The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 9th of February 2008.
Saturday the 9th
calf suckling

I took some pictures of #61 having an urgent feeding session this morning, after he'd obviously been separated from Demelza for longer than either of them wanted - he'd gone under a spring gate into the lane adjacent to the Bush Flat paddock. The reason for taking the pictures, and a bit of short video, was a request from someone doing a human breast-feeding class in North America, who wanted pictures of other mammals feeding their young.

We really need some rain. The grass has stopped growing and we're going to run out of feed if the forecast rain doesn't arrive.

I moved Ingrid out of the big mob of cattle and put the big bull, #43 with her, because I have arranged to have the two of them sent to the works. Bearing in mind the shortage of feed at present, it would be sensible to send the two of them off sooner rather than later. I'm not planning on using the bull again and Ingrid has had more chances than she'd have been given on most other farms.

Monday the 11th
Women in Ag on a trailer

A Women in Farming/Agribusiness day today, this time a visit to the Northland College farm. Northland College used to be the main agricultural training centre for Northland, where all the farmers sent their sons to learn about farming. In recent decades the farm has not been used as part of the college's programme, but is now being returned to an active role in education. We were generously welcomed and shown around.

It is a dairy farm, with a management team with some unusual approaches to animal care. Many of us were astonished to hear that they routinely calve 90% of their cows, taking each one to the shed as soon as she goes into labour and pulling the calf. Their reasoning was that the cows suffer less stress, milk better, feed their calves as soon as they're born ... What an extraordinary practice! Three people take turns watching through the nights for signs of calving. The 10% they don't calve are presumably the lucky cows which get on with it quickly when nobody's looking.

I hope that they make it clear to their students that their extremely intensive calving-assistance practices are not the norm out in the "real world", or those poor students will find themselves on the receiving end of some strong reprimands from prospective farmer employers who don't expect their cows to be disturbed in the middle of calving.

farm tour

While we were being carted around the farm in a modified silage-wagon, a group of students were on their own tour on a tractor-pulled trailer. On such a hot, clear day, there didn't seem to be very many hatted heads!

lime spreading

While I was out, Ryan had come with some Lime, which he and Stephan were driving around spreading on the paddocks. Rain is forecast, so I was keen to get some on in time for it to be washed in, so as not to have too many paddocks out of action for too long.

He managed to get three loads on, about 20T, before the wind got up too much and he went home. He could have done another load around the corner in the sheltered Swamp/Frog paddock, but I suppose he does have a life to go and live and it was getting on in the late afternoon by then.

Tuesday the 12th
catching a rooster

This afternoon we took the semen bank back to where it spends most of the year, since I'm no longer using it. Very near that destination live Stephan's sister, Elizabeth and William, with Anna as their long-term house-guest, so we called in to say hello.

William had a couple of spare roosters he wanted to be rid of, so after some sociable refreshments, we went out and he caught them out of their cages for us. One will not live for much longer and will be put to very good use as bait in the traps Stephan sets to catch Kiwi predators, but the other is intended as suitor for our various small hens, most of which lay their eggs in secret places where we never find them. Presently the hens disappear for weeks, vainly sitting on nests of infertile eggs, which doesn't achieve much at all - and we have to feed them all the while. Our intentions are not honourable as far as the intended chicks are concerned: we figure they will make exceptionally tasty stoat bait. Hopefully during the anticipated catching process, we might also finally be able to catch some of the bantam hens and regain some control over their egg production as a result!

Monarch Butterflies

Two Monarch Butterflies, doing what they must, on a Swan Plant. The male was the bedraggled one - I lifted his wing to check for the little pheromone pouch on the lower wing.

Wednesday the 13th

There were a couple of Friesian bulls wandering around the neighbourhood today - and I'm very glad we've been keeping our front gates shut! One ended up in a neighbour's paddock with the heifers he still has there and Stephan and I went out and moved our five heifers off the hill over the road as soon as we could, because one of them was coming on heat and I definitely didn't want her testing the fence - or a bull ending up on our place looking for her!

Thursday the 14th
Isla and Athena

I don't think I remembered to mention the naming decisions I very quickly made when having to register the calves before the end-of-January NZAngus deadline. Isla's calf has been named Athena, as suggested by Iphigenie when she was here.

I spent most of the day, as I have on many occasions lately, knitting. Last year I started a shawl for niece Sarah's expected baby and of course kept having other things to do, so while I'd knitted quite a bit of it, I had far more still to do within a few short weeks. I was trying to get it finished in time to take it to the Broadwood A&P Show, but at 5 o'clock this afternoon, had to acknowledge that with an estimated 24 hours of knitting still to do, I wasn't going to be able to make that deadline.

Friday the 15th

Ivy and the Squiglet are currently wandering around the flats at will. Many of the gates are still open from the other day's lime spreading (including the paddocks which missed out because of the wind) and she can pick the best grazing wherever she finds it. She's still very thin and not producing enough milk for the calf to be growing as well as she ought.