The week beginning the 4th of November 2006
Saturday the 4th
Isla and her new bull calf

She's done it! At sometime around 5am, Isla produced another bull calf and he was just nudging around for his first feed when I arrived just before 6am.

Congratulations to Kathleen, from New Mexico, USA and Alexandra, from Kaukapakapa, who told me she was going to win and was almost bang-on with the time of birth! Stephan will receive instructions for a piece of woodturning for Kathleen and I'd better make up some beds for Alex's farm-stay!

Fleur 28's heifer calf

As I arrived in the paddock to find Isla's new calf, here was Fleur 28 beginning to deliver her calf as well, which she did as I continued to watch.

After lunch, we went out to weigh the two new stud calves. Isla's calf weighed 36kg and Fleur's was 34kg.

Isla's calf

Isla's son, yet to be named. I need a name beginning with A. Send me your ideas!

Stephan fencing on a river-bank

Finally, the long-promised Windmill Paddock fence is under construction! The two-wire electric section (with the bottom wire able to be switched off during calving) is already completed around the rest of the riverbank. This bit will be a conventional seven-wire battened fence, because it must be completely calf-proof, since it is here the bank drops straight down into a deep corner of the river. Stephan will put wooden rails at each end of this section so the calves can't get behind it, from either end.

The electric part of the fence will stop cows in labour from disappearing over the river as Abigail and a couple of others did.

421 calving
421 and her calf

I thought I'd better go out and check the last three cows at the back of the farm and bring them in closer - but I was too late! I spotted 421 in this state as I came into the paddock, so sat down and watched her.

She took about ten minutes to produce her heifer calf, then just like last year when she had her first, she sat there for several minutes until I began to think the calf would get up before she did! Eventually, when the calf started moving around too much for her to ignore, she got up and started cleaning it up - and bellowing like a mad thing and pushing it around!

Once she'd settled down a bit I went away and left them to it. I'll wait a day or two and then take them to the front of the farm.

To cap off a long day, having moved the mob of 24 cows and calves out to the Big Back paddock mid-afternoon, by 10pm I could hear far too much bellowing from that direction, so when we arrived home from a barbecue dinner down the road, I went farming in the moonlight! Because I hadn't turned on the fences out where I'd put the cattle, they'd broken back through an electric tape (with no electricity in it) and there were calves in all sorts of silly places where their mothers couldn't get to them. They were all safe though, so I left them where they were, it being unlikely I'd get them sorted out in the dark very easily.

While I was wandering around, I heard a Kiwi in the bush, quite close to our boundary. It's good to hear them still; it would be fantastic to see one! I went for a walk through some of the trees on the chance I might happen upon interesting wildlife, but didn't.

Sunday the 5th

The starling chicks are gone from the mailbox. There were three hatched, then the unhatched egg had disappeared, and today there are two dead chicks on the road and nothing in the nest. I don't know what has happened. Perhaps Mynah birds, which are only a little bigger than the Starlings, kill such chicks, or maybe a rat did it.

lambs after docking

I've put off docking the lambs for far too long, so this afternoon, it being a reasonable day weather-wise, I took them up to the little sheep yards and applied tiny, very strong, rubber rings to their tails and scrota - except for the lamb called Wedding, which I've decided we'll keep as a ram, since he's such a strappingly good-looking fellow. The lamb called Reception can still go to the wedding they were both invited to, but will have to take another partner.

As usual they all fell about the place in pain for a while, then got up and behaved as if nothing had happened.

I put the 24 cows and calves back where I meant them to be this afternoon and turned on the fences! Several calves had a number of shocking experiences, but they're old enough to cope and to learn quite quickly what not to touch, which is exactly what I need to happen! We need to do some fence reorganisation out there so I can shut them into the Big Back paddock without needing to use electric tape. The paddock currently has two entrances at the bottom, on either side of the swamp. We plan to move the fence so that the bottom of the paddock includes the culvert crossing, so that the cows and calves don't get caught on different sides of the swamp when they come down from the top of the paddock - which is why I currently leave a lane between the two gates at the bottom, with the tape, so they can get back to each other and don't bellow endlessly in the middle of the night!

My next task was to go out to the other side of the farm to check on yesterday's third calf, and after wandering around following her mother for a little while, we both discovered where she was tucked away. But then as the cow talked to her, 363, who's also called Darian, came crashing up through the bush and pushed the mother out of the way! This was a repeat of the behaviour I saw the other week when the last calf was accidentally born out in this paddock, only this time she seemed even more determined to have the calf for herself than last time. I managed to herd them down to the bottom of the hill, on their way to the gate out of the paddock, but then 363's behaviour worsened and we all ended up at the top of the hill again. Eventually I got them out of the paddock and on their way down the lane. I felt it was necessary to intervene in case the mad cow actually managed to interfere to the extent that the calf forgot who she was supposed to be with and went of with the cow without an udder!

Stephan came out and gave me a hand and we drafted the mad cow and the other yet-to-calve cow off into a separate paddock from the cow and calf. For a while it looked as if 363 was going to attempt to jump over the fences to get back to the calf, but fortunately she stayed put.

Monday the 6th
heifers on the hill in the distance

The easy way to check cattle: count them on the hill from down on the flats. I make sure I've seen the eight heifers over the road on a regular basis, and if I can't count all of them every other day or so, I go for a walk and find them. They're in the paddock where #410 died almost a year ago, so I get a little nervous if I don't see them all.

I took the picture just before 7pm.

Tuesday the 7th
Jenny herding the sheep

This was a bit of a surprise for the woolly ones! Now that the lambs are recovered from their rubber-banding, I decided they and the two cows in the house paddock could do with a move back over to the Flat 1 paddock, where there's some lusher grass. Stephan decided he'd try Jenny out on the sheep. They're not the best sheep in the world with which to attempt normal herding, since they're all tame and inclined to run toward things normal sheep would want to get away from, but eventually they were all bunched together at the gate and went through it and along the lane to the new paddock.

475 and her calf

This is lovely 475 and the first calf born this year. He looks like he's growing well, although I've only weighed him once so far, so don't know exactly how well he is doing. His mother is looking a little light, but seems in very good health, and she'll start gaining condition as the grass grows - when the cold wind stops blowing and spring arrives, if we're lucky!

Her udder is a lovely shape and size, which is very pleasing: her mother, grey 16, had an enormous, pendulous udder and her sire has one older daughter in my herd, whose udder is tight and small and very well attached. (3/4 sister, #486, has a similarly shaped udder.)


Calves change so quickly, just like small children! This is Dexie, Abigail's daughter, who has grown and changed colour, so that in person she seems quite different, except that her hair and eyebrow patterns remain the same as they were.

Yvette and her twins

Yvette needs a haircut! Her lambs are doing really well - you can see the mark on the tail which indicates where the rubber ring is, under the wool. Their tails will drop off in a couple of weeks. I'm always struck by the awfulness of the practice of docking, on one level, but being struck by a thought is rather less awful than being struck by flies and maggots, which is the main argument for docking.
Lambs' tails are very mobile when they're small, but adult sheep with long tails don't obviously use or move them much at all (unlike the tails of cattle, which are constantly moving). Sheep's woolly tails get urine- and manure-stained and attract flies, rather than being helpful in repelling them.

Wednesday the 8th

Dexie's Great Grandmother, Ivy, now looking a great deal fatter than earlier in the year! When we took her Molasses and Magnesium mix out to her this evening, I noticed she's become rather slower moving than before, presumably because her contents are growing and running out of room! Jill (my mother, visiting overnight) and I placed our hands on Ivy's right side for some minutes, feeling the large movements of a calf within.

Earlier we went for a walk amongst the other mob of calving cows and I spent some time grooming a couple of the cows; their winter hair is coming out, literally, in clumps! All around Ingrid and I were piles of black hair, as I brushed and stroked her. Irene and 428 were similarly moulting a couple of weeks ago.

Stephan cooked us corned beef with mustard sauce for dinner - during which we discussed corned beef not being known in England, and perhaps not in other places either? It is salted beef (soaked in brine during processing) which is cooked by boiling in water, and as long as it is cut across its grain, is an extremely nice meat to eat, especially with mustard sauce! The brisket cuts are used, as well as various other "lower quality" parts of the beast.
For dessert was a fantastic Lemon Meringue Pie, thanks to a recently received recipe from Fran in Opiki!

Thursday the 9th

For much of this week I've been working for seemingly endless hours on Kaitaia Dramatic Society business! The Society's Constitution requires a number of amendments, which has taken some research to get right and the end of the financial year has just passed, so I had to get the accounts prepared for auditing by the accountant, in preparation for the upcoming Annual General Meeting.

Friday the 10th
moving cows and calves

I drafted the two yet-to-calve heifers and the twins, Ingrid and Ida, out of the calving mob at lunchtime, so later on I could move the remaining 16 cows and their calves to new grazing. I want to weigh the calves before they go out to the back of the farm, so they're just moving around the front paddocks at present.

moving cows and calves

The mob of 24 cows and their calves have been in the middle back paddock for a couple of days and with them being around the back of the hill in the middle of the farm, it's unlikely I'd hear much noise if anything were wrong out there, so we went to check them and move them on to the next paddock. In a paddock which is mostly hill, with lots of trees and hollows, it's really hard to get a firm count of 24 calves! Once I was sure they were all there, we moved them through the gate and walked home.

The Isla's Calving Date Competition entries may be seen here.

2006 calving tally: 42 born (all three this week on Saturday), 10 cows to calve.