The week beginning the 23rd of September 2006
Saturday the 23rd
Muscovy feathers from a nest in a Puriri tree Muscovy feathers from a nest in a Puriri tree

Last year I developed a strong suspicion that one of the white Muscovy ducks had a nest up in one of the Puriri trees, and this year there's proof! As far as I am aware, they are usually ground nesting birds, but ours are nesting anywhere they can reach and since they're very capable fliers, that includes places well out of our reach! This year it's not really a problem since there are no longer any drakes here so we won't be over-run with little yellow ducklings. It looks like the nest has been found by some predator (a hawk or rats), because there is egg all over the ground under the tree and down falling from the epiphyte in the tree.

Yvette and her lambs

I suddenly realised these guys are a week old today! They're looking nicely solid and healthy. I've put off putting rings on only because I think it's going to be easy to catch them when I'm ready, since I can still nab them for a quick cuddle in the paddock.

Babette and her newborn lambs

Babette produced her twins this evening, both ewes. I watched the second one being born and when she was, wondered when she was going to start breathing! She seemed to take a very long time.

This creature was scampering around the bathroom wall this evening, so small it took me a moment to identify it as a weta - the long antennae and back legs give it away. I've never seen one this small, although that is probably hardly surprising.

a tiny Weta a tiny Weta
Sunday the 24th
Abigail and Demelza

Abigail 08 and Demelza 21, mother and daughter. Abigail's rather trim at present so she's now grazing with the calving mob, a little earlier than I would otherwise have brought her in. They're getting slightly more feed on the flats, where I've saved up some new spring grass for the calving cows. Demelza is due to calve in the next week or so, for the first time. She's quite a large animal now, when I stand next to her - she was a slow developer and has always seemed rather small until during the last year she's really put on a lot of size.

a new trough

Bringing the mob of ten pregnant heifers down the lane this afternoon, I was startled by a hissing noise and suddenly realised there was a brand new trough in the House Paddock! The old concrete one appears to have a slow leak, which causes a deep muddy quagmire around it, which the sheep won't cross and now that Yvette is lactating, she's looking for water to drink. I've been providing a container on the ground and bucketing water to it, but it's much easier if there's an accessible trough. Sheep don't seem to drink a lot of water ordinarily, presumably getting most of their needs met in the grass they eat and the dew-fall in the early mornings.

Watching Babette's lambs during the day, I became concerned about her willingness and ability to feed them, so we went out and Stephan caught and held her while I helped the smaller lamb get hold of a teat for a long feed.

Later on we caught her again and this time turned her onto her back and milked out some disgustingly curdled, slightly green-tinged mastitis affected milk from one half of her udder. It has of course taken me this long to recall that this is not the first time Babette has had and caused problems.

We let the lamb get as much as she could from the other side, then let them all go again. It looks like the elder lamb is getting enough to keep her going, but the littler lamb is quite tucked up and weak. She will have had some colostrum, but it looks like I'll have to supplement her with powdered milk.

Monday the 25th
view of the PW scrub clearing from afar

I looked out toward where Stephan has been scrub-cutting, since he's been out there for several more hours lately and was astounded by the amount of ground he's covered - literally at the moment - with cut-down gorse and Manuka, the brown patches in the picture. Previously the green strip sloping down toward the right wasn't visible from here.

Yvette's mislaid lambs

Walking back towards home, I could hear Yvette bleating loudly and wondered what was going on - she'd lost her lambs. They must have sat down for a rest while she grazed further and further away and they weren't bothering to attract her attention.

I bought some lamb milk-powder this afternoon and fed the increasingly weak-sounding lamb a little to start with, and a little more in three feeds later on. I'm leaving her with Babette, on the off-chance she'll take some milk from her, but also because it's vastly easier to have a lamb living in the paddock with her family, than trying to cope with her at the house! Babette is on a three-day course of injectable antibiotic for her mastitis.

Tuesday the 26th
lambs with warm coverings

Whilst the days have been amazingly warm and sunny, the nights are comparatively cold, so since these lambs are under a bit of a feeding challenge still, I thought it wise to provide them with some extra insulation from the elements during the night. I used a couple of pieces of old blanket and secured them to the lambs with some insulation tape and it obviously worked rather well, since they're still attached this morning.

Ingrid and Ida

Back in June I drenched the lighter cows with a pour-on treatment for intestinal parasites and liver fluke. I didn't do Ingrid, because she was fat and very healthy-looking, having missed out on producing a calf last year. However over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed her looking a great deal less fat and I'm concerned that with the stress of the pregnancy, she's not coping with whatever parasite burden she may have, so I brought her in for a belated drench.

Back when I didn't know as much as I do now, I didn't look after my young stock well at all. They were at the bottom of the winter feeding priority, but I have learnt since that there are long-term consequences of underfeeding at crucial times during young life and have thus changed my management of the cattle.
Ingrid and Ida were calves in that last year before I changed my practices and my poor management then was the reason Ingrid didn't get in calf when she first should have.

Stephan set off on a trip to Auckland this afternoon, transporting firewood to relatives south of here and then to catch a plane to Whakatane for a few days, to visit Ella and her mums. I grabbed a couple of very cheap tickets for Stephan which were available on a one-day sale from Air New Zealand, for travel in a particular timeframe and since it's now and I'm calving, I had to stay home!

After he'd gone, I went for a long and leisurely walk around the back of the farm to check on the cows and hunt out some ragwort and thistles with my poison-granule plonking stick. My favourite Clematis vine is looking particularly frothy with its abundance of flowers. It virtually covers the small Totara tree up which it grows, so it's easier to get close to these flowers, than those on any of the other vines, up in their taller trees.

flowering Clematisflowering Clematis
Wednesday the 27th
475 in labour

From my office window, where I sat nursing a sudden-onset dose of a very nasty head-cold, with fever and dreadfully violent sneezing, I noticed a bit of extra activity amongst the cows, as they investigated what was happening to 475. 475 is a daughter of #16, the old grey cow with the enormous udder. She's been a lovely heifer, so I've been looking forward to seeing how she does this year with her first calf.

475 calving 475 calving 475 calving

I first saw her in labour at 1pm and it was about an hour before I saw feet, then almost another hour and a half before the nose started to show. I was getting pretty worried! The sire is a bull named L T 598 Bando 9074, supposedly a good calving-ease sire, which is why I used him on this heifer, but I'd begun to wonder if something terrible had happened and the calf was too huge to come out!

But all was well, just slow. The calf was born, I dashed in at some point before these three photos above and ripped the membrane away from the calf's face, so it wouldn't lie there breathing a pool of fluid, and the heifer lay there as they often do, with no awareness of her new child.

The calf eventually made enough snuffling noise for the heifer to notice it and she leapt to her feet and turned around and around in circles, chasing the membranes streaming behind her, but eventually addressed herself the calf. As is usual, she bellowed at it as soon as she sniffed it and all the other cows came rushing for a look.

475 calving 475 calving

The calf was pretty soon up on its feet and I was able to see it was a bull. The other cows all drifted off to graze again and the heifer delivered the afterbirth and ate it, and fed the calf for the first time.

Thursday the 28th
371 and her newborn heifer

This is 371, daughter of the black/white-faced cow, #46, who had a dreadful udder, and it would seem her daughters have unfortunately inherited more of that feature than I would wish. However, so far so good and this little heifer calf, born at around 6am this morning, is feeding successfully and looking very nice. Her sire was Arran 20.

Lamb, lambing

As I walked out to check on the cows early this morning, Lamb was following the elder of Babette's lambs around the paddock and licking it, while obviously in labour.

By the time I came back from the cows, Babette's lamb had emptied one half of Lamb's udder and was lying around looking somewhat uncomfortable, having consumed more feed in one sucking than she's probably had in her life so far!

Lamb, lambing

She looks rather like she's checking on the competition, making its way out into the world!

The first lamb is under Lamb's body, hunting for its first feed and the twin is just visible, emerging in a sac-ful of fluid.

475's calf

475's bull calf. He has the oddly light-blue eye colour I sometimes see in the calves here. They will gradually darken over the next few days, although I have had one animal whose eyes remained obviously lighter than the usual dark brown until she was past yearling age.

Friday the 29th
Lamb and her twin ram lambs

Lamb's lambs, up and about this morning.

I walked into the maternity paddock this afternoon, and couldn't see either of the calves anywhere! I looked in the most obvious places - around the fenced-off Puriri trees, where there's long grass and the patch of swampy grass, where I found 475's bull calf, pretending like mad that he wasn't there at all and hoping I'd just go away! The other calf I eventually discovered, from the direction of her mother's gaze, was the almost invisible flat black shape away up the paddock.

a calf in hiding a calf in hiding

Dotty produced her lambs this evening, around 9pm, although not without a bit of help from me. The first one was really tight around the head and when I went in to grab the second one, it pulled back from my hand so violently, I decided to leave well alone and let it sort itself out. On my third check, the lamb had its head and one leg out. After checking that the other leg was completely back inside Dotty, I just pulled the lamb straight out, then left them all together to get acquainted.

So with eight lambs on the ground (200% lambing would be impressive in a large flock!), lambing is now finished for the year; thank goodness for that!

The time has come again, to enter the annual Isla's Calving Date Competition. Go on, have a go!

2006 calving tally: 2 born, 50 cows to calve.