Stephan's brother Edwin, brought his three very active grandsons to visit the farm today. Bearing in mind their energy levels, I asked Stephan to walk them via paddocks a little way from the maternity zones.
When you are the first calf born early, you have to have your picture taken many times.
I was out early checking cattle; with rain forecast for later in the day, I climbed the hill Over the Road to check the non-calving mob while the air was still dry. I had seen a group of animals sitting at the top from down on the driveway and all 18 were within view when I reached the top of the first slope.
There was thunder and lightning and heavy rain for a while but it cleared around lunchtime.
These tiny orchid plants are growing around the stream-side in what is now the reserve area between the Back Barn and the Spring paddocks. They may just be small Caladenia chlorostyla but the leaves seem slightly flatter, so I'm waiting to see what flowers they produce - if some nasty rat or possum doesn't eat them first.
Zella and Imagen know everyone else is getting Molasses, so when Stephan moved them from one paddock to another this evening, I suggested he take a couple of TopMilk bins and some for them too.
Stephan's sister Rachel's son and family are up here for David's grandfather's 90th Birthday celebration, so came out for a farm visit today, before heading back to Nelson. They're staying with Elizabeth and William, who also have Kerehoma and Maihi for some of the holidays. We took all the cousins out for a walk.
It's always lovely going through the Bush Flat reserve. Every time there's something new to see.
The children (big and small) built a rock dam across the stream to restrict the water flow.
On our way home we passed 718, obviously in labour and not very keen on being watched. I kept watch from the house with binoculars until I could see some feet, then went to make sure they were the right sort of feet and that things were progressing as they should. When she delivered her calf, I left her to it and returned home.
Back at home we adults sat around by the pond, watching children on the raft, until a heavy shower began to fall and we all ran inside. Floss would have been quite happy in a shower but David wanted to get her down and bring her back to the house.
718 is a stroppy madam, so I made sure she had some molasses with Magnesium this evening.
Her calf is a heifer.
Bringing the heifers out of the Tank paddock and across the stream, I looked up to see this beautiful colony of orchids (Earina mucronata) hanging from a Puriri branch. We'd seen some flowering on our walk this morning but many have not yet begun blooming. This must be a nice warm spot.
All around the farm there are suspicious-looking Pukeko sneaking around whenever we get too close to their nests. If they just stayed put, we'd rarely see them but I felt compelled to go and inspect this clump of rushes after the sitting bird ran out as I was looking at the cows.
Early this morning I found 714 with a couple of little feet at her rear, so waited while she lay down, got up, lay down, hardly seemed to be pushing with her contractions at all and eventually this little bull, with his interesting markings, was born.
When Stephan went out to check the traps, he found he'd caught a little cat! Excellent.
When he shot it, we discovered it had only a small stump of tail.
Clean and dry, 714's son looked so very pretty! I love those long, white eye-brow hairs.
Eva came down out of the scrub in the PW when I was checking the cows this morning in the sunshine, so I took her picture.
I noticed Erin 132 watching 714's calf across the fence this morning and then she went off on her own to sit by the Bush Block fence in the sunshine. I watched her from the aviary while I fed the birds. When she stood, turned and spent some time with her head to the ground, I concluded she had begun her labour.
When she'd had time to get through the first "invisible" part of the labour, I went over to Flat 5c for a closer look, finding her by then actively pushing, with two feet and a nose-bulge and tongue visible at her rear.
The calf was born without much fuss and is a bull.
There are seven cows in Flat 2, the next group I expect to calve, now getting their individual Molasses and Magnesium portions each evening.
The hay is the stuff the young cattle left there weeks ago when nobody wanted to eat it.
The two three-year heifers 749 and Fancy 126 and two-year-old Jemima 146, are making their way down the House paddock behind a hot tape.
The other seven heifers are out in the Back Barn and when I saw how dippy 775's pelvis had become, I decided to bring her and Jet 777 out of that group and on to the flats too, for easier observation.
I opened the gates between Mushroom 1 (where 714 calved) and 5d (where 607 and her calf are) so that first group of five cows could move from the Mushroom. 714 stayed there with her new calf but the others all moved in with grey 607 - and then had to be moved again, so that 718 didn't keep causing upset: she obviously thinks 607's calf is a dangerous predator when she skips and runs around the paddock and there's all sorts of uproar as a result. 718 should settle in time but it was my concerns about her general temperament which had her on the cull list last year. I think she's getting worse by the year.
I was a little concerned that 132's calf was still very inactive this morning (they "lie in" for two or three days, but will normally do a bit of skipping and dancing about when awake), so went over early to check on him. He got up and as I was nudging him toward his mother's udder, he produced that lovely thick, yellow poo, indicating he's already got feeding sorted and as I walked away from them, he was happily feeding again.
The ground is utterly sodden. I have concluded during this winter, looking at the pasture on much of the flats, that we still need oodles more lime, which wouldn't stop the rain falling but would make a difference to how the soil drains when it does.
Then to ensure nothing had the remotest chance of drying out, there was more rain. It was a nastily cold, squally day, with these horrible bursts of heavy, cold rain throughout the morning.
By 2pm the squalls were being interspersed with beautifully bright sunny periods before more cold rain and I went over to check on the cows in Flat 2.
This is Gem 698, whose pelvic dips were becoming pronounced - and that whole rump area on either side of the tail sort of ripples when everything is loose and ready for calving.
Meg 699 looks slightly less ready to calve.
There was no indication that Gem was about to start labour.
But she did and at 5.39 dropped her latest daughter as she got up from her last set of contractions and then began cleaning her up.
Meanwhile 726 had been obviously in labour for an hour or so, which included some very keen interest in 718's calf. When that interest became so intent that she wouldn't let the calf move more than two paces away from her, I asked Stephan to come and help me shift her separately into the neighbouring paddock. I possibly ought to have gone and done that about half an hour earlier, as it turned out, because she was absolutely determined the older calf belonged with her. Had we not intervened, she would have continued to deliver her own calf and would then have left it where it lay and gone off with the other one. It's much harder to fix the problem then than it is to interrupt the process before the birth occurs.
But there was another interruption to our work when I noticed a black lump by a post, where there shouldn't have been a shadow and as we got closer, could see 132's calf was oddly stuck between the lower fence wires and the post by one of the gates.
We pulled him out, checked his mouth temperature, which was nicely warm - and looking at the marks on the ground where he was, I don't think he'd been there for very long, perhaps an hour or so? We put him back in with his mother and after a bit of floppy, uncoordinated movement, he set off walking, tongue hanging out, seemingly blindly in any direction until he touched something which caused him to turn.
We left him to settle while we sorted out 726 (ended up drafting the calf's mother out of the paddock and then putting the calf through the fence to her, away from 726), but he just kept walking around and it was obvious we'd have to pen him somewhere safe until he recovered.
So we backed the ute up the lane and Stephan sat on the back holding the calf, while I drove along a little way and then went back to keep 132 following us, eventually arriving at the milking shed by the house. We bedded the calf down on some hay in the calf pen and closed 132 in the bigger yard with him. He wouldn't hold his head up and still had his tongue hanging out so I warmed some milk to try and get him going again.
He wouldn't take any. Then the strange, intermittent straining he'd been doing as we transported him home, turned into more obvious fitting and progressed to a full-on seizure. It was dreadful. But having noted his dilated pupils out in the paddock and his gradual loss of voluntary ability, I suspected he wasn't really particularly conscious of what was happening; I certainly hope not. We watched and waited, discussing whether or not to get the rifle, unsure if the strange seizure would suddenly stop and he'd go to sleep and wake up normal. Erin 132 stood over him chewing her cud, only disturbed when he called out repeatedly during one phase of the seizure. The seizure did eventually end, as did his life. Poor baby.
Thinking back over the day, I recalled noticing an odd movement along the far fenceline when I was checking one of the other cows. It was this calf, weirdly blundering along through a bit of fallen dead gorse. It struck me as odd but there were other things happening and I didn't think to go and have a closer look - calves sometimes do strange things. I think that whatever neurological mishap occurred had started then and that was him starting to blindly wander. He must have touched the fence at the end of the paddock and turned back, to have ended up where he did. We might as easily have lost track of him altogether, had he kept going and ended up in a stream somewhere far from where we'd expect to find him.
We're putting this one down to an unfortunate bit of genetic bad luck but I am well aware that this is the third known seizure event in Isla's wider family. I've been thinking back to Erin's sudden illness last December: was it actually a pain in her gut which made her behave as she did, or was something else going on then? Did I actually find her in recovery from a seizure? I don't know.
We opened the gates so Erin could go back along the lanes to her herd-mates if she wished to but could also come back to visit her dead calf where he lay.
In the mean time I'd dashed out on the bike to make sure 726 had continued her labour as expected and saw her by torch-light, with a flopping, just-born, wet calf.
The received entries will appear shortly on the Competition page.
For a bit of extra entertainment, we had a twins guessing competition too. This year they both got in calf on the same day, Saturday 2nd January, to Eva's son, bull 144. Below are the guesses received.
The photo is of Meg and her just-born daughter, born 4.07pm on 11 October, and Gem with her daughter, born at 5.39pm on 7 October (as shown further up the page).
|October||Gem 698||Meg 699|
|1||6.25am: heifer, Suzi|
|2||10.30am: bull, Suzi|
|6||9.45pm: heifer, Sue|
|7||11pm: heifer, Megan|
5am: heifer, Megan|
11am: heifer, Ruth
7:23pm: heifer, Joyce
|11am: heifer, Ruth|
|9||4pm: bull, Melanie|
|10||10am: bull, Sandy||
1am: heifer, Renée|
2am: bull, Sue
10am: bull, Melanie
9:04pm: heifer, Joyce
10pm: bull, Bernie
10pm: heifer, Sandy
1:30am: heifer, Bernie|
3.30pm: heifer Shelley
midnight: heifer, Renée
|12||11.15pm: heifer, Shelley|
8.00am: bull, Jenny
10.00pm: heifer, Jenny