We spent a worried day frequently checking on the sheep! There are other things to be done of course, but we're responsible for the safety of those animals.
I looked out the window this afternoon, in the middle of writing last week's page, and wondered why all the yearling heifers were clustered in the corner of their paddock. I went and watched them through the binoculars for a while and then saw a strange animal rolling in the grass. It was a pig dog and it was obviously not worrying the cattle at all beyond exciting their curiosity. We went for a wander to investigate.
Stephan had been out during the day on a trapping run with Terry of the NZ Kiwi Foundation and had seen a ute parked up the road, with dog boxes on the back, obviously belonging to some hunters. We thought the dog might belong to them.
She came running over to us when we approached, so we led her home and tied her up.
Most pig dogs are trained to be sensible around stock - or even ignore them - so they're generally not too much of a problem and are often quite valuable to their owners, so they, and farm working dogs, tend to be dogs we don't always shoot on sight.
After a walk out the back to check on some cows I wandered back over to where I'd seen the dog because the heifers were still occasionally gathering in the corner. As I approached the drain which runs along the side of the paddock, I saw the large feathered back of a Harrier Hawk, lunching on the side of the head of the dead pig in the drain. No wonder the dogs were here.
Jim, who owns Molly, the dog, and had been hunting over the hills, had managed to call his other dog back to him earlier. He was very pleased to find Molly was with us when we flagged him down on the road as he passed our gateway just before dark.
During my walk, I killed ragwort, pulled small Tutu seedlings out of the river banks and generally had a pleasant stroll. By one part of the river there's a Puriri tree which fell over, probably hundreds of years ago, and there's a part of the trunk I often clamber over to save going all the way around it. As I hopped over, I spotted this little shoot with its own little spray of flowers. I don't think I've seen them growing out of the trunk like this anywhere else. There are no other branches or leaves anywhere before the crown of the tree.
We were woken by a phone call from Jane this morning, because she had a couple of calves in her garden. We don't have red calves - which we later discovered had also been wandering around through quite a bit of our native planting area, presumably for several of the early morning hours. You might recognise these calves from three months ago.
Jane, Stephan and I herded them up the driveway and around the road back to where they belong.
We went out to meet up with members of the NZ Kiwi Foundation for whom Stephan is to start working as a trapper, like Terry (pictured here a few weeks ago), with whom he went walking yesterday.
On our return we had an encounter with a stray dog and I happened to have my camera ready, so I took a number of shots of said dog running around being chased by its hand-flapping owner, all in our roundabout. Later in the day I met a very nice police officer, who had been called, I surmise, because I had very much annoyed the dog owner by catching the dog in the act of being in the wrong place and its owner on our land trying to chase it home. It was pretty ridiculous that it was I upon whom that person had attempted to serve a trespass notice! Some people can be very, very silly.
The police encounter turned out to be extremely pleasant, because the officer had been one of the boys in my Father's Intermediate School Room 10 class (Intermediate School is for years seven and eight, forms one and two, the two years before high-school commences) and had very much liked his teacher. Brian Renner was a very encouraging teacher and parent and helped many of his students and at least one of his daughters to believe they could do whatever they wanted to, as long as they were determined, and didn't make too many stupid choices on their way to adulthood.
On my way out on a ragwort-hunting walk again today, I noticed a Paradise drake engaged in mid-air challenge of a Hawk, which obviously had his ducklings in mind for lunch! Paradise ducks, or Putangitangi, appear to spend all their time together once they're paired. While the female sits on her eggs, the male can be found not far away, quietly waiting, for all the weeks it takes for the ducklings to hatch. Then they are both involved in the protection of their babies, shepherding them out into open areas as they gather food on the pastures. If there's any danger, the female will often lead the babies away to a safer area, while the male attempts to divert the attention of the predator by appearing to be injured and making a lot of fuss about it, dragging his wings on the ground and squawking as he goes off in the opposite direction to the rest of his family. I can't remember seeing a duck taking on a hawk like this before, but as all the other ground-nesting birds around here do so, it's hardly surprising.
The duck was in the stream with her five ducklings, most upset that I had arrived on the scene and not sure which way to lead her babies along the stream as I moved to take photographs.
Putangitangi is pronounced Pu as in Poo, tangi-tangi with the a pronounced as in ah and the i as a short ee.
The hawk had flown off when I walked back up from the stream, so the father of the ducklings was keeping watch some distance away on the grass, trying to attract my attention away from his family.
When I later walked back across the flats, I saw through binoculars that the duck family were all together out on the paddock, quite some distance from the stream. Those babies can really move quickly!
Out in the area where Graham was cutting firewood last year (much of it still stacked awaiting his return), I discovered a swan plant! I'm not especially worried about this particular garden escaper, because swan plants are Monarch Butterfly food and are not, as far as I know, toxic to the stock, nor particularly invasive. It is just rather strange to find one so very far away from its probable source. If a Monarch Butterfly finds it before it gets a lot bigger than this, it may not survive the summer as it is likely to be over-eaten by caterpillars.
Our back boundary looks like it will become problematic again before too long. The cattle which live on the other side are often grazed extremely hard in this small paddock, so that they tramp around in the swampy area at the bottom of the gully, pushing the swamp down into the fence. The fence is beginning to bulge out in our direction again. Our cattle don't challenge our side of the fence, because they're just not that hungry.
This is probably the worst of my cows, in terms of condition. She's 5½ years old and so I left her in the "fat" cow mob because she ought to be able to get through the winter without extra care, but she is the daughter of Bertrand and most of his cows are like those people who never put on weight, no matter how much they eat. The mud on her back suggests something untoward has happened in the last few days, but the fact that she's up on her feet and, other than being too thin, is healthy, bright and eating, suggests that she fell and slid, rather than that she got stuck somewhere. She's due to calve in a month, so I will have to find her a bit more food.
The lambs have started ganging up together for their evening romps. Here their mothers are teaching them the bad habit of rubbing on our tree.
The shorn sheep with her head near the tree trunk is the ewe hogget which ended up in the paddock after the dog-worrying incident last week.
I docked the last of the lambs today - I did four of them last Friday, but couldn't catch Babette's little ram. Today I crept up on him while he was flat-out in the sun, asleep, then ran off with him (staggered might be more accurate, because he was rather heavier than I expected) to the house where I had the elastrator and rubber rings.
I had planned for us to go to a yearling bull sale today, then spend the night with Jill and Bruce near Dargaville on our way home, but with wandering dogs likely to return and attack the sheep again at any time, that didn't seem like a sensible idea.
We got the hoggets, Damian and Bendy in to the cattle yards and weighed them on the scales. One of the hogget wethers is looking not very well after the last week's trauma and could probably do with a drench for internal parasites, to help him get back on top of things again, so we needed to know how heavy they were. The youngsters were all just under 50kg, Bendy tops the lot at 81kg (thank goodness he didn't need fishing out of the river at that weight!) and Damian has lost weight at 75kg - he used to be around 90kg when in too-fat condition.
While working, I continued to watch the problem dogs nearby, not close enough to shoot, unfortunately.
Later on I brought the little heifers in and weighed them all - I wasn't sure it would be worthwhile, since they're all looking a bit scrawny, but actually, up close, they're mostly looking very good. It was good to run our hands over their backs and get a feel for how much condition they're actually carrying. The top third of them are nearly at minimum mating weight, the middle third should reach it fairly easily and the bottom third will have to get on with it to reach mating weight by the deadline.
Ingrid. Her udder is getting pretty hard and she's spending a lot of time just standing around. Her pelvic ligaments are obviously softening - that makes the area between her hip bones and tail appear quite flexible and loose when she moves - so I think she really is going to calve very early and there'll be more than one. In the evenings, if I stand with my hand pressed against her right side, there's a great deal of activity going on inside, with kicking and moving around.
I caught a dog today, wandering around the neighbourhood where it shouldn't have been. It belongs to someone nearby (not of the source from whence came the sheep-worrying dog) who knows we've had a dog problem, but said he "didn't want to get involved". I've phoned this guy before when his dog turned up and I could have done so again, but at present I'm pretty keen to sheet home a strong message on dog control, so I got the Animal Control man to come and collect the dog and take it back. I made it quite clear as I was handing the dog over, that I didn't want the guy to end up with fines to pay, but did want him to become more aware of the problems we're having right now and the seriousness with which we view the matter.
A couple of hours later, the dog owner turned up at our place and told me exactly how disappointed he was that I hadn't just phoned him to come and collect his dog. I was polite, apologetic about his being upset, but really astonished at his audacity in coming to harangue me for taking action over his wandering dog. If he'd kept his dog under proper control, the situation would not have arisen; and if this had been the first time I'd ever caught his dog wandering, I might have phoned him, but I have to wonder exactly how many chances he'd like me to have given him before I started getting serious about his inaction in ensuring his dog is properly controlled? Right now I don't feel terribly forgiving about other people's lack of responsibility for their carniverous canines.
The yearling bulls are in need of a bit more feed, having had to slow down their eating in the last couple of weeks. They're not suffering, but they're not growing and looking fabulous either.
I went out to check the cows out the back and discovered my own animals are out of control! Our shared boundary with a Department of Conservation reserve next door is in serious need of fence replacement. Despite all the holes in the actual fence, through which pigs regularly pass, the cattle rarely push their way through, but occasionally they walk up the small stream and through the flood-gate.
That animal on the wrong side of the fence, is Isla! She knew exactly where to go back to to return to the rest of the herd as I moved them out of the paddock.