The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 30th of May.
Saturday the 30th
a trapped stoat

Stephan's traps have yielded some interesting occupants today. When he first came out to the fenceline job this morning he found a Harrier Hawk in the pig trap. Unfortunately he didn't have his camera with him and the bird was quite unhappy about being trapped, so he let it out immediately, rather than keeping it there for my later amusement.

However, the stoat he'd caught in the Fenn trap wasn't in any state to mind waiting for my arrival. This is the second stoat Stephan's caught in this trap in this location in the last few weeks.

pig trap

The pig trap, reset and empty again.

Sunday the 31st
Stephan and several followers

Stephan walked out to milk Imagen this morning, with his retinue. They only continued for a few more metres before realising he wasn't going anywhere to feed them.

You need never be lonely with turkeys.

Stephan mowing the sown area

I sowed the small triangle holding paddock with rye seed this afternoon and Stephan then mowed it. The area is small enough to manage in such a way and a little too small to put a lot of cattle into it to apply the usual hoof-n-tooth post-sowing treatment.

I moved Imagen, Bella and Isla this afternoon, from the Flat 5 paddocks they've been grazing to Flat 1, the first paddock across the flats from our house. Before I put them in there, I had to find a lot of electric fence standards and a couple of reels of tape, to keep the three of them away from the drain which runs down the length of the paddock on the far side. Isla hasn't had an observed fit for two weeks, so if she's due for one, I want to keep her some distance from the drains. If she fell into a deep place, she'd be in big trouble.

Monday the 1st of June
cattle going into the new grass in 5b

The 37 young cattle spent the night in Flat 4 giving it its first light grazing since sowing, and this afternoon I moved them to 5b for its first time. Watching this large group of growing young animals eating their way so quickly through all the lovely new grass, I realised I really needed to check that I was going to have enough food to get them through the winter, since I haven't sold as many of them as I had earlier intended.

I spent a few hours during the evening fiddling around with numbers in a spreadsheet I created last winter, for the calculation of a feed budget. There is information available in farming texts, and now online, on how much feed an animal of a certain weight, or of a particular class (pregnant cow, bull, growing steer etc.) will require for its maintenance or growth. I know how big my paddocks are and approximately what proportion of them will grow grass. As I was putting numbers of animals into paddocks in my plan, I realised I was running out of farm before I was running out of animals!

Tuesday the 2nd

This morning I phoned my friendly stock agent and checked if it was possible to send some animals to the Kaikohe Sale tomorrow. They will apparently take stock bookings until late today, as long as the trucking can be arranged, which I then also checked. Then I worked out how many animals I couldn't feed and sorted out, on paper, the ones I could bear to part with.

We brought the young cattle in to the yards and drafted out those I had firmly decided could go, then spent some time considering the rest. There are a number of definite keepers, and a few which I had to think quite hard about.

I have been waiting hopefully for the test for NH (Neuropathic Hydrocephalus) to become available so I could know whether or not #49 is defect free and thus whether or not his daughters would also be clear - I particularly wished not to sell genetic defect carrier heifers; but time has run out and I cannot continue to feed all these animals. I'm not happy about selling any of the possible or known carrier cattle through the saleyards, but the buyer to whom I had planned to sell them (a finisher of beef cattle only) has made other plans. I have requested that the animals be sold as "not for breeding", and my agent assures me that most of the smaller lines of heifers sold are finished for beef. I am having to sell some of the heifers which are daughters of #45 who tested AMC (a carrier of Arthrogryposis Multiplex), and a couple of the heifers have tested as carriers themselves. I will follow the sale with a call to the buyer to ensure that the heifers were not bought for breeding, or if they are intended for that end, I shall have to explain the situation.

I've been wrestling with the ethics of this whole situation for several weeks. There's not a lot I can do about having been mixed up in this mess this year, except sell only the known clear heifers, but at this stage I don't even have enough of them to sell to reduce numbers sufficiently. In future years, if I breed from carrier stock, I will ensure I have the room to keep any carrier progeny through to killing, myself.

Once I'd made the final decision, including the sale of two or three heifers I hadn't previously considered selling, we put them through the race and put secondary (button) tags in the ears of those who didn't already have them.

tagging cattle

After we'd sorted the young cattle, we brought the cull mob in and put tags in the ears of those without any tags, or whose tags had lost the legally-required front part with the bar code and herd number inscribed, and weighed them all . I also painted our initials on their backs, as required by the works.

On our way in to the yards, Irene 48 was of great sexual interest to the bull, which confirms my suspicions of her having lost her calf.

Wednesday the 3rd
frosty morning

Waking up to a frost this morning, I'm feeling exceptionally pleased with myself, having arranged to off-load the stock so quickly and in good time. The green patches on the ground are where the heifers slept while the frost formed.

We took the sale heifers in to the yards and a truck came and collected them just after nine.

the works mob in waiting

The cull mob spent the night out on the Windmill Paddock and we took them in to the yards as soon as the truck had gone.

Gone from the farm today are:

The cull cattle were:

While I realise these lists of culled cows may not be of great interest to most readers, I continue to include them mainly for my own historical record of reasons for culling and a reminder of some aspects of the cattle. They hopefully also give an insight into the reasons for keeping and culling stock in a breeding herd.

young Cabbage Tree

This is one of the many Cabbage Trees (Tī Kōuka - Cordyline australis) which are growing in the drains around the farm. Since we fenced the lanes, which included putting two-wire fences along the ditches and drains, several Cabbage Tree seedlings have appeared. I hope we'll be able to clear the drains around them, when the time comes, without damaging them or their roots.

I took this picture because it shows quite clearly the effect of the winds last winter, and the nice new growth which has happened since. One storm with high winds will fray the leaves considerably, leaving them looking quite untidy.

I really like Cabbage Trees.

Thursday the 4th

A second frost was upon the ground this morning. That's not a good thing around here. We don't usually get this cold so early in the winter and rely on it not being so for a bit more grass growth yet, which will now stop.

Dexie 46, after a worrying moment

I went out the back to fetch the eleven pregnant heifers and ten of them came galloping down the hill. I waited for a few minutes, expecting the last, but she didn't show. I went through my list to check who was missing, finding Dexie 46 wasn't among them, had my usual pessimistic thought process about cattle upside-down in deep holes, and set off up the track to see if I could find her.

And there she was, running over the rise from further back in the paddock, looking quite concerned at finding herself alone, after which she trotted down the hill to join the others.

I walked the heifers from there on their way to the yards to apply the pour-on drench they're due to have, since it is such a lovely fine day.

Virago Direction 49

Virago Direction 49 AB, son of Queenly 23. He is, unsurprisingly, a small bull - his mother is little, which is a bit of a surprise bearing in mind the hippopotamus proportions of her mother, and his sire, C A Future Direction, throws small cattle. I'm not yet sure if he really suits my needs and his future still hangs in the balance while we wait for the NH testing to be licensed here.

three heifers in the lane

Leaving the older heifers to wander along the lane toward the yards, I went back and drafted the three pregnant yearlings out of the young mob. Together they'll form one mob of priority-feeding pregnant heifers for the winter.

They were supposed to follow me as I followed the other heifers, but then they stopped in the middle of the lane along the Windmill Paddock and wouldn't continue. Sillies.

pregnant heifer mob

I had to follow the eleven along to the yards, then go back for the three - I don't mix mobs of animals in small spaces like lanes, because they're bound to fight and where there's no room, that can cause problems.

After weighing and drenching the two little mobs separately, I let them mix near the yards and they seemed reasonably happy to be together. They were last together during mating, so it's not as if they've never met before.

I did the nineteen cows after lunch. They average 540 kg, ranging from 470 - 730 kg. If I take out the three (heaviest) cows in the mob which did not raise calves this year, the average drops to 518 kg.

a dead stoat

Stephan caught another stoat, in the same trap, only a few days after the last one! You can tell it's a stoat because it has a black tip to its tail. Weasels are smaller and browner and their tails are not black-tipped.

Friday the 5th

We had our third frost in a row this morning! Astonishing and concerning.

I spent some more time today researching the genetic defects in Angus cattle and finding out what the NZ Angus Association is doing about making people aware of how to manage the problems: not a lot in the interests of the membership and our clients. I had a couple of very interesting conversations which have made me begin to ponder leaving the NZ Angus Association on principal. Here am I, spending more money than I ever planned, on cleaning up a problem not of my making, and there are breeders who are also members of the association selling tested carrier bulls into the commercial breeding herds. Numbers of bulls have been sold before being tested and some of those buyers are beginning to question what comeback they might have on the vendors who said very little about the issues at their sales. One sale catalogue arrived in my mail box the other day with the title "Top results in testing times!", which is entirely appropriate considering seven of the bulls in the catalogue of 47 were sired by a bull tested (by the test-development lab in the US) as a carrier of NH.

I'm not sure I want to be a member of a breeding association which appears to be acting contrary to the long-term interests of the breed and its membership, let alone the immediate interest of its members' clients. I have been expressing my concerns to my ward Councillor and the President of the Association, as well as having a long conversation with the Breed Manager today, all with little effect. They all insist there is nothing to worry about and they will release some educational publicity about the genetic defects after the current bull sales.