The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 7th of June 2008.
Saturday the 7th
Stephan and the five cull cows

The five cull cows I drafted from the main mob last evening stayed at the end of the lane, instead of coming down to graze where I wanted them - sometimes social needs appear to over-ride their basic requirements and they wanted to stay with their mob. Stephan eventually went up and walked them down the lane and we put them in to the Chickens paddock to graze some of the longer grass down.

Kate and Geoff, with whom we've stayed a couple of times near Cambridge when we've gone to the National Fieldays, came up for a quick visit and we took them for a walk around as much of the farm as we could before dark.

Sunday the 8th
Geoff and Kate walk the plank

Making visitors walk the plank is a bit of entertainment we allow ourselves on occasion. That was after we'd taken Geoff and Kate up the hill over the road for a look at the view and they'd proven themselves fitter than us at climbing slopes!

The bridge to Stephan's Island in the middle of the pond is a bit of wood at the moment. One day it'll be some marvellous bit of engineering, probably a draw-bridge and towers.

Monday the 9th

I sold a little bull today; Virago Meatpacker 61 AB, son of Demelza (and Felton's Meat Packer 62), will go off to his new home as soon as transport can be arranged. I like selling the young bulls this early in the season, because they go off to be fed better than I would be able to feed them over the winter here, and then even though they're born later in the season than most, they'll still reach a size and maturity which will allow them to be used for breeding in October. The bulls I keep here will have an extra couple of months as the spring feed starts to grow, to catch up and be ready for breeding in December. #61 is already over 320kg, so he'll be easy enough to get to a good weight before spring.

Tuesday the 10th
pregnant heifers

These are the pregnant heifers after we'd moved them off the hill over the road, walking up the House lane to go out to the back of the farm, where there's some rather nice-looking Kikuyu still growing.

They're in really good condition - nicely covered without being fat - and it's now my primary task over the winter to keep them that way.

Wednesday the 11th

Nathan the vet phoned this morning and said the laboratory results from the bull test (last week) were back from the lab and he's clear of Trichomoniasis and Campylobacter. That is very good news and even though the risk was probably reasonably low, we needed to test to eliminate the possibility. The bull is for sale, or will be used in my herd this season; either way, an infection could have wreaked havoc if he'd transmitted it to every heifer or cow he mated. Both infections can cause abortions.

young cattle on the flats

I've done a feed budget and I'm sailing a little close to the wind in terms of having enough feed for the cattle I plan on keeping through the winter - and I really need those which are booked to go, to be taken away!

I haven't done any over-sowing with winter rye this year, so am relying on the grass sown last year to fill in the gaps for another season.

I've budgeted on 10kg dm/ha/day (ten kilogrammes of dry matter per hectare per day) of grass growth, which would be quite reasonable for Kikuyu on its own in an average winter. With the other grasses as well, it's probably a conservative estimate. The dry matter measurement is exactly as it implies: the weight is not of the grass as it grows, but after the water is removed by drying. There are various methods of estimating the growth and the pasture on hand without the necessity of cutting and drying to actually weigh it.

Many of our paddocks are mixed grass and scrub or bush (which might be called forest in some parts of the world) and therefore my grazing calculations have been based on working out the areas of grass from a reasonably recent aerial photograph of the farm. I came up with just over 44 hectares of available grass, which is approximately 55% of our fenced paddock areas. Thus 45% of the area the cattle live in has some sort of shelter, where they're able to retreat when the weather is at its worst. Out the back I often find obvious sleeping spots under large, thick Totara trees, where a single cow has spent the night. They probably remain significantly warmer in such areas than they would out in the open.

Because we're going away for a couple of days and then I'm going off again straight afterwards, I decided we'd better do what was necessary to the five cull cows today, so they're prepared for whenever we get the call to have them ready for the truck to the works.

Onix 404

This is Onix (on the left) and 404, sporting their DTS (Direct To Slaughter) tags. Both originally had Allflex brand double-large AHB official tags with their numbers printed on each side and 404 still has the back part of hers, but it is the front part of the tag which is the officially-required part, printed with our herd number and bar code. In all cases of tag breakage here, it has been the front part of the tag which has broken off. I have spoken to Allflex representatives on at least two occasions about our experience with their tags.

The DTS tag is a one-piece fold-over tag for short-term use. They're individually numbered and also carry our herd number and bar code. I've painted our usual R.M on their backs for easy drafting during their journey and at the works.

At 5.30pm we left home and went to Whangarei for the night with Jill and Bruce. We thought they'd give us a simple snack on our arrival, but no, there was Hawaiian Chicken followed by Jill's wonderful Boysenberry sundae for dessert. We paid for our supper with half a ute-load of lovely dry firewood.

Thursday the 12th

We were up and away reasonably early and on our way to Auckland this morning. We went straight through on the motorway and down to visit Nadene, editor of Growing Today magazine, since we've read all about her new house, but haven't ever seen where she lives. It's always nice to see people in their own environment.

Hereford heifers

After lunch we travelled across to the Awhitu Peninsula, on the southern shores of the Manukau Harbour, to visit Theresa and Mary-Ruth and had a lovely time looking around their place.

These are a couple of the heifers they recently bought to join their herd. Things have been very tight for them feed-wise, because their area was affected by the drought this year and while the grass is now looking green, hardly anyone from here south will be anticipating the coming winter without anxiety.

It was a fun day, seeing where our friends live, since I'd already heard so much about their properties. We then drove back up to central Auckland to stay with Jude and Roger and the children.

Friday the 13th

Stephan went off to his favourite Auckland location: Carbatec, a wood-working machinery specialist. I went looking for a new camera and learnt that there are some significant gaps in my photographic technology knowledge which I had better do something about before pursuing the matter further. I made a good start though, now having a better idea of the sort of camera I might wish to buy. (If you're a photographer and have any recommendations to make, I'd be happy to hear from you.)

In the evening we had a family get-together, with Rachel and Issa coming round for dinner. Some of us spent some of the evening in the spa and learnt that drinking wine while immersed in hot water is not always a very sensible idea in terms of one's well-being in the following hours!

Auckland on a Friday night is not a peaceful place to sleep. Young Aucklanders wandering and driving around the streets are neither quiet nor considerate of the residents of the houses past which they walk or drive. Give me a mob of weaning cattle in preference any night!