The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 5th of January 2008.
Saturday the 5th

Delilah 36 was so jumpy in the race the other day when I was putting indicators on the cows, that I decided I'd not try to inseminate her this year after all. But I didn't get around to taking her out of the insemination mob to put her in with one of the bulls, so when she came on heat this morning, I drafted her out of the paddock and in with #49.

Delilah 36 & Direction 49 Delilah 36 & Direction 49

His seduction technique wasn't exactly subtle - he chased her around the paddock until she stopped. I left them together for a couple of hours and when it looked like she was going off heat again and wanting to get away from him, I let her out and put her back in with the other mob.

sleeping calf

443's grey calf was flat out in the warm sunshine in the Back Barn paddock this morning, enabling me to get a good look, and a photo, of his castration wound.

castration wound

From my observations, that's quite a normal appearance: there is no evidence of discomfort and the area is quite healthy, although naturally it is inflamed. The rubber ring was applied on 16 December, nearly three weeks ago, and is not visible now. I would once have thought the yellow matter a bad sign, but recognise it now as part of the healing process. The scrotum is quite hard and dry and will drop off in the next few days - many of the steers now have no scrotum and their wounds are almost invisible. They all appear quite healthy and comfortable at this stage of the process.

The shiny bump near the left top corner of the picture is one of his teats.

stick insects

At this time of the year there's sex everywhere - even on the kitchen window! These two stick insects were at it for an hour or so. When I had a look a little later, the green male was lying on the ground under the window, all shrivelled and obviously dying. The next day I discovered the female also dead. Presumably she'd laid her eggs before she died, but finding her dead too surprised me. I don't know anything about their life-cycle.


530 looks a bit less swollen today, although she's still not looking entirely happy. She occasionally extends her head oddly when lying, but doesn't appear particularly distressed.

Rachel and the cows

It was nice of Rachel, my sister, to take such care in dressing, to match the colours of the cows so well!

Sunday the 6th

530, strangely much less swollen. Because this is going down again so quickly, I'm not worrying too much about it. Perhaps she ate something which did some local damage to her throat? Sometime when she's in the yards we'll have a look and see if we can see anything obvious. In the mean time I shall continue to watch her closely.


#70, who's had bloody scours for several days, appears to be recovering, thankfully. He hasn't really looked sick throughout his intestinal disturbance, although he was obviously quite uncomfortable. I'm glad he's getting better!

Francesco, Ruth, Iphigenie and Stephan

Francesco and Iphigenie had to go home today, so we had a group photograph.


Later on in the day Jude, my youngest sister, arrived with Stella (just turned six), Jasper (almost four) and Louie (just turned two). Things suddenly got very busy!

I cut a leaf from one of the big flax bushes and used strips of it to bind short lengths of last year's flower stems together to make rafts for Stella and Jasper to play with in the little pool in our garden.

Some little fish turned up a few days ago, having come down through the pipe from the stream, and they seem to like being in the shade under the rafts when they're tied up, when the sun is particularly hot. The fish, as far as I can tell, are Kōaro.

Jasper and Stella with Demelza

Jasper and Stella came out for a cow walk with me to check on the Insemination mob. They were keen to find someone they could touch and Demelza obliged. We nearly had a disaster when Demelza got a bit fed up with being draped over and got up suddenly - fortunately the child foot and the cow foot weren't trying to occupy exactly the same bit of ground, but it was a little too close for my comfort! I'm quite comfortable with the children being close to the cows, but constant adult vigilance is required to foresee dangerous possibilities. It's not that the cattle would deliberately harm the children, but that the children are so small and the cattle are so big and heavy.

bath time

Stephan had lit the fire under the bath-water drum earlier in the day, anticipating that coming from a camping holiday, the children might need a bath. It's probably rather a lot of fun being bathed outside, when you normally live in the middle of the city.

Aunty riding

What else are aunts for?

I'm fairly sure Rachel lay down voluntarily.

Monday the 7th
Jude, Jasper and Stella, with some calves

I had to go out to the Middle Back paddock to check on bull #43 and his mob of cows, so offered to take anybody else who wanted an adventure. We drove in the ute, going along Route 356 (that great track we put in some time ago to rescue Steer 356), then walked up the hill and through a bit of bush to get to the cattle.
Because I had made an unfortunate choice when turning the ute around on our arrival, we had to call Emergency Rescue to come and help get us unstuck! The cellphone coverage around the farm is not fantastic, but I've worked out where I can get it and so was able to phone home for help. As we made our way back through the trees we could hear Stephan on my motorbike, coming to save us. He pushed and I drove and Jude sat on the back for extra traction and we were soon out and on our way again.

Tuesday the 8th

Jude and Rachel went off to town for a while this morning, so Stella, Jasper, Louie, Stephan and I went for a Dam Building expedition, with a picnic afterwards. We spent a couple of hours at the swimming hole in the river, moving rocks and stones and changing the way the water ran. Great fun.


530 now looks almost entirely normal again.

Wednesday the 9th
redhead 45

You've heard of white-faced cattle? This is a red-faced bull.

Virago Direction 45 AB, 15-month-old son of Demelza, who must have found a nice-coloured bank of soil or clay in which to rub his head.

Pukeko chick, just hatched

Jill and Bruce came up for a visit, while all three Renner daughters are together, since that doesn't happen very often. Jill, the three of us and the children went out for a walk.

Last night I spotted that the Pukeko chicks in the nest I've been watching had begun to hatch, so we all went to have a look.

Queenly 23's daughter

When my Aunt Joy was here last year, she said she wanted to buy me some bull semen. I can entirely understand how the novelty of giving such a gift would appeal. I told her I'd select one of the calves which was already in gestation, since I wasn't intending to purchase any semen for a little while. I think this might be the one: Queenly 23's daughter by the bull Te Mania Unlimited. I hope she will grow into a very nice animal.

Looking at her pedigree while writing this, I see there are at least a couple of animals over which hang some worrying questions at present, in regard to recessive genetic horrors. However, at this point nothing is firmly publicly known, so we will proceed as though all is well until more information comes to light.

Recent reading tells me that recessive genetic disorders in cattle are sometimes not dealt with very well by breeders who come across them. Ideally one would report any calf deformity to the relevant breed society and there would be work done in the breed to determine from which animals the defect had originated. However it would seem that in some cases defective calves have been quickly disposed of and the hidden defects left hidden. The problem is that carrier animals have been bred, often widely in the case of carrier AI bulls, so that the defects are potentially in large parts of the population before they begin to come to light again. There's a lot of money tied up in cattle breeding, so it's easy to see why this happens; but it's not honest, nor ethical. Then there will have been lots of breeding done by people who had no idea they were using carrier animals and so the problems spread.

Most NZ Angus breeders have used AI bulls from North America and Australia directly, or via bulls bought from other breeders and some of those are implicated in a couple of defects which are beginning to be discussed quite widely on internet discussion forums. We face some interesting times, I think.

With genetic testing increasingly available, presumably the problems will be easier to deal with in that one might test for the presence of a gene in an animal, rather than having either to do a lot of test breeding, or culling any animals with particular ancestors.

Thursday the 10th
Pukeko chick

Another Pukeko chick hatched. There was another chick nearby which had been in the nest, but on my approach it jumped out to go and hide in the grass. One of the adults is still usually sitting on the nest to continue the incubation of the unhatched eggs and the newly-hatched chicks.


I had a bit of an argument with this bull this evening, as I shifted his mob of cows past the gateway of #45's paddock, where the yearling bull was happily busy with three hot cows. #43 really wanted to go and help the young bull and looked rather like he was going to have a go at going over the fence! Taking on several hundred kilograms of bull is not a good idea, so I stood on the other side of the fence he wanted to cross and had words with him, and occasionally tapped him on the nose with my stick. Eventually he tired of that game and went off in pursuit of his own mob of cows.

Friday the 11th

Irene 698 finally came on heat last evening, so I inseminated her first thing this morning. I'm not entirely sure I was early enough - we'll find out in three weeks.