The Farm in Diggers Valley

The beginning of 2010.
Friday the 1st of January

These days years end and begin for me surrounded by cows, rather than in hot and noisy rooms with a drink in hand! The moon was full last night, and it was lovely out in the fields just before midnight, as I checked the cows.

Demelza and her daughters

A family I continue feeling lucky to see complete: Demelza with Eva and her latest daughter, yet to be named. Eva appears entirely healthy, with no sign of her recent near-death experience.

Demelza was showing signs of being on heat last night, although she wouldn't allow any of the others to mount her, so her indicator remains white. I took her in to the yards and inseminated her this morning.

I now spend my days doing checks on the insemination mob around every three hours. I also check on the bull with his few heifers at least twice a day and have a look at the seven cull cows and their calves daily too, to ensure they're all present and safe.


Delilah 36 has the most fabulous looking case of ringworm! Her spots are all so even in colour and shape - most of the others have all sorts of spots, some lighter than others, some rubbed and scabby.


638 is the daughter of 538, the first cow to appear with the fungal infection this season. I can't see that there's any real pattern in the timing of the appearance of the bald spots, so still can't work out where it came from. Interestingly there's a calf with spots on his face whose mother hasn't had any. I read somewhere that most cattle will develop immunity to ringworm after a bout of it, but that some animals will act as carriers, causing occasional outbreaks amongst their herd-mates. The heifers, who joined the adult mob recently, are still all clear of it.

black shag

I managed to get a bit closer to this Black Shag than I have on its other visits to our little pond. I haven't actually seen it on or in the pond, but the remains of the dead Puriri make a nice resting place on the way to anywhere else.

Saturday the 2nd
Flat 1

I very much enjoy the Putangitangi (Paradise Ducks) being around, but I don't appreciate them continually using the troughs for their bathing and ablutions! Fortunately we have endless water, so I can siphon out the muck from the bottom of that large concrete water trough on a regular basis, to keep the water clean for the cattle. When the ducks are in their all the time, it soon looks green and cloudy.

The sad pile of earth in the middle of the paddock is still surrounded by electric tape to keep the cows off Isla's grave - although the calves frequently go under the tape and climb and jump around on the mound. In some quiet moment we'll go and sort out a fence to go around it, so I can plant a couple of trees, and inter Ivy's bones with Isla.

rehanging a gate

Stephan spent the day doing odd fencing jobs. He finished off the reserve fence in the Camp paddock, installed a hotwire along the top of one of the boundaries, propped up a couple of wayward strainers and installed stays to keep them straight - like the one on which this gate has hung awry for the last few years. Now the gates hang and swing level, and can be properly latched, rather than tied with bits of rope. It must be great being physically large and able to manoeuvre big stuff on your own - I often watch Stephan in awe as he does things which would, for most of us, take two people to achieve.

There is also now a very useful set of rails on either side of the lane, (the new timber pictured behind Stephan) ready for a spring gate which will enable me to direct cattle into the first gateway without having to organise an electric tape every time, stand in the lane, or chase cattle around after they wander up the lane past the open gate into that corner paddock.

Meanwhile, I carried a length of dairy wash-down hose around on the bike and siphoned water out of lots of troughs and scrubbed them clean of all the slimy muck they've accumulated since the last time I did it.Cattle should always have access to clean water. I figure if I wouldn't drink it, why should they?

Sunday the 3rd
Irene and her calves

Irene is now Isla's calf's only source of milk, since he gradually stopped taking any from the bottle. She has a hilarious long-suffering sort of look about her as they're feeding - she knows very well there's another calf down the back, even if she can't clearly see him around her own bulbous belly. This wasn't quite what I had in mind - it would have been better if the calf had fed from Imagen, who has far too much milk for Zella - but Irene's in great condition and will probably do both these calves very well.

Stephan and Zella

Zella resisted for a long time, but Stephan has finally made friends with her. You have to sniff everything when you're a calf!

Monday the 4th
finding the new boundary line

It rained early this morning, with a useful 13mm falling.

We need to get the old boundary fence cleared and find the line for the new one where it runs down what has long been assumed to be next door's hillside.

We played around with some electric tape for a while, which was helpful in lining up a few standards between the surveyor's scant pegs, but the confirmed line will have to wait for a wire between the known points.

Tuesday the 5th
cat in a trap

Yesterday I noticed some disturbance at the bottom end of the Flat 1 paddock, with Irene, Imagen and the two calves all looking nervously into the trees along the riverbank. I went out to investigate and discovered a sizeable dead rabbit, still warm, obviously carried there by something which had had to leave its delicious kill upon my arrival.
Stephan later put that rabbit in his freezer bait box and took a bit of left-over rabbit skin from one our cats had killed overnight to bait one of the traps, which he set on the river bank.

This very large black cat took the bait and spent its last hours trapped in a box. Successful feral cats are generally found in very good condition, as was this sleek, heavy cat, which was probably dumped in the bush at some time by someone who didn't want to bother with their pet any longer.

a collapsed hot heifer

Grey heifer 607 was on heat early this morning and we watched as Queenly 23 repeatedly mounted her, at one point collapsing her to the ground, where she then decided to remain lying, for a rest.

Beggar's Tick

Stephan drove to Whangarei, two hours away, for a scan to find out why his shoulder hurts so much - we suspect this is related to being crushed under the trailer back in March.

I spent some time wandering out the back to check on the cull cows and calves there, hunted some ragwort, and on my way along one of the tracks discovered this plant which I instantly recognised. It is Beggar's Tick, with whose appearance I am familiar, having grown one in my hot-house. I pulled it and its near neighbour from the ground and was pleased to discover that they were shallow-rooted plants and therefore easy to pull. These are slightly less advanced than my hot-house plant, so we shall have to look out for them and attempt to eliminate them before they flower and seed this year.

In the heat of the afternoon I brought 607 to the yards and she and I had what felt like a potentially successful insemination experience.

Wednesday the 6th

During one of my checks on the insemination mob this afternoon I kept hearing an odd squawking noise near some of the cows and eventually spotted this very funny young Starling, bouncing around in the grass near the heads of a couple of grazing cows. The cows will often let the birds search for ticks around their faces and ears and it was as if this bird was demanding a fair go from the cows which weren't, at that moment, remotely interested.

Meanwhile Stephan was out at the office...

What a place to work! He and Terry are still being shown around the Hihi peninsula in preparation for beginning their trapping contract work. I'm pretty sure this is the beach I knew as Smokehouse Bay when I was a child and we used to sail into here occasionally.

Stephan and a Kiwi!

Some other people (and a muzzled dog in training) were also wandering around in the bush today, monitoring the Kiwi population. Terry and Stephan were nearby when a deep Kiwi burrow was discovered, and as neither of the Kiwi people could reach far enough in, they called for Terry, who's very tall, and whose longer reach discovered a Kiwi sitting on his nest with two eggs. (All Kiwi females, avian and human, are keen on such emancipation.)

The Kiwi was micro-chipped, weighed, measured, held and stroked by people who were supposed to be doing other work ...
Lucky bugger.

Sarah and Kerehoma

Sarah, Karl and Kerehoma came out to visit us, stayed for dinner and we went for a walk to see the cows.

Thursday the 7th
The old fenceline

Stephan got on with some serious fence stripping today at the top of the hill - I could occasionally see him from down on the flats.

I went out the back and picked ragwort flowers, checked cows, and later on during a check on the insemination mob, met with a bee! I wasn't watching where I was going, and the bee must have fallen into my gumboot and was caught between it and my leg as I walked - and this was the first afternoon I'd worn shorts! My body doesn't like bee venom, so I came home and downed an antihistamine tablet.

Friday the 8th

More hot cows, more inseminations ...

I was frustrated this evening to find Ranu 31 with a show of blood, indicating that a very short period of interest in a couple of other hot animals a couple of days ago was a heat, and I didn't recognise it. So, three weeks to wait until my next chance.