The week beginning the 27th of October 2007.
Saturday the 27th

After checking on the calving cows this morning, I got on with the post-mortem examination of Ingrette.  I wanted to find out what had been going on inside her left hip, but I had to approach the task with a great deal of determination.  After having such a close relationship with her for the last seven weeks, it was not an easy thing to begin cutting her up.

I learnt something I didn't know - I hadn't really thought about how my legs stay on: there's a ligament which comes through the hip socket and attaches to the top of the femur, the big thigh bone, to hold the ball joint in place.  I previously thought it was all held together by the surrounding structures, ligaments and muscles, and that was how such joints could dislocate when enough force was applied.

In Ingrette's case, she had suffered some trauma at some stage which had broken the cartilage on the top of the femur, so the ligament was no longer holding the leg bone in place.  It is possible, although presumably unusually unlucky, that she was injured during her birth as, or just after, I pulled her out of her mother.  She wasn't a big heavy calf and I don't remember her landing on the ground particularly hard, but I'm wondering if it wasn't actually nerve damage from which she was suffering, but a hip dislocation which had relocated itself, and which caused too much instability for Ingrette to ever get up.  In that case though, I am confused by her inability to move the other leg normally.

The other possibility is that the major damage to the joint happened two weeks ago when I heard something snap when she fell over awkwardly and that my original suspicion of a nerve problem remains correct.

In any event I am now quite convinced that it was the right thing to put her out of her increasing misery.
I naturally took a number of pictures of the joints after extraction.  If you are of a medical, veterinary, or curious bent, you may see them here.

ready for burial

Afterwards we gathered Ingrette's body into the wheelbarrow and took her to the native tree area ready for burial.  One of her aunts, Imagen 33's twin, was buried three years ago under the Puriri behind the flax plant and Ingrette's sister is buried a short distance off to the right of the picture.  I haven't decided upon Ingrette's tree yet; perhaps a Tanekaha Pip brought me some months ago, which I've been growing in the greenhouse.

Stephan undid the fence wires and brought the tractor down to dig the hole, since it had to be reasonably large.

I felt pretty miserable for the rest of the day.  It occurred to me that when faced with death, particularly when it is sudden, I don't integrate that information instantly, having an oddly continuing sense that the dead person/animal might wake up again at any moment.  But if you do something to a body like cutting into it, it makes that reality hit much harder and faster.  In the middle of the cutting up I had to go and get a plaster (the knife was very sharp and my finger hit the edge at one point) and when I came back I said to Stephan, she really is dead, isn't she?  I had horrid visions of her suddenly regaining consciousness and being in terrible agony because I'd cut her legs off.

Perhaps I am alone in the world with this nightmare state of mind.  I was under some stress.  I share this verge-of-insanity thought journey with you only to illustrate that sometimes the things I do are not terribly easy.

hay paddock

How to make a grassless farmer feel greener than grass!

We went up to visit Lynn and Kees who live about 20 minutes drive north of Kaitaia.  They have a number of daughters of Crispin on their farm and this year's calves have been sired by Isla's son, Virago Unlimited 41 AB, and look very nice.

This is the hay paddock and it was impressively full of lush rye and red clover.  I might have to bring my cows up for a walk!  Or I might just have to see if I can buy some of this lovely grass when it's baled as hay.

Sunday the 28th

There is a pair of blackbirds which nests somewhere near our house each year.  This afternoon the female bird was outside my window picking up worms for her chicks, which must be newly hatched.  I hope they keep a close eye on Finan, who is a persistent bird stalker.

track maintenance

The ground, as it often does at this time of the year, has suddenly dried out to the consistency of concrete.  Where I've previously ridden the bike through soft sludgy areas and made ruts in the tracks, those ruts now make riding pretty treacherous.

I haven't even been able to get the bike out to this bit of the farm because of the lumpily wet nature of a couple of sections which Stephan has now made passable with a bit of work with the tractor's back-blade.

I was on my way out to set the lane and open the Back Barn paddock gate for the cows which I'd called but which had failed to follow me.

cattle on the move

Stephan stopped the tractor and came for a walk with me and half-way to the gate we were going to open, we heard the thundering of hooves and the panting of many animals behind us, as the mob of 22 cows and 22 calves came running along the track.

Sometimes the calves get a bit confused and don't come with the cows, so we spent the next twenty minutes counting them to make sure they had all come to the paddock - we had lost count as they came through the gate, mostly because I was supposed to be counting calves while Stephan counted cows and then I had to turn and open a gate and lost track of how many had gone past me.

two Pukeko chicks

On my way home these two Pukeko chicks came out of the House paddock and across the track.  They weren't moving nearly as fast as wild chicks normally do, so I was able to take some good pictures.

Monday the 29th
473 and calf

473 with her second calf, a heifer again.  She's a strangely skinny cow.  Her sire was Quadrille, whose daughters have mostly turned out to be fabulous cows which are easy to maintain in good condition.  Perhaps 473 has taken more after her maternal grand-sire, Bertrand, whose daughters are my thin cows.

473's first daughter is 551, a nice-looking yearling, a daughter of Arran 20; this calf was sired by #26.


I'm fairly sure this is the Putangitangi (Paradise Duck) family from Flat 1, siblings and parents of our lovely duck.  I've been seeing them around the paddocks at night when I go out to check on the cows, when they all dash off in different directions to avoid me.  They seem to grow very fast in the last phase of their duckling-hood and now have all their feathers.  I don't think they've flown yet.

There were six ducklings at hatching and there are now five.  They spend a lot of time in the river, so maybe the missing one became eel food - there are some very big eels in there!  The harrier hawks also hunt them.  The fifth duckling has an injured wing, which I noticed flapping out when I saw them one night last week.  I'm not sure where it was when I took this picture.


These are the two ducklings from the centre of the group above.  I think there are two females and two males.  The bird on the left has an entirely dark face, but the one on the right has a lightness around her eyes and the top of the bill, which will be the start of the white feathers growing in which indicate she's female and will look identical to her mother as an adult.
They're nine weeks old today.

Ingrid has been grazing the lane in which I photographed the ducks since Friday evening, frequently calling for Ingrette.  I had left her there so she could be quietly integrated into one of the mobs of cows adjacent to the lane whenever she settled down.  This evening I put her in with seven cows and calves and after walking around striking threatening poses at them all, which they ignored, she got on with her quiet life.

Tuesday the 30th

Some of the calves have started scouring (have diarrhoea) and I suspect it's Coccidia again, the protozoan parasite which affects their intestines and causes, at its worst, blood scours (and can apparently kill calves).  This year I'm keeping careful notes from the early part of the infection, so I hopefully won't get taken by surprise by any sudden worsening in the condition of any of the calves.

Last year we treated two calves which were particularly badly affected, but the rest I left to cope with it on their own and they eventually recovered well.

a frog in a trough

In the trough in the Road Flat paddock was a frog.  I'm not sure that a frog can escape from such a trough, so I caught it and took it along to the nearby drain, where it disappeared amongst the weeds.
Frogs are lovely to hold - cool and soft and slightly clammy, but when you know they might leap at any moment, there's something restful about one which just sits there in your hand.

Wednesday the 31st

The Putangitangi family went for what I believe was their first flight this morning, from the Flat 1 paddock across to Flat 3.  The duckling with the damaged wing couldn't do it so he walked up the paddock in the direction of the others, alone.

Ida, calving

1.20pm.  After wandering around making a lot of noise for an hour or more, Ida 18 produced a large bull calf.  This one has almost exactly the same pedigree as Ingrette, Ida being Ingrid's twin sister.  This is her third calf.

We weighed the calf: a rather heavy 47kg!  Ida must be taking after her mother, Ivy, whose single calves have often been over 45kg at birth.

When feeding Ivy, Isla and Imagen their molasses and Magnesium along in the Road Flat paddock this evening, I noticed that Ivy is suddenly very wide - I presume her calf has turned sideways.  I think that probably means it's on its own in there, which is a good thing.  One set of twins, disastrous as they were, will do for the year.

Thursday the 1st of November
R1 heifers on the road

Coming up to the annual explosion season (Guy Fawkes on the 5th of November) I thought it best to move the cattle from any far-flung paddocks back to the central farm area.  First were Ivy, Isla, Imagen and 538 from the Road Flat, then we went back and collected the yearling heifers.  I had hoped they'd walk along the bottom of the paddock over the road as I brought the other three along the road, but they were far too lazily comfortable where they were.  Pushing them back up the hill and around to the other gate takes far more effort than coming along the road, and it's a quiet time of day traffic-wise.

We put the heifers over the scales and drenched them, then put 538 back with her correct mob and they've gone out to the back of the farm.  Ivy, Isla and Imagen can hang around close to home so I can continue to give Ivy whatever she needs to stay upright.  Isla's going to need some serious grooming before she can pose for upcoming birth pictures too!  You'll have entered the competition by now?

Some of the heifers are doing very well.  Seven (a third of the mob) are now from 319 - 341kg, so have reached my minimum mating weight already; the next six are 300 - 313kg so will get there easily; the next five are 276 - 289kg and they might make it to weight in time.  The bottom three are 250- 257kg, which is pretty poor; two are in very light condition and may benefit from and respond well to having the drench pour-on; the lightest is tiny Fleur 52 who has a very messy back end and has grown slowly all along.  We'll have another look at them in four or five weeks, just before mating time starts.

There are four Starling chicks in the mail box.  Stephan says they started hatching a couple of days ago.

Out the back there are still some clean calf bottoms, and all the calves are looking lively and happy enough, apart from the annoyed swishing of tails and the discomfort they're obviously in when their bowels move.

Friday the 2nd
unidentified calf

Who's this?  I don't know.  I took his picture in the hope that I could spot him again when he's near his mother and thereby identify him.  I was able to note, for I'm sure you'll like to know this, that his faeces are firm but striped with bloody mucous.

What I'd like to be able to do is find him again in the next couple of days and see if things have got worse or better.  While that might seem rather difficult in a mob of black calves which all look pretty much the same, there are a number of distinguishing features in the faces of the calves, mostly to do with how their hair grows.  This calf's hair is very symmetrical from that point between his eyes, and he also has a whorl at the top of his head.  I also noted that he's black everywhere - some of them have a little white on the navel, and one or two are of a slightly lighter shade of dark brown.

I took the bulls into the yards this morning, out of Jane's paddocks, in case anyone sets off fireworks too near them and they crash into her garden.  I had a frustrating time trying to get the yearling bulls up the race, since they're too quiet to be bothered by me doing anything which might ordinarily be expected to make them move forward in the race, and too strong for me to push.

However, eventually I prevailed, weighing the five yearlings and applying the pour-on drench for everything including Liver Fluke.  Two-year-old #43 wasn't having a bar of it though, standing his ground no further into the race than his shoulders, so he got no drench because I couldn't weigh him.  In his case it is only the Liver Fluke about which I'm at all worried, but he presently looks in good order - he wasn't drenched in the autumn either, so I had wanted to do him now.

Walking them out to the flats, I thought, I don't wish to farm bulls!  I've drifted into something I never intended to do.  When I started out here I wanted to farm cows and breed cows to breed more cows.  The purchase of the stud cattle was to enable me to breed the bulls I wanted to breed better cows.  I loathe marketing my bulls; my calving pattern and feed availability here mean my bulls aren't quite ready for the time others in the area want to start breeding and most farmers in my area want to buy their bull a week before he's due to go out with his cows, whereas my savvy buyers take my bulls not long after they're weaned, grow them better than I can and then have marvellous sires for their herds.  I feel very grumpy about them today and think I'll be using a lot more castration rings this year.  I'll keep a couple of the best-looking bulls entire and the rest will become high-class steers.