The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 11th of December 2010.
Saturday the 11th
tiny egg shell

I suspect this may be the eggshell of a Riroriro, the Grey Warbler, Gerygone igata.

The adults are tiny; the chicks must be as small as bumblebees.

Sunday the 12th
a track in need of weed control

The tracks need spraying to control the weeds. The river gravel we put on two seasons ago included lots of weed seeds, some of which I've not seen before, and I don't want those plants seeding all over the farm.

There's another problem with the tracks, which has become apparent over these last dry weeks: the metal we put on last year, which was supposed to be lime rock, but turned out to be blue stone from the other quarry, has worked its way loose from its first nicely packed form, and it is that which is causing problems for the cows' feet. Lime rock packs down and stays flat, and is not nearly so hard on hooves.

We had an influx of lovely visitors this afternoon, most of whom naturally ended up in the pond - we throw all our visitors in there. Any who float, we feed.

Shining Cuckoo

The flying bird on the left is a Riroriro, Grey Warbler, and the other is Pīpīwharauroa, a Shining Cuckoo. The Cuckoo is a baby, sitting in the tree peeping incessantly, insisting on being fed by its tiny foster parent, which is kept constantly busy hunting insects with which to satisfy its child's insatiable hunger.

They're very entertaining to watch and I always think the Riroriro parents seem almost proud of their huge babies.


It's Ragwort time again. We'll have to start the serious flower hunting walks to ensure we catch the early ones before they seed.

sick calf

Can you tell this calf is feeling unwell?

I looked at him and immediately felt that all was not as it should be - it's a fractional change in the angle at which an animal holds its ears which is the usual indicator.

When he got up he started straining to defecate and his Coccidiosis problem was obviously worse than the other day. It should have resolved by now if it was going to on its own.

I walked him and his mother out into the lane to begin the long slow walk to the yards.

sick calf

It's about a kilometre and a half from the Big Back Paddock to the front of the farm, so I took them very quietly and slowly.

We still had some Amphoprim in stock from our experimental treatment of the Neospora infected calves last year, and we'd previously used it on Coccidiosis affected calves a few years ago. Being a Sunday afternoon, I decided to look up the appropriate dose for that drug, rather than calling out an emergency vet, and gave the calf the first of five daily shots of the antibiotic, which should aid his recovery from this infection.

My understanding is that Amphoprim is a very good drug for infections of the gut. Coccidiosis is a protozoan parasite, but because of its effect on the gut lining, the affected animal is prone to secondary infections. If the calf can be supported to overcome that effect, he should be able to recover from the rest of the Coccidiosis' cycle.

Monday the 13th
not much grass

Feed is getting tight for the cattle! Rain would be good.

Tuesday the 14th

Yvette is looking her age. She's now 11½ years old, which is pretty ancient for a sheep. Underneath her wool I think she's quite thin. Her right front foot joint has collapsed so that when she walks on it, her dew claws almost touch the ground. Oddly it's the other leg she limps on to avoid carrying weight. Stephan has been regularly trimming her hooves, to avoid any hoof overgrowth contributing further to the problem.

She's raising a very good lamb this year, but I'll have to carefully assess her later in the season, before we make any getting-ewes-in-lamb decisions.

My sister Rachel arrived this evening, to visit for a few days.

Wednesday the 15th

Imagen has mastitis again, despite all our hopefully preventative treatment at the end of last season. She has been showing some signs of the infection for a couple of days, but this morning she was unwilling even to allow her calf to suckle comfortably, and she stopped grazing, preferring to head off into the shade on her own. I phoned the vet for advice, and met him down the road at another call-out to pick up some medicines for her. She's to have a systemic antibiotic since she's now obviously feeling ill, along with an intramammary treatment and an anti-inflammatory injection which will make her much more comfortable quite quickly.

Any time I write or talk about Imagen, I imagine that my audience thinks I don't know how to spell Imogen. I do, I do! When Imagen's twin died soon after birth and I buried her, I decided the living calf, as an image of her twin, would be called Image-n.

Swallows on a gate

There are swallows all around us. I don't know where they nest when away from buildings, but they obviously do, somewhere, from the numbers of youngsters around.

Rachel and the cows

The cows didn't seem to like Rachel very much today. It might have been the way she was looking down on them.

sick calf feeling a little better?

Not a great photo, taken at a distance in fading light, but I was interested to see this calf's ear angle. He looks a little better than he did the other day, but has been spending most of his time sitting around. He's still feeding from his mother, but not with any great enthusiasm. He's not getting any worse, but I'm not convinced he's improving very much yet either.


I went hunting spiders around the Puriri tree this evening. There are so many interesting creatures living in that tree.

I haven't identified this one yet, because it's not obviously in my little spider book. It was in the middle of its web between two branches, its body about 10mm long.

Thursday the 16th

It's raining! A lovely 27mm to 9am, gently falling so it soaks into the parched soil; 35mm by 11am. We badly needed this rain and it's falling in the best way possible.
[The whole rainfall event over three days, gave us just over 100mm.]

Getting my gear ready to treat Imagen and the sick calf today, I found this beetle on the floor of the shed. I see them quite often, but here was an excellent photo opportunity.

green beetle
scouring calf

The sick calf is showing definite signs of feeling better.

Because Stephan's been out doing other things, I've given the calf all of his injections on my own, made easy by his feeling so unwell he didn't have the energy to fight me. Today he made things a little bit more difficult, which is a very good sign. There's a tiny trace of blood in his faeces still, but I watched him eating and curiously investigating things for the first time in days. I am relieved. There have been moments when I considered he might even die.

Friday the 17th

Rachel set off for Auckland again this morning and not long after she'd left I received an email from someone involved in Kiwi rescue work, who had a sick Kiwi chick needing a ride from Whangarei to Auckland. By text and telephone to Rachel, we arranged for her to call in and collect the chick, since she was within about twenty minutes of Whangarei at the time. But then it was decided the chick was too sick to travel and should remain where it was under local veterinarian care instead, so Rachel missed out on an interesting hitch-hiker tale.

Because I was in town this afternoon, I called in to the vets and Nathan recommended we give the sick calf an anti-inflammatory shot to try and relieve his continuing rectal straining and make him a bit more comfortable. He's now had a full course of Amphoprim, so I gave him one more for good measure, along with the anti-inflammatory injection and that will do for him. Imagen also had her third day of treatment, which she hates. Now she will have to be milked for a few days and that milk thrown away, until she passes the withholding periods for the various drugs she's had.