The week beginning the 26th of May 2007.

To regular readers on the update list: I am sorry there has been no email regarding the posting of the latest pages.  My address list went awry in transition from one computer to another but is now restored!  You should have received an email about this page.  If not, or if you'd like to join that list, please email me.

Saturday the 26th
four runaway hoggets

The bad lambs were all over the place again, wandering around taking the best feed from wherever they pleased.  That was alright until they headed into the newly-sown paddocks which are not yet ready for grazing, at which point I set off to chase them out and back to where I'm happy for them to be!  I was very pleased to see that they could all run perfectly ably, since I'm still on the look-out for signs of Barber-pole worm, a nasty parasite which makes lambs anaemic and can kill very quickly.  One of the telling signs of anaemia is lethargy and these four show no such sign.

Sunday the 27th
Stephan spreading rock on the House Paddock track

Stephan set off in Bloo's truck today to fetch Rotten Rock from a near-by quarry, then spread it further along the tracks.  After a couple of trips he suggested I go with him for a ride.

close-up of the view from home

This hill is one I look at every day from our place, but I can't remember ever coming to see it up close.  We could of course look back to our place from here too, but the air was so hazy that the photographs didn't turn out very well.  Up here the sun was shining, but back over home it was cloudy and most of our place from this angle is covered in scrub!

Rotten rock quarry

Stephan had obtained permission to use the loader at the quarry, which made the whole job supremely easy - the other option would have been to cart his tractor up on the back of the truck to load the rock, and its bucket is far smaller than the one on this little blue machine.

the view from home

This is the view of the hill above, from home.  The high point is a very noticeable feature!  The rusty wire in the picture is the top of our boundary fence over the road, but the same range is visible from most places out on the flats.

Monday the 28th

Isla's son, Alex 51, got through an (inadvertently turned off) electric fence today to join the little heifers!  I couldn't be sure how long he'd been in there, nor whether or not there'd been any wickedness between him and any of the heifers, so it looks like I'll have to arrange for a vet visit in the next couple of weeks.  It's an annoying thing to have happen, but not a terrible disaster.  The thing to do is to have the vet inject all the heifers with Prostaglandin after at least ten days have passed and that should prevent any pregnancy which might have been begun.  At almost seven months old, the bull may not be fertile, but many of the heifers have already reached puberty.  Isla was calling for her son from the adjacent paddock, but when I put him back with her he didn't head straight in for a drink, so I don't think he'd been with the heifers for very long.

Tuesday the 29th
heifers in the misty sunshine

The lovely weaner heifers, 20 of them, in with Ivy and her calf in the Flat 1 paddock, across from the house.

I need to wean the last seven heifers which are still with their mothers at the back of the farm, because I have a prospective buyer interested in taking a couple of them and a few of these.

Somebody who obviously lacked some common sense ran some cattle up the road today without shutting gates along the road before them, so we had a herd of Friesian cows in our yards area!  Fortunately Stephan heard some disturbance and went out and stopped them coming in any further or staying for more than a few minutes.  I'm trying really hard to keep a closed herd, both for the sake of disease avoidance and because of my wish to avoid the possibility of introducing drench-resistant worms to my pastures and cattle.
When the cows were gone, we went out and cleaned up what they'd left behind, in the interests of risk reduction.

I brought the mob of 38 cows in to the yards, drafted out those which will be going to the works soon and then weighed the others and applied the pour-on drench for intestinal and liver parasites.  While the cull cows would no doubt benefit from a dose of the worm-killing drench, they can't have it before they go off to the works to become your hamburger beef!

Several of the cows are beginning to ooze interesting bits of mucous, which is hopefully in all cases a sign of healthily progressing pregnancies, rather than anything untoward.  I find they generally do this any time from about six months gestation onwards.

bringing the bulls in for a sale

My first-pick bull buyer came to see the bull calves today and chose Alex 51, so he's to go off to his new home as soon as he's weaned, which will happen in the next few days.

The bulls all have dirty back ends, something which seems to happen as soon as there's been a bit of cold weather - it must change the grass enough to upset the calves' digestive systems.

Wednesday the 30th
Stephan with Spice

Spice used to walk around the farm with us when she was little, but hasn't done so for ages.  This afternoon she appeared in the paddock where we were looking at the little heifers and resumed her shoulder perch, as she often did in earlier times - and if you haven't a duck to perch on your shoulder, a cat will have to do.

Ivy eating feed-nuts

Ivy had her first feed nuts for the year this evening, with Magnesium Oxide (powder) added to it.  Last year I always mixed the powder into Molasses, which was a messy job, but I've now discovered she'll happily lick it up dry, so that's the way she'll have it from now on.

Ivy's lost a little more condition than I intended, quite quickly, so I shall have to wean her calf as well as providing this supplementary food.  She's not in a bad state, but has thinned down a lot in the last couple of weeks.

The heifer in the picture is Dexie 46 who's turned out to be the best-looking heifer this year; she's a beauty!  Dexie is the daughter of Abigail, Isla's daughter, so she's Ivy's great grand-daughter.

Thursday the 31st
a steamy bull

Warm sunshine turns damp animals into strangely sinister-looking steaming creatures.  This is Direction 49, son of two-year-old Queenly 23, standing below the garden wall this morning.

The grass in the foreground is Stephan's lawn, which he has obviously not mowed!  I think of it as Stephan's garden, since I'm quite happy to enjoy its existence, but am far more interested in the larger "garden" out beyond the house!

cows and heifers

It being a lovely fine day, I took Ivy and the heifers in to the yards early this afternoon to weigh and drench them all.

Then, because that first job had gone so smoothly, I went out the back to get the cows and yet-to-be-weaned heifers (pictured) and brought them in too.  Grass growth is slowing down and it would be rather easier to manage a smaller number of mobs of cattle than all those around at present.  With my prospective heifer buyer coming, I need to wean these and have the calves all in one mob for viewing in the next few days.

Growth-wise the heifers are all doing pretty well: apart from the two smallest calves, their weights range from 230 - 290kg, which is quite acceptable.  The two small ones are 204kg (two-year-old Fleur 28's daughter) and the puny white-faced calf is only 187kg.

The bottom-of-the-pile calves are always a pain because they just don't fit in with the others.  I will get rid of the white-faced calf and her mother but Fleur 52 I will keep and see how (if) she develops (and she might just end up on someone's plate!).  Fleur 28 was under 300kg at mating, so a slow-grower herself, but in producing this small calf, she has done better than Ranu 31 who didn't get pregnant at all and will calve for the first time this coming season.  So I'll keep mother and daughter and see what happens over the next season.

This lot of weaning happened across the flats, so didn't disturb us too much overnight.  Seven calves are far quieter to wean than 19!

Today was Topmilk's last day of operation and I neglected to take my camera.  Stephan and I were there with Kees and the others as they filled the very last Topmilk Blue two-litre bottles and stacked a ridiculous "mountain" of milk in the chiller - somebody in the office had done something silly (deliberate or not, who knows?) and ordered as much milk bottled for today as is usually processed in a week.  The date label of today's milk was 11 June and beside the date was also printed "LAST MILK FROM KAITAIA".  In the chiller, alongside the authentic Topmilk, was the milk which arrived last night by truck from Takanini in Auckland, some of it also in Topmilk packaging (Fonterra Brands have bought the name for continued use for a while) that packaging also declaring its contents were produced in Milky Way, Kaitaia.

I left Stephan in town to commence the wake-like afternoon's gathering of the staff.  Tomorrow he'll be back in as a Fonterra Brands employee, since they've offered him an eight month contract to continue doing his run around the North Hokianga.  Neither of us feels very happy about the prospect, but a job is a job.

We, along with a great number of other people, feel extremely angry and sad about the demise of Topmilk.  Its owner inherited the company from his father sometime last year and many said the writing was on the wall from that moment.  Not wanting the company himself, he could have offered it for sale to a locally-formed cooperative company, into which a number of us would have been willing to invest, given the opportunity, to keep running a local company which employs and serves its local community.  Instead it was offered to Fonterra, lock, stock and barrel, for reputedly little more than it will cost to pay the staff out their redundancy cheques, providing no chance for anyone else to offer an alternative plan.  Fonterra will decommission the factory, all the staff will have to find other employment if they can, milk prices will rise and all dairy products consumed here will come from south of the Auckland harbour bridge - and if the rumour many wish to propagate is true, that some of the milk is produced locally before being shipped to Takanini for processing and being brought back to us, then that only doubles the food miles it travels!  It's insane.

Topmilk was only one small company in this town, but was one of which almost everyone will have been a customer at some point.  The people who worked there, some of whom measure their time there in decades, didn't work there because management was good, they worked there in spite of it because they took a huge amount of pride in being part of something independent and local, as nearly all the other small milk-producers in the country were engulfed by Fonterra.  Demands on the good workers were ridiculous at times and appreciation scant, and now it's been tossed aside through lack of interest by the one person who could finally have made good.

Friday the 1st of June

For about the last two years, since the laptop computer with which I started this website stopped working, I've been using a "recycled" machine which Jill and Bruce didn't want any longer.  It has been behaving less reliably in recent months, so late last year I began making enquiries about getting a new machine and finally, after many many delays, and further discoveries about the lack of service available from some retailers in Kaitaia, I had a new computer delivered (!) and installed this morning.  Because I'm now again using a LCD screen, that may mean my picture development changes slightly.  Please feel free to comment if you are unhappy with the appearance of the photographs and I will attempt to improve my new set-up!

Tonight, out at the Taipa Bay Resort, the last gathering of the Topmilk Social Club.  It was not a gathering of great happiness.