Last night at 11pm, Imagen was standing, swishing her tail and looking unsettled, so I resolved to come out and have another look at her at 2am this morning. When I did, she was obviously experiencing uterine contractions, so I thought I'd keep an eye on her. After a while I came home for a cup of tea and when I returned to the paddock with a folding chair, she'd begun lying down periodically. It wasn't until around 4am that she produced the membrane bag which contained the calf and it took an hour and a half to get the calf out.
I went off to bed just before 6am and stayed there until lunchtime!
This afternoon Stephan and I went out and weighed the heifer calf - 40kg! That's rather large for a first-time two-year-old heifer, in my experience, but Imagen is quite a big animal now, for all that she was only 25kg herself, when born.
I am pleased she is safely calved, being rather a favourite. Imagen and Queenly 23 are both daughters of NBar Emulation EXT, an American bull which has been widely used and has a mixed reputation: I've read (and heard locally) that his progeny are wild and dangerous but that he sires very good daughters, with excellent udders and foot and leg structure. My personal experience with the five animals here (three bulls as well, Arran and #26 included) is that they're fine to work with and I look forward to observing how good the heifers are over the coming months.
Both the heifers will allow me to stroke and scratch them and both have behaved quietly after calving, when Stephan has picked up their calves and we've weighed and handled them. Queenly, daughter of Queenly 486 of Taurikura, who was a very large cow, is quite a lot smaller than Imagen, twin daughter of Ivy 556 of Maunu, a much less hefty animal. Genetic inheritance is so interesting!
Stephan spent a couple of hours this afternoon installing a trough under the railings between the top of the house paddock and the lane and replacing the electric-tape gate with a steel one. During the last lot of weaning we put a trough in the lane by the railings so that the calves had water right where they were standing, calling to their mothers on the other side of the gate, and the trough has been there, getting in the way of the gate into the Camp paddock, ever since. The trough can now be accessed from the lane and the House paddock.
I took the picture from a hill over the road.
Here's an opportunity for a bit of farm orientation, since I use these paddock names and how would you know where I'm talking about?
Stephan is at the top of the House paddock, which goes away to the right in the photo; the ute is in the lane which runs down between the House and Flat 1 paddocks; the Camp paddock has the little bit of flat you can see, then continues across the river, crossing where I took a photo which appears in the Farm Views page, the rest of it being mostly swampy or hilly and scrub-covered, although there are a couple of nice warm sunny patches of flat ground.
Away to the right, the trees are part of a reserve area we fenced off about five years ago, which contains some enormous Puriri, a Miro, Pigeonwood, numerous Kohekohe, Tōtara and so on.
The Windmill paddock extends to the left and has a lane running along the bottom between it and Flat 1 and then up its other side between it and the Flat 5 paddocks. At the very left of the picture the top of a steel gate is visible, which is the new one installed at the end of the new river-side fence in the Windmill Paddock.
You'll also notice, of course, the brand new shiny front guard and door on the ute, since we had to have it all fixed after the idiot sideways-sliding imbecile hit it on the road the other week. We're still looking for the perpetrator.
We hosted the Committee of Kaitaia Dramatic Society here this afternoon and checked over the Constitutional changes I've been working on for the last few weeks. Stephan cooked a pizza and we had some wine and it was all very pleasant.
I went for a bit of a wander to see what Graham, the man who's cutting firewood in the PWHS, was up to and to check on the cows and calves in the same paddock.
These are a few of the calves asleep in the sun at the bottom of the paddock with two of the cows. The rest of them were up the top, similarly lying around in the warm sunshine. The calf with its head bent back is fast asleep in that position. The eldest of these is now seven weeks old, so they've reached the age when they start looking really solid and lovely.
This is a calf with scours (diarrhoea). There was one I noticed the other day when we moved them, but today there are several, some wet, some where the stuff has dried out around their back ends. In these cattle it's most likely caused by a change in their mothers' diet, which has caused the milk quality to change and upset their systems, or they've caught a bug which is going through the mob. It has been several years since I've had to treat calves with the condition, since it usually rights itself within a few days.
I will keep an eye on them to ensure none of them starts looking ill. Generally they just do a bit more tail swishing, partly because they attract flies and presumably because the wetness irritates their skins.
Our neighbour over the road wants to put his bull up against the boundary fence again in a couple of days and the Road Flat paddock is the best place for the heifers to move to, but last time they were there, they got into the bush along the river bank and I don't want them to repeat that wicked behaviour. The answer is a fence! So today we went over and planned where we'd put the necessary fencing and ended up doing some of it quite differently from our previous thoughts.
This bit in the picture fences off the river bank on both sides, including the flood-gate which forms part of the boundary with a 10-acre block upstream. There are a couple of new posts on the other side which will keep the Puriri tree safe, then the wire comes across the river and around the closest post in the picture and back up along the bank to the boundary fence.
There's a crossing in the river (a few metres downstream from the bottom right corner of the picture) which is a bit tricky for some of the cattle to negotiate, so I don't use it all the time - in which case we take the cattle along the road - but I do want it to remain accessible. Moving cattle on the road feels pretty risky these days with some real idiot drivers around, and often when I'm alone and want to move the cattle, it's easiest just to get them to cross the river. There's now a new little piece of fence on the other side of the river to stop the heifers from accessing a large area of bush on that bank. Stephan has built it in such a way that it can be reasonably easily opened should any of them find another way over the stream to the other side and need to be brought back.
We will probably eventually fence all along the river bank (with possible continued access to the crossing) but will have to give some more thought to how we'll do that. The river is very winding and there are huge trees all the way, so putting posts into the ground where there are so many roots is often tricky.
This is Stephan's sister, Elizabeth, (right) with Hermine, a Dutch friend of the family, who appeared at the door this morning on their way out for a walk around the farm. I went with them for part of the way, but left them to it when they started going up! I had not met Hermine before, but had heard about her on many occasions and have met her son, so I enjoyed their visit very much. They had to leave before Stephan arrived home, but I understand they met him on the roadside on their way out.
Imagen 33's daughter.
This cow, 349, was originally on my list as a very early calver. I saw her mated right at the start of mating and then saw no other sign, so when she showed no udder development as the others began calving, I wondered what was going on! Finally, a couple of weeks ago, her udder began to fill and here is her bull calf, born sometime early this morning. 349 is the mother of 410, who died last year after falling into a gully, so I was rather hoping for another heifer to replace her.
Last week I asked for name suggestions for Isla's calf and here are those I've received so far: Albert, Poetry (which obviously doesn't begin with an A, but was inspired by his picture), Austin, Ashwin, Alfalfa, Alfred, Awesome, Abraham, Apocalypse, Aniseed, Answer, Anaconda, Abbot, Art, Alexander, Aladin, Aslan, Arango (means Blueberry in Galician), Anticipation, Arachnid, Aragorn, Apple, Arthur, Amazing, Atola, Archie, Atkins, Amos, Angus!
How will I decide amongst that lot?
We headed into town early this morning to Te Hiku TV studio. I had a phone call last week asking if someone from Kaitaia Dramatic Society could go in and talk about what we do (as a result of our AGM notice appearing in the local paper). I told Stephan they'd asked for him as the President, just to give him a fright. He watched it from out in the waiting room as I chatted with the two hosts of the early morning programme.
Quanda 09 and Fuzzy 357, paternal half-sisters: Quanda is one of the stud cows and Fuzzy's mother was red with a white face, so who knows what she has in her background? As they conceived their calves on the same day, they're likely to calve in quick succession as well. Both have been looking unsettled today, with lots of tail swishing as they move around, a sign of things starting to happen.
These are the eight heifers in the suddenly-long grass in the Road Flat paddock. The white flowers are the Carrot Weed, or Queen Anne Lace, just starting to bloom now, so it's time to graze the paddock and have the cattle eat the flower stalks while they're reasonably soft.
Fuzzy had her calf just before dark this evening and I was pleased firstly to see that as they emerged, the feet appeared black, rather than the same colour as Fuzzy herself, and because she dropped the calf onto its head as she stood up, I dashed in to straighten it out so it could breathe (a bit hard when you're lying on top of your own head) and saw that it is a heifer!
That is exactly what I'd hoped for: a heifer with normal hair! So far Fuzzy has produced two bull calves with the same hair abnormality and two heifers without it. I sold the previous heifer, then regretted it when I realised that there was probably only a 25% chance with each pregnancy that I'd get another to replace her mother, who is rather a nice little cow.
2006 calving tally: 45 born, six cows to calve.