I called all the cows and calves in the PWHS hilly paddock to come to the gate and then checked them all against my list, discovering I was one short. I always feel a terrible dread when that happens in the paddocks where animals have ended up in holes and there have been three in this paddock, hence its name: Paddock With Two Holes Three Steers Fell In.
Knowing that the missing #99 is my resident swamp-crawler, I set off around the bottom of the paddock, along Route 356 (the track we made almost three years ago to rescue #356) and suddenly I heard the snapping of grass stalks and there she was, in the swamp, of course.
After convincing 99 it really was time to leave and that all the others were waiting for her, she wandered back along the side of the hill through the bits of bush and still-overgrown track, before reaching the rest of the mob and stopping so her daughter could have a very muddy afternoon feed.
99 just seems to know exactly where to find the lushest feed and how to negotiate the swamps without getting stuck. I'm always very careful when coaxing her to get out, not to push her too hard, letting her pick her own way, because she obviously knows exactly where to step!
Rather late this afternoon I started bringing the cows and calves in to the yards. I had wanted to wait until the worst of the heat passed, for the benefit of both the cattle and myself.
I weighed all the calves, in two mobs, one of 16 and the other of 24 and then put the cows through the race and applied the Bulling Beacons to their backs. By the time the last few cows were in the race, I could only just see the contours of their backs where I was placing the glue and then the patches. I put the cows away in their paddocks in the dark, confused by one of the first mob to go out not wanting to cross the bridge, so she had to wait in a side paddock until after the second mob went past, when she decided it wasn't so scary after all, and trotted along behind me, as I followed the others out to their paddock.
I nearly didn't get dinner, Stephan having almost given up on my coming in to have it!
I spent hours today sorting out which cows would go to which bulls this season. I have all manner of spread-sheets and sortable documents with growth-rates, weight data and pedigree information in them and I needed to do some updating before I worked out what next for this year.
I watched these lambs (at the left side of the picture) from my office early this afternoon. The lambs have become very adept at hopping through between the electric fence wires (not helped by the fact that many of the fences have the bottom wires still turned off for the young calves) and they've been going up the lane and around to the top of the Flat 1 paddock and through that fence. Then very suddenly they or their mothers noticed that they were separated and there was a panicked dash to the tops of both paddocks while the lambs worked out how to get back to where they ought to have been.
Later in the day I brought the two calf-less cows (390 had a dead baby and 363 has failed to calve, despite a positive pregnancy diagnosis earlier in the year) in to the yards and gave them a copper injection, then left them in the Pig Paddock, next to the yards.
I then took Stephan with me and we went out to where the mobs of 16 and 24 cow-and-calf pairs are grazing and began drafting them into their mating groups. We started with the insemination mob, then sent the six cull cows in another direction and then, because some of the calves just wouldn't go through the gate we needed them to, we left them to sort themselves out overnight and went home for dinner. The cull cows, whose calves had not followed them, spent the night in the paddock next to the one from which they'd come, with only a spring wire gate between them, under which the calves can easily pass, if they have a mind to.
At last, after days of expectation on my part, and too many early starts and late night last checks, Ivy went into labour this morning, in the warm sunshine. The most obvious sign was her following her grand-daughter (Ida's calf) around the paddock, licking her, but she also periodically stopped with her tail out a little. Eventually she pushed out a membrane bag, then I could see two feet, then a tongue and eventually most of the calf, and at that point Ivy stood up and the calf hung there for several minutes, before Ivy pushed her out and she landed on top of her own head. I took a risk at that point and reached in to pull her around to a more normal position. Ivy is a dangerous new mother, but seemed a little quieter this, at least in the few minutes immediately after the birth, perhaps a result of the daily Magnesium supplementation.
The calf is a heifer and appeared rather small, so I spent the next hour and a half waiting for her twin...
Nothing else happened, other than Ivy standing around looking thoughtful, so when the calf had had some time to find her feet, we took them to the yards so I could check inside Ivy for a possible twin. Stephan carried the calf most of the way, with a few minorly violent challenges from Ivy, but we all got there safely. I first weighed the calf, 34kg, then put Ivy into the race and, with a long glove on my hand and arm, had a feel inside her uterus for the other calf I thought might be there, but there was none.
We left Ivy there to settle down a bit, then a little later walked her back to the paddock.
Ivy has routinely delivered her single heifer calves on day 280 of pregnancy and they've weighed around 40kg, so this one is surprising, arriving on the 283rd day. I suspect that Ivy's light weight at conception and her decreasing condition during the first trimester have produced this lighter-than-usual calf. I had thought it possible that with all the extra feeding of Ivy during the last third of the pregnancy, we'd have a monster calf.
Finally calving is finished! I am glad that the two dead calves were not joined by any more along the way. Two of 51 is not enormously high; sad, but not altogether unexpected somewhere along the line.
With a great sense of relief, I took Stephan with me back out to the cows' paddocks and we continued drafting them into the mating mobs. After a bit of a break when we finished, I brought the youngest-calves mob in to the yards, put indicators on the cows' backs, then went and brought the bulls in and drafted them out with the appropriate cows. Since these cows haven't been mixed in with the others for some weeks, I arranged it so that the would spend the night in paddocks next to the other cows which would form their mobs, ready for mixing in the morning.
The two spare yearling bulls went in with 363, the cow which failed to produce a calf despite being diagnosed as pregnant earlier in the year. I put her into the race earlier this afternoon and did some palpation of her reproductive organs, feeling a fist-sized swelling in her uterus. I suspect she has some sort of infection which has rendered her infertile, so she'll make an appropriate companion for the little bulls for the time being.
In the picture is bull #26 and the white-faced heifer is 470, the last two-year-old to calve this year. They went into the Flat 1 paddock which I'd split with an electric tape, although I put the bull in with the rest of the mob on the other side, figuring he'd probably want to be with the larger number of cows, since he was quite keen to get on with his job!
The Starlings in the mailbox tried again after their first lot of chicks died. They laid four eggs on the days leading up to the 24th of November and they were all hatched by the 6th of December. About three days later two of them disappeared, but these two have been getting bigger every day and look like they might just make it!
For the last couple of years I've been looking for a comfortable deck chair which I can drag out under the tree so I can lie and read books during the summer! Finally today I bought one and within two minutes of unpacking it and setting it up in the living room, Spice had decided it was hers.
There's a lot to be said for delayed gratification and I worry that it is a dying concept in a modern world where everyone wants everything now! I simply wasn't going to purchase something which either didn't entirely suit my purpose, or which would fall apart within months. As it turns out, my gratification will be further delayed by the cat.
It's really good to see the cattle in some long-ish grass! This is the paddock over the road, which hasn't been grazed for a little while, and these are the cows with #26 bull (he's in the middle of the photo). The little bull in the foreground is Quanda 09's calf, sired by Vermilion Dateline 7078, full brother of #42, who's now out with his own mob of cows.
This afternoon my mother, Jill, and her husband Bruce arrived to stay for the night, and later my sister Rachel and nephew Issa also arrived. Because of my work here I can't go anywhere to join the rest of the family for Christmas-related events, so Stephan and I decided we'd have some gatherings whenever people were near us. Jill actually brought the main course, an old favourite of mine from Jill's Restaurant days: Chicken Montel, a lemon and sweet white wine dish which I've always really enjoyed. Afterwards we had some of the rest of the large Christmas Pudding Jill made a few months ago, which has been maturing in the fridge.
It is getting worryingly dry here and there's rain forecast, but every time I check, the amount of rain predicted gets less!
Cow #363 has begun expelling some rather dead-looking afterbirth material. So she must have been pregnant, as the vet diagnosed, but the calf died at some point. I wonder whether my examination the other day has anything to do with this now, or whether perhaps the bulls have been conducting their own 'examinations' of her reproductive tract and caused a reaction which is expelling whatever is left of the pregnancy?
2006 calving tally: 51 born, 49 alive, all finished for the year.