The week beginning the 14th of October 2006
Saturday the 14th

359 was in early labour this morning, so I called William from next door down to watch the birth with me. There wasn't any obvious progress, so he went off to do other things and I kept watch and after a couple of hours, decided it was time to investigate what was going on. 359 is such a quiet cow, letting me stroke her almost all over, so I thought I could possibly get away with a bit of out-in-the-field internal investigation, but either I hit a sore spot, or she was in a particularly hormonal storm and virtually chased me out of the paddock! I got a huge fright, having not dealt with such behaviour for some time, having very deliberately eliminated mad cows from my herd.

359 and bull calf

I went out to the yards and set up for an internal examination and Stephan and I carefully brought the cow in, with another for company. Inside her I could feel two front feet and a mouth! We let 359 back out into the grassy area and left her to it, finding her with this bull calf about half an hour later. I don't know why she was taking so long to get on with delivering this calf; sometimes they just do.

A little later the calf went off for a sleep in an inaccessible (to the cow) corner, and when I opened the gates back to the maternity paddock, 359 left! I decided it would be easiest at that stage to take the calf to her, rather than risk her being all confused about where she'd left him, so we carted him to her on the back of the ute.

456 and bull calf

Onix is a grandmother! Sometime in the early hours of this morning, 456 gave birth to a bull calf. I saw them together from my window this morning and all looked well, but by the time I went for a closer look, she'd lost him and was running up and down the paddock, calling. Eventually I found him - asleep on the other side of the track, in a lovely warm dip in the long grass, out of the wind.

Cows are quite good at keeping track of their calves and where they've stashed them away for the usual lying-in period over the first few days, but first-time heifers are not quite so savvy and seem to easily lose any sense of the whereabouts of their calves, including when they've fallen into really dangerous spots, like rivers!

I made the calf stand up and sent him back in the direction of his upset mother, then left them to it again.

Isla and friends

Isla and her four companions were joined by 390, the bereft cow, five days ago - perhaps she couldn't stand being around all those babies! She went out the end of the paddock over a broken fence and I just sent her to join this lot, since she was by then on her own and far from the other mob.

The five pregnant cows are a little way off calving, so I put them right out the back where there's some grass.

dying gorse in the Big Back Paddock

Stephan keeps asking if the gorse is dying out the back and I don't usually take much notice. Since he doesn't seem to be finding time to walk out here and have a look for himself, I took a number of pictures. It's looking pretty good in places, although there's the occasional green patch he must have missed with the noxious spray. It has taken a long time to look dead, but apparently a slow kill is a good one, when it comes to weeds.

486 and her calf

Two-year heifer, 486, and the water-baby calf.

Demelza's bull calf

This is Demelza's bull calf, who seems to have quite a bit of attitude! He was bouncing around me as I was walking through the paddock, standing up with this "who do you think you are?" look on his face.

Sunday the 15th
R2 heifer 488 and calf

I watched 488 deliver her calf last night, a tiny wee heifer, daughter of Arran 20. This morning she was fairly keen to keep her out of my way, so a photo wasn't terribly easy to get!

120 calving

I set off to hunt down some ragwort this afternoon, but then noticed that 120 was in labour, so wandered around killing thistles nearby instead, until she calved. As soon as the calf was out, she started making the most awful racket! Stephan thought I was away out the back, so came dashing out to see what had happened. 120 pushed her calf around extremely roughly, but within a very short time it was up and feeding, so if that was her intent, it certainly worked well!

cows on the hill out the back

Eight of the cows are still out in the Back Barn paddock (the remainder of the thin mob) and I pop out every few days to check on udder development. A couple of them look a bit closer and I would like to bring them down off the hill, but they gallop down at such a rate it scares me, they being so heavily pregnant, so I sat at the bottom of the hill and half wished they would and half hoped they wouldn't, come down to the gate.

Kahikatea tree pollen cones on the river

These are the pollen cones of the Kahikatea trees, caught in a shallow bit of the stream. They looked rather pretty as I dashed across on my way home, so I went back and had another look.

Ranu 589 and her bull calf

While I was out the back, Ranu popped out her calf! She was due today, according to my calculations, but I hadn't thought she'd looked particularly close to calving. The calf is a bull, sired by the Australian Ardrossan Connection X15 and will be registered as Virago 47.

Stephan and I went back out and weighed him: 38kg.

Because 488 was in the same part of the paddock, we cornered her little calf and weighed her too: 25.5kg, which really is little!

Monday the 16th
a black-back gull on our paddock

While watching the cows from my window this morning, I spotted an unusual visitor: a black-back gull! It was in the middle of the first flat paddock, eating afterbirth! We occasionally see them fly overhead when the weather is stormy or high winds are expected, but I've never seen one on the ground here before.

Ida and Ingrid

I went out into the paddock just after 3.30am this morning and all was quiet. At 7am I noticed Ingrid 17, one of the twins, looking uncomfortable, in early labour. I went and checked her, then continued to watch from my window, until I saw a foot appear, so went out to make sure all was well.

The visible foot was at an odd angle and then as she contracted again, I could see the tongue appearing, but not the other leg, so I herded the twins and a couple of other yet-to-calve cows out into the lane and we set off for the yards.

I certainly didn't foresee this, the last time I walked these two down the lane together!

As I hadn't set up any gates ahead of me this morning, I phoned William next door as I was walking in (with my new little cellphone which only gets a bit of coverage on some parts of the farm) and asked if he could come down the road and shut the gates at the front? He then provided some very useful extra assistance in getting the cows to the yards so I could see what was going on inside Ingrid.

The calf had its right hoof caught folded back, so wasn't able to advance through the birth canal. I couldn't feel any movement in the calf.

As usual I contemplated pulling the calf, but decided to see if Ingrid would get on with delivering it on her own, now that it was unhooked. We watched the two very-still feet for the next half an hour, then put her back up the race again and William and I pulled the calf out with a great deal of effort. As soon as her head was born, I confirmed that her eyes were cloudy: she was dead. We continued a pretty hard pull (hard with only slippery hands, rather than calving-chains and a bit of rope!) and just dropped the calf to the ground. Ingrid looked like she was going down a couple of times, but rallied as we got the calf out, then I let her out of the race and we carried the calf around for her to inspect.

Ingrid and her dead calf

Ingrid did all the usual things, including pushing the calf around quite roughly, in continued attempts to get her to wake up and respond. She did that on later visits back to the calf as well, rolling her over and around on the ground.

I am very disappointed. Having kept Ingrid in the herd for a year when she ought to have been pregnant and wasn't, and now to have her have a dead calf, is just no good. The poor cow has such a hard udder, with the nasty fungal skin problem Isla had before her first calf, which I was anticipating would be relieved as soon as her calf began to feed. No such luck.

We weighed the calf in the evening: 34.5kg, so not a really big one. Ingrid wasn't in labour for very long and the calf wasn't very stuck, so I really don't know what went wrong this time. Two dead calves in 22 births makes me extremely nervous.

Tuesday the 17th
Stephan digging a hole

Ingrid spent most of the morning walking quite purposefully to the yards and back to the paddock, with Ida (her twin) often following along somewhere behind.

During part of the day, Stephan planted a number of trees, including one on top of Ingrid's calf, after it appeared that Ingrid had given up coming back to find her.

In the foreground is a flax plant and from it is growing, for the first time, a flower spike. We discovered that most of the flax plants are putting up flower spikes - I grew all of them from seeds collected from Ahipara a few years ago, so on a sad day, I'm also really delighted to see such a thing.

Wednesday the 18th

I spent some time enjoying the live calves today. Because I choose not to tag them at birth, I tend to take a few facial photos, so that if there's any question of identity later, I have early records of who's who. It means I also get quite familiar with them and can often tell which calf belongs to which cow when they're not with their mothers. There are of course one or two which are rather easier to distinguish from the others!

426 and calf
367's calf

426, at left, is a three-year-old second-time calver, with her daughter, sired by Arran 20, Isla's son.
At right is 367's grey heifer calf.

456 and calf
Abigail's calf

Above is Abigail's daughter, who will be called Dexie (X15 is her sire and Abigail's calves all have D names) and at right is 456, who is Onix's daughter, and her bull calf.

Demelza's calf

The calf with attitude - and rightly so too! This young fellow is the first calf of the fourth generation of registered pedigree stud animals born here.

He has a slightly complicated relationship to Abigail's calf, above, being her maternal nephew and her paternal uncle. Work that one out!

452 and her heifer calf

Out the back, while I wasn't looking, 452 had her calf! She was due from yesterday on my list, but because she hadn't shown any particularly exciting udder development (after having a very prominent swelling around her main mammary vein last year) I had not thought her particularly close to calving, so hadn't brought her in. All is well though, and I suddenly found her, sitting near one of the tracks as I walked out to see her mob of cows, with this tiny heifer calf, obviously born sometime during the day.

Thursday the 19th
four cows heading for the maternity paddocks

Yesterday evening I decided I'd better get four more of the cows in from the Back Barn paddock (especially since 452 had surprised me by calving before I expected), so I headed out there again this morning, knowing they're easier to get down the hills at this time of the day. They come down in the mornings and head for the high points later in the day and trying to move them against that habit makes for hard work and a lot of running around!

These are 348, the twice backwards-calving cow, my favourite of her daughters, 418, two three-year-old second-time calvers, 446 and 449.

452's calf

Having taken them in to one of the flat paddocks nearer the front of the farm, I went back out to where they'd been to find the calf, whose mother had seemed quite unconcerned about the possibility of leaving the paddock without her this morning! 452 still has the company of three other cows which are not due to calve just yet.

I wandered up through the bush where I'd heard the cow talking to the calf this morning, but didn't see her until I came over the top of the hill - and there she was, lying with her head down the hill, looking like another dead one! I'm feeling a little paranoid about calf death at the moment.

452's calf 452's calf

In my great relief at finding the calf alive, I quietly moved to sit beside her and spent half an hour with her, stroking her gloriously soft hair and enjoying her quiet warmth.

Her mother was sitting further down the hill, quite unconcerned by my proximity to her baby, or unaware of it, since the calf made no noise and hadn't moved.

428 and newborn calf

428 had a picture-perfect calving this afternoon, being obviously in labour, then quite quickly getting on with delivering her bull calf. She's a three-year-old and there's a lot riding on this calf: last year's calf was a pathetic little thing and 428 stayed fat throughout her lactation, so she'd better do better with this calf, or it will be her last! She's a lovely little cow, but if she doesn't produce calves which meet my growth expectations (and the potential her breeding suggested) her place will be taken by someone else.

Jenny herding the rooster

Jenny the dog doesn't get to go for too many runs at present, while there are new babies all over the flats, so she does the chickens with Stephan every night and has a romp around the paddock there. She and the rooster apparently had a bit of a disagreement yesterday - he bit her - and now she's either stalking him with evil intent, or practising herding, we're not really sure, except that every now and then he flies at her, with spurs extended, and she runs away. She's not a very brave dog - more of a chicken than the rooster!

Friday the 20th
418 and newborn calf 418 calf

418 calved just after dark last night, another heifer. Last year's calf, 506, did very well and is one of the largest yearlings, ready for mating this year. 418 is my favourite, the original backwards baby from 2002.

This one's sire is #26, and is the 26th calf for the year, so we're half-way through calving.

348 and newborn calf

418's mother, 348, had her calf early this morning. This is her first bull calf.

That's the whole family calved: 348 and her three daughters, 418, 452 and 486! This will be 348's last year, since her udder is getting unmanageably huge and because I am a little concerned about her record of backward calf delivery. I sold last year's heifer calf, so I'm a little disappointed this isn't another one to keep, but three is probably pretty good going. They're not the best looking cattle, but their production in terms of calf growth rates is excellent.

just-moved cows and calves

I moved the mob of 14 cows and their calves to a new paddock this morning and they went surprisingly well, then as soon as they were into the new paddock, the calves all galloped off as fast as they could, tails all straight up in the air. They're great fun to watch.

turkey chicks

We set four turkey eggs under one of the clucky hens just under four weeks ago and they started hatching last night, after 26 days. One of the eggs was infertile and I think one of the others has died in the shell, so here are the two new babies.

a heifer with a bee problem

I have one very good neighbour who always lets me know in advance when he would like to graze his bull along our boundary fence. So today we had to get the eight young heifers off the hill over the road, before there's a bull on the other side of the fence tomorrow. We put them in the Pig paddock, which has no pigs, but does have some beehives along the fenceline.
This is what a heifer looks like when she's getting stung, because of course they had to go and investigate that part of the paddock!

Then they all ran around the paddock with their tails straight up in the air, which isn't something I've noticed them do before. Very strange and very funny to watch.

Damian and Bendy are in this paddock, getting far too much feed, and they were very quickly chased under the electric fence onto the river bank, where they've remained since.

The Isla's Calving Date Competition has closed and entries may be seen here.

2006 calving tally: 27 born (25 running around), 25 cows to calve.