The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 28th of February.
Sunday the 1st of March
visitors to Kapiro

Federated Farmers of New Zealand have been advertising a "town meets country" farm day and the local one was hosted by Landcorp at Kapiro near Kerikeri. I decided I'd like to go and see what the day was all about and have a look at Kapiro Station.

There weren't a huge number of people around, but it was a nice sized group for wandering around and asking questions - although the townies there didn't ask very much and some nosey farmers probably asked a few more complicated questions than perhaps we ought to have done.

However, we felt encouraged to do so by the level of information being provided, which was, I think, not entirely explanatory for novice visitors. For instance, I wonder what a person unfamiliar with farming jargon would think of the phrase "I thought she looked pretty bad, so we gave her a bullet"? No, the cow wasn't shot dead, but the presence of symptoms which indicated a deficiency or some other problem indicated the need for a long-acting supply of a nutrient, supplied by way of a bolus (bullet shaped) inserted down her throat to lodge in her rumen.

fat bottomed bulls

Kapiro breeds Angus bulls for sale. They feed them very well, with particular weight targets the bulls must reach before their sale as two-year-olds.

vet Greg explaining pregnancy scanning for cattle

After looking at the bulls, a few pregnant cows were yarded so Kapiro's vet, who just so happens to be Greg from Kaitaia Vets, could demonstrate and explain pregnancy scanning.

Afterwards we went for a drive through the rest of the property, looked through another set of cattle yards, then the group headed back to the start via the milking shed in the dairy unit in the middle of the farm.

I found the day very interesting, but there were a number of missed opportunities which could have provided more value in the day for those who came there knowing nothing or little about farming. For example it would have been useful to have the cattle handling facilities and practices explained: the cows restrained for pregnancy testing were quite jumpy and unsettled. It would have been a very good idea to explain to the visitors that the cattle spend most of their lives away from people and that the proximity of so many humans for a cow held in a bail on her own is unsettling enough to make her behave as if she's extremely upset, but that she will settle again when released. Or some such explanation. Maybe none of the other visitors noticed that there was an upset cow in their presence. I still find it quite challenging to observe many men's attitudes to and treatment of cows, and it would have been helpful for the staff of the farm to have put the cows' behaviour in the yards in some context for the visitors. Maybe I have an overactive empathy function.

We left Kapiro and went to visit the headquarters of the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation to pick up a very fancy dog trap, so Stephan can set it in a location where a stray dog has recently been reported in the bush. Then we travelled home via Mangonui and the fish shop for fish and chips and a few scallops, a favourite occasional meal.

Monday the 2nd
cows and calves to the yards

I brought all the cows and calves in to the yards today to weigh the calves. In the process of drafting the cows from the calves, I had to open a steel gate and wait for Isla to move out of the way before I could swing it right around - and I didn't quite get my timing right, touching the back of her leg as she paused. I know that's a risky thing to do because many cows, when touched there, will instinctively kick very violently backwards, which Isla did. She kicked out causing the gate to come back toward me, hitting me in the side of the head! It all happened so quickly there was no time to react and it made my head ring.

I was very lucky I had my head turned a little when it happened, and the gate hit the outside of my right eye socket, rather than across my nose, which would have hurt more and probably altered my appearance significantly.
I went back to the house to fetch the Arnica I have for the cows and took some paracetamol for the expected headache, then carried on quietly and began weighing the calves. I felt rather woozy for the rest of the day. As there was surprisingly little bruising, I received very little sympathy. It seems that the sort of people who dislocate joints, try to cut bits of their bodies off and generally do gory things to themselves, hardly take any notice of other people's injuries if there's nothing much to see.

The calf weights are very satisfactory in most cases, with a number of them already over 200kg at just five months old. I made a number of notes about calves which were either very quiet, or stupidly jumpy in the yards. If they're particularly troublesome, I rarely need the notes to remind me. Those notes will have some bearing on my keep or sell decisions at weaning, but also inform my decision making when it comes to the cows; if a cow has consistently difficult calves, I'll get rid of her, because quiet, easy-to-work cattle are my business.

septic tank cleaning in progress

The Far North District Council brought in a bylaw a few years ago which requires all septic tanks (the individual rural household's sewerage storage system) to be cleaned and checked every three years. We received a letter a week or so ago telling us the council expected us to have ours done and so Stephan phoned his old friend Michelle, who runs a company called Suckit, to come and do the job.

The first task of the tank cleaner is to dig down to the lid of the tank and open it, so the contents may be pumped out via an enormous vacuum cleaner hose. It's a very clean and fairly quick job in a tank which hasn't been left for too long.

Michelle and her father, who was working with her, then sat on the deck with us and she and Stephan caught up with their news, having not seen each other for several years.

turkeys roosting on the pergola

The turkey chicks are really making themselves at home around here, perching in the pergola and on the deck chairs. I'm not altogether happy about the "visiting cards" they leave behind on the chairs.

Tuesday the 3rd
cattle picking their way over the gravel

Cattle aren't too keen on rough tracks, especially those with stones, which can cause bruising of their feet if they are not able to be quite careful as they walk. I always try to allow the cows to move at their own speed along the lanes, to prevent their having to go faster than a speed at which they can comfortably choose their footing.

Irene's foot infection last year, the stress of which I suspect contributed to the loss of her pregnancy, was probably caused by her having trodden on a stone in a way which bruised her foot and then caused an infection to develop.

Mary, moulting

Mary never did go away to moult, but in the last couple of weeks she's lost her flight feathers and has spent all her time on or near the pond, where she can escape danger by taking to the water. You may be able to see the new white feathers where they have emerged and are growing.

Wednesday the 4th
flowering epiphyte

Stephan has been working to prepare the reserve area on the hill over the road for fencing. On my way to do an inspection, I passed under the Puriri tree in the driveway and looked up to see an epiphyte in flower, busy with bees.
This is Kahakaha, Collospermum hastatum.

newly pruned Totara trees

Up the hill, the thirteen young cattle were all sitting around in an area recently cleared of trees, visible through the newly pruned Totara trees on the hillside.

Thursday the 5th
wet turkeys

We had a couple of loads of metal delivered this morning, but then the rain got too heavy to carry on. When the truck had to be pulled out of a slippery patch with the tractor, we decided it was time to give up on that task for the time being.

The turkey chicks know how to keep themselves comfortable, with their heads up under their mothers' feathers. One of the hens we have been keeping in a cage in the garden escaped earlier in the day and she was huddled under an overhanging bit of the building, keeping out of the rain. The air is not cold, but being wet makes it seem so.

Friday the 6th

My computer has been behaving very sluggishly over the last few days, something I'd blamed on the internet activities of a certain houseguest, who has overstepped his welcome on my computer and is now banned from its use. This evening I discovered that the fault may not be entirely his, but perhaps because the hard drive is now almost full of the very large photo files from my new camera. I've been unloading the camera into the computer, but haven't then discarded any of the unwanted files.

Stephan shore the last of the sheep this evening because one of them had flystrike. We ought to have done them all the other day really, but they were looking in good health at the time.