The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 11th of July 2009.
Sunday the 12th

What a shocker of a night! I thought the roof was going to blow off at one point. I don't ever remember such strong winds here before. However, after a whole lot of rattly stuff hit the roof at about 5am during the biggest blast of the storm, things gradually calmed down again.

There is a lot of foliage down under the Totara trees and lots of lovely fire-kindling twigs under the Puriri trees, but I've found nothing large down yet. The big perching lilies fall out of the trees quite regularly in strong winds, so as long as none of them have dropped on top of the cattle, that will make the cattle very happy, because they're a great taste treat.

bringing the heifers across the road

Because I need to copper the heifers in the next couple of days and Stephan will be away, we got them down off the hill together today, so I can get them in on my own when the rain isn't falling.

They still have feed up on the hill, so they were not terribly cooperative and took some serious coaxing to get them across the road!

Monday the 13th
Stephan, about to board the plane at Kaitaia Airport

I took Stephan to the airport and put him on the plane and he flew to Auckland where he met Ella and one of her mums, and they travelled on by car to Whakatane. Ella requested a visit from her "Daddy", because she is still too shy to fly up here on her own.

Before going home, I went down the road a little and spent a couple of hours with Sniff, the butcher, photographing him at work. I am thinking of doing an article on homekill butchery, so had asked Sniff if I could come and capture parts of his various days' work - he does different parts of the job on different days of the week.

Late this afternoon I thought I'd better go and find the cows, to ensure none of them had been fallen on by something blown down in the winds - and to check they were all there in case something had fallen down and squashed a fence.

the fence at the top of the Frog and Camp paddocks the fence at the top of the Frog and Camp paddocks

I found most of the cows, many of them up on this face in the Frog paddock, right next to a fence which we have no right to expect will keep any of them where they ought to be! This dilapidation has nothing to do with the storm; it's a longer term issue. Some bits of it are hardly there at all, and other bits are almost lying down. Stephan cleared some of the line further down the hill, but for some reason this bit has not been fixed. I must get onto the fencer.

While wandering quietly amongst the cows, I picked a few flowering ragwort plants, which I took home to burn, then as I spotted a large rosette ragwort plant, white-faced 517 came and ate part of it! Ragwort is very bad for cattle and cattle are supposed to know not to eat it because it smells wrong. However lots of my cattle seem quite willing to eat it anyway - along with other deadly toxin-bearing plants like Tutu. They're an odd lot. I told 517 she wasn't supposed to eat ragwort, but I expect she'll take no notice.

Tuesday the 14th

Today was sunny and cold and I got up early and brought all the young stock in to the yards - the 14 pregnant heifers and the 19 heifers in the young mob - and gave them their copper injection. When I was finished, our new neighbour, with whom I had a nice conversation the other day, waved out and I asked if he, and the three little boys with him, would like to come and help me by standing on the road while I put the heifers back over on the hill? The heifers were just as slow to move back to that paddock as they had been coming across the road the other day, so I was very glad to have help!

Imagen and Isla crossing the bridge

Later on in the day I walked Imagen and Isla in to the yards to give them a copper shot as well. I'm a bit nervous of Isla on the bridge, because if she has a fit at just this moment, she'll fall into the river. I was also quite concerned that the copper injection, because it's something they find a bit stressful, might cause her to have a seizure. However, all was normal, they walked back to their paddock and life went on.

Sniff and Darren came out for a quick pig hunt and actually caught one, which they then went off in their ute to collect from behind the back garden of one the neighbours.

Wednesday the 15th
bull #49

Sadly the news for Virago Direction 49 AB is bad. I received his Neuropathic Hydrocephalus result by email today, telling me he's a carrier. While I could safely breed him to any of my cows, half his progeny would be carriers of the defect. As I keep reading in internet posts by other Angus breeders who are dealing with this problem (from the US and Australia; I hear nothing of NZ breeders), the first loss is the cheapest. I rang Anthony (my stock agent) and booked him to go to the works.

Thursday the 16th

I looked out the back door this morning and saw Isla down on her front knees. When I walked across the paddock to her I could see that she had also been down on her right hip, her hair still dripping muddy water. Thankfully she's reasonably calm as she recovers. I noticed, as I was walking slowly back to the house, that when she was up on her feet again, she stood in one place for a long time, swinging her head round to look behind her first on one side, then the other. After a while she recovered fully and moved off to stand quietly with Imagen.

In the evening I gave both cows their nightly molasses with Magnesium in it and after my usual quick-step trickery to get them to put their noses in the correct bins (Imagen eats hers very quickly and then goes for Isla's as well, so I water Imagen's down so she takes longer to lick it up), I went off to feed the poultry. Coming back from doing that, I discovered Isla standing with mud all over her right side, still dripping, looking like she'd simply fallen over sideways! She stood there and very strange things were happening in her mouth, as her tongue and head twitched around in a manner over which she obviously had no control. I got a brush and cleaned off most of the mud, partly so she dries more quickly and also so that I can see if she goes down again. Poor old thing. I suspect this is probably related to the copper shot yesterday. When she recovers from these events, she still seems entirely normal and quite untroubled. While I'm very worried about her, while she continues to live normally most of the time, I'll keep letting her do so.

The last fit I saw any evidence of was exactly two months ago. She may have had them in the interim, but I've seen no sign of any mud which might show she'd been down on the ground in an unusual way.

Friday the 17th
packing bacon

Stephan came back on the plane this morning.

We came home via town and picked up the bacon from the other butcher. There's rather a lot of it to pack in bags before it goes into the freezer.

The two hams were enormous and Stephan cut each one in half and when we ran out of freezer space, we decided we would eat one! Every Christmas-time when we have a glazed ham (because we like it very much) we promise ourselves we'll have one during the year sometime as well, yet we never have, so this will be a real treat!

Just before 7pm this evening, I had a call from Lucy at Pfizer, who had the hair samples from Virago Direction 43 AB for testing. The test results were expected earlier in the week, then delayed until today and the Australian lab had only just sent them through by their 5pm, so Lucy rang me to put me out of my anxious misery: he's CLEAR!!! I already knew he was clear of AM, the test having been done several weeks ago, but the labs have only in the last three weeks been licensed to do the NH test as well. That's fantastic. Now Curly and all those lovely heifers from last year's calving are clear of suspicion and I've just been saved another $350 of testing.