It being a beautiful, warm and sunny morning, I went out to take photos of the cattle.
579 is a daughter of 446, daughter of 360, daughter of one of the first eight heifers I bought at Broadwood. 360 was a rangy sort of animal, partly inherited from Bertrand, her sire, whose daughters were uniformly 'hard keeping', but those which stayed in the herd did so for some time and gave me no trouble - always got in calf, always raised good calves. They just always looked skinny and as if I could never give them enough to eat!
446 was a lovely cow, but two of the three bull calves she produced were absolutely huge at birth, and she had a fairly stressful time getting them out, with some help from me; 579 is her only daughter and I really like her conformation. I watched her give birth to her first calf this season without bother, in this fairly good year when the calves were probably quite well resourced during gestation, so I think she'll be around for some time.
It's quite hard taking pictures of cows accustomed to my presence, because they'd as soon come over and investigate me as stand nicely to have their portraits taken.
545 and her daughter 661.
545 is not a particularly good-looking animal in terms of her body conformation, but she does the job, raising a good calf each year without trouble. I haven't yet kept a daughter from her, but I may give some more thought to that possibility. 661 is one of the quieter calves this year, one of the few to voluntarily approach me.
Sarah had some chicks from William and Elizabeth, and most of them have turned out to be hens, which meant they were suffering overcrowding in their Auckland cage. Sarah, Karl and Kerehoma brought two of them to live at our place, about which we're very happy, since our own chick rearing exercise completely failed late last year. These two little hens are exactly a year younger than ours, so they should lay as last year's hens did, right through the winter, from whenever they start to lay.
After a week of very cold weather, the warm sunny days have resulted in huge numbers of wasps flying around, gathering wood pulp from anywhere and everywhere. Climbing over gates or yard rails has to be done with extreme care, because there are wasps on so many surfaces.
The twins are noticeably behind the other calves in their growth and it is obvious that they are not getting quite enough milk for their needs. To improve their situation, I decided to remove them from the main mob and put them in with the bull calves and their mothers, who, as a smaller mob, are getting a slightly better level of feed. The bull-calf mob is not yet in this paddock of lovely grass, so the twins and their mother have a head start on feed gathering.
568 needs more feed to produce more milk and now that the calves are getting a significant portion of their feed needs directly from grass, I need to provide them an uninterrupted supply of that too. If I can keep them on this sort of feed, they should look significantly better in three or four weeks time.
Getting the three animals through the gate out of the main mob was a clever bit of stock work! I called Stephan over to give me a hand, and he held the gate and I walked the two calves and then their mother through the other cows until we could get just them to go through to the other paddock. With that much lovely grass on the other side, the rest of the cattle were keen to outwit us and get through the gate too.
Most of the cattle moved from the flats out to the PW again today - and this time the gates up the top are shut.
I managed to draft 604 and little 645 out of the mob and in with the twins and 568, thinking that I'd better make sure cow and calf can do as well as possible as quickly as possible to allow him to catch up a bit with the other, older calves.
Demelza also came out and she and fat 572 are to go onto a maintenance diet. Neither needs the level of feed they've been getting.
As the rest of the mob were leaving the 5b paddock, Eva hung back and I thought about the extreme stress I've been experiencing whenever I think she's lost and fallen down a hole in those tricky dangerous hill paddocks, and let her stay behind. She's got so big and is starting to get fat, so I then put her with her mother and 572. Last year the R3 first-time-pregnant heifers all wintered with the cows and they did as well as they needed to - with the exception of 568, but I didn't then know about the twins. I'll watch Eva's condition, but I wouldn't like to see her any fatter than she already is and with our intended stocking rate for this winter, the cows will be getting enough feed for Eva to do well with them.
The Hedge Mustard keeps showing up in the first area I discovered it, although to a much reduced degree. It's taking a while to eliminate it.
We've left it quite late - not too late - to put the ram out with the ewes this season. This is the ram we bought last year.
The lambs and the two ewes we don't want pregnant, had to be drafted out of the main mob, before the ram was introduced. Yvette and Lamb are not going to have any more lambs. Lamb has no milk any more and Yvette is suffering more and more from old age and general deterioration in condition. She doesn't look too bad at present, but she's not nearly as robust as she was last year.
Mr Ram has three companions this year, Dotty and her two daughters. I put raddle stripes on the two younger ewes so I could tell from a distance who was of interest to the ram.
Damara 74: she'd just finished emptying her bowels, which is coincidental to the purpose of the photo, which is to show the traces of bloody mucous stuck to her hair. This is very disappointing. The others were mounting her the other day, which concerned me, and is presumably explained now by this evidence of a spontaneous abortion.
I am concerned that this is the second year a high-production heifer has slipped her next pregnancy.
The cows and bull calves were grazing the top of the paddock with an electric tape restricting them to a reduced area, and the twins, the youngest steer calf and their mothers had the rest of the paddock. They're not going to run out of feed for a while!
In a day or two I'll mix the two small mobs together.
Three weeks ago I watched as Imagen's bull calf spent his day mounting and attempting to mate with on-heat Dexie 86. It would surprise me if the bull were fertile already, but I noted the date so I could check that 86 was on heat again three weeks later. She is, and the bull calf is keen again.
Dexie 86 is eighteen months old and because she's such a poor-looking animal, she did not join the yearling mating group this season. These two animals share a sire and Imagen's bull calf is the only calf from that bull which has looked any good at all in my herd. The rest have been poor-doers, light-boned, scraggy-looking things. Last year's steers have grown out alright, according to the farmer who bought them, but if they don't look good early on, they don't get picked for my herd.
I tested Dexie's tail hairs, thinking that if she were clear of the defect her mother carries (AM), I might reconsider, but her results came back the other day, and she is, like Dexie 46, AMC, a carrier of the defective gene.
A New Zealand Pipit, Anthus novaeseelandiae, or Pihoihoi (pronounced pee-hoy-hoy). I have no idea what it was doing on the roof, since I generally see them out along the tracks, flitting away as I ride toward them on my bike.
Stephan called me out to look at what he had first thought was a drowned cat at the bottom of the small pool in our garden. I think the hole in the middle of its back is where he poked his finger into it to check what it was. It wasn't an entirely outrageous thing for him to think, since any furred creature submerged in the streams around here, is soon coated in fine silt.
Today we went to a field day up north. You might, if you live somewhere that isn't the Far North, wonder that it is possible to go "up North" from here, but it most definitely is, for at least two hours by car! Today's field day was up near Henderson Bay, about forty minutes from Kaitaia.
We looked at pasture renewal and management, cattle, sheep, and pasture pests. Beef + Lamb NZ run these events and they're generally well worth attending.
These dead patches and little dead clumps of grass, are caused by the underground root grazing habits of the black beetle grub.
With so many utes in our convoy, the sharp right-hand turn choreography was a delight to watch as everyone took their turns to go through one gate, turn around a small circle and exit through the other. Actually not quite everyone: one smarty with a good steering lock went directly through the gates.
When we arrived home, we found we'd probably brought a hitch-hiker with us. Dr Jenny Dymock, entomologist, had spoken at the start of the day about the Kikuyu-eating Tropical Grass Webworm, which causes significant damage to pastures around the Aupouri Peninsula (the skinny bit up the top of the country). She also showed us examples of a parasitic wasp which was introduced to attempt control of the TGW. When I saw this one on Stephan's boot which had travelled home on the back of the ute, I asked Jenny if it were one of hers? She tells me it is Lissopimpla excelsa, an Australian import, which parasitises the TGW and also the Tomato Fruitworm, Helicoverpa armigera.
I need to make a decision about this heifer, daughter of Irene 35 and GDAR Traveler 044. The sire is the one whose progeny in my herd have been mostly unimpressive, and while I want to keep a daughter of Irene's at some point, I'm not sure that this one is the right one.
They both have Neospora (assumed in the case of the daughter, because she will most probably have been infected during gestation), so when I do keep one of Irene's daughters, she'll have to be a good one. Any pregnancy they carry is at risk of early failure.
Taurikura Irene 698, Irene 35's mother, carried her pregnancies successfully until 2008, when her calf died early in the second trimester and was then mummified and not delivered until about four months later. There are pictures of that calf here, if you wish to see them. It was then that I discovered we had Neospora in the herd, and could trace back through a few other families to earlier events, whose significance we had not recognised at the time. (Irene had probably been infected on her previous farm, but some of the other cattle which were here when I first arrived, probably also had the infection.)
I wrote a description of Neospora at the time we first received the positive test results.
Irene 35's younger sister carried her first pregnancy successfully, but lost her second and I culled her from the herd. So far Irene 35 has produced a live calf every year and last year's calf was bull 89, used during mating until he was injured. Bulls don't pass on the infection to their cows or calves, so it is worth keeping a Neospora-infected pedigree cow, because if her breeding is good, her sons can be used to "breed past" the infection.
We have experimented with a treatment regime recommended by an Italian study, but without success.
Back to town again. Today's major engagement was at the Vet Clinic, where I announced the appointment of the new CEO. We have, after extended and careful deliberation, made our selection and I am very pleased that part of the process is complete. It has been an unsettling time for the clinic's staff.