The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 6th of November 2010.
Saturday the 6th
pregnant heifers

The last four heifers due to calve in the next few days are now in the House Paddock so I can keep a close eye on them with ease.

mating Damsel Flies

It's Damsel Fly mating season again and there are pairs like these all around the edges of the pond. They land on a half submerged plant and the female (at rear) then bends her body down so she can lay her eggs into the underwater stem.

Sunday the 7th
Thelymitra orchid flowers

Lots of orchid flowers out together make a lovely display. Behind the log in which they grow, we have leant a pane of glass to provide some wind protection, without affecting the amount of sunshine falling on the plants. Last year I had to tie the plants to stop them being blown right over, but this seems to be working well enough.

mauve and pink flowers

The pink flower has bloomed on the plant which I transplanted at the end of last season into a pot with some of the soil from its original location, on top of some ordinary potting mix. Hydrangeas flower blue in the garden and pink in the greenhouse, and it seems that these orchids are following a similar pattern - the plant definitely had mauve flowers last year.

Nikau fronds

Stephan went out and did a bit of careful pruning of some of the young Nikau palms which grow very close to some of the fences along the bottom of the flats paddocks, bringing his harvest back to thatch the top of his new structure by the pond.

making shade

Green leaves make very cool shade - too cold this afternoon, when the wind turned to the south! The fronds will need to be tied on to stop them blowing away into the pond, but I think this will work very well.

Lilo and Peter came to visit us this afternoon and some of the animals chose that time to do ridiculous things: bull #89 pushed through a fence and started furiously rubbing himself against our planted saplings, wrecking one of them, so we had to hurriedly dash up and stop him! Then on our way back I noticed Athena 72, who had to be kept on her own for a while before she calved because she got so upset about other cows' newborn calves, was now mooing in a very distressed manner at Ranu 31 who was in the process of calving. Lilo and I erected a tape to keep Athena at a little distance from Ranu, while she got on with doing what she had to. I have no idea why Athena gets so upset by other cows calving, strange animal. I thought she would have settled since having her own calf.

Monday the 8th

The last two heifers due to calve before the exam period begins did their thing this afternoon. I had an appointment in town which I couldn't postpone or cancel, so had spent the morning watching with trepidation, hoping neither of them would go into labour just as I had to go out. Naturally that was exactly what happened.

At noon 613 was standing looking uncomfortable with her tail out. I had to go and speak to an assembly of students at 1.05pm, so I calculated that if I did that and came straight home afterwards, I'd be back by 2pm, and it was highly likely that 613 would not even have reached the feet-out stage by then.

I got home at 1.45pm and was in time to see the first membrane bag appear a few minutes later. The birth took a long time and I eventually helped. The calf was very subdued and didn't even attempt to get up for an hour. Another case in which I'm glad I got in to help in time, although when the calf is that slow, I wonder if I ought to have assisted even sooner.

Meanwhile Squiggles had been pacing around, obviously in labour. (Now that I'm writing her name again it seems such a silly word: she's officially Virago Ivy 73, last daughter of Ivy 556 of Maunu and because she was tiny at birth, at only 22kg, I called her the Squiglet and so she gets called a variety of similar names.) I've been worried about Squiggles all the way through, since the first time I inseminated her and couldn't get through her knobbly cervix. On the second insemination I gave it my best shot but didn't really think I'd be successful. At the first pregnancy testing time last summer, I got the vet to feel her cervix and he agreed that it is somehow slightly deformed. Half-way through her pregnancy Squiggles started forming her udder, much earlier than the others and that, combined with her light condition, made me wonder if she were carrying twins. Today is day 274 of her pregnancy.

If you don't want to look at close-up calving pictures, click here.

Below are pictures of Squiggles giving birth to her calf. She was quite quick about it, particularly right at the end, when the calf came out in a rush! Between the first two photos, if you look closely at the amount of face showing, you will see that the calf makes quite a lot more progress than a brief look would indicate.

Squiggles calving
Squiggles calving
Squiggles calving
Squiggles calving
Squiggles calving
Squiggles calving
Squiggles calving
the calf's face

Little new calf - that's her umbilical cord draped over her leg, not a dreadful wound.

I waited around for an hour or so while Squiggly continued looking hunched and uncomfortable, but in the end all she produced was a huge fluid-filled bag. The calf was very lively, trying to get to her feet within a minute of being born, although she wasn't entirely successful for about 20 minutes.

Tuesday the 9th
a tiny rabbit

There are tiny rabbits all over the farm. With dry weather for the last six weeks or so, I suppose they've all had time to get onto some early reproduction, and now the little bunnies have probably been kicked out of home on their own while their parents get on with raising another lot. They're very sweet looking animals, but it worries me that there are so many of them.

Wednesday the 10th

We weighed the last of the calves this evening and that seemingly very small calf born to Squiggles yesterday was a whopping 39kg, i.e. not really very small at all. She was also very upset about being handled. I hope I didn't frighten her too much and I hope she'll settle down. Some of them are really quiet and sometimes some aren't. We try very hard to give them a calm first experience of the yards.

Yesterday's other calf, the one I helped out, weighed 42kg. This calf is another of the same combination as the others I have had to assist: mother is a daughter of #43 and the calf's sire is the small-birthweight #60. Looking back through my records, the heifers themselves were not huge calves when they were born two years ago. Mind you, that was the season following the terrible wet winter of 2008, out of which all the cows came in awful condition and perhaps their calves were not as heavy as they had a right to be.

Thursday the 11th
calf in a cradle

Little one-day-old bull calf, in a nice warm cradle of logs in the Pig Paddock, where the cows and calves spent the night after coming to the yards last evening.

Friday the 12th
Clematis seed head and flowers

The Clematis vines have flowered in an average sort of way this year. I think it's a bit too dry for them to have done anything spectacular.

This is a female vine, two flowers in the foreground and a couple of seed heads behind.