The week beginning the 18th of November 2006
Saturday the 18th

After looking quite uncomfortable when I checked on her late last night, Quanda 09 had her calf just before 7.30 this morning, another bull. He's a full sibling to #42, so I shall be interested to see how his growth and development compares with that of his elder brother - I kept #42 to use as a herd sire this year. We weighed Quanda's calf later in the day: 39kg, half a kilogram lighter and in two days less gestation time than his brother was born last year.

Sunday the 19th
24 cows and their calves in the Swamp/Frog lane

I brought the mob of 24 cows and their calves in to the yards this afternoon and Stephan and I put the calves into the race, vaccinated them with 7in1 (for the Clostridial diseases and Leptospirosis), tagged them all and castrated where necessary.

When we'd finished the calves, we brought their mothers through and I gave them all a Copper injection. Last year they had three shots through the winter, before calving, but this year I thought I'd try leaving the third until between calving and mating and certainly this seems to have gone smoothly enough today. I didn't want to cause too much stress to either the cows or the calves by separating them for too long from each other, when both were having stressful treatments!

Copper-injections for the cows

Yes, I need a better hat for photographs - it suffers from too many times being folded and carried on the bike's carrier, among other things. The wardrobe-fund contributions may be sent to this account number ...
In my left hand is the vaccinator gun, set to administer 2mls per plunge and attached to it by a tube, is the soft-plastic container of Copper Glycinate, which needs to be regularly shaken to ensure it doesn't separate and feeds automatically into the gun for each dose. The injection action is an all-in-one motion which pushes the needle in through the skin (usually just to the right extent, except if the cow moves violently) and simultaneously operates the plunger to push the copper fluid into the animal. As I pull back away from the cow's neck, the next dose is sucked into the gun. The needle is only 3/8 inch (still imperial for needles) long and usually 16 gauge so it doesn't bend.

Many people use copper bullets, which are put down the back of the cow's throat, with a specially designed applicator, and swallowed into the rumen, where the casing dissolves and the copper filaments then contribute to the copper taken up by the animal. However, that only works in cases of primary deficiency, where there is not enough copper in the soil/pasture the cattle are ingesting, or where there is mild secondary deficiency, where something else interferes with the copper uptake within the animal. Where there is major interference by other minerals (in our case a large amount of iron in the water, we believe) the copper bullets would not make any difference, but injecting directly into the animal ensures they all get what they need.

From the injection site, the copper glycinate is gradually transported to the liver, where it is stored and metabolised as necessary. Copper in cattle is as vital as iron in humans. It affects their immune systems, including their ability to withstand internal parasite infection, their reproductive systems and even their temperament.

Some of the calves have bloody scours! Scours (diarrhoea) in calves which are raised by their mothers is not usually too much of a problem and I see the odd one with a touch of it in most years, which I've usually put down to a change in the milk, as their mother's diets change as they graze different areas of the farm. There are three calves which look pretty suspicious, one of them being Demelza's bull. The scours evidence in last week's page is generally brown and scuffy looking on the hair, whereas if there's blood involved, it looks somewhat darker and is usually a bit glossier, even when dry.

I'm a bit wary of doing things like tagging, vaccinating and castrating when the calves aren't entirely well, but I'm just going to hope they're well enough. The more calves we can get done now and vaccinated again (in four weeks) before mating, the easier things will be as I begin mixing up mobs for mating.

Monday the 20th

Early this morning I spent some time wandering around in the Windmill Paddock, watching calves - both looking out for scours and also pairing the newly-tagged calves up with their mothers - and came across this one, looking for all the world like he'd had his eye pecked out by some aerial predator! As he woke up, I realised that he'd simply had his eye rolled away down, so that all I could see was the back of the eyeball. They often sleep with their eyes partly open and it's sometimes hard to tell how conscious they are.

526 526

The calf is 526, the first calf born this season, son of the lovely two-year-old 475.

I phoned and spoke to Nathan, the vet, and he suggested that the most likely cause of the calves' scours is Coccidiosis, a protozoan parasite, or Salmonella, which is bacterial and the best way to proceed would be to obtain samples from the worst cases and submit them to the lab.

After attempting to pick up very liquid samples from the grass after the calves had left them there, I gave up and took the two worst affected and their mothers in to the yards. When Stephan arrived home, we held the calves in the race, together, and obtained one very sloppy sample and one which was mostly blood, then went off to town in time for the vets' courier to take them away. Nathan thought it would be wise to begin immediate treatment with a drug which would treat Salmonella, but which also has a positive action on Coccidiosis, so we went home and injected the two calves as instructed.

It seemed sensible to treat the bull calf in particular, since he looks like he has the potential to be a very good animal and a serious knock-back at this stage might really undermine that possibility.

After their injections, we put the two calves and their mothers into the Pig paddock, next to the yards, so they'll be easy to get back in again for tomorrow's repeat injections. They'll need three to five days of treatment.

Tuesday the 21st

The lab results came back with "extremely high" levels of Coccidia. There is a one-dose oral treatment we could use on affected calves, apparently and I'm not entirely sure why we weren't offered that yesterday - unless it was because the other drug would cover both the possible causes of the scours and so that was the best thing to start with. I'll have to watch carefully and decide if we need to treat any of the others. My reading tells me that by the time the scours is seen, most of the damage is done and the calves are usually on their way to recovery on their own. They will, under moderate exposure, gradually develop immunity to the effects of the Coccidia and it may be that the nasty cold snap we experienced a few days ago, followed by extreme warmth, was stressful enough to undermine the calves' developing ability to cope with usual infection levels.

I spent almost the entire day working on Kaitaia Dramatic Society business! At least the work on the Constitution is nearly all finished and the AGM went very well, with the attendance of several more people than the required quorum of 12, so we were very happy.

Wednesday the 22nd
341 and 533 341 and 533
341 and 533 341 and 533
341 and 533 341 and 533

A couple of these are almost the same, except if you look at the cow's face! With a bit of anthropomorphism, you could just imagine what she's thinking! The calf was playing around his mother for several minutes while I watched and I don't think he'd stopped by the time I went off to do something else.

The cow is 341 and she's always had that strange little patch of white hair under her eye. Her mother was a black, brown and white cross-bred cow, #24, who was, I suspect, the daughter of an old Jersey cow which still has other descendents in the herd. 341 is a paternal half-sister of Onix.
341 has done well enough and this is her fourth calf. My only concern about her is that she looks like she's very short in her lower jaw and last year's calf had the same appearance. I checked the calf and his teeth met his upper palette more than adequately. 341 always holds her condition well enough, so although I've never actually checked her mouth, she's presumably alright.

92's steer calf

92's calf has a strangely light-coloured stripe down his shoulder. Genetics will out! 92's mother was a black and white Friesian-Jersey cross cow (at least that's what she looked like she had in her), and her sire was our first bull, Albert. This calf's sire was Arran 20, who has generally sired very black calves.


525, daughter of 99 and Arran 20. I just thought she looked rather nice, sitting in the sunshine, so took her picture.


I adore this colour - in which case I ought to change breed and have Murray Grey cattle! I suppose it's so attractive in this herd because it's so different.

Further discussion with the vet today suggests that the appropriate oral treatment for Coccidiosis should be given to all calves in an affected mob, on the assumption that they'll all have picked it up. I'm less inclined to take that approach, since even the worst of the calves is still lively and voraciously feeding and many of them are going through a day or two of slight scouring, then recovering again. (And there's the small issue of the $15/head it would cost!) It was only the appearance of the bloody scours this year which led me to investigate the problem at all and otherwise I suspect it is something we see, in a milder form, in every year.

Thursday the 23rd

I brought the 22 cows and calves in again to weigh them and check for weight loss in those with scours. The two which have had the injected treatment (for the third time today) have gained 2kg/day over the last three days, which brings them up to their usual expected average daily gain and the others seem to be progressing much as I would expect. I put the separated calves and their mothers back with the mob and sent them out to the back of the farm.

I've spent a lot of time in the last few days looking very closely at little piles of greeny-brown faeces, investigating it with sticks, to check for any blood and making detailed notes about its appearance and who did what when, so I could know which calves had been through the infection cycle and recovered and how long any of them were unwell. It's a smelly job and it still beats sitting in motorway traffic jams!!! I'll continue to watch the calves on a daily basis and will treat them if necessary, but I suspect it won't be.

Friday the 24th
Art and Craft Exhibition

The Kaitaia Community Arts Service, of which I'm a member and Treasurer, has organised (without my active involvement in the middle of calving!) an Art and Craft Exhibition which opened this evening to those who'd bought tickets to attend the preview. There was wine and finger-food and a rather nice (well, some people told us so) Orchestral ensemble played throughout the evening.

There was painting, wood-carving, wood-turning, weaving, patchwork, quilting, photography and probably many other things I've forgotten to mention. The exhibition will run until next Tuesday, with various interactive activities.

2006 calving tally: 46 born, five cows to calve.