The week beginning the 20th of October 2007.
Saturday the 20th

This Cave Weta was between some boards in Stephan's big shed.  The pen has been moved from another part of the photo, to give an idea of the size of the Weta.

The Weta of New Zealand, written by David Prout, is well worth a look for more Weta information.

pruning Puriri

When Stephan was last away, I had some thoughts on how we could fence off some of the Camp Paddock Puriri trees and simultaneously protect a piece of the river bank which is being eroded from below by flooding (about which we can't do much) and above by the heavy feet of cattle.  Stephan came in here the other day and did some preparatory work, pruning several Totara trees and piling their branches out of the way, but he was waiting to prune some Puriri branches until there were some cattle around to come in and eat the leaves.
These branches have grown out from the tree by about thirty feet to reach the light at the edge of the stand of trees in which they grow.  Pruning Puriri always makes them respond with very vigorous new growth, so it's not something we shy away from doing where necessary.

Ivy, Demelza, 470 and Ingrid all came in for a browse when they heard the chainsaw - they must have remembered the association from the cutting up of the last fallen tree out at the front of the farm.

At 9pm I went for a walk to check on the cows and heifers and stood little Ingrette up on her feet.  When I came back, she was still standing.  She was up for over three quarters of an hour, which is her longest stint yet.

Sunday the 21st
367 and calf

367 had her calf in the middle of the day.  I watched with interest to see what colour this one would be: a black bull.  Last year's calf was grey heifer 529.

feeding time

We're really quite short of grass and it is worrying me.  The ground has remained so wet with so much rain and the temperatures are quite cold.

These four heifers are in the Flat 2 paddock: Ranu 31 and Ranu 34, with Queenly 23 and Fleur 28.  It was obviously lunch-time!

a confused cow

I sat in the Flat 3 paddock for an hour this afternoon, quietly watching Flora 15, who was in labour.  All was progressing normally until just as the head of her calf began to emerge from her body, she got up and became a little too interested in grey 367's calf, then soon afterwards she began fixating on Quanda's calf which was through the fence in the wrong paddock.

Cows will often become very interested in other calves just before their own are born, so I didn't worry about it too much, thinking she'd sort this out in a couple of minutes when her own calf was born.  She lay down again and very quickly delivered her calf, but instead of turning to check on it, she got up to follow the calf in the other paddock as it walked along the fenceline, much to Quanda's consternation.

The wet, newborn bull calf lay where he was and snorted and snuffled until he cleared his airways and eventually made movements to get to his feet, but I couldn't get Flora to return to him.  I phoned Stephan on the cellphone and he came over to help me get Quanda out of the paddock so she and her calf could get away from Flora and then we decided we'd have to get the tractor to carry the new calf to the yards so we could restrain Flora in a small area and try to get her sorted out.  I sat in the front-end-loader bucket with him, holding him down so he wouldn't try to get up while we were travelling.

We walked Flora in, she sniffed and then walked away from the calf, so we put her into the race and arranged her so the calf could have his first feed.  Afterwards we left them penned together in a small grassy area for the night.

This scenario is disturbingly familiar: Flora's mother was Taurikura Flower 682 and when she was five, as Flora is now, and had her third calf, as Flora just has, she did exactly the same thing.

We went for a wander out to see that the big group of cows and calves were alright - I have to remember to go and check things like the cows' udders to ensure there are no feeding complications, especially since some of the calves are still only a few days old.  I've been watching Irene carefully because her udder was horribly hard and uncomfortable, but her calf has now begun feeding on the back half and she looks far happier.

Around the other side of the farm there should have been five pregnant cows (including Isla) and a stray yearling heifer (the rest of her mob is over the road), but we could only find five animals.  Five-year-old 404 wasn't with the others and, checking my list of expected birth dates, I noted that she might well have calved.  Her udder wasn't getting very big in recent days, so I hadn't moved her forward onto the flats.  On our way home we discovered her, quietly standing in some trees with her new calf, obviously born sometime earlier in the day.

In the same paddock, where a pair of Paradise Ducks usually resides, we spotted two females and a male all behaving as if they had chicks nearby.  I haven't seen more than a pair of parents together doing that before.  I wonder if this drake has two wives?

Monday the 22nd
506 and calf

At 2.55am I found these two together in the Windmill paddock.  I've been coming out at sometime between 2am and 3am every morning since last Thursday, waiting for this heifer, 506, to calve and I'm quite happy to have missed it in the event.  To have found her standing feeding her little heifer is exactly my preference.  Interestingly, 506 was born at about the same time of the night two years ago and I just missed that birth too.

There was a great deal of bovine yelling from the paddock over the road today.  Three of the little heifers are on heat and they're very noisy about it!

We weighed Flora's deserted calf, which was 43kg and 506's heifer weighed 35kg.  I decided we might as well have the weight data from 506's calf, to provide a full set for the five heifers this year - generally I don't weigh the commercial calves, but in the case of the heifers it's interesting to discover how big their calves really are.  Three of the heifers this year are pedigree, so their calves get weighed as a matter of course and we'd already weighed white-face 517's calf the other day because she was conveniently near Dot's calf.

Walking around this evening I specifically looked for the Clematis vines I saw in new places last year.  They're mostly not flowering this year.  Where I could look at exactly the right spot, I could see the odd flower, but they're not profuse enough to be seen from a distance in the tops of the trees.

Tuesday the 23rd
443 and calf

443 had a calf with her where she lay this morning, a grey bull.

It was this cow's first (grey) heifer calf which had the large mammary tissue over-growth, whose remains now fill our freezer.  Her second calf, last year, was a black bull.

Flora in the race, feeding her calf

The second full day of Flora-calf feeding.  Flora is the cow we sometimes have to physically push to get her to move, so getting her up into the race can be problematic.  I do a lot of stick waving by her shoulders and there's quite a bit of rump-slapping to get her to move.

Whenever we have to do this, we put the cow in the head-bail area, shut the vet-gate behind her, then pull the right-hand gate in at her head so she ends up standing in a wedge-shaped area, which pushes her back onto the vet gate and the calf can safely gain access to her udder in the gap the vet would normally step through.  It works very well.

Ingrid and Ingrette

My other thrice-daily supervised feed duty: Ingrid with Ingrette.  She went through a period of being very stable and able to stand up for whole feeds, but sometimes still falls down part-way through a feed, particularly if Ingrid gets annoyed with having her udder bunted and moves too much.

At the end of one of her feeds today, Ingrette remained standing for an hour and a half!  But she still can't move any further than the semi-circle around her back legs.

Wednesday the 24th

488 had a little bull calf with her this morning, after looking quite uncomfortable at 2am.  I had a much-needed undisturbed sleep on Monday night/Tuesday morning, but decided I'd better continue my early-morning walks again until Irene 35, the last pregnant two-year-old heifer, calves.

Off to the hospital this morning to meet with the surgeon who cut the melanoma out of my leg two and a half years ago.  He continues to check on me every six months, looking for subsequent melanoma growth in the area from which he removed the first one, and palpating my lymph nodes to ensure there's no sign of any spread.  It's nice to be taken care of so assiduously.  For my part I have to keep an eye out, as we all must, for changing spots anywhere else about my person.

When I arrived home I found Stephan on top of the little shed out by the yards, rearranging the roof.  For the last two or three years, starlings and sparrows have been nesting in there through the spring and summer and that has made using the shed for my insemination gear problematic.  Everything gets covered in bird droppings if not kept covered.  During one summer the whole place was infested with bird lice, so that after I had been in and prepared my insemination gear, I would discover, usually mid-insemination when both hands were busy with a cow, that I was crawling with lice!  They don't bite people but they sure tickle where they walk.

While he had been supervising Flora's calf feeding session, Stephan had been thinking about the shed problem and worked out how to fix it.

The other thing he apparently fixed, was Flora's attitude to her calf.  He told me that as soon as she came out of the race, she let the calf feed and began licking him.  Just like that.

moving cattle up the road

I pulled Isla and the stray heifer out of their little mob today, added Imagen 33 and then Ivy and we walked the four of them up the road to the Road Flat paddock.  The three cows are at least three weeks away from calving and there's a bit of grass up there which they might as well go and graze.  I'm well aware of the fact that the three late cows are all closely related: Ivy is mother of the other two.  However my excuse list is this: Ivy's ancient and so I'm soft on her; Isla had those troublesome "quiet" heats and so didn't get in calf until her third heat last summer; Imagen's first calf was a big one for a two-year-old at 40kg and I suspect that slowed her return to fertility.  I have every expectation that the two younger cows will come back into line with the rest of the herd again quite easily this year.

Isla arranged her own makeup on the way around the first corner: Stephan said she put her head down and demolished a small portion of a clay bank.

Have you entered the annual Isla's Calving Date Competition this year yet?

Ingrette fallen down again

Ingrette, looking disgruntled, having fallen down mid-feed.  Sometimes she'll then scramble around until she can feed by pushing up on her front knees, since she's now big enough to reach Ingrid's udder without actually standing.

Flora feeding her calf

Flora, still in the yards area with her calf, intently licking him whenever he feeds.  Why didn't she just do that from the start and save us all a lot of bother?

The calf has a very mucky back end, possibly partly because of the interruption to normal feeding - usually calves feed in small bouts during their first couple of days, rather than being restricted to particular times.  I've made sure he's had three feeds a day, but he probably wanted more.  They'll sort themselves out over the next few days and his digestive system will come right.

Thursday the 25th

The big mob of 21 cows and their calves is now 22, 404 and her calf having found their way to join the rest of the cows.  I had left her where she was when I moved Isla and the others out of the paddock and moved the mob of 21 cows and their calves into the neighbouring PW hill paddock.  I've left the electric fences off, so somebody had pushed through one of the spring gates, leaving the way open for them all to mix in the larger area.

Friday the 26th
Irene 35 and calf

Irene 35, the last pregnant two-year-old heifer started pacing around with her tail out early this morning and I spent much of the morning hanging around watching her.  Just before 12.30pm she pushed the calf out and then sat there, with the calf's back feet still warmly held, until the calf eventually made a noise and she leapt to her feet to investigate.

The calf is a heifer, sired by #40, an unimpressive bull, but the only low-birthweight sire I was confident using last year when Irene didn't obviously come on heat for insemination.  #40 was the only calf of Quilla 14, who was injured during her second mating.


It has been a difficult 24 hours: last evening I decided we must euthanase Ingrette.  For the last few days she's been grinding her teeth whenever I stand her up and her hip makes unpleasant noises as she moves, including the occasional alarming clunk.  The skin on her front legs is suffering from so much lying down, with the skin over the knees starting to crack.  She needs to be eating a lot more grass than I can continue to gather and I really doubt she's ever going to be able to get around easily on her own.

The longer we leave this, the harder it will be, both emotionally and in terms of the size of the hole we'll have to dig.

I couldn't face shooting her myself, so had asked Stephan to do it when he came home from another job this evening.  I went off on my bike up the road to give Ivy and the others their molasses and he did the job while I was in transit, so I didn't even hear the shot.

We left her body where she was for the night.  I couldn't face doing anything more immediately, so planned to do a post-mortem investigation tomorrow morning.