The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 16th of February 2008
Saturday the 16th
matinee set

Having given up on finishing the shawl in time to enter it in the Broadwood A&P Show, I spent last evening and this morning attempting to finish this matinee set instead. I gave up on it in disgust several months ago when I discovered the wool I was using had breaks all the way through it. I threw it aside without much thought and kept moving it around out of the way, occasionally getting it out to finish it, but then having lost track of the pattern...
Unfortunately during those many months it occasionally spent some time on top of some other things in the sunshine and the wool has been discoloured in odd patches, so it cannot be the gift of perfection I first envisaged. The other problem is that because of the wool fault, I've had to use a different batch of wool to finish the back of the jacket and it is a different shade of "white".

After so many weeks of dry weather, rain is finally falling on the one day many people might wish it wouldn't! Heavy falls are forecast later, so we decided we'd give the Broadwood show a miss and I sat and carried on knitting while the rain pelted down outside.

Sunday the 17th
Stephan picking Blackberries

Stephan went hunting for a few more blackberries to make another lot of Jelly. He's trying to make sure he can satisfy my desire to eat Blackberry Jelly all through the next twelve months, until they fruit again.

I wandered this far with him, then cut up into the PW to hunt for some missing cows and calves, as I was trying to move the mob from there to another paddock. I found them all just sitting around up the top, by the gate to the Middle Back, ignoring my calls to come down the hill.

Pukatea and dying Totara

This is the Pukatea/Totara pair which grow together in the Swamp/Frog paddock. I noticed a couple of months ago that the Totara was starting to look a bit brown around the edges and it would seem that it is losing the battle for moisture or nutrients in that shared spot. I'm rather glad it is the Pukatea which has won the fight, since there are far less of them than of Totara trees, which grow like weeds everywhere.

357's teeth

This is 357's now gappy tooth-line. She has lost the first right incisor, so her ability to harvest feed will be somewhat reduced. While I have one very fat cow in the herd missing two front teeth, I don't think Fuzzy 357 will manage quite as well, having never been a particularly "easy keeping" cow. This will be her year to go on the truck after weaning.

Monday the 18th
367 and calf

Back to knitting again today: having missed the Broadwood Show, I shall try and get the shawl ready to enter in the Kaitaia show, with it's Thursday evening entry deadline for the indoor categories.

In the early evening I headed off to check the cows and calves out the back. The colour contrast between 367 and her son struck me particularly this evening. 367 always produces a lovely big calf.

Then I took Ivy and her daughter to the yards to put some pour-on drench on Ivy again and the calf for the first time. Ivy has begun to develop some oedema under her jaw again, so it seems sensible to give her a bit more of a helping hand to fight off any parasite burden she may again be suffering. I decided to drench the calf because she's had to rely on grass for more of her early diet than most of the calves do, since Ivy's milk supply obviously hasn't been very generous. The calf may, as a result, have picked up a greater worm burden than would be usual in one so young and she may also have had less protective benefit from her mother's milk.

Tuesday the 19th

We moved the mob of 92 cows and calves this evening from the Big Back paddock. They didn't seem overly keen, so I walked ahead and Stephan tried to push them along from behind. Eventually they obviously all decided at once that it was a very good idea to go and off they went in a great rush, stampeding across the Bush Flat paddock and then on up the lane alongside the Mushroom paddocks.

cattle on the run cattle on the run
cattle on the hill

We put them across the road and three quarters of an hour after the pictures above, they'd spread out over the hill. The cows haven't been up there for months so this is the calves' first time in the paddock. There was, consequently, lots of calf calling during the evening and early morning next day, as calves tried to work out where their mothers were in unfamiliar territory.

Stephan and his fresh lettuce

Stephan produced this marvellous lettuce for our dinner this evening. I know that for many people such a sight is quite ordinary, but we've never grown such a beauty! Naturally if they're easy to grow here so easily at this time of the year, they'll be cheap in the shops, but never as fresh and delicious as the one straight out of the garden!

Wednesday the 20th

I set off to walk around the road to go up the hill to check the cows and calves this morning and spotted a dog sniffing around our front gateway. It scurried off back to where it lives when it saw me, but as I walked along the road, it dashed around to the corner, barking and snarling at me. It had rushed out quite aggressively at Stephan and Jim a few weeks ago, so I stopped and waited to see what it would do - holding a sturdy stick in case I needed to defend myself! An unrestrained and possibly aggressive dog is not something I expect to encounter on a routine walk to check my cows. This is a problem we have been attempting to have addressed for several months now. You cannot move to the country so your doggie can run around freely: you have responsibilities to keep it on your property and not allow it to cause trouble, damage or death to surrounding stock and wildlife - and frightening wandering farmers isn't on either!

Isla's teat

I was having a quiet chat with Isla this evening and looking her over, as I often do, noticed her teats are in a bit of a bad state! Her calf has obviously been being rather rough on her. The white bits of skin are recently healed scars from earlier abrasions. How cows continue to feed their calves when they're continually doing so much painful damage, I can't imagine. I haven't noticed this much damage to Isla's udder in other years.

506, a two-year-old heifer with her first calf, had far more extensive damage a few weeks ago and I suspect she'd had to kick her calf off the udder for a time to allow the skin to repair itself. That won't have done the calf much good in terms of her nutrition and growth and may also have had a negative impact on her mother's lactation this season.

woolly ram

Yvette's son the ram, just after he'd apparently run into Stephan, nearly knocking him down while he wasn't looking. He's been a relatively tame little ram up until now - not encouraged to be friendly, but inclined to be so by nature. Tame rams can be particularly dangerous, so I've always been careful around him, but he caught Stephan off-guard while he was preparing to do the shearing.

Thursday the 21st

Yesterday passed without any sign of Irene coming on heat, so today I tricked #49 bull and sent him along a lane without the cows, as I moved them toward the yards. We weighed those calves, then got the mob of 92 animals off the hill over the road and weighed all of them as well. The whole lot of them, 100 in total, went out to the Flat 1 paddock for the night, to settle their social order in a safe, flat paddock.

You might notice that I practice quite a bit of bull trickery: it's the easiest way to move them around. On this occasion I simply anticipated that the bull would walk down the lane before the cows, because he'd want to go and tell the other bulls how great he is and so I left a gate open for him to go through to do that, then shut it when he'd done so, while the cows carried on past.

The calves are growing at over 1.1kg/day, as they usually do. The steers average 203kg, and the heifers 184kg. They average four and a quarter months in age, so they've potentially still another couple of months on their mothers for a very nice set of weaning weights!

I have failed to make another shawl deadline - the Kaitaia A&P entries closed tonight at 7pm.

Friday the 22nd

It rained and rained. If it doesn't stop soon, we shall have a flood. There's a former-tropical cyclone going past Northland, so there should be quite a lot more rain yet.

Bloo and Allie are back in the neighbourhood and took us out to dinner at the Beachcomber, which was very nice. We haven't been to the restaurant in the several months since its extension and refurbishment.