The weeks beginning the 13th and 20 th of May 2006
Saturday the 13th
Pukeko and the turkeys

The turkeys have appeared near the house a few times lately, the two cock birds gliding around together like huge ships in full sail. The Pukeko was very unsure of herself when they first appeared, but once they headed off away from the garden, she obviously gathered enough courage to chase them.

Sunday and Monday

Grey heifer 516's udder continues to grow in size. Having watched her galloping around the paddock a couple of days ago, kicking her heels in the air, I'm convinced it's not the result of an infection, nor making her ill! However, I think it is time for another veterinary consultation, just to make sure.

The picture at left, below, shows both left quarters swollen and the right-hand picture shows the right teats, both entirely unaffected by the swelling.

516 516

I had arranged to go to town on Monday for an office veterinary consultation to review our animal health plans and at the end of the meeting, I mentioned 516 and her ongoing problem. Greg said he'd be next door later in the afternoon, so would call in to have a look at the heifer.

The swelling is actually quite soft - I think more so than earlier - and Greg suspects it has been caused by an injury, probably a kick by another calf, which damaged a blood vessel, which has continued to slowly leak. In any other bodily location, the pressure of the blood under the skin would eventually cause the leak to stop, but being at a low point, in skin which is designed to stretch, that hasn't happened. Greg suggests that we operate on the udder, removing the blood clots and draining the whole area, but on further consideration I'm not too keen to do that, since the problem is still not causing a great deal of discomfort or difficulty for the heifer, and cutting it would then involve infection and goodness knows what other problems and we might wish we'd never begun!

The udder does seem less tight than it was, so I'm actually inclined to continue to wait and see if it resolves itself. My worry was that there was some sort of malignant growth which would begin to cause the heifer to become ill or to suffer pain, but it seems that's unlikely and the only risk from the udder remaining as it is, is that she may catch it on something and tear it; but lactating cows don't do that too often, so I think that risk is reasonably low.

Because I had brought all the cows and calves to the yards to have the heifer examined, I decided it would be a good idea to just get on and do the weaning! At this time of year, I try to keep the cattle traffic in the lanes to a minimum, to hold off turning the ground to soup for as long as possible, and the original plan had been to do the weaning any time in the next couple of days anyway, so now they were in ...

We completed the weighing, then drafted the calves and heifers from the cows and sent the young cattle to one grassy paddock and the cows to the neighbouring, less grassy one. The calves and heifers need good feed, but the cows need not to be on lush feed as they adjust to not producing milk for their calves any longer.

The weaning weights weren't as good as some of the earlier weighings indicated they might be, but good enough: The commercial heifers weaned at an average 237kg, and the three pedigree heifers at 254kg (helped along by the 277kg weight of young Irene 35, who's a very stocky calf) giving an average 241kg for all thirteen of them, ranging in age from 5½ to 6½ months.

Tuesday the 16th
weaning time

The cows and their calves, on either side of the electric fence. They have access to a gate and a short stretch of non-electric fence where there's also a trough to share, so they can touch each other if they choose to. The weather's pretty miserable, but that's just the way it is at this time of the year.

Because I've sold six heifers and a bull to one buyer, I also needed to get some of the bull calves weaned. The elder four are old enough, but I decided to leave the younger ones with their mothers still. That split enabled the thinnest of the stud cows to be weaned, including Ivy, who looks a bit like a coat-hanger now, with very little flesh on her bones at all!

The bulls' average weight (without including the youngest and smallest one, since he's so far out of synch with the others) was 274kg. I drafted Ivy, her twin daughters Ingrid and Ida, Quilla 14 and Flora 15 out of the mob and left the four weaned bull calves with the other four and the four remaining cows. It's going to be rather noisy around here for a couple of nights!

Thursday the 18th

After opening the gates to enable the cows to graze further away from each other, they gradually wandered off, with one or two only occasionally going back to the common fenceline. The weaning went very smoothly, with no animals climbing through or over fences and they seem to have settled down quite quickly. That might be simply a matter of impression, since I kept them further away from my hearing this year.

Saturday and Sunday

The bull sales have begun! I haven't advertised, but two prospective buyers have been for a look at the little bulls over the weekend (and one has been reserved already for months).

Tuesday the 23rd
pregnancy testing day

Today was a day I've been looking forward to for a while: pregnancy testing for the cattle. I hadn't yet sorted the cows into the mobs in which they'll live through the winter, so they were still in the weaning mobs and thus there were five mobs to put through the yards. Putting the cows together in the yards would have led to a great deal of pushing and fighting, so it is something I avoid. Re-introducing cattle to each other safely, requires a lot of space, preferably with the distraction of new feed in front of them.

The results were pretty good, although the empty cows are always a disappointment. Of the 54 inseminated or run with the bulls, 52 are pregnant! I cheated a little, by giving a couple of them an extra chance outside of the mating period I'd planned, but better in calf than not and one year soon, I really will bring them all into a six-week calving period!

The two not pregnant are both stud cows, Isis 06 and Quilla 14, who was being followed around by the little bulls the other day. Unfortunately I didn't give that any more thought before today, or I would have asked Greg to do a careful check of Quilla's cervix, because she was injured during her visit to the bull when she came on heat. When she didn't return to heat in the next or subsequent cycles, I presumed that all was well and that that mating had resulted in her pregnancy. Isis will have to go off with the cull cows, but I'm undecided as yet, about Quilla.

Wednesday the 24th
calves waiting for a truck

Six heifers and one of the little bulls, are off to their new home near Kawakawa today. They've been pretty unsettled since being separated from all their friends yesterday and mixing heifers with a bull is not best practice, but I'm pretty sure he's not capable of any "trouble" just yet. The truck was nearly an hour and a half late - apparently the stock collected before mine had not been tagged and the driver had to wait and help the farmer do that. Of course it would come as a complete surprise to a farmer that his stock needed to be tagged before leaving the farm, because the legislation has only been in place for, oh, about five years! Good grief.

The calves loaded beautifully quietly onto the truck and away they went!

Stephan brought the Kaitaia Dramatic Society mail home for me a few days ago, including some "junk mail" which he didn't toss in the bin because it said something about website development. It was advertising a free two-hour seminar to be held in Kerikeri this evening. I thought, why not?, so enrolled online, found and booked a motel for a quick overnight holiday, and this afternoon we drove the hour and a half to Kerikeri.

I had half-planned just such a mini-getaway last year, for my 40th birthday treat, but what with being told I was dying and getting all in a stew about that, we just didn't get around to it.* It's Stephan's birthday this week, so it seemed a good time to do it.

Leaving Stephan about to immerse himself in a huge spa-bath with a glass of wine and a few cross-word puzzles, I went off to find the seminar. I had feared I'd be in for a couple of hours of hard-sell of the company's product or services, but instead it was a very informative evening, which confirmed quite a lot of things I already knew, reminded me of a number of things I've intended to do with this site, but haven't dedicated any time to, and provided some new ideas.

* If you missed that bit, it's back here.

Thursday the 25th

We had a very comfortable night at the Kauri Park Motel and after a leisurely breakfast we made our way south to go and see where the calves had gone to yesterday - it seemed a good idea, since we were within about half an hour's journey. Stephan had visited Lisa and Steve last year, after they'd bought six heifers from us, but before they'd been delivered and there was some question about how the cattle could be unloaded from the truck. The property has been sub-divided from a larger farm, so doesn't have its own cattle yards, a common problem with lifestyle blocks. We suggested to them that they approach the owner of the yards and come to some amicable agreement for the occasional use of the yards, because to have cattle and nowhere to restrain them on occasion for emergency or other treatments, is not a good idea! It's also pretty hard to get cattle on and off large trucks without a decent loading ramp.


This heifer is one of the six I sold to these people last year. She is the first daughter of #390 (390 is grand-daughter of #32) and she wasn't a particularly well-growing calf, but she's turned into a bit of a stunner! All the heifers were looking really nice, so well done to new farmers Lisa, Steve, Kim and Paul!

The seven new little animals had arrived safely and were still standing in the yards. They were surprisingly jumpy, after being so quiet when they left our place yesterday! It was probably a good reminder for me of just how upset cattle can be by being transported. The calves had come off a paddock they'd been in for a night longer than I'd planned (so a little short of fresh feed), had spent from 7am until after 3pm yesterday either in yards or on a truck, and were now in unfamiliar territory.

Travelling north on our way home, we called in to the AFFCo works. When I did my insemination training course a few years ago, I spent two weeks there, in the area where the cattle are first unloaded from the trucks. Prospective insemination technicians are trained with live animals (which is a pretty awful end-of-life experience for a long-serving dairy cow, I have to think!) and during that time I'd seen some of the workings of the works. A few of us had accepted the offer of one of the yard guys there to go up the chute to the stunning area, to see how the cattle are killed. We'd then gone around into the meat processing part of the plant, which can be seen from a glassed-in public viewing area, above the working floor.

It was the viewing area which Stephan and I visited today. We had to be signed in to the plant and accompanied by one of the supervisors, who showed us around with a bit of commentary on what we were seeing and answered lots of questions. I took a couple of pictures (a bit tricky through the perspex windows with lights behind us) and there's one here. (I don't intend to shock anyone, so don't click it unless you really want to look!)

I discovered later that Crispin, the bull I bottle-raised and later sold, went to Moerewa today, although I don't think he'd have been there by the time we visited.

Mangamuka Gorge waterfall

On our way up the southern side of the Mangamuka Gorge, we stopped for a stretch at the small rest area which one used to be able to drive into, but now has large rocks at the entrance - probably to stop unsociable idiots dumping rubbish into the bush. I noticed a path leading off down through the bush, so we followed it and found, at the bottom, a waterfall. It's one of the multiple little streams coming down the hill and under the road, before joining the river somewhere further down the hill.

The picture is actually looking down the waterfall from the top, that being the only place I we could get to, without some serious climbing!

Miriam and her cello

My long-ago violin teacher, Gillian, phoned the other day to ask if I'd like to join a small orchestra in Kaitaia. I haven't played my violin since I worked at Kaitaia College and played occasionally with the music students at lunch time, but I've always really enjoyed playing with other people, so I enthusiastically said yes!

This evening seven of us gathered, with Gillian, to play for the first time. We weren't too bad, considering some of us haven't picked up our instruments for some time. The young woman in the picture is our niece, Miriam, with her cello.

Friday the 26th

The weather was appalling today. Stephan went off to Kaeo, armed with an umbrella and the cheque book, to a farm clearing sale. He picked up a number of useful tools, including a couple of weed-wiping wands, so next time you come for a visit to the farm, make it a nice day and we'll go out together to hunt rushes!