The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 18th of September 2010.
Saturday the 18th

The nine heifers grazing the Windmill Paddock moved to their last break today, so they'll have been in here for two weeks by the time I move them out. They'd never have lasted so long if I'd not break-fed them the grass.

grass growth

The other very useful thing one can do with electric tapes is back-fence a mob - as long as there is adequate water provision, as in this paddock where there is a trough at either end - so the animals don't keep wandering around over the area they've already grazed.

I moved the heifers through this tape a week ago, into their first break at this end of the paddock. Stopping them going back to the rest of the paddock left the grass there to grow, so it has now already had a week's recovery time.

The Italian Rye grass I planted two seasons ago is still doing very well. In the foreground is the grass the heifers had just begun to graze.

The hungry little ram lamb appeared near the catching pen a couple of times today, so I took the opportunity to give him a feed.

Sunday the 19th
tethered lamb

My tethered ewe lamb happily sits beside her sheltering tree. She was out here until about 11pm last night and made far less mess in the area where I keep her inside overnight, so I think she can repeat that late bedtime move. Little ram lamb had four feeds today from a bottle. We really must do the docking, but everything is so wet and muddy at the moment.

The four first-to-calve (still expecting) cows had their first dollop of Magnesium-laden molasses this evening. They're now separated from the main mob, so I can keep a closer eye on them and give them their evening treat.

Monday the 20th
ewes and lambs

My little tethered lamb spent most of the day out with the rest of the sheep. I'd like her to become a fully-rounded sheep rather than a pet.

If I'm quick enough after feeding the lambs, I can escape her attention and get back to the house before she notices I'm gone, and then she doesn't follow me home.

This evening Stephan and I went for a walk out the back, he with the .303 rifle, looking for pigs. The nine heifers were on the PW hill and didn't seem very happy about their situation, so while Stephan walked on to the Back Barn Paddock, I called the heifers to follow me along Route 356 (built to rescue Steer 356) and up the steep slope to the Middle Back Paddock gate. It's lovely when they follow me so readily.

Tuesday the 21st

I wrote a story about Eva 81 for the Lifestyle Block Magazine and realised that I needed a picture of her pleasant smiling face, so had to go out to the Middle Back to get her to pose for some photos.

wild pig and a heifer

Walking up from the bottom of the hill I noticed the heifers were moving around in an excited sort of way and then saw why: wild pigs in their midst.

This pig looked rather large, and I decided it would be better not to attract its attention, in case it took exception to my presence! But it ran away when it heard me walking up the hill. There was another, smaller black pig a little further up the hill, which took off in a hurry when I came over a knoll.


Eva, with her left ear back, listening to the noise some more wild pigs were making on the other side of the fence on the ridge between the Middle Back and Big Back paddocks. There was occasional squealing and the pigs gradually moved off down the hill away from us. I presume they heard or smelled me there.

I took 150 pictures of Eva - digital photography is great fun! - and when I thought I'd finally achieved the sort of photo I wanted, went home.
That is about as close as Eva gets to a smile - if you concentrate really hard, I'm sure you'll see it.

I told Stephan where I'd seen the pigs, and he headed out with the rifle to see if he could find them by walking up from the bottom of the Big Back Paddock. He attempted a shot, but missed. He said there were about four or five smallish pigs, the big black one I'd seen, and a much larger ginger boar, which kept pushing the others around, which would have been the cause of all the squealing I'd heard earlier.

Meanwhile I climbed the hill over the road to check on the pregnant heifers. As I stood pulling ticks off Damara 74's developing udder four Pipiwharauroa (Shining Cuckoos) flew around overhead, on their way from our bush reserve to the neighbouring Pine trees. They were the first I've heard this spring.

Wednesday the 22nd

We're having some very nasty weather in this country - the weather system causing it is bigger than Australia on the maps, so it is large enough to extend over the whole length of these islands! Down south things are very bad, particularly for animals and their farmers; up here we're merely uncomfortable. Despite extremely strong winds, our electricity supply has remained reasonably reliable and while it's cold outside, and the winds wake us in the night, the stormy weather is no more than inconvenient.

two lambs

Neither of these lambs is a good example of health and vigour, but I took the picture to show the size difference between them. On the left is Lamb's ewe lamb, which I've been feeding since just after she was born, and the other is the underfed ram lamb of the young ewe, onto about day five of bottle feeding since I noticed his undernourished state. There are three days between them in age and the ram ought therefore to be a bit bigger than the ewe. Hopefully it's not too late to catch him up again.

a small rabbit

Stephan produced this rabbit from his pocket. He caught it from the chicken cage when he moved the hens to a new patch of grass this evening.

I thought he was going to turn it into bait for trapping, but he said it was too cute and small, so he took it back down to where it had been and let it go to find its way home to its family.

Thursday the 23rd
swamp Kauri leftovers

While I enjoyed an hour's relaxing massage this afternoon (a treat I'd been looking forward to for months, but had taken a long time to get around to organising), Stephan went to investigate a pile of swamp Kauri stumps he'd been offered by a farmer we know.

swamp Kauri blocks

These are the blocks of wood he cut from the pile, and brought home for turning. Lovely, thanks Bob!

pregnant heifers

Abigail's daughter Damara is the first of this mob of heifers due to calve and as she's a first-timer with a family history of short gestations, I thought it would be best to bring them off the hill over the road in good time.

Abigail's pelvic dips

Abigail's pelvic ligaments are softening up, causing these obvious dips. She is due, by my calculations, on Saturday.

While in town I popped in to the optometrist's to see if my glasses had arrived, which they had. After some adjustments and checking, I took them home and attempted wearing them without falling over things. They're sort of graduated, with reading bits at the bottom and longer-vision bits at the top. So far I hate them.

Friday the 24th

We popped into town just after lunch because the newest rural supplies store had advertised a speaker from the National Animal Identification and Traceability (NAIT) scheme. Having recently written an article on NAIT, which had necessitated a fair amount of contact with the speaker, I went to meet him in person. The details of the scheme are still changing, so my article, in the current issue of Lifestyle Block Magazine is now not quite as correct as it was at the time of writing. That was not unexpected and of no great consequence. The scheme is expected to become mandatory on 1 November 2011, but the legislation to effect the changes has yet to be passed through Parliament.


All of our lambs.

wild pigs

Some of our pigs.

I went in to the Back Barn paddock to call the cows and these four pigs were just on the other side of the river, snorting around in the grass taking very little notice of me. Stephan said "take the gun" when I left, but I'd decided not to. We both think pistols would be great tools for farmers: carrying such a weapon on one's belt would be so convenient at moments like these!

I followed the cows along the lanes and back to the Camp paddock and went home and surrendered the bike to Stephan who went straight back out to the Back Barn to see if the pigs were still there.

Stephan and his pig

They were, and this time he didn't miss.

He skinned, gutted and hung the pig for the night.

I managed to confuse my little lamb tonight after I fed the three of them, so that she forgot to follow me home. That means I won't have to mop any floors first thing in the morning, and hopefully we won't be woken by hungry bleating.