The week beginning the 2nd of December 2006
Saturday the 2nd

A warm, sunny, windy day and instead of staying home and attacking weeds, or getting the calves in to tag them, we went to town so I could attend a meeting! For all that I wish to support the existence of Arts in the Community, I'm beginning to think that such committee involvement is more suited to those who, like the rest of the committee, are partly, or wholly retired, and living in town.

Yesterday I received a phone call from my Auckland-based friend Jorja, who has visited a few times lately with various friends, and wants to come up with some more, for a night or two on the farm. On the way up, they called in to Paihia so one of the party could go out on a boat to see dolphins and whales, so they didn't get here until the early evening.
They were an interesting mix of women: one from Sweden and two from China, the latter of whom were entirely delighted by our collection of animals and poultry and got right in amongst them, even cuddling the fierce turkeys! (I'm hoping for some copies of some of those pictures!)

Sunday the 3rd
Jorja rounding up a cow!

Jorja took her three guests in to town to go on a bus trip up to Cape Reinga and she came home to spend a relaxing day with me, which was a great delight.

After an early afternoon rest, we went out to bring the cows and calves in to the yards, so that Stephan and I could get on with the vaccinating and tagging after Jorja left. It's highly entertaining to watch the cows' reactions to different people's attempts at getting them to move! I don't think 478 was quite sure what was going on.

Isla's son

Jorja went off to collect her guests and head back to Auckland and we got on with our job with the calves. We've now tagged 40 of them.

Here's Isla's son with his new tag.

Monday the 4th
Women in Ag Field Day

Today I attended the year's last Northland Women in Agribusiness field day, at the property of Paula Flood, near Okaihau, about an hour south of Diggers Valley. She farms approximately 1000 acres, raising calves born on the property and bought in and was an extremely entertaining and interesting host. I've wanted to see what Paula did at her place since I met her through the group, so was determined to get to today's meeting - even though that meant Stephan taking a day off work to stay home on maternity watch.

rail culvert

The railway line, which was once planned to pass through here but was either not laid, or was, then removed, included this marvellous concrete culvert, through which we all walked. The locals say the railway failed because those who planned it failed to take into account the land and soil conditions in the area, including some major subsidence problems.

Paula gets a digger in regularly to scoop out a swimming hole at the end for the neighbourhood children.

rail culvert

On my way home, I called in to the reserve at the bottom of the Mangamuka Gorge to see if I could see any sign of our lovely Pukeko, which Stephan released there a number of weeks ago. There wasn't a bird to be seen. I half expected her to make her way home and felt reasonably comfortable that home was a direct line not crossing any major roads, so if she did so, she'd be reasonably safe, but we've not seen her. Maybe she found somebody else's garden to settle in along the way and is leading a comfortable life in other company.

At 11.30pm Ida had a heifer calf, while I watched. So now there's only Ivy left to go.

Tuesday the 5th

Ida's calf weighed a rather large 43kg! No wonder she looked a bit slow to come out last night - I had the impression that the shoulders took a bit of pushing through, as the head seemed to advance further along the front legs as Ida pushed, than is my usual observation.

When I came in from checking and moving cattle, Stephan reported that the bottle-fed lamb has disappeared! They've been behaving oddly for a few days, with a great deal of unusual bleating, but I couldn't find anything in particular to explain their behaviour. Three had had unresolved limps, so I'd treated with Penicillin because that's a common sign of infection in lambs, which usually affects their joints, and I'd drenched two which were looking a little depressed but were otherwise unaffected. We spent an hour or so walking around the river bank and across the paddock in which the sheep have been grazing, but couldn't find any sign of her anywhere.

Wednesday the 6th

We had some rather special visitors today. Hanneke has been corresponding with me from the Netherlands since the middle of 2004 and she and her husband Harm, and sons Thijs and Koen came, at last, to Diggers Valley in person, rather than via the website. I took them out for a bit of a walk, introducing them, of course, to Isla and her paddock-mates. It is a real pleasure to meet people who have found us on the internet and then eventually find our gateway!

Another of the lambs is behaving strangely, so we moved them away from the paddock with the river on three sides and back to the house paddock where I could watch them more closely. The lost lamb is still lost.

As soon as they were in the open paddock, I noticed the odd one wandering around and around in a wide circle, bleating. It was after business hours by that stage, so having discussed the symptoms with another sheep farmer, decided it would be reasonable to treat him with Penicillin, in case the apparent neurological disorder has been caused by an infection, particularly since they appear to have suffered a number of ills since docking this year.

Thursday the 7th

Ivy, fat, pregnant, waiting...

Catching the sick lamb for his second penicillin shot this afternoon was a little trickier than yesterday, which is a very good indication that he's feeling better for the treatment!

Friday the 8th

Today I began preparations for mating by firstly bringing the yearling (and one R2) heifers in and weighing them and applying the Bulling Beacon heat detectors to their backs. I had a few moments of frustration when I discovered that the replacement box of Bulling Beacons I'd been sent by the distributors (to compensate for a batch of faulty ones last year) had actually been opened and some of them used, and not just from one of the two sealed foil packets within, but from both of them! I had been feeling very pleased with my level of organisation this year, but now I don't have enough of the indicators because several are missing from the packets!

The yearling heifers (other than grey 516, whose udder swelling is growing again and who weighs only 282kg) are doing really well, weighing from 318 - 366kg: all sufficiently well-grown for mating. 320kg is my usual minimum weight, although last year I let the smallest ones go through at just over 290kg at the beginning of the season and they were probably up to weight by the time they were mated. Having them so well grown means they're far easier to manage through the winter than if they're struggling at this point. It also indicates that if I waited to mate them as two-year-olds, they'd be enormous!

After the heifers were done, I brought the youngest calves in to weigh them (some for the first time), but left putting their mothers' indicators on for another day.

2006 calving tally: 50 born, only Ivy left to calve.