The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning 4th of July.
Monday the 6th
young cattle in the Windmill Paddock

I weaned Bella this afternoon. After letting the young mob out of their paddock to walk up the lane to their next grazing, I went and called Bella out from her paddock with Imagen and Isla and put her into the new grass before the other heifers arrived. Bella is well old enough at 7½ months, and is the only calf left still suckling.


Imagen could obviously tell exactly what I'd done! She stood for some time, staring intently after Bella.

Stephan's going away next week so won't be here to milk, and Imagen needs to be dried off anyway, so her udder can rest and recover before her next calf is born - I've noticed a thickening in the udders of all the rest of the herd, so those changes are already happening. Stephan will keep milking her in the mornings for the next few days and then we'll leave her alone.

Bearing in mind the sad beginnings of this arrangement - the death of Imagen's calf and 530's almost-murderous rejection of Bella when she was born - it has all gone very well. We've had a fantastic milk supply for nine months, raised two pigs on it, and Bella has been raised without appearing to be limited by having to share her milk supply.

Cows' milk production adjusts to suit the needs of their dependents. Imagen was producing around 14 litres per day at the start, before Bella was born. I would think that Bella's demands after we've taken milk each day have caused Imagen to produce far more milk than she would have done for a single calf. Her production has fluctuated as the amount of feed available has changed during the seasons, but overall she's probably produced twice as much as she normally would have done with just a calf to feed. Bella, even having to share with us and the pigs, has done significantly better than she would have done with her two-year-old mother. Only a few of the first-time heifers manage to feed their calves to their full growth potential. Milking ability is generally something which develops over time.

Tuesday the 7th

The Board of Directors of Kaitaia Vets had a strategic planning meeting today, and I believe we did some good work. I was not feeling well, so sat away from the others, but as I was not coughing or sneezing, I hope their risk of infection was low.

In the afternoon, because the weather was fine and the job urgently needed doing, we brought the cows to the yards and while Stephan did the yard work, pushing the cows up into the crush pen and so on, I injected them all with copper. I'm glad it's done, because many of them will have been in dire need of the supplement. I'll do it again in six weeks, and then I'll still be able to fit a third injection in before calving. The cows are last in line for any copper they get: they need enough to develop and grow their gestating calves, enough to stoke up the calves' liver supplies so they're born ready to go, and then the cows get to use whatever is left over. The last copper injection I gave them was back in December, just before mating and usually I give them one sometime in April around weaning time. This year I missed doing that one.

lichen on a Puriri log

Lichen can be surprisingly colourful. This is growing on an old Puriri log on Jane's place, where I'd followed the cows to shut the gate.

Wednesday the 8th

Sick, sick, sick.

seagulls flying

I wandered slowly out to move the little heifers this afternoon. There's a big storm forecast and the seagulls obviously have their own advance warning systems. I haven't seen a flock this big so far inland for a while. They're those dots you can just see. Enlarged on a big screen, they were definitely gulls, but space constraints and upload speeds mean you just get to see dots and believe my report.

Thursday the 9th

Still feeling sick and feverish.

Today marks twenty years since my father, Brian Renner, died. Two decades is a long time, but the strength of my memory of him makes that seem quite unreal.

cows crossing the stream

In the afternoon we moved the cows from Jane's paddocks. Some of them are in rather good order! The cow looking toward me is 478, whose calf died during birth last year, so she's quite fat. The one following her is Ranu 31, who seems to be able to hold her condition fairly well even when she's milking.

Friday the 10th
dunking a slaughtered turkey in hot water

Most of the turkeys are big enough to eat and they're also a right pain in the garden! Stephan's been working to reduce their numbers considerably and we're beginning to feel like meat hoarders.

Stephan heats some water and then dunks the birds in after slaughter, to enable him to strip the feathers off very easily, rather than having to spend a lot of time plucking - it's reasonably easy when the bird is still warm, but doing hot wet plucking is even simpler.

When I was away down south, Stephan was quite sick. He had some contact with someone who had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for Swine 'flu, so it is possible he had it. Forty-eight hours after I came home and had close contact with Stephan I had an inkling of unwellness and by the next afternoon was feeling pretty sick. I've had a raised temperature for eight days - finally feeling almost normal again today - and that's quite unusual for me with any sort of winter ailment. I'm not very ill, but there is apparently a range of responses to the new 'flu. It would be very convenient to have had it already, when I've been able to take things easily, rather than in the middle of those busy months of calving, exams and cattle mating!