When I started farming the cattle on this farm, they were a herd of all sorts of colours. There were red (which is cattle-speak for orange, really), brown, white, grey, black and any combination of those as well. Every year there are more blacks and less colours, until now there are only the three greys and a few with white faces left as representatives of that original variety. It is now possible to take pictures of a mixed mob and not see anything but black.
These are the cows and calves, with the lovely rounded rear-end, at the back of the mob, of Irene 35.
At the Vets' dinner the other week, we sat near Madge Hows, who is a stud Romney sheep breeder, and I very cheekily asked her if she might have a ram we could borrow for a short time, since we have only four ewes to breed and don't want to have to keep a ram all year. She very kindly said that would be fine and when would we like to pick one up? Today we put the cage on the back of the ute and went to collect him from Te Raro Stud.
Our sheep were pretty woolly and due for a shear, so we had penned them overnight (all six of them) so they'd stay dry for shearing today. We let the ram off the ute and put him up into the pen with the other sheep, then Stephan shore our lot. That's Dotty having the hair-cut in the picture. They are all far too fat!
We put them in the house paddock, the first time sheep have been out there for some time! You might notice the lumpy appearance of Damian in the picture, at left. He has a most revolting skin condition which causes multiple cysts in the skin all over his body. They don't seem to worry him at all and it is only during shearing that they become a problem, in that they can't be seen under the wool and so shearing him is a very slow job, to prevent too many cuts as the handpiece finds each lump.
Easter Sunday or not, our fertilizer spreader boss-man phoned this morning and said he wanted to get our fert out of his bin in town and onto our paddocks. It was a little breezy, but as he pointed out, if we didn't do it very soon, we'd not get it on this year before the rains set in. Don came out with the tractor and spread the hill over the road, then the rest went on some of the back of the farm.
An hour or so after he'd left, to my great surprise Ryan turned up in the truck to spread the rest! Having not expected this to happen today, I had to quickly move a lot of cattle, from paddocks which I'd planned for them to graze for the next few days, onto parts of the farm which had already had fertilizer spread a few weeks ago.
It was all a bit mad for a while, but worked out alright. At least it's all on now.
That's the Pukeko, in case you didn't recognise her.
This bird, with her wings outstretched behind her while preening, looks like she's wearing a huge, black cloak. She likes sitting in the sunshine by the door on my socks or jersey, where I've dropped them on my way in from outside, and sunbathes, chattering noisily to herself.
The Supplementary Weaner Fair is on at the Kaikohe saleyards today. I was out in the paddock in the dark this morning (fortunately there was some moonlight) quietly moving the cows and calves in to the yards, which I managed by 6.15am. Everything went very smoothly and I had time to weigh the calves before the truck arrived at seven - as soon as there was enough light to see the tags in their ears.
These were the last four not previously sold, which would have gone to Peria six weeks ago, except that the youngest of them was too small. The orphan calf was one of them, and although his growth was significantly depressed since losing his mother, he didn't look too dreadfully different from the others.
For at least a year we've been meaning to go and visit Jeff and Helen, who bought two bulls almost two years ago. Jeff has phoned me with updates pretty regularly and had sent through weight data on the bulls whenever he'd run them over the scales. Yesterday he phoned to tell me how pleased he was with the weaning weights of all the calves the two bulls sired. I really wanted to go and see how the bulls had turned out, so we decided we'd just go!
Here are Virago Blyth 19 AB and Virago Frederick 22 (and this is what they looked like last time I saw them). Seeing these two animals was an enormous thrill for us. Jeff has done a fantastic job of providing all they need to achieve their potential. #22 was deserted by his mother and was a pretty poor-looking calf because of his challenging start to life, but he's a great barrel of beef when one stands next to him now!
We next went and had a look at Jeff's calves, most of which were sired by the two bulls. They certainly were a well-grown lot, lots of them looking very much like ours here, funnily enough.
Jeff and Helen live near Robyn and Tim, who bought two bulls last year, along with several heifers and my empty cows. They were grazing near the road, so we had a look at them as we went past. I was really curious to see the heifer calf of one of those cows - she was vetted empty last year, by scanner and manual palpation, yet produced her calf right on due date from the insemination I performed.
It was strange seeing the cows I knew so well, part of another herd, in another place, but nicer to see them there than for them to have gone off to the works, as so many empty cows do.
We had travelled to Otangaroa over the Mangamuka Gorge, our usual route, but consulting the map, I saw that it would be a shorter distance to take another route home. I've never travelled through the entire length of the Fern Flat Road before, and it was delightful - despite the rain! There are Kauri trees all over the place, although it wasn't terribly easy to see the big ones through the bush lining the narrow, winding road.
Fern Flat Road joins Kohumaru Road, just below a house in which I spent part of my childhood. Then through to the Peria Road, near the Peria Saleyards, and the Bush Fairy Dairy, where we both had a rather extravagant ice-cream, then a half-hour journey through Fairburns to the main road and home again.
The two bulls are in a paddock next to some of the cows, one of which is on heat today and I am extremely pleased to see how well behaved they are! There is a gateway into the next paddock which has only a spring gate across it and I'm actually quite surprised that neither the bulls, nor the hot cow, have pushed or jumped into the neighbouring paddock. A spring gate is really just a long coiled electrified wire, and ours are attached at a height between the top and second wires on the fence in this picture. The bulls could easily jump over cleanly, or push under and through if they were really determined and didn't mind a couple of electric shocks.
I'm wondering how long those wheel marks will be visible on the hill over the road! Kikuyu, for all that it's almost impossible to kill, can be really susceptible to rough treatment! Don's tractor wheels would have done the damage while pulling the heavy fertilizer spreader trailer the other day.
The ram is grazing closely with Yvette today. The countdown is now on: five months to lambing - assuming they've done what they need to already.