The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 13th of June.
Saturday the 13th
418 browsing anything she can find

418, cow of the recent nose piercing, was off on her own at the top of the Big Back paddock this afternoon. I took her picture because I'd been watching her creeping along the bank below the track, browsing on anything green, picking out little bits of foliage or grass from in between sticks and branches; anything would do. These cows have a tremendously varied diet.

Mānuka flowers

The Mānuka is in flower.

Monday the 15th
bleak looking paddocks

I took the ragwort plonking device for a walk this afternoon while I wandered around checking the cattle. From the ridge on the fenceline between Big Back and Small Hill paddocks I took this picture of the somewhat bleak-looking flats. The recent frosts have caused most of the Kikuyu to turn a sort of light yellowy-brown, so things do not look as green as they did before they hit. A paddock will look beautifully green with Kikuyu before a frost and a couple of days after a frost, it will look as though it has been grazed to the ground, as all the grass bleaches out and withers away.
The green in the foreground and the rectangle of which the cows are occupying the bottom right corner, are all sown with rye, but the other three paddocks in the picture are mainly Kikuyu.

fungi growing at the base of a dead Totara tree

After the cold snap, we've had a run of nights with far warmer temperatures - around 10 - 12°C - which has presumably suited the various fungi very well.

There was a colony of mushrooms at the base of a dead Totara on my way down the hill. When I found them (the first picture is looking down on the whole group at the bottom of the tree) I thought they were different phases of the same species and the photographs later confused me. However, thanks to Clive Shirley of, I now understand these to be Armillaria limonea.
I also found Landcare Research's fungi identification key helpful.

fungi fungi

Out at the very back south-western corner of the farm is a Taranaki gate (looks like a bit of fence with wire and battens, between ordinary gate end posts) which was presumably originally in place to allow the easy return of straying animals between two properties. Several years ago, after our neighbours in that direction had used the gate on several occasions (without telling us anything had been amiss) to retrieve their large bull which kept jumping into our place and impregnating our heifers, we wired it up and put rails across it so that it could only be opened with tools and it would be obvious that it had been opened. Time and rot have taken their toll on the Kanuka rails and the gate was again a simple Taranaki without fortifications and while it hasn't ever been used since the neighbours were firmly encouraged not to leave their bull away out at the back of their farm, it concerned me that it wouldn't take too much pushing by animals on either side to break it down.
At this time of the year, the cows are being pushed to eat everything they can find, and if there's something attractive on the other side of something they think they can get through, they'll give it a go. I shall ask Stephan to come up and fix it up again.

Tuesday the 16th

Neither Stephan nor I could get the stitch out of my face without the high risk of causing the need for more stitches, so I went to town to find a nurse with better eyesight and the correct tools to do the job.

I also had to go and select and buy a large chest freezer, because the meat from the steer won't fit in our current smallish one when there's already most of a pig, some turkeys and some bits of sheep in there! Our power supplies are reliable enough that we may "harvest" such produce and store it by freezing.

Thursday the 18th

Stephan spent the day rearranging the kitchen so the new freezer could be slotted in somewhere. Some months ago we went and talked to a woman who runs a local kitchen refitting company, and we're still waiting for her to get back to us with possible plan ideas. I wonder if kitchen builders aren't feeling the recession, or she didn't think we were serious in our approach. The attitude to the provision of service in our small town is astonishingly bad in too many cases. We always intend and attempt to source what we need from local firms or suppliers and rather too often we end up going further afield because of long delays in responses to enquiries, or as in this case, complete silence after an attempt to engage a service.
The upshot of it all is that Stephan will probably end up doing most of it himself, over a longer period, as we usually do anyway.

Friday the 19th
fungi on the PW hillside

More mushrooms.

I was struck by the distinct line around the outside edge of this one, and the lovely green colouring of the ones below (Tricholoma viridi-olivaceum). They're all growing on a steep slope in the PW, up from the gully where the steer, 356, was stuck.

fungi fungi

I'm going away tomorrow for a week, so today was my last chance to do some necessary and urgent jobs. After we picked up the meat from the butcher this morning, I brought the young cattle in to the yards and weighed and drenched them. I'm still using the Liver Fluke-active drench Genesis Ultra on all the cattle, but the results from the liver tests on the cull cows have just come back showing no evidence of fluke, so something is working well and perhaps a once-a-year treatment on the cows is adequate. I do the younger stock in the autumn and again in the spring, until they're adults, unless they're in very good condition and obviously coping well without. I wanted to get all the cattle done before I go, while the weather is fine for a few days. I'm not doing the two bulls though, until I get the test results on #49: there's a 91 day withholding period on the drench, which means a three month wait after drenching before he can be sent to the works, and if he tests NHC I'll put him straight on a truck.

The most important test done on the livers of the cull cows was to determine their stores of copper and three of the five submitted for testing were very low - the testing system very unhelpfully doesn't tell me which cows belong to which test results, which my vets tell me wouldn't tell me anything much, but it would be very interesting to know if the higher results came from those cows which routinely carried better condition, better health and so on, which I suspect is the case. The veterinarian's report continues to recommend the standard treatment in response to whatever my test results say, which makes sense in isolation in each case, but in light of the test history and the supplementation I do, I have concluded that the only copper going into my cows is coming out of a needle I'm putting into their necks. When they've had a couple of treatments in the two months prior to the cull cows going to the works, the copper levels are just adequate; if they've had a break of a few months - and in this case it has been over the feed-plenty summer months when they should theoretically be getting all the copper they need from the pasture - their levels plummet. I will collate all my records and attempt to have a conversation with the vets about the problem, although I suspect my supplementation regime may be the only option to keep the cattle in good health.