The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 31st of December 2011
Saturday the 31st
grazed grass

For a long time I've been puzzling over the state of the Flat 4 paddock.  It grows grass, but not particularly well.  Whenever we've had lime or fertilizer applied, I've had it spread across that paddock more heavily than over the rest of the flats, hoping to make it right.

This is the main difference I notice when the grass has been growing well: after grazing, the cattle leave far more "residual" than in other places.  The picture to the left is representative.

I kept the cattle in here for as long as I could, but they leave so much behind - admittedly there's more Carrotweed in here than in the picture of Flat 3, below, but that's partly as a result of their reduced grazing of this paddock on earlier rounds.

grazed grass

This is Flat 3, the next paddock coming back towards our house and here the cattle will graze the grass right down to a very low level.  The grown grass looks pretty much the same in both paddocks, so the problem must be its palatability and it is that which I will obviously have to work on.  I now think it would be well worth my while to do some soil and pasture sampling of Flat 4 alone, to compare the results with the rest of the flats.

Getting the cattle to eat the grass right down is an important part of pasture management.  Had they wanted to chew Flat 4 down "to the boards" in earlier grazing rounds, there would be far fewer white flowers there now, because those plants are generally quite edible in their juvenile phase.

muddy paddock

This much mud is extraordinary at this time of year!  I should have moved the break for these animals a little earlier, although some of the mess is the result of a cow being on heat and she and the bull probably spent much of their time in one spot.

Sunday the 1st of January 2012

Nadene, editor of NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine for which I write a monthly column, came up for her first visit here today.  I've been keen for her to come, since she knows the farm quite well already, having read this site for a while before I began writing articles for her.  Over the years we've become good friends.

Monday the 2nd
Angus heifer calf

This is Squiggles' daughter, in the blackberry bushes along the Flat 1 fenceline.  I'd been watching her carefully browsing the leaves and berries.

Now that I'm not registering the calves, I haven't given much thought to naming them, there being no January deadline by which I must do so.  Perhaps I will name them instead when they're yearlings, by which time I'll have a better idea about their probable longevity in the herd.  Maybe I'll start naming everyone, not just the pedigree heifers - although, do I really want to make it even harder to send them off on a truck when their time eventually comes?

Angus bull

The two bulls have quite different temperaments.  This is #87 and I feel no concern about him grazing near me, although I'm always on the alert for any change in his attitude.  Bull #90 is a different kettle of fish altogether.  He's probably just being friendly as he comes toward me across the paddock, but that's not something I'm going to experiment with if there's any way to avoid doing so.  He still respects and responds to directions from me when I need to move him, but I'm not awfully keen on the way he approaches me when he could be minding his own business.

Tuesday the 3rd
yearling suckling her mother

This sort of behaviour is entirely unacceptable!  Dexie 101 is 46's calf from last year and here she is this morning suckling her mother.

It turned out that although she appeared to have been on heat last week, 101 was actually coming on heat today, and experiencing what must be a confusing mix of hormonal upset which compels them to act in unusual ways.  I've seen on-heat heifers attempt to suckle each other, and it may have been chance that 101 happened upon her mother's udder today.
I've not seen her doing it since.

Pukeko nest

Walking in the Pig paddock today I startled a Pukeko from her nest - if she'd stayed silently where she was, I would never have seen her, but her flustered flapping drew my attention to her clutch of eggs.

Wednesday the 4th
Angus cattle

Bull #90's mob in Flat 1 (he's in the centre, with the fat neck).

Coopers Beach

We went for a tiki-tour to the East Coast, had lunch at Mangonui, then went for a wander on Coopers Beach.

Stephan's one of those sorts of people who stand on other people's sand-castles.  The tide had been there first, but I still think it's sacrilege to desecrate someone else's artistic endeavour!


It's lovely to see the old trees in such vibrant bloom this season.

I spent much of my early childhood under these trees on Cooper's Beach.


Because the day had looked likely to be fine, we'd put the sheep out in the House Paddock for the day where they'd be in a good breeze to dry all their wool, ready for shearing this evening.

It's fly-strike season, so they'll be safer without so much wool on their bodies.

old ewe at a gate

Yvette always follows along in her own time, since she can no longer walk terribly fast.  The others had been yarded, so the gate was closed to Yvette when she arrived.  But being such a well-mannered sheep, she just waited there for someone to open it for her.

shorn ewe

Nadene acted as Rousey for Stephan as he shore the sheep, so I left them to it and went off and did my cattle-observation rounds for the evening.

This is the Tag ewe, mother of the unfortunate triplets this year - one died during birth and we're still feeding the surviving ewe.  The male lamb is doing well still with his mother.

Thursday the 5th

At the start of shearing yesterday, Stephan, in a distracted moment, caused a potentially serious injury to one of the wether hoggets.  He forgot the sheep wasn't a ewe and attempted to shear straight down his belly, without the usual detour around the pizzle.  Today I spent three quarters of an hour following that sheep around, waiting to see him urinate.  Fortunately his injury hasn't prevented him from doing so, and so he will recover.

This is a common injury in big mobs, apparently, if sheep have been missorted for shearing and the shearers are doing pens of ewes into which some wethers have been accidentally drafted.

Friday the 6th
a cat and a bucket of milk

An opportunistic cat.  We've never fed Foxton milk, since I discovered cats are not really supposed to have it, but obviously Foxton knows better.

What Stephan doesn't keep for cheesemaking ends up in a bucket out on the deck, ready to go up to the pigs.

grooming a cow

I gave Jill a cattle brush to keep her entertained while I did my checks this evening - although I had to keep an eye on her, because she didn't remember to watch where the bull was, and I didn't want her blundering into #90's personal space.

It is interesting to observe how the animals' tolerance of Jill's proximity is changing as she is.  Even Finan, the frightened cat, has now made friends with her.  I sense that animals perceive much more about our minds than we currently know.