The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 3rd of July 2010.
Saturday and Sunday

It was quite a nice day weatherwise on Saturday, but I spent most of it writing for the website. I did the same on Sunday, which was a bleak wet day, during most of which I had to have a light on in my office, and kept the fire going for warmth.

Monday the 5th
Stephan, pig hunter

Stephan went out just before dusk to see if he could find the pigs I saw last week. He found them in the Back Barn paddock and followed them for a little while until he shot one with the .303 rifle. The red at its shoulder is where the bullet came out.

Tuesday the 6th

Ella arrived to stay with us this morning, flying for the first time on her own, all the way from Whakatane.

huge lice on a dead piglet

That little dead piglet was carrying a huge population of lice and they were seriously nasty looking creatures! The big ones were about 5mm long. As the body cooled, the lice crawled to outside of the pig's hair.

children heading out to work

Mathew brought his four boys out this afternoon and they and Ella headed out to the Pines paddock with Stephan to do a bit of fence clearing.

When Stephan was refurbishing the fence which separates the Pines and PW paddocks he discovered an old barbed wire fence down around the bottom of the pine trees, only some of which was still standing up. Such fence remnants are potentially very dangerous for the cattle.

carrying old fence wire

I followed Dylan and Liam down the hill after I went up to see how they were getting on. Mathew suggested they use an old fence batten to carry the coils of wire.

Perhaps we should have had children. But if we can borrow these ones from time to time ...

Ella and the sheep

When the others had gone home, we got the sheep in to the yards for a 5in1 vaccination, for the protection of the lambs when they're born.

A ewe vaccinated at the right time will produce lots of antibodies in her colostrum, the first milk, against the some of the diseases which will kill lambs. In ruminants the way in which resistance to diseases is passed from mother to baby is via the colostrum ingested in the first few hours of life.
I would generally vaccinate the ewes two to four weeks before lambing, but because they haven't been done for a couple of years - and the young ewes perhaps not at all - I decided to give them a sensitiser now and a booster shot in another four weeks.

The roundest ewe is Dotty, who nearly always looks like she has a belly full of lambs. She'll get a lot wider yet!

Then it was Imagen's turn for some attention. For many weeks when processing Imagen's milk, I've detected what is probably a sign of a low-grade mastitis type infection in her front two quarters. I spoke to a couple of the vets about it and we decided that it would be prudent to treat her when we were ready to dry her off for the season.

This evening we took her into the yards and weighed her, then enticed her into the head bail with some molasses, and I injected her in a neck muscle with a mastitis antibiotic. It would be far easier to inject her in the rump, but that is not an acceptable site in any cattle animal which will end up at the works, because of the potential muscle scarring and consequent degradation of the meat. The neck muscles are the "cheaper cuts" in the butcher store, and so the neck is where injectable treatments go.

For the next three milkings (her last for this lactation) we will have to discard the milk, because of drug residues.

The big surprise of the evening was the number on the display as Imagen stood on the scales platform: 706kg. What a monster! She doesn't really look that huge to me. I knew she'd be well over 600kg, but hadn't thought of her being quite that heavy. It meant we had to use a larger drug dose than the average dairy cow would receive.

Wednesday the 7th

Stephan went off to do a day's trapping, leaving Ella and I to entertain ourselves together.

At the end of the day we walked Imagen into the yards again, ready to give her the second of three injections as soon as Stephan arrived home to help.

Today, in case you had not noticed, is this website's official birthday. It is NINE! That's a lot of years of writing about some lives. The longer I go on, the less I feel I could possibly stop. As a personal and farm resource, it has been enormously valuable. But much of the pleasure has been in writing with the discipline of knowing other people will read it. That means I can't not keep reasonably up to date, and I must write tolerably well. I've had to research things outside my current knowledge, and have spent hours thinking my way through issues I wanted to explore, things I might otherwise not have given much time to in an organised way.

But the best thing of all, as I've often written, is having contact with a variety of people from many parts of the world, who've stumbled on The Farm in Diggers Valley when they've been looking for something else. Out here on our little gravel road, in dial-up internet land, where we often see no more than a handful of people in any week, being part of the World Wide Web had been fabulous. Thank you all.

Thursday the 8th

The strain of solo child-care must have been too much, laying me out with a migraine for the day. I always feel as though I have a dreadful hangover, with none of the possible excitement of the night before. This cannot be fair!

Stephan and Ella went to town and obtained 160 dead battery hens from an operation which is closing down. They then spent the afternoon at Terry's place, with whom Stephan does most of his trapping work, cutting them up and salting them down, to be used as bait in traps. They only managed to process about half of the bodies, so brought half of the remainder home to finish tomorrow.

One last injection for Imagen this evening. Imagen's a wonderful cow, as occasionally grumpy (by which I really mean insistent on her own terms being met) as the rest of her family - Ivy, Isla, Abigail et al. - but tremendously cooperative, especially considering the things we've expected of her. She wasn't altogether happy to go in to the yards this evening, but thankfully I didn't have to move very quickly at any point to get her to do so. I've thought each evening that she seemed to stagger a little when I let her out of the bail, and put it down to the way she was moving her neck because presumably it hurt. But thinking about the construction of the bail and its operation with Imagen's neck in place, I wonder if it's a bit small for her and that when she was standing there, we'd squeezed her neck tight enough to restrict the blood flow to her brain! She was certainly very still when I was jabbing her - a very good thing from my perspective. She's ok, but I'll bet she would be glad to know that was the last injection!

Friday the 9th

Ella and I went over to the yards with Stephan this morning for Imagen's last milking, but she wouldn't let Stephan near her. We put her in the race and she wouldn't touch the molasses either - a very suspicious cow after I'd used it to get her head into the head bail three times!

After milking her out (not very much milk today) Stephan injected an intramammary "dry cow" drug into each teat, as a belt-and-braces attempt to knock any infection on the head. All of these treatments have both meat and milk withholding periods before either can be used for human consumption, which is why we didn't want to treat her in the middle of her lactation.

processing dead poultry

Stephan and Ella spent the morning up at the shed, chopping up more dead chickens. The smell of them was overpoweringly awful and I doubt any of us will want to eat any sort of chicken again for a long time. There's something extremely unpleasant about the smell of the sad birds which come out of those places.

a worried Imagen

After she'd had a bit of time to settle down in the Pig paddock, I went to get Imagen and take her out to somewhere she won't see Stephan each morning. (The vet suggested we should remove her from anything which might stimulate her to let down her milk.) But as I went into the paddock she ran away from me and hid behind the pig sty. In the picture she'd stopped for a moment to see where I was, then carried on into the far corner. Poor thing.

When I walked quietly in to turn her out again, she spotted the open gate down the other end, away from the yards, and ran for it, out the gate and across the bridge. She was a very unhappy cow. I hope we've not stressed her out to a calf-endangering degree.

The three of us walked Imagen and the steer out to the Mushroom 1 paddock.

Ella and the heifers

Ella, followed by a lot of heifers in Mushroom 2, as we were heading for the gate to move them into Mushroom 3.

opossum skulls

Stephan checked his trap in the Bush Flat reserve while we were walking, then he and Ella picked up all the possum skulls from around the poison bait stations and lined them up together.


Ella was amused by Imagen's makeup and hair adornment when we came back past her paddock, suggesting Imagen must be getting ready to go out for the evening.

sun glint on a faraway fence

I had to take a photo of the hill in the PW, to see what the odd looking strip of light colour was. It didn't look like it was in quite the right place to be the fence, but indeed that is what it was.

The new wires haven't been there for long enough for us to have noticed this before. The sunlight's angle changes a great deal between summer and winter.