The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 1st of October 2011.
Saturday the 1st
heifers eating from plastic bins

Squiggles, Emma 93, Zella and 634, all have Molasses with Magnesium Oxide every night.  Squiggles also has a few handfuls of feed nuts as well, because she's so thin.
The three on the right are two-year-olds, about to calve for the first time.  Zella, second from the right, is our hopefully soon-to-be housecow.  She's the product of the Jersey semen straw I bought Stephan for Christmas in 2008 and with which I inseminated Imagen on the 20th of January 2009.


One of the twins, having a feed.

Sunday the 2nd
twin calves

I reckon these two look pretty much the same.  It's hard to know whether or not they're identical.  Time will show any real differences, or not, I suppose.  If they look like nice heifers I might decide to keep them and in that case I might test them to see if they are identical or fraternal twins.

Because their dad's dead, I might keep a few more of his daughters than I otherwise would from a first year's crop, just in case they turn out to be fabulous.

Monday the 3rd
poor two-year-old heifer

This heifer has been a poor specimen all the way through: Dexie 86.  In case she grew out better than this, I had her tested for AM, which her mother carries, and 86 has inherited the gene too.  I'll send her off to the works whenever she looks ready.

The point of this photograph was to remind me that I'd seen her with muddy sides, the first firm sign she's been on heat since she spent several weeks with Imagen's well-grown bull calf in the summer.  I didn't think he could have been fertile by then, but this heifer's lack of subsequent heat activity made me wonder.

Lilo, who milks goats, has kindly been supplying me with milk for the lamb, since I ran out of the powdered variety and the milking cows have not yet calved.  The lamb seems to be coping well enough with a number of feed changes.  She's a convenient little thing, her mother letting her hang around with her between feeds, even though she refuses to take care of her baby herself.  When I step out from the house and call, the lamb comes tearing across the paddock for her bottle and, when finished, runs all the way back to the others.  In the dark I go over to her, or she gets a bit lost finding her way back again.

Tuesday the 4th
heifer with first calf

A lot of bellowing woke us up at 4am and when I went out to check, my torchlight found two little reflective eyes wobbling around at ground level: 634, the first of the two-year-olds to calve, produced a nice little daughter.

The sire of all the first-time heifers' calves is #87.  It's always a relief to see the first of them born without any problems, confirming that the choice of bull for use over the heifers was alright.

R2 pregnant Angus heifer

Virago Emma 93 AB, the second of Demelza's daughters and the animal I spent some time swearing at and about last year, when she habitually went through electric tapes and into places I didn't want her.  Earlier this year I thought she'd slipped her calf, when she had some odd-looking mucous around her rear, but when I subsequently did an internal check, I was soundly kicked by a live calf inside her!  Based on her own gestation period, she was due to calve yesterday, but since #87 seems to have added gestation time to his calves, she's going to be later than that.

rye grass

There's a bit more of the Italian rye grass growing than I thought a few weeks ago.  Lucky, since that's really all the feed there is around.  The weather has warmed only a little and we keep being plunged back into cooler temperatures by passing weather systems.

Male Paradise Duck

There are two of these fellows sitting out on the paddocks, patiently waiting for their nest-sitting partners to produce this year's Putangitangi (Paradise Duck) chicks.  They're some weeks later than usual.  The winter was warmer than usual for most of the time, then we had quite short cold snaps late in the season, which seems to have shifted everything back by a few weeks: ducks, orchids ...

heifer calling to out-of-reach calf

634's calf found the sheltering long grass along the edge of the Flat 1 drain - the bottom fence wires are turned off during calving - but her mother didn't like not being able to get to her!  I'm not particularly keen on calves being there either, since I've had to hoist them out of the drain on many occasions when they accidentally stagger the wrong way when they get up.

Wednesday the 5th
Angus calf

634's daughter, back beside the drain again, and this time, because I wanted to shift the heifers into the next paddock, I needed to get her up.  But moving sleeping calves can be surprisingly difficult.  This one was easy enough in the end, but possibly only because I was careful: they lie curled with their eyes open, watching, but entirely still.  You'd think you could creep up and touch them, but some will spring up and bolt in any direction to get away from the danger they perceive, and it's the bolting which causes problems.  I approached this one with calming talk, then started to make a bit of noise to encourage her to get to her feet and calmly return to the paddock, so she could walk with her mother to the gate.

native orchid plant

Out in the Back Barn paddock at the north-western end of the farm, I'd spotted a lot of little orchid leaves.  I initially thought they were small sun-orchid plants, but when they didn't increase in size over a week or so, I figured they must be the little orchid I found on the other side of the hill last season.  This afternoon I noticed that most of the plants are throwing up flower buds.  They're tiny, the leaves about 5cm (2 inches) long and these buds stand less than 2cm high.

Thursday the 6th

Five heifers on their way to the front of the farm.  They're the first I expect to calve, including the remaining two two-year-olds from that young mob.  The cows in the background are standing in the corner of the Small Hill Paddock.

The ground's horribly wet, after several days of rain.

common pigeon

Damned pigeon!  It's the last remaining member of the population we introduced from down the road several years ago.  They were fun for a while, but then the messes they created became problematic and we gradually reduced their numbers.  We're trying to catch this one - and I almost managed, by jumping up underneath it as it sat on the shade structure over the deck, and grabbed its tail.  It struggled, all but one of its tail feathers fell out in my hand and, wobbling slightly, the bird flew off onto the shed.  I have a strong suspicion it's been thinking about building a nest on the house roof, although this encounter may have put it off.

Friday the 7th
cow and calf

571, who had a backwards calf last year, produced her daughter during the night and I found them together early this morning.

pregnant cows

A little later in the morning, the paddock where 571, Imagen and five others are currently grazing: the maternity paddock.

Goldfinch on Dandelion

There are Goldfinches all around the garden again.  This one was harvesting Dandelion seeds both from the fluffy white seed-heads, as well as from those which are not yet open.

They're fearless little birds, which makes them easy for Finan the cat to catch, but this little bird was safe this morning, because we'd locked all the doors to keep Finan inside, until his veterinary appointment early this afternoon.

On Tuesday evening Finan came home quite late into the evening and seemed very nervous about coming into the house, vocalising a lot more than usual while sitting out on the back doorstep.  Eventually he came in and settled, but it was obvious something wasn't quite right with him, and we eventually worked out that he'd been hurt.  It's hard to find wounds on cats and I know that bite marks are particularly tricky to spot.  Being hit by a vehicle is extremely unlikely, since Finan's such a scaredy-cat and runs away at the sound of the approach of any vehicle.  There was a bit of a bump on one side of his body.  We kept him inside for the night, letting him stay by the fire, an unusual treat.  He spent all of Wednesday sleeping and seemed much the same that evening.  Thursday he seemed a little better, but the lump was a bit bigger.  He was purring, eating and cleaning himself, so he didn't seem to be in too much danger.  But today, even though he still seemed bright enough, I thought it best we get him to the vet, especially because it would be silly to delay any longer and then have an "emergency" during the weekend.

This afternoon he had his flank shaved, an abscess drained, and now there's a tied piece of tubing keeping the wound open for further draining, a staple to hold the bottom bite mark together (I hadn't found that one) and he came home with a plastic "Elizabethan Collar" to stop him chewing at the wound.  Our poor little cat who hates strange people and plastic bags had to face a lot of strange people and the plastic thing around his neck is almost too much for him to bear!

When we arrived home, I was so concerned about his distress that we shut all the doors and lifted him out of the cat cage straight away.  What I wish the vet nurse had told me was that a cat can look calm enough when he's confined in a carry cage, but as soon as he's out in the open, may get really panicked about the thing around his head!  Finan ran at the locked cat door, then ran for the gap behind the couch, which was narrower than his collar... 

After shifting the couch out from the wall a little, we left him there to settle for a while and I went to check the heifers from the window and when I returned to the room, Finan wasn't anywhere!  The cat door had been hit with enough violence to flick it open despite the stopper on the outside and he was gone.

Cats which have undergone surgical procedures, even with only mild sedation, need to be kept safely inside until they regain their full faculties.

In the next hour Finan clambered down the river bank, crossed the stream along a narrow fallen tree trunk, then when Stephan went around to that side of the stream to try and find him, he almost flew back across the stream via the same route.  It was only Foxton's reaction, as I clambered back up the river bank, that indicated to me that Finan had headed for his usual hideout, under the deck.  I could hear his plastic collar bumping the boards beneath my feet.

Later we located him with the torch through the cracks between the decking boards, and as I lay down on the deck and spoke quietly to him, he began to purr.  By then he'd got the collar off - fortunately just under a broken deck board which needs replacing anyway, so could be lifted to retrieve the collar - and with a few minutes' coaxing, ventured out to the temptation of a plate of food, so I took a firm hold of the scruff of his neck and hurried him back inside.  Thankfully the drain and staple in his side were still in place.

pregnant Angus heifer

Eva this evening, enjoying her nightly dose of Magnesium and Molasses.

wounded cat

Poor Finan.  We tried leaving the collar off, but he kept licking around the drain, and he mustn't.

Swallow fledgling

Someone was shooting (possums, presumably) out the front somewhere this evening, so I wandered out to the bridge to see if I could see anything untoward.  It's disconcerting hearing shots being fired in the dark when you know the shooter doesn't know you're there!  One can only hope that they're careful about where their projectiles go if they miss their targets!

Shining the torch down into the stream, to see if there were any eels - couldn't see through the cloudy water after all the recent rain - I noticed this colourful little creature: a fledgling Swallow, probably from the nest its parents annually build under the culvert bridge.  After I flashed the camera a couple of times, it took to the air.  Goodness knows where it ended up.

I didn't go to bed at the end of this Friday, because on my last check I could see that Zella was in early labour, so I repeatedly walked across the paddocks to check on her in Flat 2.  Heifers are slow and it's hard not to feel impatient about the apparent lack of progress, except that there's always much going on which we cannot see and cervical tissue needs time to ease and stretch.  Just after 3am her daughter was born, with only a little help from me at the end, just because I was there.  Stephan's Christmas Present 2008 is now complete.

On the day of publication of this page, you may like to refer
to Eva's Calving Date Competition for a bit of news!