The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 6th of February 2010.
Saturday the 6th
Waitangi Day

I drafted the bull and cull cows out of the main mob of cattle today so they don't calve during the exam period later in the year.

I have decided that since Eva 81 and a couple of the other heifers haven't yet got in calf, that I'll have a break for two and a half weeks and will then do another lot of insemination and those calves will be born a few weeks after the others. All the mothers of those calves will then be at least second calvers and come the beginning of next season's mating period, I'll put them straight out with a bull, whose heat detection will be more attuned than mine, and they will very likely come back into line with the others again.

Having decided upon that plan, I'm more relaxed about the apparently low conception rate this year. I don't want to have to cull good cows this year when I have dropped my numbers so far, and another mating cycle should see them all safely pregnant. Culling on the basis of being empty when they've only been exposed to my heat detection and AI, loads more responsibility on them than is fair, after all.

Sunday the 7th

This is a face I hope will remain in my herd for many years: 628, 572's first daughter.


I don't know what is going on in 546's mouth to cause her to dribble like this. Perhaps she has more permanent teeth growing in?

Monday the 8th
cow's teat

This is one of 475's teats, showing the sort of damage the cows suffer as the calves grow bigger. She's not in any obvious discomfort during feeding, so I presume it doesn't hurt her very much. Calf teeth are sharp and the calves apply an enormous amount of suction!

611 and 613

My two heifer friends again, 611 and 613.

613 has been letting me stroke her for a few weeks, but it took until yesterday for 611 to let me get close enough while she was standing up!

Tuesday the 9th
cattle on a hill

I mixed the ex-bull mob and the insemination mob on the flats a couple of days ago, ready to send them out onto the hills again, for the first time in many weeks.

The effect of the drought is obvious on the slopes of the hills where the Kikuyu tends not to grow and the plants which were growing are now parched.

Wednesday the 10th
bright painted dot on a tree

Stephan noticed this bright green spot when he went up the road to spray some gorse this morning. It wasn't there ten days ago when we brought the cows back down the road - it's the sort of thing we'd have noticed.

illegally abandoned dead possum

Behind the tree was this very stinky, very unfortunate possum, caught by the leg in a trap which I believe is still legal in this country. What is not legal is the trapper not having come back to check the trap within 24 hours of setting it - and it would appear the trap has been abandoned, or forgotten all together. In such hot, dry weather, the possum would presumably have died within a day or two, and has decayed very quickly.

Possums are a dreadful pest species, but that is no excuse for eliminating them in an inhumane manner.

We have no idea who has been setting the traps along the roadside.

mail collection

I did something today which has been waiting for too long: sent off a couple of lovely Kauri wood-turned bowls to the winners of the final Isla's Calving Date Competition. We just made it to town in time to give them to this man with a big bag, as he was clearing the post boxes outside the Kaitaia Post Office.

We were driving through town on our way out to see Madge Hows, our friendly ram breeder because despite my recent ram experience, it would be nice to have another lot of lambs and Madge has some for sale.

We selected a ram, sorted out the deal and arranged that we'd pick him up in a couple of weeks, whenever Madge needs him out of the way - I don't want to start tupping just yet, or the lambs will come too early in the spring.

This evening we gave the two Neospora-infected bull calves their fourth and final injection of their Neospora treatment for this time round. One is easy, but Irene senior's son, #90, hates it. When we release him from our various holds, he paws the ground in the race and then dashes out and twists his head around for a couple of minutes, obviously in some pain. We've told him it's for his own good, but he doesn't look convinced. The other calf seems hardly bothered about the subcutaneous injection. Because they're getting nearly 20ml of the drug, I have to put it into two sites each time.
We'll test them for Neospora antibodies when we do the EBL and BVD testing nearer to weaning, and if they're still antibody-positive, they'll get another round of treatment. This is experimental, based on the findings of an Italian trial which showed positive results for treatment of infected cows and calves.

Thursday the 11th
568 pressing her nose to the ground

I thought 568 was sniffing something, but she didn't move. When she raised her head to look at me, I couldn't see anything wrong with her nose, but she put her head back down and pressed it onto the ground again. Cows are weird. I presume she has an itch up her nostril.

Three cows and two heifers were on heat today. That is not good. Looks like I'll be busy on the 4th of March (three weeks time, when they cycle again). I won't inseminate them now or they'll be calving when I'm out supervising exams and although Stephan could keep an eye on them for me, it's my job to do and I don't like not being able to be present during the exciting bits.

My conception rate is very ordinary this year, and even the bull hasn't been hugely successful - nothing alarming, but not my usual pregnant-on-first-attempt record for most of them.

Friday the 12th
low cloud

Half our world disappeared this morning. By the time I reached the track around the PW, I was being rained on enough to start feeling quite damp.

There was just over 7mm of rain, not a lot to grow anything with, but sufficient to make some of the grass feel better. It's only ten days since we had the last little bit, so we get enough little bits often enough, generally speaking, to stay out of real trouble.