The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 12th of September 2009.
Saturday the 12th

Stephan cooked a ham and made a cheesecake for the twelfth day of my birthday and we invited Elizabeth and William to come and share it with us and Jill.

I took this picture in an attempt to snap the two skinny-dippers (nude swimmers) who then disappeared around the corner of the greenhouse and into the pond. Strangely, they decided on this mad venture while I, the usual photographer, was on the phone with somebody at the other end of the house.

They were in and out of the water so quickly that the other photos were very blurred.

Lunch was delicious!

Sunday the 13th
pig dog

Stephan was out resetting some pest traps today and found this pig dog. He tied it up at the front of our house and it spent all its time straining to get over to the bantam hen, caged by the lemon tree. The dog has apparently gone through Kiwi Aversion Training, which, I would have thought, would make it a little more nervous about anything with feathers. When its owner came to collect it, he apparently let it off down by his ute and the damned thing went after one of our turkeys.

I'm getting pretty fed up with bad dog ownership - and that was on top of a distinct feeling of annoyance you may have detected already - people who appear to regard it as their right to both inconvenience others with their lack of dog control and also to endanger our locally most important endemic bird, the Kiwi.

I had a bag of Italian rye seed left over from sowing in the autumn, so today I sowed it in a small paddock out on the flats. This is an experiment, because I don't know if this short-rotation rye is generally sown in spring. I've only previously sown it in the autumn to provide winter and early spring feed. It'll take the paddock out of use for a few weeks, but will potentially provide feed just as the cows get into full milk production when their calves are a couple of weeks old.

Tuesday the 15th

Still five ducklings on the stream. They grow so fast!
When I zip up the track on the bike, I often see the duck running as fast as she can, with the five bobbing little chicks keeping up with her - they are astonishingly fast movers with their little feet - to reach the safety of the stream before I get there. I haven't yet managed to see them close-up on the land and doubt I will for some time. Sometimes at night, when I've been out doing a calving check in that paddock, I've come across this duck's earlier chicks all sitting on the grass and when they're confused by the torch light, they don't run off. I try not to disturb them though, for fear they'll lose their mother on a cold night.

Last year I bought a homeopathic remedy in my attempts to ward off coccidiosis in the calves. Coccidia is a protozoan parasite the calves pick up in their first couple of weeks and can lead to nasty scouring (diarrhoea) to the point that they can't digest anything properly and all they produce is blood. We've had several calves with blood scours, but fortunately none have progressed any further than looking unhappy and depressed for a few days and they appear to keep eating and drinking.

The remedy can be given to the calves when necessary, but I bought it because it can also be used on the cows in the weeks before calving, when it is presumed to prime their immune systems so that they will produce more antibodies for their calves in the colostrum. There are too many variables in the environment and the weather from year to year to really be able to say if it works or not, but after last year's warm and exceptionally wet winter, I would have expected to have a significant problem with coccidiosis in the calves, but did not.

Today I started the four-day, twice-a-day course of spray for six of the cows and three of the heifers which are due in three to four weeks time. (Irene, being the first due, has already had hers.) I only do the cows I can touch, because the spray has to be applied to any mucous membrane and the easiest bit of their bodies I can get to is the vulva, as I scratch their tails. Cows don't like head-on approaches and they like a spray on the nose even less.

Thursday the 17th
Sun Orchids

There are some interesting looking things growing in the centres of some of the little group of Sun Orchid plants, which might be flower spikes. How exciting! I'm expecting them to produce flowers earlier than last year, after our early spring.

We're also expecting some visits from orchid fans when the plants flower.

Irene, Isla and Imagen

Irene, Isla and Imagen are now together - I mixed them yesterday. Imagen's udder is looking rather more developed than I would have expected, with her calving date still five weeks away. Being one of Ivy's twins, she could be carrying twins herself and be going to deliver early, so I'm giving her the Coccidiosis remedy now too. Then again, maybe her udder development is something to do with having been milked for so long. Time will tell.

smokey air

Someone, somewhere, must be doing some burning! The air has been like this for a couple of days.

Friday the 18th
some of Sue's newly-calved cows

Stephan and I drove over the hills along Fisher-Riley Road to visit friend Sue, who also breeds Angus cattle. Sue was one of the women pictured on the first ever weekly page on this website, back in July 2001.

Sue and a favourite cow

Some people say Angus cattle are wild, intractable beasts, but those of us who work with them in moderate-sized herds know many of them to be of very pleasant temperaments, or, as they say in the US, dispositions.

The calves with their tails sticking straight up were having a frolic around the paddock, at great speed! Some of them were sired by my bull, #47, a bull I had tested for Arthrogryposis Multiplex and which, sadly, was a carrier. Sue has reluctantly sent him to the works.

It is time for the ninth annual Isla's Calving Date Competition to begin, but I can't quite decide on the prize(s) to be awarded to the winner. I need some feedback! If you win, would you like a year's subscription to NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine, a weekend on the farm, a hand-made wood-turned something made from native wood, a knitted hat or scarf, or something else entirely? In this case there really is such a thing as a free lunch, but resources are not limitless, so don't go mad.