The week beginning the 29th of November 2014.
Saturday the 29th

719 kept nibbling a grass every now and then, drinking a little, keeping me hoping maybe she'd come right ...  Her calf readily comes to a bottle, so at least he's easy to deal with.

new electric fence

After checking on the heifers in the two-thirds part of the paddock Over the Road I went to inspect the fencing Stephan had been doing in the smaller part.  This is the new fence he built with Magda and Ludek last week.

We had decided it would be silly to replace the fence along the roadside when this steep bit of bank would need to be protected anyway.  The roadside fence has no potential stock pressure, being up a steep bank from the road and with this electric fence in place, our stock aren't against that section either.  The old fence can remain where it is as the boundary marker without affecting anything.

The dangerous tree is now just inside the fence, safely away from Stephan.  It was when he was pruning this tree in preparation for the fence last summer that the branch fell on his toe, almost amputating it.


Down the other side of the hill, work was progressing nicely.  Stephan likes fencing.  He likes making improvements which make the farm better.  He likes being here, not having to work away from the farm and that is one thing we have been steadily working to change over the years, so that he's now at home much more than he has to be away.

Last night the penultimate tractor payment went out of our account.  One more to go and we'll have a bit more financial flexibility again.  Maybe Stephan will half retire and stay home and work even more!

three Pilgrim Geese

The goslings (now probably too grown up for that name any more) followed me up to the Chickens Paddock (where the chickens no longer live, the pigs do when there are some and the sheep usually graze) and met Madam Goose - well sort of, except she wouldn't let them get anywhere near her.

Skylark chick

Isn't this the most extraordinary thing?  I think it looks like a mutant albino hedgehog, except for the beak.

I don't know what happened to the other egg (or hatched chick?) but this one seems fine.  It does look more like a Skylark chick than a Pipit in down colour, confirming my earlier tentative identification.

Skylark chick

It was completely silent, but when I parted the grass a little it presented itself for a feed.  It is tiny, less than two centimetres in length or ¾ of an inch or so.

Now when I walk around the paddocks, I don't want to step on the patches of long grass for fear of what I might inadvertently trample beneath my clumsy feet.  Much like the experience of being a child who won't walk on cracks in the pavement; it's very tricky and distracting.

woolly sheep

That sheep in the centre is Yvette's four-year-old daughter and I think she's a gorgeous-looking animal.  She can't see much though, because her wool's currently so long and her fabulous top-knot flops down over her eyes.  She's also huge.  We really ought to get a ram sometime and have some more lambs.

dreaming calf

I watched Julia for a little while as I passed this afternoon, deeply asleep and dreaming, her tongue lolling as she responded to whatever was going on in her head.  Funny calf.

young possum trapper

I don't like them at all, but we agreed that Lance could come out and set some leg-hold traps tonight, as long as he came back early tomorrow to check them and deal with any possums he'd caught.

Afterwards he went rabbit shooting ... no, he went shooting at rabbits, none of which he managed to hit.  Having reproven my own shooting skill, I was amused to hear what sounded like the start of another war.  Less amused over following days as I realised how easily startled the rabbits had all become and therefore less easy for me to shoot!

Sunday the 30th

I waited all this morning in building annoyance for Lance to appear.  Fortunately he found that only one possum had had to wait for him, but live-capture devices which cause pain should not be left unchecked for any longer than is absolutely necessary and necessity does not include teenage lethargy on a Sunday morning!  We had words.

Angus cows

Moving the cow and calf mob away from the flats, I managed to draft a slow and still-pregnant Emma out - everyone else left before her, so I shut the gate before she went to join them - and then brought her down the lane to join the house-cow mob in Flat 1.

Imagen and Zella are both very dominant individuals, so I hoped Emma would simply get out of their way, which she did.  It would be easy to become distracted and forget her come calving time, so best to have her on the flats where I can keep an eye on her.  She's not due for another couple of weeks and if the weather is less than fine, she should have some Magnesium during that time.

719 was not improving.  Thursday would have been better, as I suspected, but this afternoon when he came home for lunch from fencing, Stephan shot her for me.  I prepared the calf's bottle and drew him away from her with it and we both jumped at the very loud shot and the suffering was ended for my lovely heifer.  Little calf followed me along with the bottle as I led him toward the house cow mob in Flat 1, although I had to ask Stephan and Lance to follow him along for a while when he got a bit confused about being alone.

Angus cattle

I ran to get him to follow me across the paddock to the other cattle, where he settled down and became one of them.  He called a bit for his missing mother over the next couple of days, but at least we'd got his feeding well established by now, so physically he was alright.  Poor sad calf with nobody in the world to press against.

I then set about conducting a post-mortem examination on 719.  There is a page with pictures and description if you are interested, but it's not for the faint-hearted.  If you're sure, click here.

719 had serious peritonitis, but I could find no evidence of any uterine rupture, which was the vet's presumption (and that of a couple of other vets with whom I discussed the case).  My vet and I did discuss the possibility of nerve damage, evidenced by 719's partially collapsing left leg during labour and again when she was infected and that some bladder paralysis was also possible as a result.  If that were the case it might prevent proper urinary evacuation, setting her up for a bladder infection.  My earliest thoughts were of bladder infection as a result of the calf being where it was for too long, keeping the urethra open to the outside world.

What was startling when I found it was the awful state of her bladder.  Another veterinary suggestion I received was that the calf, stuck for so long in one position in 719's pelvis caused a pressure necrosis in her bladder, i.e. pressed for too long cutting off blood supply causing cell death, which either itself then caused the massive deterioration, or set in train a lot of infection in the bladder.  But another opinion suggests that's like hearing hoofbeats and thinking they're zebras not horses: the most common problem in recently calved cows is most likely to have been 719's problem; that a uterine infection would cause peritonitis even without rupture, would infect the bladder because of its proximity and once peritonitis sets in, the animal is usually beyond hope.

But I am still really suspicious about my early observation of the strong ammonia urine patches and the instantly-dead grass where 719 leaked while lying only a couple of days after calving, earlier than the usual onset of uterine infections.  I reckon there could be a Zebra in there somewhere ...

I suspect 719 suffered a great deal, although her apparent wellness through the three weeks between the end of the first lots of antibiotics and her recent deterioration is curious.  Watching her over that time I was concerned that she was very thin, but bearing in mind her calf's very good weight-gain, I put it down to her producing a lot of milk for her fast-growing son.  It may also have been that she was fighting hard against what was going on in her bladder.

Whenever I've had a long calving, I've been reassured that things were alright because in all cases here the calves have survived.  It had not really occurred to me that the presence of a calf in the pelvis for a long time could cause real damage to the mother.  But I suspect this was also a fairly unusual problem.

burying a cow

While I continued my examination of 719's innards, Stephan dug a big hole by the driveway.  When I'd finished we hauled the bits which were no longer attached to her across to the hole and then he put chains on her legs and lifted the rest of her body to her grave.

This is the first heifer I've lost from calving complications and a real knock to my confidence.  There were many things I could have done differently which may have changed the outcome.  One lives and must learn.

Here is 719's birth picture.

dead rabbits

I went over to Jane's garden this evening, since she is experiencing the same rabbit population explosion as the rest of the farm.  I popped a small one off on her lawn and another in the paddock after it had dashed out of her orchard area.  I still feel a sense of surprise when my careful trigger squeeze causes my prey to jump up and fall down dead - not surprised that I hit them, but it's such a violent thing to do and so very effective.

Monday the 1st of December
Skylark chick

Weird little bird.  It seems so vulnerable here on the ground in the grass.  I always ensure that I cover it well with the grass I part to find it.  But a hungry hedgehog, cat or rat could easily find and eat it.

Angus calf

Some calves are really silly and disappointing.  This is Emergency's daughter 142 and she regularly runs away from me in startled horror.  It makes it really hard to get her to go through a tricky gateway when she's been left behind.  I had to give up and go away, leaving her to work it out on her own.  Her mother will probably come back and collect her from the neighbouring paddock.

new fence

Nice fence!  Battened, hot-wired on top and middle, looking good!

The Council have decided, after some serious lobbying by someone who must have a lot of clout, to seal patches of our road where it passes close to houses, because of the dust nuisance associated with the logging trucks.  Behind me were a digger and truck, working on the gutters on either side of the road where it will be sealed.  In the picture is the "end of road works" return to open-road speed sign: 100km!  I'd not like to see anyone try that.

Tuesday the 2nd
calf feeding

Another year, another calf on the blue feeder Fran and L-J gave us.  We've kept a spare new teat in the drawer each year now, since we have needed to use it so regularly.  Thank goodness for Zella and the lovely milk to put in it.

Skylark chick

Little Skylark has its eyes open.

young geese

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat ...

I have no intention of eating either of these though, unless they become problematic.

Wednesday the 3rd
two female geese

Madam Goose finally left her nest and I enticed her up the track to the House Paddock so she could pretend to be a member of the sheep flock again.  She came to eat some maize when I fed the other geese, but I don't think they instantly liked each other.

Angus heifer and calf

What a nice bum!

This is Dexie 121, daughter of Dexie 101, also the heifer who ingested some highly poisonous plant material when she was little.

Her calf is looking really nice and I'm impressed by Dexie's great condition, as a two-year-old daughter born to a two-year-old heifer.  Such animals often don't do as well as those born to mature mothers.

Thursday the 4th
electric fencing

This bit of electric fence will protect the bottom of a gully where the water has cut through very deeply and which we've had taped off from the cattle for the last couple of years.  It joins the next bit of the fence shown at the top of the page.  We've deliberately left a nice sitting area where the cattle always gather, under the big Totara trees.  No grass grows there, but the cattle very much enjoy the cool during hot summer days.

bottle-feeding a calf

Orphan 765 is still on three feeds a day, until I gradually increase his morning and evening feeds enough to satisfy his nutritional needs.  I don't want to suddenly change how much he gets at once, so will make the change over several days.

If you give a calf too much milk, or change its feed regime suddenly, it can become uncomfortably ill.

Skylark chick

Strange little bird is growing feathers now.  If you look closely, you'll see the black of its open left eye just above the corner of its huge mouth.

Angus cow and calves

Gem 698's son (in the middle) is a very large calf, looking almost the same frame size as his sister, Meg 699's daughter.  I don't think the six week delay in Gem's calving is going to end up being at all significant.

Friday the 5th
a very large puppy

Several weeks ago I spotted a grabaseat fare on Air New Zealand (the airline which won't give a damn about Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport from next April) for $20 to Auckland and grabbed it, not worrying too much about how I might get home.  For $20 I could still choose not to go at all, if it didn't end up being suitable.  This is entirely unlike me; I used to need to have everything tightly organised, take luggage and clothing choices to cover any eventuality.  These days I do it all with a great deal less stress.  I leave early enough so I never have to worry about being late, know that I rarely need more than fresh under-garments for a couple of days away, always take ear-plugs in my bag (because small planes are noisy) and figure what will be will be and if the plane falls out of the sky, I've had a lot of fun.

Contributing to my relaxed approach is a sense of absolute emotional exhaustion.  I've had quite enough of the things which have gone wrong this year and I'm going to go away and not think about any of it for a couple of days.

We went to the airport and found Heidi, who buys my calves most years, with this enormous (I think she said six-week-old, but could have been eight weeks) puppy!  Heidi asked Stephan to hold it for her while she made some adjustments to its travel cage, in which it was to travel in the back of the plane to Auckland.  I did not hug Stephan good-bye; I dislike the smell of dog.  He refused to take his shirt off.

The puppy whined and cried at various points in the flight and I'm glad I knew it was there, or I'd have been perturbed by the noise and wondered about tortured stow-aways.


In Auckland I caught the airport bus, my new favourite mode of transport into town, since it's actually very quick and makes it much easier for others to meet me than having them come out to the airport.  It's also vastly cheaper than a shuttle or taxi and shuttles often end up going all over the place before one gets dropped off.

I leapt off the bus at Mt Eden to meet Nadene, friend and editor of New Zealand Lifestyle Block Magazine for lunch at Olaf's Artisan Bakery, where we shared a couple of wicked sweet things and Nadene bought some lovely bread to take home and a delicious tart for me, which I took to Jude's and shared with her before the children came home.

The event for which I travelled was nephew Jasper's graduation from Te Whanau Whariki at Richmond Road Primary School.  (I attended the same event with Stella two years ago.)  The children all receive a Korowai, a cloak, from their families upon graduation, often especially made for them.  Jasper's has his favourite monkey in the centre, Nikau palms (the plant under which his placenta was buried) and lots of musical notes.  He likes reading a great deal, so much that he wanted to dismantle an old book and use its pages to create leaves for his Korowai.

This time Jude knew not to leave her crafting of this garment until the last minute, as happened with Stella's one.