The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 23rd of August 2008.
Sunday the 24th
crossing the flooded bridge

It rained a lot overnight and the river was in flood, so we were particularly surprised this morning to see three hunters walking down the track from the back of the farm. We had known they'd intended to come, but had thought they wouldn't under the circumstances. They told us they'd waded through the water when they arrived and now they had to wade back again, since it was even higher, although now on its way down.

They didn't find any pigs.

Dotty and her lambs

Dotty's lambs still know where the driest sitting place is. Dotty is filthy! And exceptionally patient.

feeding the young stock

Feeding the young mob of eight. The best of the two year old heifers (the one which only just missed out on getting in calf last season) is fat and the others are holding their condition. Stupid (the steer) remains stupid and scatty, despite all this regular feeding.

boundary flood gate

Stephan walked up into the bush to fix the water (again) and I wandered around checking cows - and the flood gate on the back boundary. It appears to be remaining intact this time!

I found 416, with the membrane still present in her vulva. She still doesn't smell bad and I watched for a while, to see if I could detect any movement within her belly. I didn't see anything. She still looks bulbous enough to have a calf in there.

Monday the 25th
pregnant ewes

Babette and Yvette, with similarly sized udders, one of which isn't as good as it looks! Babette will be dry on her right side, despite some growth in the size of that part of her udder.

Dotty and her lambs

Dotty's lambs' bottoms are muddy, but increasingly chubby. Their tails wriggle madly in the air whenever they feed.

Lamb and her lambs

Lamb got on with business this morning and delivered two lambs, a ewe and then a larger ram lamb.

The heifers came in to the driveway for their daily meal feed this evening and then I took them on to the yards and banged some copper into them in short order. With all the soil they're currently ingesting, their iron levels will be even higher than usual and I believe it is the iron in our environment which ties up the copper in their systems and makes them deficient in that element.

Tuesday the 26th
the tractor on a trailer

Stephan went and collected the tractor from where it was being fixed and happily brought it home. It is reassuring to have a large machine available on the property to deal with emergencies, so it's nice to see it come back.

Wednesday the 27th
heifers on new grass

The 13 yearling heifers, newly let into Flat 3 in the sunshine. There's very little grass around, but they're grateful for the fresh little bits they get - before they bounce around and pound it all back into the mud.

waterlogged ground

Because it keeps on raining, this is the state of the ground nearly everywhere. It's highly depressing. How can anything be expected to grow when it's under water? The only bright spot in this whole horribly long wet winter has been that the minimum temperatures have been a couple of degrees higher than usual. The highs are a little lower than they often are, probably because of the ongoing cloud cover and rain, but without the cold lows, the grass, where it isn't submerged, has continued to grow. The big problem has been that with the ground so waterlogged, the cattle soon turn it to mud where they walk, so that much of the grass gets pushed under, rather than eaten.

Totara tree

This is a youngish Totara Tree. It is probably about 15-20 feet tall (about five or six metres). I took it's picture because I had been sitting underneath it during a passing shower and when I arose, I still had a perfectly dry bottom! That, in the current climate, is an extraordinary thing. Everywhere is wet. Within a foot of where I sat in the shelter of the tree, is boggy, waterlogged soil.

I've been having some email correspondence with a friend who lives somewhere in Otago (away down south in the South Island) and we've been discussing shelter tree possibilities. I've often sheltered under Totara trees during rain, but it is only during this winter that I've been particularly impressed by their ability to keep the rain off anything beneath them. It really is quite astonishing to find dry ground anywhere this year and the only place one does, is under these trees.

Paradise Ducklings and their mother

The first duck family of the season, out on the Windmill paddock in the little pond which forms in a low patch where the river must once have run. There are seven chicks, but as one has a deformity of some sort in one leg, I expect there will soon only be six.

Checking some of the cows in the Camp paddock I found Irene with bloody mucous on her tail. I came home and phoned the vet for advice. One abortion in the herd in a season is within expectations statistically, but two starts to look a little worrying. The vet suggested we might test for Neospora, so I went back and brought Irene and 449, the cow which I know slipped her calf a few weeks ago, in toward the yards and phoned Stephan and asked him to pick up blood testing equipment from the vet before he came home from a trip to town.

In the mean time Babette began her labour and produced one lamb and I helped the second one out, since she seemed to be struggling a little. Two ewes.

At the yards I put Irene up the race, got lube, a long glove, and a bucket of water to wash her down a bit before going in for a feel. I found a very little head and pulled out a very small, mummified calf, which I put straight into a plastic bag so we could take it with us to the vet, along with the blood samples which Stephan then took from the tails of the two cows.

The calf body spent the night in a bucket in the fridge, along with the tubes of blood. It's lucky we're not squeamish. (It was double-bagged and well covered, of course.)

In the near-dark we then tried to ensure both Babette's lambs had a feed from her, so they both had some colostrum within the required time.

Thursday the 28th
Babette and her lambs

Babette's lambs this morning, before I wrested one of them from her and ran off with it to wrap it up in a towel and drive it away from the place of its birth. We had arranged to meet up with Lynn this morning outside the vet clinic and hand over her adoptee - as arranged back when we let Babette get in lamb. Lynn will raise the lamb on a bottle, since Babette can't raise two any more.

The vet received the bloods and we discussed what tests would be done, and then we looked at the mummified calf and decided it could just go home and into a hole. So much for my expectations of Taurikura Irene 698 X Virago Dateline 54 AB! The calf was, I am fairly sure, a heifer. If you're really keen, you may see some pictures of it here.

Measuring its skull and using an ultrasound age calculation formula I discovered, it would appear that the calf died at the end of April, right around weaning time for Irene and her last calf. I have a vague recollection of noting, but not writing down, that Irene got a very violent shove from one of the other cows when she was mixed back into the larger mob after weaning. I can't really be sure though. Note to self: must make more notes!

I don't expect the blood tests to show anything, but it is prudent to test.

Friday the 29th
Mary Putangitangi

Paradise Ducks are very odd. Mary has been spending long periods standing in the waterfall, peering like this. Goodness knows what she's looking at.

unhappy lamb

Babette's remaining lamb is not getting her needs met by her mother. I tipped Babette over yesterday and tried to milk her and deduced that she has very little milk at all this year. By the end of the day I had decided that it would be kindest to euthanase the lamb unless I could find it a home. In an inspired moment I did exactly that, so bought milk powder from town and started feeding the lamb so she'd be ready to go to a new home in a couple of days. In the mean time she still looks pretty miserable and I'm feeding her small feeds six times a day.

Yvette and her first lamb

At 4pm Yvette produced a ewe lamb.

By dark she hadn't done anything more except looked uncomfortable and I began to think I'd have to do something about her. The second lamb had one foot folded back, so I gently pulled it straight and pulled out a ram lamb.

That is the end of lambing for this year.