The week beginning the 25th of November 2006
Saturday the 25th

Demelza's calf, who's beginning to look like a little bull already. He's growing well, despite having succumbed to a severe case of Coccidia scours.

I've continued watching the calves for some time on most days, noting any newly dirty rear ends and also those which have cleaned up after earlier scouring.

There being only five cows left to calve, I put an electric tape across the House Paddock, keeping Ivy and her grey friend in one half, and brought the other three (and Ida's twin, Ingrid) into the other half. As calving frequency has slowed, and as it's dragged on for rather long, I have to remember to remain alert, especially since there is still one two-year-old heifer still to calve.

Sunday the 26th

Sometime in the early hours of this morning, Flora 15 had a bull calf. This one's sire was #26 bull and I really don't know exactly when he was conceived, having got a little slack about my observations by the end of the mating period earlier this year. We weighed him in the afternoon: 40kg. Some of that bull's calves have been quite sizeable, so I'm glad I didn't try him out on the heifers - although, one of the supposedly low-birthweight bull's calves (Imagen's 40kg monster) were rather larger than expected, too!

Irene and her calf

Taurikura Irene 698 and her calf who will be Virago Irene 48. The calf is no longer the tiny thing she was. She's piled on the weight and I think she probably has the prettiest face of all the calves this year - although this picture doesn't do her justice!

The mob of 16 cows and calves had just moved from the Small Hill paddock into the Big Back paddock, for a few days before the calves will be old enough to receive their first vaccinations and ear tags.

The lamb is now officially weaned. She's been getting 200ml/day for some time and I've almost run out of milk powder. I thought I'd pack up the little I have left and freeze it for emergency use next year, since having a little on hand is often very useful.

Monday the 27th

418, who had an infection in her gum (commonly called Woody Tongue) which is now very much improved. The $100+ of antibiotics obviously did the trick and the inflammation is gradually reducing. There is only a slight unevenness in her lower jaw now and the gap between her first and second left-side teeth is slowly closing up again. I hope it will eventually completely resolve, since a gap between those teeth would have a long-term impact on 418's ability to gather feed efficiently. She is, after all, one of my favourite animals, so I'd rather she was not so afflicted!

Tuesday the 28th
470 and her calf

The last of the eleven two-year-old heifers, 470, calved sometime in the early hours of this morning.

I am beginning to feel a certain confidence in my management of heifer calving! It was something I approached with a great deal of trepidation, starting in the first years with only one or two of the very best-grown yearlings at mating time. I've learnt a great deal about feeding management in the last few years and now all of the yearlings are sufficiently well-grown to join the breeding herd as two-year-old first-time calvers.

470's calf

Calving at two years is common in the dairy industry, but less so within the beef world, although becoming more so in some circles. As a breeder of stud cattle, it is something I need to do, since some bull buyers will not buy from herds where it is not the practice to mate heifers as yearlings. Calving a heifer at two years brings her into the breeding herd a year earlier than she would have joined it at three and has certainly made management here a little easier, in that the mob which requires careful management far from wherever the bulls are, contains only the yearling heifers, so is far smaller than in earlier years and consequently requires less moving around the farm!

This calf is 7/8 Angus, so I'm quite surprised to see her white face! I had expected we were going to have no white-face calves this year, after the others which often do, had all-black calves.

443 and calf

Grey 443, who produced last year's ill-fated strange-uddered silver calf, has this year produced a black bull. 443 is in particularly good condition, having shared a lot of Ivy's feed nuts and Molasses! She has had a really sore front foot for the last couple of weeks and I expect it will come right now that she has had the calf.

Wednesday the 29th

Anna, who visited us a few weeks ago, returned this afternoon, with her parents, who are visiting from Britain. I immediately put Anna to work, of course, taking her out with me to sort the cows and calves in the house paddock, now that those behind the electric tape in the smaller part of it had finished the available grass. We drafted Ida back in with Ivy and grey 443 and her calf out with the others and then sent the four cows (one of them is Ida's twin, Ingrid, who had a dead calf) and three calves down along the lane and into the adjacent Flat 1 paddock. Ivy and Ida are now the last two pregnant cows and I want to ensure there's enough grass for them to stay near the house as I keep an eye on them until they calve. Ivy is still having a nightly dose of Magnesium Oxide powder in a decreasing amount of molasses, so having her so close to home makes that easy.

Thursday the 30th

This being the only full day of our visitors' time with us, we went walking, despite some early rain and the threat of more. We managed to get out to the back of the farm before the rain began to fall lightly, but by the time we'd reached the ridge at the back, it was falling steadily, so we walked quite briskly home.

Friday the 1st of December
cattle crossing the river in the Back Barn paddock

The 24 cows and their calves in the Back Barn paddock were running out of grass, so I called them all together, did the roll check with my notebook to make sure they were all present - along with making bottom-cleanliness notes - before letting them into the adjacent paddock. In the picture there are a couple of calves having a feed, since they were probably somewhere away from their grazing mothers for a few hours and they've just met up again on their way to my call. The calves are fairly independent at this age and can often be found some distance from their mothers. They'll have been sleeping while the cows went off grazing, or might have been dashing around in a playful group and then settled somewhere in the sun. When all is quiet in the late afternoon, I hear quite a lot of calling from the large paddocks, as the cows call their calves back to them from wherever they've scattered.

After moving that mob, I went around to the other side of the farm to the Big Back paddock, where the mob of 16 cows and calves has been grazing all week. Tomorrow the youngest of those calves will be four weeks old, so can be vaccinated, tagged and castrated as necessary, so I wanted to move them to a paddock which is a bit closer to the front of the farm so they won't have a huge walk before being subjected to such tortuous treatment.

cows and calves

Our bulls have been grazing neighbour Jane's place, being a convenient place to tuck them out of the way while calving and moving cows and calves to and from the yards. When out getting the mail this afternoon, I was surprised to see that the two-acre property on the other side of the river from Jane's paddocks suddenly had a large number of Friesian cows grazing the very long grass and with them was a young bull! The fencing on Jane's side of the river is sufficient to stop our bulls from challenging it, but if the other bull crossed the river to have a bit of a discussion with my bulls, I doubt it would last long!
It is good manners in farming circles (and can save a great deal of trouble and distress) to notify your neighbour if you're about to put a bull on the boundary where there are usually (or potentially) other stock. Our neighbour knew our bulls were there (we'd told him so quite clearly when his recent fireworks display nearly sent them crashing into Jane's garden in panic!) so with a fair amount of fury-venting swearing about idiots who have no idea what they're doing and have even less manners, we moved our bulls away for their own safety! The last thing I would need at this time of the year, just before mating begins, is for my bulls to get in amongst a mob of unknown cows (since I very deliberately now operate a closed herd, with no new animals coming into it) or have a bull get injured while fighting with another it doesn't know! Fortunately our bulls are a very quiet and biddable mob and moved without much fuss, away from the growling, pawing bull on the other side of the river.

2006 calving tally: 49 born, two cows to calve.