The week beginning the 25th of October 2008
Saturday the 25th

I slept in this morning, a nice change after getting up early every morning for the last few weeks to check on the heifers. Last night none of them looked imminent, so I had the morning off.

538 and her heifer calf

538 had a heifer this afternoon, with a little help from me. It would have been simpler if the calf was a bull (to become a steer) because I'm not absolutely sure which bull sired her. We had a bit of a mix up on the 21st of January and both #45 and #49 were in the paddock with her. Her gestation period suggests it may be more likely to be #45.

Ordinarily I'd just let her carry on her life and only worry about which sire was hers if she turned into a fabulous heifer and I wanted to keep her for ever and know for certain about her parentage. However there's a new and disturbing reason for knowing the answer. Since the first week of September I have been watching with interest a particular discussion on an online Angus forum based in the US. A lethal genetic disorder (Arthrogryposis Multiplex) has been discovered and the bull which has been named as a common ancestor in nearly all the cases found, is the grandsire of three of the bulls I used last year: #43, #45 and #49. Rather a case of all our eggs (or sperm) in one basket, as it turns out. Work is being done to find the part of the genetic code responsible for the problem and to develop a test so that we may discover which animals are affected.

Sunday the 26th

This morning there were at least half a dozen Pipiwharauroa (Pee-pee-far-rowe-raw-a but with slightly rolled rs and the last a is very short), the Shining Cuckoo, in the Puriri tree outside our house. They were moving about a lot, so I was lucky to get a photo of one when it settled for a moment.

The paddocks are all hideously wet. Newborn calves are sleeping in puddles. When will this end?

I approached this morning's last antibiotic shot for 446's calf with a bit too much enthusiasm and gave myself - and no doubt him - a fright. The injection has to be given into the muscle, rather than subcutaneously, and in meat animals such shots must be given into the neck, not the rump, which would be a great deal easier. He wasn't enjoying being held, so I plunged the needle in quite quickly and hit bone! It felt horrible. He seems to be fine.


We wandered around the pond and our native planting area this evening, looking at the trees. This is a Pohutukawa which had a few flowers on it last year, and now looks like it will be a mass of red when it blooms this time. The lighter leaves are new spring growth and the light grey sprigs are the flower buds.

Pohutukawa are coastal trees, Rata being the inland version, but there are numbers of mature Pohutukawa in Kaitaia and around the district where people have planted them. Their seeds are tiny and not eaten by birds, so the chance of them travelling inland without help is small.

For many years Pohutukawa has been called the New Zealand Christmas Tree, because it generally flowers in the second half of December. Being red and green, it fits the bill perfectly.

Puriri Moth holes

One of the Puriri saplings, which is only about six feet (two metres) tall, is a very popular home for Puriri Moth caterpillars. The dark patches are the silken coverings the caterpillars have constructed to protect their holes in the trunk.

I haven't been able to figure out why this tree (and there is one other similarly affected) is attractive to the caterpillars when many of the others are not. They are all growing reasonably near to each other and are of a similar size.

Monday the 27th
Labour Day
Paradise ducks in flight

William, Elizabeth (Stephan's eldest sister) and Anna came out to visit us this morning, which was a nice change of pace for us. We went for a walk across the flats and enjoyed morning tea and lunch together.

Out in the Windmill Paddock we saw the Paradise ducklings take off for what may have been their first flight.

funeral procession

On our way back from our walk, we (well, Stephan, actually) picked up 478's dead calf, now that she has left the paddock. We brought him back down the lane in the wheelbarrow hearse, for burial under a seedling tree.


The two families of turkey chicks, feeding. There are eighteen in total.

In the afternoon, after our visitors left, we weighed another mob of new calves and then, having spotted a couple of the lambs looking a bit twitchy, got the ewes and lambs in to check them for flystrike. We found only one lot of maggots, in the tail stump of one of Dotty's lambs, which must indeed have been very unpleasant for her! There were a number of fly eggs on a couple of the others, so we were in good time to rescue them from that nasty problem.

Imagen and Squiglet in the Flat 1 triangle

This evening, contemplating Imagen and Squiglet grazing a paddock with less and less feed in it, I decided that perhaps we would rethink our earlier decision to cut off a corner of Flat 1 for a reserve. Since the yearling heifers broke into the area during the winter and cleaned it up, it has grown some nice-looking grass, just right for feeding a house cow. I let the two animals in to the area and went off to find Stephan, to ask how much alkathene pipe we had around the place to connect a new trough to the water-line which runs along the fence at the bottom of the area. Access to the little triangle will always be through the rest of the paddock, but a cow like Imagen, coming for her twice-daily milking, will quite happily walk directly there and back.

Stephan carrying a water trough

My father used to carry his dinghy like this. Stephan gathered up some pipe and one of the spare troughs and brought them across to the triangle.

ring-barked Japanese Walnut tree

Japanese Walnut trees (or so I have been told they are) grow along the banks of the Waikawa Stream which runs down the valley. They are obviously not a native and they grow extremely easily, so where we find them, we do our best to kill them. Upstream in the Road Flat paddock Stephan ringbarked one last year and it is now dead. This evening I spent a little time while Stephan was installing the trough, cutting rings around this tree through its thick bark. There are a few others which will require the same treatment.

Tuesday the 28th

I've noticed two-year-old 539 lying down quite a bit, looking a bit depressed, which indicates all is not well. This afternoon I observed some mucky-looking mucous in her vulva, which I have not noticed before. I shall continue to watch her closely. (She calved last Friday.)

cows and calves

I've begun looking out for signs of scours in the calves. I anticipated that this season's coccidiosis scours might be worse than usual after a very wet and reasonably warm winter. I managed to treat most of the cows with a homeopathic remedy before their calves were born, because I was advised that it would help. I can't really run a proper "control group" in this experiment because if it does work, there'll be less infective material around for those whose mothers missed the treatment to pick up.

The ground is still pretty soggy in most places.

baby rabbit, at home

In a dryish high part of the Mushroom paddock I noticed a recently-dug rabbit hole and the sun was shining directly into it, showing the soft nesting material at the end. I sat and made little scratching noises at the hole's entrance, to see if anybody was home and might come to investigate.

I took this photo with the camera's flash, hence the purple tinge to the eye. (There were inconvenient shadows with the sunlight, so the flash gave a better result.)

Wednesday the 29th
sheep in the driveway

The ewes and lambs are out in the driveway area and will stay there for a few days so I can keep an eye on them and easily get them back in to the yards if there's any sign of more flystrike.

an Iris

Somebody, Jane perhaps, gave me some Iris bulbs a few years ago and I regularly forget I've planted them on the riverbank by the driveway, until they flower.

Stephan carrying one of the piglets

Porky and Porky have been living in the sheep shearing shed since their arrival, waiting for Stephan to construct an outside pen for them. Today he did that job and then took them to their new home. Pigs are astonishingly noisy when protesting about things, so the earmuffs were a very sensible precaution.

Porky made a great deal of noise and Porky also squealed very loudly!

one of the piglets pigs feeding
the new pig pen

In their new home, with grass (which I understand won't last very long) and sunshine and the old dog kennel in which to shelter.

539 looks alright enough for me to continue just watching her carefully. She spent some of the day looking quite hunched and then produced a bit of the retained membranes which must be causing her to feel off-colour. Perhaps she will yet clear it herself.

446's large calf with the funny leg joints is looking a little better - I wonder if he just needed a rest from all the walking to and from the yards.

Stephan went off down to Whangarei to spend a couple of days with Jill while he builds her a garden gate, so people can't see into her lounge or wander around to the back of the house without invitation. In his absence, I will have to milk the cow!

I heard a Kiwi calling out in the hills again tonight. I haven't heard one for the last few nights.

Thursday the 30th
taking 539 and friends to the yards

539 (at the rear of this group) appeared no better today, so after lunch I brought her little mob in to the yards and attempted a very smelly internal examination. I could not do much for her, other than confirm what I already knew: that she had retained some of her birth membranes and they were rotting inside her and she was ill as a result.

On the way in from the paddock she weaved about and stumbled a few times, so she's now obviously unwell, although not beyond the early stages of an infection which can be easily treated.

I called for a vet and Nathan came and prescribed a course of antibiotics and administered an anti-inflammatory injection to bring 539's fever down and make her feel quickly better. She spent the rest of the day grazing constantly and certainly looked better than she has over the last couple of days.

the goose on her latest nest

The goose, having been kicked off her original nest by a turkey, has made another and is now sitting on more enormous (infertile, of course) eggs. She's only a few metres away from the first nest site.

Friday the 31st

I've been writing an article for Growing Today (soon to become Lifestyle Block), on conservation fencing, so went out to take some pictures. This is the swamp for which we recently received Northern Regional Council funding, to fence the area into a reserve.

I'm really looking forward to getting the job done and seeing how the swamp changes when the cattle can no longer get into it.

Stephan arrived home in time this evening to milk his cow. He does it so much more quickly than I do, as a 'relief milker' with hands which tire.