The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 22nd of March 2008.
Saturday the 22nd
fertilizer spreading

Don, who spreads our fertilizer (father of Ryan, who also does it on other occasions), phoned early this morning to tell me our 12T order had arrived at his store and if I'd like him to, he'd bring a load out straight away. The winds have been light for the last few days and the weather is fine, with the possibility of some rain sometime within the next week and I had worried that if we didn't get it on around the end of this week, i.e. now, we'd lose our chance. I said, yes please!

Stephan went with him in the tractor, since having been out in our tractor spraying lately, he'd have the best idea of how the tracks and hills are for driving.

fertilizer spreading

They did the Camp, Middle Back, a bit of the PW, the Big Back (after I'd moved the cows) and then came around to the Back Barn, until running out of fert.

Don drove back to town for another load and spent another three hours spreading that 4T. They did the rest of the Back Barn, as much as was driveable of the Frog/Swamp, then headed over the road to do the big hill, as pictured, then finished off in the Road Flat paddock.

So that's 9T on the ground (minus blown-away dust) today. Now some gentle, steady rain would be nice, some time in the next few days, to wash it off the grass so the cows can go into those paddocks again. The timing has been near-perfect, in that the cattle have been around most of the spread paddocks only very recently and can spend the next few days coming back toward the flats before we start running out of grass.

Fertilizer costs are climbing steadily, but by applying it to the paddocks, we grow better and better grass and consequently the animals do better every year.

We're continuing to use RPR (Reactive Phosphate Rock) rather than a more processed soluble Phosphate, this year with the addition of a little Selenium. One of the indicators of Selenium deficiency is cows which don't "clean" after calving (where they retain the afterbirth for longer than a few hours) and since we put it on for the first time a couple of years ago, we've had no problems.

Monday the 24th

Here are some more teeth photos, since the cows were sitting around quietly this afternoon.

Imagen 33's teeth Queenly 23's teeth

Imagen 33, aged 3½ years. She has six adult incisors and two remaining juvenile teeth at the outside edges.

Queenly 23, aged 3½ years. She has four adult incisors and two remaining juvenile teeth on her left and only one on her right, indicating that the next two teeth are on their way.

Ranu 31's teeth Irene 35's teeth

Ranu 31, aged nearly 3½ years. She appears to have six adult incisors but still two remaining juvenile teeth on her right side, with only one on the left.

Irene 35, aged 2½ years. She has two new adult incisors and six remaining juvenile teeth, three on each side.

By the time the animals have four adult incisors, it's pretty obvious the juvenile teeth aren't doing a lot of work any more. When they're little calves, their first teeth look just as big in their mouths as the adult teeth do now. The baby teeth wear down a lot by the time they're ready to come out.

With those first teeth changing at around two years of age, heifers which are also calving and raising their first calf at that time, can be under a great load. Two of this year's heifers (Irene 35 being one of them) have looked pretty thin at times during the last few months and it has probably been because they've been trying to eat with gappy dentition. One imagines there may also be some soreness involved with the eruption of new teeth - I can't remember what it felt like as a small child when going through the equivalent process.

557 and followers

557, on heat, being mobbed by a lot of little bulls and steers. She wasn't hard to see in the paddock, since wherever she was, was the most movement - both of so many animals moving around as they all followed her and also because they were continually attempting to ride her.

I was very happy to see that Demelza, who had mud all over her sides three weeks ago, was showing no signs of being on heat.

Tuesday the 25th
moving cattle in the rain

Somebody I visited on Saturday must have been infectious and I've caught whatever hideous bug they secretly harboured. Feeling extremely unwell, I have had to miss a meeting today and spent the day resting. It has rained for much of the day.

The cattle needed moving anyway, so in the early evening I quietly strolled out under my new (and leaky, I unhappily discovered) umbrella, to shift them from Flat 5 to the Windmill Paddock.

Wednesday the 26th

I had booked to have the cows pregnancy tested today, but being ill, I put it off until Friday.

four bulls

These are the bulls, after I moved them this evening, into the Flat 1 paddock. Apart from some dirty bottoms, I reckon they're looking pretty good.

Bulls are a real pain to shift, especially if there are cows anywhere around, since they just have to have pushing fights together before and during any move. I can hardly talk because of my throat infection, so certainly couldn't shout at them, but they fortunately respond very well to hand clapping and a bit of tooting on the bike horn.

Thursday the 27th
heifer calves crossing the river

Five little heifers got left behind in the Camp paddock this morning, as the rest of the mob came to the gate and moved out into the lane. I had to go and coax them out of the far corner, in amongst some trees. Fortunately, once moving together, they knew exactly where to go to get to the gate and rejoin their mob.

It's nice when they reach the age of being able to think sensibly and to move easily, instead of scattering in panic whenever their mothers are not right there.

Friday the 28th

Stephan went out to get the cows in this morning, since I'm still under the weather. The weather itself is lovely, fortunately.

We quietly drafted most of the calves, two cull cows, and the non-pregnant yearlings into the Pig Paddock. We put two little bull calves up into the race pen to await the vet and the cows were all herded into the holding pens ready for their turn.

When we did the early calf castrations I left the sons of Ranu 34 (and L T 598 Bando 9074), and Fleur 28 (and NBar Emulation EXT) entire, because I thought they might be worth keeping as bulls. However, that left me with five bulls again this year and the two of them are not as good as I had thought they might have been, so I asked Nathan to castrate them today.

Nathan arrived on time, to the minute!. Because the calves are now around five months old, they require more than the little rings we usually use on younger animals.

bull calf castration bull calf castration

The castration device involves the use of a thick rubber band which is tensioned around the neck of the scrotum and then has an aluminium band crimped around it when sufficiently tight. The use of this device requires local anaesthetic application beforehand. Nathan and I had both seen the same research on late calf castration, which found that giving local anaesthetic, followed by an anti-inflammatory drug, reduced the stress response of the calves to the procedure to a negligible level, so that's what we did.

Stephan held each calf against the side of the race with his leg and had a firm grip on the tail, which tends to disable their kicking response. Afterwards both calves were out in the larger yard quietly grazing. It would seem that this method of castration is rather less stressful than it is for the younger calves without pain relief.

Nathan then got his gear together to do the pregnancy scanning. The machine itself hangs in a pouch on his belt, to which is attached the probe which is inserted into the rectum of each cow and Nathan wears a pair of goggles, instead of having to look at a fixed screen.

pregnancy testing pregnancy testing

Scanning is rather less unpleasant for the cows than manual palpation, since the probe is far less bulky than a human arm. There's also a reduced risk to the pregnancies, since no manipulation of the uterine horns is necessary.

I presented 56 cows for testing and there were two definitely empty, with one unclear and I decided not to bother having her manually checked, since I've decided to send her away anyway. The other two were a bit of a surprise: one is my favourite two-year-old heifer, 506. She's looked pretty thin and strained since calving, and I hadn't seen any definite sign of her having been mated, but I was hoping. The other is R2 heifer 544.

There should be 12 calves by AI and Nathan tells me that white-faced 470 will have a bull. That'll be nice.