I walked. They flit around within arm's-length much of the time, although they're so quick, you'd never catch one.
They are a very common bird, often fluttering up against the house windows as they hunt spiders and small flies. They're quite tiny, probably weighing less than 10g.
More information can be found on the wonderful NZ Birds site.
Six cows and a bull to the yards this morning, paint marks on their backs, thank-you strokes as they leave the race, onto the truck and away on their last trip. No more kicking people by 393; no more fetching Isis from beyond the boundary fences; no more worrying how many more teeth Sybil has lost; no more watching lovely Arran in all his splendour. Every year I feel the same. This is the hard part of this job.
It being the first reliably fine day in a couple of weeks, I had planned to do some pour-on drenching today. Stephan's been suffering from a horrible cold for some days and so far I had managed to fend it off, but this morning I could feel that tell-tale throat soreness. Bravely I just carried on! I figured I wouldn't feel any better by tomorrow and by then it might be raining again anyway.
I got the bulls vaccinated, weighed and drenched, the young mob and the thin cows all drenched and even managed to put them all away into their various paddocks before it got too dark and cold, although I did rather fade with the last lot and just put them in the paddock near the house for the night: I couldn't go any further.
The cows to the right are the thin mob. They're not too bad really, other than Ivy-the-coat-hanger.
Pukeko is just doing her own thing, hanging around the house, making huge piles of corrosive mess on the deck, rushing inside any time she finds an open door, making suicidal dashes at moving vehicles ...
Having succumbed to the dreadful lurgi last evening, after working so hard all day, I stayed inside today, keeping warm. Stephan wandered out to shift the young cattle from the house paddock to the one just beyond it, so at least they're fed.
Feeling surprisingly well-recovered this afternoon, I went walking to the Big Back paddock to check on the fat cow mob, having not seen them for a few days. I wanted to ensure they still had adequate feed and see all of them to ensure they were safe and reasonably content. Today was the coldest day we've had so far, so I was well wrapped in a jersey under a Swanndri (my huge thick woollen hooded element-protection suit!), woollen scarf, hat and gloves and carrying the Ragwort plonking stick, for a bit of hunting while I was out.
After wandering around the whole paddock, up one side, along the top and down the other side, I crossed the swamp and headed back up into some of the gullies, having not seen five of the cows. Towards the top of the hill again, when the light was really getting quite dim, I discovered a hole I've not much noticed before and at the bottom of the caved-in earth, a black form, which looked exactly like part of a cow!
The hole is about five feet deep and, rugged up as I was in all the thick clothing, I didn't feel much like risking sinking up to my knees in unstable earth at the bottom of the hole just before dark. It was obvious that whatever it was was well buried and beyond any help I could render, so I decided further identification would have to wait until the following morning, in better light.
I knew it wasn't Isla, Abigail or either of the twins, nor Irene or Ranu, and it obviously wasn't Fuzzy, although I'd not found her yet either. I spent the night wondering which of 92, 112 or 323 had come to a nasty end and hoping that I was right in suspecting that the black wasn't big enough to be part of such a large animal!