The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 11th of April.
Saturday the 11th

Late last night I read that the test for the Hydrocephalus defect in Angus cattle has been developed and will be applied to a raft of AI bulls in the next few days. It is widely publicised that CA Future Direction is a carrier, but I'm hoping his son Ardrossan Connection X15 will be part of the battery of bulls tested immediately, so I know whether or not his progeny in my herd are potential carriers of the defect.

Monday the 13th
seeds caught in 551's hair

I went to move the cows and calves late this morning, but they were quietly content where they were, so I left them to it.

I'd called them to the gate and a few showed up, including 551 with this collection of seeds. I have no idea what they are, having never seen them before. They look a little like some Mexican Sunflower seeds I once planted, so I suspect a sort of daisy flower. Whatever they are, they're now going to be spread far and wide.

Karamū berries

Karamū, Coprosma robusta, with a profusion of berries. This small tree was a plant we rescued from the side of the road, where the seedlings grow thickly after the berries drop from the parent trees on the banks above the road.

young cattle

Some of the young cattle mob. I took them to the yards and weighed them - except for Stupid 58, whose behaviour is if anything, more alarming than before! He doesn't simply run away from me now, instead giving me the sort of look which causes me to take great care to know where he is at all times. We have asked the butcher how soon he'll have room to deal with him. He's not big, but minced steer is a far better prospect than minced farmer!
The purpose of weighing today was to check on the four big heifers, to make sure they're ready to go to the works. I think they'll do.

Tuesday the 14th
more seeds on a cow's face

Two more cows turned up this morning with seeds all over their faces and ears. The plant must be a low-growing one and the cows must be picking up the seeds as they're grazing around it.

I'm trying to find out what it is before I go hunting for it, so I know what I'm probably looking for.

(See the bottom of this page for further information.)

Alone this afternoon, I felt the sudden desire for a chocolate. A box of assorted milk and dark chocolates has been sitting in our cupboard since late last year, awaiting a suitable opportunity or recipient. Not wanting them to go past their use-by date, I opened them and was happily enjoying the various flavours until, after biting the corner from a particular favourite, I looked closely at it and discovered I was not alone in my enjoyment.

small caterpillar

This small caterpillar had been there, for some time, before me. Not only had it turned a delicate pink from the colour of the chocolate's centre, but it had processed quite a lot of its intake into many piles of pink and brown deposits!
The picture is cobbled together because I can't get a picture down the microscope with the new camera very easily, but really wanted to share the enjoyment of this small invader with you.

On the American Angus Association site this afternoon a document was available with the first results of testing for the Hydrocephalus defect, including the results for Ardrossan Connection X15, who is, thankfully, clear. That means a number of things, the first being that Virago Connection 60, Irene's yearling son who tested AMFree, is now out of the woods for both conditions. It also means that all my X15 progeny only have the 50% chance of being carriers of AM, and strangely, that's quite a relief. The other AMF bull here, #49, is a son of CA Future Direction, a bull which has been implicated and now tested as a carrier and so he will need testing for Hydro as well. If he tests as a carrier, he'll go to the works with #63, who's still out in the paddock awaiting that fate.

Jude and the children arrived this evening for a few days' stay, since it's school holiday time. Stella's best friend, Matariki, came too, for her first visit to the farm.

Wednesday the 15th
children on the back of the ute

The children were all very excited about the opportunity to see the cow being milked this morning. Imagen is up the lane in the Windmill paddock and so they all went off on the back of the Ute.

children watching milking
setting up the water slide

The girls said they'd like to go swimming and Jude was keen to set up the water slide for them to play on, so we smoothed off the bank into the pond so they could slide straight into the water.

For some reason it didn't turn out to be such a great attraction - maybe the water was a bit cold, or perhaps the lack of adult enthusiasm for swimming at this time of the year, failed to encourage their own excitement.

Thursday the 16th
cattle running down the hill

The other day when I was out checking the cattle I was too lazy to push them out of this paddock to the next grazing area. I thought they'd do it themselves. It would seem that either they didn't, or they didn't like the next place quite as much and a whole lot of them came back.

That meant that today I had to find and muster them out of a huge area. But the weather is fine, the tracks are dry and I have a bike, so no big deal. I only had to walk down and up one huge hill to fetch a cow and calf who wouldn't come to my call.

traffic lights

Woohoo, traffic lights!

We shot into town late this afternoon to select paint colours for our house, which we've been meaning to get around to painting for many years, but as usual, other things have had higher priority or been far more interesting.

There's a section of the main road just south of Kaitaia, which has been sinking over the last few years, and sometimes some work is done on it to level it a bit, but this time the roading authorities obviously decided something more serious had to be done about it. So the road is reduced to one lane for a short stretch and we have lights at each end to control the flow of traffic.

About half an hour before dusk this evening the two girls and I went for a walk and climbed to the highest point on the hill over the road, where we sat on the old bit of tree which lies up there and talked about the view and the sorts of things six- and seven-year-old girls think about.

Friday the 17th
children with stock sticks

We all walked out to fetch the cows and calves late this morning and everybody had to have their own stock stick. Fortunately I was able to find four of them and then we had to work out who wanted which colour, so some negotiating had to be done before we could set out.

playing Pooh Sticks

After having some lunch we went over to the yards to start work.

Most of the party only got as far as the bridge before stopping for a break. On the first night they were here, we played Pooh Sticks, but Matariki didn't know the story of Winnie the Pooh and playing Pooh Sticks under the bridge, so I read that story to the children while they ate their dinner. Matariki has been keen to come back and play again since then. The river was moving very lazily today, so it was a slow game.

weighing two-legged calves

After I'd drafted the calves from the cows, Stephan came over and we weighed all the calves, including some funny two-legged ones which needed quite a bit of prodding with the stock sticks to get them moving in the right direction!

Sadly my deputy photographer didn't quite manage to understand the differences between my camera and her own (after her battery ran out), and this was the best picture of that particular bit of fun.

this year's calves

After the weighing, we put all the calves around again and put their secondary tags into whichever ear wasn't already tagged. I intend weaning most of them in the next few days and before they leave the farm, they have to have both tags in place.

These will be their final weaning weights - and later I realised I'd forgotten to do the cows as well, so will have to bring them back in, perhaps next week some time.

I played around with the data later, as I enjoy doing at this time of year. The steers ranged from 196 - 274kg, the lightest being Irene 35's just-castrated calf, which has no doubt been affected by Neospora infection in his mother and probably himself. The first-time heifers all grew their calves at just over 0.9kg/day, although three of them went over 1kg/day and they weighed from 160-261kg. Overall steer growth rate averaged at just under 1.1kg/day and the heifer average was just over 1kg/day. After last winter, that's probably not too bad, although not as good as I like to see in a really good year.

Adjusting all the calves to 200 days (by adding however many days from their current age to 200, multiplied by their growth rate), the steers average 255kg and the heifers 234kg. The breed societies do various adjustments for the age of the dam of each calf, but I have not done that.

There are some great-looking animals amongst them and the poor ones are this year mostly explainable by Neospora infection and its affects on milk production and growth rates. The best of the heifers are daughters of Virago Direction 43 and Ardrossan Connection X15.

The seeds, I discovered with the help of a contributor to my favourite internet discussion board, are of Bidens frondosa, Beggar's Tick. They're a native of North America and a Northland Regional Council person tells me they're widespread but of no particular concern here. There are some particularly good pictures on a Missouri, US site, which I shall link to for my own later reference, in order to keep an eye out for this plant next season.

Once I'd discovered what I was looking for, I found the plants which have been dispersing their seeds via my cattle, but will have to go back with some bags to collect the rest of the seeds in an attempt to reduce their spread. They appear to be a weed of wet and swampy areas, so we will need to control them in those environments and I will hope that the seeds the cows carried away this week were dropped in inhospitable places.