The calves had their first 7in1 vaccinations on the 19th of November and the 3rd of December, so tomorrow will be six weeks from the first lot and four weeks from the second and therefore the only day on which we can do all of them at once! There's a bit of rain forecast for the weekend, so we're taking no chances and doing the whole lot today before the weather gets unpleasant. Eight or so of the youngest calves haven't had theirs at all yet, so today they'll get their sensitiser injection. I hadn't planned this very carefully, since one always has to work around the weather conditions, but it has turned out very nicely. Ivy and Ida's calves are still a little too young, so they'll be done separately within the next couple of weeks, so they can have their booster shot at the same time as the others.
The whole process is rather complicated, because there are three bull mobs, one insemination mob, and the cull cows and they all need to be kept separate and moved around in such a way that the calves don't do silly things like ducking through fences and ending up with the wrong cows!
With two mobs waiting in the yards after being done, I went out to get the third lot in so the first two could easily move back to their paddocks. Most of the animals turned up at the gate, but several were missing, so I went hunting through the bush for them and this is what I found: Ragwort! This looks very much like a patch everyone has missed for some time. I'll be back for these plants with a sack and secateurs and Stephan following up behind with the spray!
Having not discovered any cattle, I went back to the gate and there, of course, they all were.
We quietly carried on for much of the day. There were three bull calves to castrate and all the calves had their Animal Health Board-required secondary button tags applied.
I had to inseminate one of the heifers as soon as we brought that mob in, then we set out with the elder bull's mob, along the road while we still had good light to do so. The cattle are fortunately quite responsive to calls from me and will follow up the road fairly easily. We finished off the last mob, put them away, then headed back up the road with some fencing gear to install a permanent hot-wire along the top of the fence and a temporary tape parallel to the boundary fence. The neighbour's heifers are in the adjoining paddock and I needed to ensure there'd be no fence challenges from either side. I'll be checking the mob two or three times each day, and will move them if there's any sign of heat in the heifers next door.
Kees and Lynn came to visit us to see out 2006, driving in in their horse-float cum mobile home, which they parked in the paddock near the house. We had a very pleasant evening with a barbecue, after Lynn and I had returned from a wander up the road to look at the cows (wine glasses in hand, of course). None of us stayed up until midnight, since being awake and in good form on the first morning of the year seems a far more pleasurable prospect than being awake too long and being tired and grumpy in the morning.
This is how my world looked just before 7am this morning. I was wandering around the hills at the back of the farm, checking cattle and enjoying the views.
Last year, when Alex won the Isla Calving Date Competition, she opted for the "weekend for two on the farm" prize and today she and her parents, Pip and Tony, arrived. We had actually met Pip and Alex once a couple of years ago, so were rather looking forward to their visit.
We naturally immediately put them to work, forcing them up the hill over the road to round up the cows and calves, to bring them back down to the main part of the farm.
I took bull #43's cows away from him today, since there was the possibility he'd suffered a minor injury, and put them out in the paddock to which these cows were going, so they're now all with bull #26.
Once the work was done, we had the barbecue-cleaner in before lighting the fire and preparing to cook dinner.
What sort of establishment will you think this is? Foxton is just an opportunistic ratbag who discovered something left over from the last barbecue and decided to help herself. The plate received some more hygienic cleaning attention soon afterwards, before the cooking began.
This was the other wickedness being perpetrated in our absence from home: Jenny, the supposed working dog, receiving rather a lot of soppy cuddling from her newest friend, Alex. Alex has an injured foot, so had stayed home while the rest of us carried on with some of the walk this afternoon.
When we went to see the poultry, the turkey was his usual intimidating self, until I explained to Alex that if she stopped moving away from him, he'd stop pursuing her. So, she did, and caught him, and picked him up and cuddled him too!
While up there, I spotted these two, newly fledged pigeons, making their characteristic squeaking calls to their parents whenever they thought some food might be on the way. I have a nasty suspicion that we've lost control of the pigeon population in that they're obviously nesting in secret locations. There are now ten birds and I have just found two more nests, with the usual two eggs in each! I will have to find some recipes.
Having fondled the dog, cats, and birds, Alex moved on to the cows. Pip had bought some new combs and brushes for me to use with the cows, my own having disintegrated from much use, so Alex and I went out and tried them. It's great to be able to portray someone else doing strange things to the nether regions of cows - see, it's not just me! Alex was actually just scrubbing the dried bits of you-know-what off Demelza's coat. That's Isla feeding her calf in the foreground.
Several people suggested Alex as a name for Isla's bull calf and this Alex, as the competition winner has said she won't mind at all, sharing her name with such a fine animal.
Early this morning I shot out to have a look at the cattle and discovered young 470 had lost the exclusive attention of the bull, but had a number of small (and infertile) suitors following her with intense interest!
Little steer and bull calves of this age can be very handy indicators of hot cows, when there's no adult bull in the mob.
Tony and Pip seemed keen on going out for a purposeful stroll, so we gave them each a sack and a pair of secateurs and took them into the Small Hill paddock. As you can see, there's a hill. Tony argued that it isn't actually particularly small, especially when you've been pushing through the gorse and blackberry for half an hour! We'd have to agree, but it is still a darned sight smaller than the aptly named Big Back paddock! In the picture, Pip is emerging from the trees, after finding her way down one of the gullies with her bag of Ragwort flowers. Tony was still in there somewhere, closely followed by Stephan with the back-pack spray gear.
I wish to apologise to those of you who read this site regularly, for the irregularity of updates over the summer period! For many reasons, it is a busy time and some important things slide, in the interests of some even more important things. Normal service will be resumed ... sometime.