The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 24th of January.
Saturday the 24th

I did an insemination this morning, then spent the day collating my mating records and doing a lot of thinking about the pedigrees of my cattle and wishing the results from the bulls' tests would hurry up and come through!

loading firewood

Mike and his three sons have been spending a few days camping out on the farm, shooting animals for dinner (small ones, not the domestic farmed variety) and cutting firewood. Chantelle drove out today with a borrowed ute to collect the wood which the campers had loaded onto the trailer so Stephan could bring it out of the paddock for them.

They cut all the firewood by hand.

Irene has a sore front leg. I don't know what she's done to herself, but she appears unable to bend it at the knee, which makes getting up from the ground a huge effort, probably straining it more each time she rises. Having no calf to feed this year, she's in exceptionally good condition and probably weighs over 750kg. Because it was quite possibly the challenge of a foot-injury-related infection which caused her embryonic calf last year to succumb to her Neospora infection, this injury and its related stress on her system worry me. There is no obvious external injury and I think it most likely she's strained her knee during some extraordinary movement.

Sunday the 25th
Paradise Duck in new plumage

Mary with her new dark feathers, quite different from the faded orange of last year.

bantam chicks

Some freshly-hatched bantam chicks. Their mother is a little brown hen and their dad is the little bantam rooster we acquired from William and Elizabeth's flock almost a year ago. We had been thinking that young Mr Rooster didn't know what to do with the hens, or that he was infertile, but it would appear he's finally figured out his purpose in life.

turkey chicks

More turkey chicks. The turkeys are onto their second batch of chicks for the season. They're obviously prolific breeders, although without help they appear to lose most of their offspring. They're a bit bigger than the bantam chicks and the turkeys' mother is many times larger than the bantam hen.

The calves are all due to receive their booster shot of 7in1 vaccine, so we started with the cull mob, on their way to graze the hill over the road. We'll do the others in the next few days. They have the two shots from four to six weeks apart.

Monday the 26th
invisible cows in the shade of a large tree

The cows in the Back Barn paddock often sit under this Totara and the few behind it. There's generally a nice breeze in the middle of the paddock and the tree is mature enough, with a thick canopy to provide some darkly cool shade.

more bantam chicks

More bantam chicks. This hen and her chicks are smaller than the others. They are pretty, and ridiculously tiny.

Ruth replacing a heat indicator on a cow

542, the second-to-last to calve last year, was very alert and agitated during today, but wasn't showing any really clear signs of heat. I decided to take a chance and inseminate her anyway. If she is on heat and I miss this, she's going to be awfully late getting in calf in three weeks time.

After the insemination I had intended to put the cows which needed replacement heat indicators up the race so I could cut off the old indicators and stick the new ones on. But it was very hot, the cows are all quiet enough to do things to in the open yards, so I left them standing in the shade and walked back and forth with scissors and glue and we all stayed cooler than we might otherwise have done.

Stephan holding a Cauliflower

Not unlike a large fig-leaf, this cauliflower was put to two very good uses this evening. It is a great pleasure to eat a dinner made from things we've grown and produced ourselves.

Tuesday the 27th

I took this picture intending to show the colour differences between the Totara and some of the individual Kahikatea trees, but it is not as clear as I had hoped.

The blue-green in the middle is Kahikatea, as is the green around it and out to the right is Totara.

There's a bit of Pukatea in there on the left as well and the ones in the background, which appear shorter on the left, are all Kahikatea. On the right in the background, is the Bush block behind the paddock.

Wednesday the 28th
an possum in a trap

This unfortunate young possum was curious enough to enter an unbaited, but set, trap sometime in the night. Its end is nigh.

I know they look very cute, but they wreak havoc in this environment, not only eating lots of native foliage, but also native bird eggs, including the increasingly rare Kukupa (or Kereru). We trap, poison, shoot ...

Then we pluck their fur and one day, when we have enough, we'll sell it for something around $100/kg and you'll buy it somewhere combined with Merino wool in the warmest, loveliest scarves, hats and gloves.

the cattle, raising dust

I brought the two cow and calf mobs in today and we vaccinated the calves.

It's three weeks today since I put the first yearling bull out with the first ten cows, so I swapped him with one of the two-year-old proven-fertile bulls. I'm trying to spread the risk of using unproven bulls as well as the risk of using bulls which might be carriers of AM and/or hydrocephalus.

These cattle are on their way back out to the Middle Back paddock. The cows don't generally raise dust around here unless things are very dry!

plastic soldiers

I found these two in a box, so they must have been hiding in our house for a while, since sometime in the middle of last year. I don't know who they are; do you? If you recognise these "missing persons", please send me an email and I will return them to you.

Thursday the 29th
Penny Royal in the pasture

I inseminated Irene 48 this morning. It was a bit dark in the shed while I was getting the straw out of the bank and I dropped it. That was the second time I've done that this season, when I've been trying to hold a torch and get a straw out of the bank. I didn't note which other cow's straw I dropped. It's not good practice, of course, but I picked it up (fortunately it didn't fall through the sheep grating and onto the ground under the shed) and put into the water in the thawing jar.
Thermal shock is not good for sperm, but I don't know how much damage I will have done in delaying the transfer of the straw from the nitrogen in the bank to the water which most efficiently thaws it for use.

I heard Pīpīwharauroa(Shining Cuckoo) chicks peeping in the trees while I was picking ragwort out the back, this evening. I haven't heard any in the house Puriri this year. I haven't felt terribly bereft about that either. They make a damned annoying noise!

Friday the 30th
551 putting her head through a fence 551 with her head through a fence

Some cows really want to be sent to the works. I have carefully explained the terms of their employment here and some of them have shamelessly ignored me. This is 551, only daughter of 396, who was not long in the herd because she was a skinny, hard-keeping animal; so far her daughter is only a little better, but she's also a fence pusher! She has a daughter, who might just be her only one...