The week beginning the 7th of October 2006
Saturday the 7th
bees bees

Looking out the window this morning, Anna drew our attention to a swarm of bees! Some friends have installed some hives on our property and some of them had decided to move. We watched them as they gradually decreased in number and waited for the bee-keepers to arrive, then discovered them all clustered on the end of one of the branches of the fallen Puriri tree in our native planting area. Ros brought a sack down to collect them and they took away a buzzing bag - which apparently didn't stay properly closed all the way home and it was a good thing they were still wearing their bee hats while driving!

Babette and her lambs

This afternoon I watched as the lamb I've been bottle-feeding latched onto and had a long feed from her mother, Babette. I can't know how much milk she's actually getting, but I will cut down the bottle feeds and thereby encourage some hunger-induced enthusiasm for that sort of feeding!

(Neither is feeding in the photo, it was just to remind me to record my observation.)

Today was the day of Kaitaia's Variety Concert, organised by the Community Arts Council, with proceeds going to Far North Palliative and Cancer Care. Stephan set off before noon to meet up with the Master of Ceremonies for the night and to make some early preparations to the Little Theatre, before the dress rehearsal began at 1pm.

The rehearsal continued for much of the afternoon, before the concert got underway at 7pm. Anna was seconded for some lighting assistance while Tink, who usually does the lighting, took to the stage as a pumpkin for a short skit.

I stayed out of the way for as long as possible, because I was still waiting for 486 to calve and she's been looking like doing so at any moment for a couple of days, then went in to join the Orchestra for our performance at the beginning of the second half of the concert. I think we played very well. I then came home to check the cows again and Stephan and Anna arrived home just before midnight.

Kaitaia's Variety Concert 2006 Kaitaia's Variety Concert 2006 Kaitaia's Variety Concert 2006 Kaitaia's Variety Concert 2006
Sunday the 8th
Anna and the lamb

Anna is off on her way back to Wellington today, so she went out to give the lamb a bottle for the last time on this trip.

R2 heifer, 486

This is 486, daughter of 348 (the cow who's had two backwards calves) and the ¾ sister of 475, the first one to calve this season. I've been watching her for days, expecting her to calve at any moment, especially when she wanders around like this, looking for all the world like she's in labour! There is a light brown patch near her tail-head, which is the dust from my scratching her there, and it is behind that patch that the dips in her pelvis are appearing, indicating that she's very close to calving.

307 and her heifer calf

307 and her little brown heifer calf, resting quietly in the Camp paddock this afternoon when I went hunting for 367 ...

R2 heifer, 486

367 disappeared this afternoon! I'd seen her from the house as she wandered around, obviously in labour, so Anna and I went out to find her, but she wasn't in the paddock! There's a bit of a "fencing issue" between the Windmill and Camp paddocks, and 367 had taken advantage of it and obviously hopped over the shorter-than-normal fence on the other side of the river.

While Stephan took Anna down the road to catch her ride south, I went to find 367, thinking she may have headed for the trees not far from where 307 and her calf were lying. As I climbed the slope, I heard her calling out to her almost-born calf, and was there to see it slither out onto the ground at around 2.30pm.

It's not very obvious when the calf is wet, but I had a strong suspicion this little heifer was not a black calf!

two turkeys on their nest

The hen turkeys have both been laying their eggs under a big Totara tree where most of the farm rubbish is stored for recycling or disposal (which is why there is wire in the picture), for the last couple of weeks. We've collected most of the eggs so we can set them under chickens, since we're not sure what sort of mothers these turkeys might turn out to be.

I wonder how they'll share any resulting chicks?

Monday the 9th
scurs on a yearling cross-bred steer

These are scurs!
This is the steer, now almost a year old, which gave me such a fright earlier this year when I saw his pseudo-horns! He now lives next door, so I've been able to keep an eye on him and see how big they grow. It would be interesting to get him into the yards and see if the scurs still wobble, or if they have by now anchored themselves to his skull, as apparently some do over time.

Scurs weren't something I'd seen much of since our first bull, Albert, left the farm. At least one of his heifer calves had scurs, which means he must have contributed one scur gene to her mix, which might cast some doubt on his pedigree. None of the heifers since that time have had scurs (as they should not with pure-bred Angus sires, since they need two copies of the necessary gene) and this was the first of the male calves to show up with them (the males needing only one scur gene to have them).

I shall have these scurs removed, should the current owner wish it, since I really am selling polled stock, but they're generally not too harmful, since they're short, often wobbly and not nearly as hard as horns. The big injured steer, 356, had a small pair of bud-like scurs which surprised me at the time, believing that pedigree Angus bulls would not sire animals with scurs. As I now understand it, a bull calf will have them if he's received the gene only from one parent, and there is a suggestion in the material I've read that scurs usually appear in a heterozygous polled animal - i.e. one which has received the (recessive) horned gene from one parent, which may often be the case in some of the cattle in my herd, where they've descended from the mixed mob with which I started. As well as the link to other information in the earlier reference, this article may be of use in further explanation.

I shall check this year's calves for any evidence of scurs, although they don't tend to show up until the calves are big enough to be a bit hard to handle around the head! The next picture of the steer is here.

the grey heifer with the udder disorder

Little grey 516 still looks much the same. Her udder-swelling remains. It decreased in size for a while, but has enlarged a little again and stayed that way. She still doesn't seem bothered by it.

443 and Ivy

Ivy has access to the bit of "lawn" behind the house, since it's suddenly long and lush, but 443, mother of 516 above, won't go through the little gate, so misses out! Tough luck; she's getting far too well-conditioned anyway.

Tuesday the 10th
423 and her newborn bull calf 423's bull calf

This is the best thing to find on an early-morning first check: contented cow, calf and afterbirth. This is 423, a three-year-old second-time calver, and her bull calf. Last year she had a really tiny heifer, sired by an AI bull with a low birthweight EBV and although his EBV for growth to weaning wasn't too bad, the calf was very unimpressive and I sold her at the local yards last autumn. This calf's sire is our #26 and hopefully the two parents are a better mix for this calf than the last.

Before I headed off to Wellington for the Women in Farming meetings, our local group agreed we would meet here, today, for our next discussion. Because we'd advertised the meeting as mostly for planning purposes, only the very enthusiastic women turned up, i.e. five of them. While it wasn't raining, we went for a walk around the flats to see the cattle and the new calves and a bit more of the farm than the women have seen on previous days here, when we've been busily involved in particular learning events. A couple of the women are also cattle breeders of far longer-standing than I, so it was of value to me to have them inspect my herd!

112 and her new heifer calf

This is 112, daughter of the old Friesian cow #32, and her newborn heifer calf, born early this morning. The calf's sire is #26. Last year's heifer calf looked almost more Friesian-shaped than her mother (Friesians, being a dairy breed, are very angular, and without much muscle, or beef), but I'm hoping that with a different sire, this might be a heifer worth keeping, although vacancies for heifers will be subject to great competition this year!

486 and her heifer calf

While the Women in Agribusiness meeting was drawing to a close, young 486 gave birth to her calf, on the riverbank in the Windmill paddock, then probably in an overenthusiastic response to the calf's movements when she first stood, pushed her into the river! When I arrived on the scene, the heifer was lying comfortably on the bank calling to her calf which was standing, up to her belly in the water. I promptly jumped into the water, ignoring the sudden chill around my feet as the water filled my boots, and carried the calf to the bank, then once on dry land again, carried her up and away from the river, so she could find her first feed.
I took this picture a little later, when the heifer had expelled her afterbirth and was attempting to eat it. I think I'd join the calf for lunch sooner than the heifer!

rear light from unidentified car

Stephan went off to a meeting in town late this afternoon and on his way home was hit by an idiot in a white car, coming around a corner sideways, who then sped off at great speed! This is the light from the back right corner of the car, ripped off on the front corner of our ute's deck.

If you are able to identify the type of car and its year of manufacture, we would be very grateful! There has been a suggestion that it is a Mazda Capella (from a matching light at a wrecker's yard) but we can't find a picture of anything which looks quite right.

Wednesday the 11th
367's grey heifer calf

This is grey 367's heifer calf, all dry and almost exactly the same colour as her mother - walking the other side of the fence in the picture. The calves in the Camp Paddock keep slithering through the electric fence and into the Windmill Paddock with some of the calving cows. The bottom wires of the fence are turned off, so it doesn't hurt them and there's not much preventing them from going back again, but it's never quite soon enough for their anxious mothers, who call and pace up and down on the other side.

Grey 367, who is half-sister to grey 443 (their mother was old grey 16), has had three black calves in the past, so I had just assumed that whatever caused her colouration wasn't being passed on to her calves, but it was obviously just luck of the genetic draw.

Early this morning I watched 486's calf as she nearly fell over a steep bit of the river-bank near the swimming hole. I managed to get her and her mother to go away into the middle of the paddock, then noticed with satisfaction that after a feed, the calf lay down for a sleep. A couple of hours later, when I saw from the house that they were no longer where I'd left them, I thought I'd better go and check on the calf which seemed to have such a water-fascination!

Her mother was pacing around calling and the calf was nowhere to be seen - until I went under the trees and looked down into the river, where she had obviously been swimming until she'd found something to put her front feet on at the edge of a deep corner of the river.

486 and calf

I took off some of my outer, warm, clothing and the camera and in I went, into the very cold water, up to my waist, to rescue the very cold calf. I made her walk her way back out, since she was so wet. She eventually gained dry land again, but was very stiff from the cold and unwilling to have a feed from her mother - I wonder how much water she had swallowed? I left her curled up asleep in this sheltered sunny spot, and later, when a lot warmer and dry, she was up and feeding again.

Demelza in labour

Just before 11am I noticed Demelza 21 standing under the trees along the river-bank, obviously trying to relieve the discomfort of early labour by rubbing her nether regions against the lowest branches of the trees. She then decided to head across the river, which I really didn't want her to do - for two reasons: if there were any problems, getting her back from there involves some nasty narrow passages with sheer drops of several feet into the river, and once the calf is born, there is no safe pathway back to the rest of the paddock. So I dashed across to head her off and send her back into the rest of the paddock, then put her out into the top of the lane, where she had a nice wide, safe space to calve - along with a couple of the other heifers, for company.

Demelza in labour

She seemed to be taking a very long time to produce anything other than a bit of mucous, so eventually I went and fetched a glove, washing water, lube and did an internal examination right where she was, finding two feet and a lively mouth in exactly the right position. Bearing in mind that Demelza took 14 hours to be born, perhaps it's to be expected that she'll take a while producing her own.

Eventually there were two feet to be seen.

Demelza in labour

Two hours after she'd begun labour, the calf was out and on the ground, a little bull, sired by C A Future Direction, and our first stud calf for the year.

I took a series of short (16 second, as much as the camera allows) videos of the birth as it progressed. If you wish, you can see them via the YouTube site by clicking on any of the links below. The largest of them is just under 3.2Mb.

After Demelza had delivered the calf, I moved the other two heifers back into the neighbouring paddock and later in the day, Stephan and I took the scales out there to weigh the calf. Before we did so, we went and coaxed 486 and her water-baby up from the paddock and into the lane, to keep Demelza company. We weighed both calves, Demelza's was 36kg and the little water-baby was 32.5kg.

Thursday the 12th
394 and her heifer calf

394 appeared to be in labour when I last checked last night, so I was surprised to see her still licking her calf clean first thing this morning! Another one for #26.

Abigail and her heifer calf

Abigail was nowhere to be seen in the paddock, so I went looking under the trees, then spotted her across the river, in that same spot the others have all headed for. (Stephan promises he really will build the river-bank fence this summer!) I tried to get her to leave and go back across the river, but she just wouldn't do it, so it seemed sensible to leave her to it where she was comfortable, while I went off for some breakfast.

By the time I returned, she'd just had the calf and was licking it dry - her fourth heifer, to an Australian bull named Ardrossan Connection X15, which I'm using for the first time this year.

I lay and watched Abigail and her calf for about an hour (in the shade of the trees and the continuing cold southerly wind), as the calf got to her feet and hunted for her first feed. I've watched it so many times, and it still makes me smile.

Later in the morning, Stephan and I went and weighed the calf (38.5kg) and then he carried her along the bank and across the river, then we herded the two of them toward the safe paddock where Demelza and the other heifer were now with their calves.

Demelza, Abigail and their calves

The picture above is of Demelza and Abigail - daughter, grand-son, mother and daughter - later this afternoon.

Ranu enjoying some molasses

A few days ago Ranu became very lame in her right front foot, to the extent that she stopped standing, walking and eating! She was also quite nervous, which could just have been the result of not getting enough to eat. I moved her into a grassier paddock on her own, so she wouldn't have to move far to get a good feed and so I could provide her with some Magnesium in Molasses without having a whole lot of other cows trying to get to it! Her foot or leg soreness has eased over the last few days.
I have also noticed that the ewes, in late pregnancy, often become very lame, recovering quite quickly after birth. I'm beginning to think it's metabolic rather than foot-specific.

Ranu's foot discomfort comes and goes and I've not been able to detect any injury or other source of the pain when we've examined her. It's a long-term problem which hasn't been too frequent, nor too long-lasting when it does bother her, but has certainly been more evident during this pregnancy than in the past. She's on the cull list - she's just passed her tenth birthday and her health is obviously beginning to fail - so this will (probably) be her last season.

Friday the 13th
Onix's daughter, 456

This is 456, three-year-old daughter of Onix, who is about to calve for the first time. Her sire was Quadrille 07, some of whose daughters seem to form these very rounded udders, which then develop a very nice shape as lactation progresses. Onix herself had very little milk in her first lactation, but has increased her capacity with each calving.

Have you entered the annual Isla's Calving Date Competition yet?
Of the 50-odd people who visit this site each day, only 17 have so far entered!

2006 calving tally: 15 born (14 running around), 37 cows to calve.