The week beginning the 12th of November 2016.
Saturday the 12th

Some of the little calves I'd had to leave in the Spring paddock yesterday, because they hadn't gone with their mothers into the Middle Back, were still there this morning, calling hungrily to their mothers in the paddock on the other side of the muddy culvert.  I had to let the cows back through to the calves.

606 had obviously been in a wet, muddy place, so her daughter got a face full of mud, as well as milk.

I had hoped to be able to push the cows to take their calves back to the Middle Back but again, without assistance, couldn't block the other ways they could escape my intentions and eventually gave up, leaving the gate open between the two paddocks, and went off to do something more productive.  Some battles you just know you're never going to win.

sick calf

I went around to the Bush Flat to check on little sick 167 and found her in a worse state than yesterday, hair all standing out on end (indicating a fever), ears lower than normal, eyes weirdly cloudy and sunken.  She was going to die if I didn't do something about her.

I rang the vet, described her symptoms, age, and said I'd be in to pick up some drugs before noon.

We came home with several doses of injectable antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory injection whose effect lasts three days, to take her temperature down again and some electrolyte powder to get her fluids up.  Even though she's still feeding, she's hot and has diarrhoea, both of which will be dehydrating.

I mixed a litre of the electrolyte and had just fed it to her before taking this photo.  She didn't seem to be able to control her tongue very well, but had drunk successfully.  We gave her the two injections and hopefully she'll begin to feel better, rather than continually worse, as she seems to have done over the last couple of days.  I think without intervention, she would certainly have died.

calf in drain

This is the second time in 24 hours that Zella's calf has ended up in a drain.  Last evening he got a fright as I passed and bolted into one; this afternoon I went to check on Zella, who seemed to be looking intently in the direction of the drain, which made me suspicious.

The drain's sides being quite steep, I called on Stephan for assistance.  Being careful not to startle the calf so he bounded into some blackberry, Stephan grabbed him and heaved him up until he could scramble back to Zella.  He had probably been sleeping in the ferns on the edge of the drain under the fence, and toppled in when he stood up upon waking.

The bottom wires of the electric fences are turned off during calving because calves invariably head for the edges of the paddocks to sleep.  Getting shocked won't stop them doing it, so there's no point having them on, since if they go through something which stings, they then won't come back.

wood-turned bowl

Sometime during the day Stephan produced this Swamp Kauri turned bowl.  I think it might be a present for someone.

sick calf

This evening I had to interrupt 167 in mid-feed to give her the second litre of electrolyte mixture from the sachet I'd opened earlier.  She'd had a good feed by then, so it seemed sensible.  She obviously still needed the extra fluids.

Then, looking only slightly less like dying than she had earlier in the day, she started wandering off to find somewhere else to rest and with the stream all around the edge of the Bush Flat paddock, I worried that she might blunder into the electric fence (out here, the bottom wires don't turn off) and then fall in, which she'd likely not survive.  We needed to move the little mob and we needed an extra person to help ...

A lovely woman named Ruth, the friend of a friend, had arranged to come and stay for the night, just needing a bed on her trip around the Far North.  She arrived just as we came back from looking at the sick calf and, after introducing ourselves, I asked if she was accustomed to driving a manual vehicle, and we all went back out to the Bush Flat.

sick calf

Stephan picked up the calf and carried her to the back of the ute and Ruth drove slowly ahead of the mob as I made sure they all followed along behind.

sick calf

Poor little thing, so sick she didn't mind whatever we did.

The wind was really cold, so I got Stephan to put her down in the shelter of the trees in the area we stack the spare fence posts, in the lee of a big Kahikatea tree trunk and left the gate open for the rest of the mob go in to 5d.  Little calf's poo was more solid this evening, so I was hopeful the drugs were doing her good already, although her general condition didn't look very much more hopeful than earlier in the day.  I thought she'd either be dead or much better by the morning.

Sunday the 13th
sick calf

Alive!  Excellent.  Ears up, coat nearly smooth, indicating she's feeling much, much better than yesterday.

We caught her and gave her another antibiotic injection, the second of a course of five.


If we'd had more lambs, I'd intended to hand-rear one of them but with such a poor outcome, and with this ewe being such a good mother, I don't want to interfere.  I'd like to have tamed a ewe if we're going to carry on having sheep.  Maybe this will be our last sheep year.  We're undecided.  They're great to eat, but painful (for Stephan's ageing shearer's back) to shear and maintain.

cow teat

Curly's teat cuts are now healing cracks.  Cows seem quite tolerant of such injury in a place we imagine must be very sensitive to pain.  It would not do to be kicking one's calf away from her only source of sustenance, so perhaps these injuries aren't as painful as I imagine they might be.


Sometimes things are just beautiful and I have to photograph them for that reason alone.

As I put this page together, I am writing in the bright light of day but I know the picture was much more striking when I was processing it in the dimmer light of the early morning.  I like it so much it's now my computer's desktop background.  If ever you'd like a bigger version of a photo for such use, please do contact me.

Monday the 14th

These Slender Winged Thistle plants have been coming up around this (former) Puriri tree in the Frog paddock for some years and every year I intend to get out and kill them - by chipping, not poison, because that would endanger the two big trees.  I don't think I've ever managed to get here before they seeded.  Today we both came, with bags and secateurs, to remove their flowers so they cannot seed and to remove the plants so they can't flower again.


There is one other place these thistles grow and sometime we'll have to get rid of them there too.  They don't appear to spread very far nor very quickly but as they're different from the others on the farm and are present in a controllable number still, they need to go.

blocked culvert

Then across the stream (above we were in the light patch in the top right of this photo) to unblock, again, one of the culverts Stephan put in last season.  Hopefully when we fence the cattle out of the gully which feeds this water-course, less silt will come down to block the culvert.  Mostly it's sticks and bits of tree which get stuck across the opening, which then catch silt and stones, blocking it all up; and then the cattle make it into a huge mess.


Cute lamb.  They're so lovely to cuddle, if ever one can catch them.  They don't like it though, if they're not tame.


Some years ago (I can't find any reference to it in here to place it in time) Stephan set out a garden in five pieces just behind the aviary in the picture.  But Kikuyu is awful stuff and continually fighting it to keep it from overrunning the gardens was tedious and never-ending.  He has started pulling those beds out, returning them to lawn and now wants some replacement gardening space; so today he started building another raised bed.

Monarch caterpillars

The Swan plants have a large number of maturing caterpillars and I seem to be actively farming them - every morning I go out and rescue any which have fallen and are lost on other plants and when I spot wasps hovering around, I go out and slap them dead between a couple of boards and, so far, I've only seen wasps eating a couple of small ones.  I had earlier thought it was a losing battle but suddenly the caterpillars were everywhere I looked on the plants, with plenty ahead of them to eat.

Little 167 ran a little this morning as I moved her with the others from one paddock to another.  She was a bit harder to catch for her daily injection, too.

Tuesday the 15th

Sickie 167 had her last antibiotic injection today and she looks so much better, her bum is dry and she's much more active again with the other calves.  Her recovery seems miraculous, after looking so near death the other day.

On that Saturday afternoon when we started treating her, we also took a faecal sample for testing but it has yielded no information on what made her ill.  I had it tested in case it was something which then went through all the calves in her group and we'd have needed to know how best to treat them.  Fortunately that didn't happen.

stream crossing

There are a few corners in the streams where gravel collects with every flood and a couple of them are in places we can get to with the tractor.  When Stephan built the earlier raised garden beds, he half-filled them with scoria to ensure good drainage but we can't quite afford to do that at the moment, so stream gravel will fit the bill.

In the picture, Stephan was about to lift a dead bit of tree out of the way, which came down in one of the floods, then turned to his left to take away some of the gravel banked up in the middle of the stream.


By the time he brought it home, rain was falling but he wasn't stopping.

Wednesday the 16th

Last night I'd written a note in my calendar to go and look at the "super moon" at its closest to the earth in decades; but there was heavy cloud and nothing to be seen.

Calf 167 was sitting, panting with her mouth open this morning but I concluded she'd just got a bit hot in the morning sunshine and she has, after all, been extremely ill, so it would not be surprising that she is not 100% yet.

Angus bulls

I hadn't checked on the bulls for days so went out to look for them this afternoon.  Two-year-old 138 came down the track toward me and I could detect some other movement up on the ridge which turned out to be the other three.

Thursday the 17th

After contemplating the pros and cons for the last several days, Stephan went and bought a piglet.

Having reared three last year and had some difficulty in keeping up with their feed needs (not quite enough milk from our cows to feed so many) and thinking he'd like to be able to make some cheese during the summer, even two pigs would have been too many.  We are concerned about a single pig's loneliness, but Stephan says he's kept singles before and they do adjust.


Little pig came home in a sack, in the front of the ute, so Stephan could talk to her as he drove.


He let her out very quietly, so as not to frighten her.  She has been used to being one of a large mob of pigs and piglets, so this will be a big change for her.


She was quite nervous.  We ended up enclosing her in the little hut, so she had a smaller area of unfamiliarity and she burrowed in under some hay and stayed there.

Friday the 18th

Even a bald bum is better than a gooey wet one.  167 is now almost entirely recovered.  I am so very pleased.  I will always think of her as the calf who nearly died.


A fat bum is probably better than a skinny one in a sheep, but there could be limits to that.
The lambs have too much skin; I'm not sure if they'll grow into it or not, it seems to be a feature of their breed.  Stephan is looking at them with some consternation in regard to the ease of shearing them.  At least they should be smaller than their mother and aunts, so easier to handle during shearing.


Only calves are small enough to lie comfortably up the steep first slope in the PW, where they can fit on the terraced tracks the cattle have made over the years.

cows grazing

And then I moved the mob to some grass!  At last, grass long enough to wrap a tongue around.  The paddock has grown for 33 days since its last grazing, rather than that it is growing very fast yet.

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