The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 17th of November 2012
Saturday the 17th

I spent all day today supervising NZQA Scholarship exams.  Saturday exams are rather nice: the school is quiet and there are rarely more than one or two students sitting.

Sunday the 18th

In a small area beside the stream in the Back Barn Paddock, grow some strange tiny orchid plants.  I haven't worked out what species they are yet, but I'm watching and waiting to see how they develop.  I found this tiny caterpillar chomping its way down the flower stem of one of them.

native orchid

This one though, still appears intact.

native orchid

On a Totara tree under which I passed as I left the area, I noticed a number of epiphytic orchids and found this very small young plant.  This is the smallest of this species I have yet noticed.  I find it amusing that I'm finding that all the orchid species I've found so far are much more common than I first thought.  I can only wonder how many others are also here, but I have not yet seen them?

Angus cows and calves

I moved the 17 cows and calves this afternoon, put them all in their paddock and shut the gate.  When I rode back along the Windmill lane, I saw one lonely little calf, away down the other end of the paddock.  It's quite hard to count calves amongst cows as they all crowd through a gateway, so I had assumed my count to 16 had simply missed one.

Angus calf

The reason why she hadn't gone with the others became obvious when she got to her feet and limped uncomfortably, favouring her left rear leg.

I had to take pictures to see her tag from afar and it turned out to be 731, 657's little daughter, who had the funny left leg joint just after she was born.  Watching her limping though, I thought it looked much more like she had a sore foot.

I left her where she was, because she seemed quiet enough and it would be hard to get her mother back out of the new paddock to come back to her immediately.

Later, in the early evening, I brought 657 back to find her daughter, then quietly walked the two of them in to the yards.  I managed to grab hold of the calf's foot at one point and slipped my finger through between her toes, but couldn't feel anything amiss - I thought there might be a stone caught between the two claws.

In the yards, with a very snotty (upset and irascible) 657, who didn't like being alone with us in the yards, we took the calf out of the way into the race, Stephan upended her and I felt between her toes again in the other direction, dislodging a nastily sharp stone.  We let them both back out again very quickly and they made their way back to the rest of the mob.

Stones between toes in cattle are a silly design problem, which fortunately doesn't occur very often.  All the animal needed to do to dislodge the stone was to stand firmly on her foot, which would splay the toes and let the stone drop out; but because the presence of the stone hurt her, she wouldn't stand on her foot properly, so it stayed there.  It was easy to fix, and I'm pleased I got onto it immediately, so she could go back to her normal life in comfort.

Cabbage Tree

The Cabbage Tree I worried about back in July appears to be healthy still.

native orchid

A lovely orchid near the fallen Pine Tree.  It was hard to find the orchid plants I noticed last year, because the whole area is changing quite quickly, now there is far more light reaching the ground and the undergrowth and seedlings are responding.

These flowers are no bigger than a small finger-nail, so they're not very easy to spot.

Monday the 19th

Stephan and I moved the mob of 19 cows and calves this evening, up into the PW, which involves getting them around a tricky corner, without having them scatter through two spring gates in the wrong directions.  They moved beautifully.  They've reached that age when they behave like cattle sometimes, not just like playful babies.

Wednesday the 21st
succulent flower

Another beautiful succulent flower.  I haven't seen one like this ever before.

Friday the 23rd

It keeps raining in the afternoons again.  Funny weather.

"Carrot weed"

On farms where there are not enough cattle to eat it when it is young, the Parsley Dropwort (popularly referred to as Carrotweed) with the white flowers, covers the paddocks.  Here the cows have been eating the juvenile plants for many weeks amongst the other plants and so very little of it is maturing in the grazing areas.  It's a hard balance to get right: enough cattle to eat it all probably means you don't really have quite enough grass (as I've experienced this season) but without enough grazing pressure, it can really get away.  The problem with it is that once the flowers are mature, their stems are hard and unpalatable and get in the way of the animals' easy grazing.

The new plants are counted amongst the "herbs" in grazing quality assessments and are quite nutritious.  I've also watched my cows and most of the calves quite deliberately eating the flowers, but once the plants flower, because there are so many of them, the cattle never manage to clear a paddock.

Some people spray to kill it, but that requires annual applications of chemicals and I don't like having to use spray like that on large areas, especially when the plant can be managed in other ways and is not toxic to the animals.