The week beginning the 22nd of December 2007.
Saturday the 22nd

Ivy is looking much better.  The oedema under her jaw is markedly reduced only two days since I put the pour-on drench on her.  I hope that if she's feeling a lot better, she will produce more milk for her calf than she appears to have done so far.  I'm a little annoyed with myself for not getting onto drenching her sooner.

Sunday the 23rd
calves in the yards

We vaccinated the three youngest calves today, Ivy's Squiglet having reached four weeks old.  They also now have ear tags and Squiglet looks like she might need help to carry hers!  Afterwards I took them all along to join the heifers in with bull #45, since the latest-to-calve have to have a bull, rather than insemination, even if they're fabulous cows like Isla!  I'm hoping that Ivy won't come back into heat until after I take them away from the bull again, since I don't want her back in calf.

two Irenes

Virago Irene 48 AB and her mother, Taurikura Irene 698 AB, in mid chew.  It's not a great photo, but I thought they looked amusingly alike.  They're both in the insemination mob together, along with this year's calf, a full brother to #48.

filling a trough puddle

The trough in the Windmill Paddock began its life sitting on a nice bit of grass, but is now surrounded by a deep, muddy puddle, after a couple of years of lots of cattle walking in and out for drinks.  I've been carrying large stones to it for a while, and when Stephan came up the lane with the tractor this afternoon, I sent him to the river for a bucket-load of gravel, to help the cause!  We ought really to have put some gravel around the base of the trough when we first installed it.

Monday the 24th
three heifer calves

Three little heifer calves, a little bit lost.  The two on the outsides are about eleven weeks old, and the middle one just over seven weeks, the daughters of 449, 446 and 470.

#470 is the white-faced cow who was supposed to go to the works because she produced the scrappy little white-faced heifer last year; however this year's calf is a far superior animal, thankfully.  470's mother was a great old cow and I have two of her sisters who look really good too, so I was surprised that she did so poorly last year.  Perhaps it was just a one-off event with the wrong bull for her.

a yearling heifer eating blackberries

I don't remember seeing the cattle doing this before: carefully eating the blackberries from the bushes.  They seem to like the leaves as well, but I've seen a few of the young animals obviously hunting for the berries.  I haven't worked out if they head for the ripe ones in particular or not - there aren't a great deal ripe yet anyway, so I'll have to watch them over the next few weeks as the berries ripen to black.

V59 licking his mother

I often wonder how much of animal behaviour is simply sensual (she tastes good so I'll lick her) and how much might be emotional (she's my mother and I love her).  Who knows?  They're fantastic to watch and study, whatever their motivations.

Tuesday the 25th
Christmas Day

a hot, alert heifer

Some might have been attending Church, some eating too much, others asleep on Christmas morning; I was out watching cows and heifers!  This is 548 who had just come into "standing heat".  One of the early indications was her alertness and striding around as if she had something very important to do.

Then the more obvious things start happening, as other heifers chin-rest on her, then ride her as a bull would do, if there were one in the paddock.  If she weren't on heat she'd run out of the way, but when in this state, she'll stand solidly beneath any other animal which mounts her, from either end.

heifer in standing heat heifer in standing heat

It's a fairly disturbed time for the animals, with all those irresistible urges - to mount, to be mounted, to dash about in a mad manner.

Wednesday the 26th
Boxing Day

Last evening, Stephan slaughtered one of the hoggets and hung it overnight from the tractor's front-end-loader bucket (the evening was nicely cool, fortunately).  This morning he drove the tractor up to the house, unhooked the hogget and took it down to prepare it for the spit.  After inserting sprigs of Rosemary and bits of garlic and basting it with various other secret things (I just don't know what he actually used), he threaded the spit pole through the sheep, wired it all on tightly, then carried the whole lot over to be connected to the old wringer motor near the fire.  The fire had been lit about an hour beforehand, so there were lots of nice hot Puriri coals ready to be shovelled into place around the sheep.

sheep on the spit sheep on the spit

Being a very windy afternoon, it was necessary to erect a shelter around the sheep to stop all the heat blowing away while it was cooking.

Our guests, a mixture of family and various familiar extensions, began to arrive.  Some sailed model boats on the pond, others sat and talked with cold drinks in hand, some helped cook the sheep and the rest headed out onto the wonderful cricket pitch.


While a lot of people played some sort of cricket, Anna and I went out and got some cows in because it was time for one of the heifers to be inseminated.  Why they have to wait until the middle of a party, I don't know.  All down the lane the cattle wanted to watch the cricket and as soon as they had gone past the house, they got all excited about the smoke from the spit fire.  The whole thing was nearly a complete disaster, and in the end I might just as well have not bothered, because the insemination was tricky and, as I discovered three weeks later, unsuccessful anyway.

V61 in the stream

A Far North beer fridge.  Stephan's new garden waterfall being put to good use: keeping somebody's drinks cold.

Thursday the 27th
sad Lamb

As I walked across the paddock late last night and this morning, to check the cows, Lamb kept calling sadly.  It took me a few moments to realise that of course the spit-roasted sheep was Lamb's daughter from last year.  When the dogs from next door chased our sheep out of their paddock and into the river many weeks ago, the ewe hogget somehow ended up in the ewes' paddock and reacquainted herself with her mother.  The attachment was obviously mutual.  Lamb is of course still feeding this year's daughter, standing in the picture beside her.

blood scours in a calf

Poor little #70 has bloody scours.  Blood has a singularly shiny appearance on their hair - very much so when wet, but still obvious when dry.  I'm watching the calf closely for signs of depression or worsening of his condition.  So far he seems only slightly less lively than the others and quite normally bright in his demeanour.  I doubt he's feeling very comfortable!

I am assuming (how correctly I don't of course know) that the scours is probably caused by coccidia, since that's been a problem for a couple of years.  I understand that by the time one sees blood, the damage is done and the infection has nearly run its course, so I haven't dashed in to treat him, but will if he becomes more unwell.

sad Lamb

This is the hole of a Puriri Moth caterpillar.  I had, in the interests of scientific discovery, torn the covering silk curtain away to see what it looked like underneath.  The caterpillar must be fairly large and therefore on the verge of emergence into the world for its two-day moth-hood, so quite near the end of its life.

I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance who works at the local museum, who had visited this website as a result of a search for information on Puriri Moths.  She was interested to read that I'd found the crysalis case of one of the moths and that it had been still within the moth's tree tunnel.  There's some information around about Puriri moths, but apparently not very much about the longest part of their lives, when they're hidden inside trees.

After that conversation, I decided to see what I could find out about them, since there are so many Puriri around here and presumably a vast number of resident caterpillars.

Friday the 28th

Zoom lenses are such fun!  These are some of the yearling heifers on their way back to the rest of the mob after I took Dexie 46 in to the yards to inseminate her.  I don't mean them to dash about wildly after an insemination, but they're a healthy, active lot and sometimes there's no stopping them.

Keeping up with all that needs doing during the summer means writing takes a back seat!  The Management apologises for any thwarted anticipation of news over the last month and a half!  I shall catch up as quickly as I am able.  Thank you to those who enquired after our well-being when there was no update for such a long time.