The week beginning the 24th of September 2016.
Saturday the 24th

It rained this morning, so the streams were flowing a little faster than usual when I went out to move the cows.

The cows came out of the PW and I drafted 718, who I expect to calve on the 4th and her mother, 475, who's looking a bit thin, out of the mob and up the lane toward the flats, while I directed the others over the other crossing and up into the Swamp East.  Curly and Endberly decided to be last.

We went out to Elizabeth's and William's place for dinner with nephew Samuel, as he's about to leave the country again in a few days.  Heavy rain had been forecast but we hoped it wouldn't be too dreadful while we were out.  We had a lovely dinner and evening, left there at about 10.20 for the half-hour journey and travelled to within a kilometre of home when we found our way blocked by water flowing over the road.  We noted where stones had appeared above the water and watched for a while as others appeared, so knew it was definitely going down.  I didn't really want to drive all the way back to where we'd been for a bed for the night, when it looked likely we'd get through in about the same amount of time, so we waited.

About an hour later there was a blaze of light behind us as three vehicles came around the corner and over the little bridge.  As they drew up beside us, I realised the first was a police car and then as it pulled forward in front of us, so were the second and third vehicles, one with dogs barking in the back!  They gingerly drove through the water and seeing them successfully do so, we followed and then they mysteriously pulled over to the side of the road again on the other side.  We enquired if they were lost and they were very cagey about their activities.  We asked if there was any reason why we might not go home and were asked for our road number, to which they assented and so off we went.  Goodness knows what that was all about.

The next corner was surprisingly clear of water and driving in the gateway just after midnight, we found that the water over our bridge was wadable (Stephan got out to measure it on his legs) and so I followed through with the car as soon as I could see how shallow it was.

Sunday the 25th

We had a beautifully spring-like day on our first Daylight Saving day, sunny, clear and warm.

Angus cow

What's this?  Erin 132 still wasn't very sure about Molasses and Magnesium, even as it was presented to her for the third time this week.


Still on the trail of the nocturnal feral chickens out the back of the farm...

Every day or two I go around putting a small amount of Iodine in the troughs of the pregnant cattle.  The heifers are out in the whole of the Big Back, so I did their two troughs this evening and found fresh Kiwi prints in the sand by the stream, which must have been made after the water went down last night.

Monday the 26th

Jacob, now on school holidays, phoned early and came over on his bike, because I told him we needed to go out and move cattle and I couldn't afford the time or energy to walk.

As we rode along the track, a Putangitangi flapped up from the grass in the drain reserve and unfortunately Jacob didn't immediately stop, as I would have done, to allow her time to get out of the way.  She flapped away from us through the fence in panic and the chicks all came tumbling out of the grass toward us.


Mother bird flew over the track and landed near the chicks, dragging her wings and pretending to be mortally injured (as in the "today's photo" you see if you click on the picture of the chicks in the grass), until they had all moved a more comfortable distance away from us, when the male (with the black head) joined them too.

I have not seen the chicks since and suspect they may have met some horrible fate soon after they moved.  The parents are still on the flats, calling as though they have chicks, but normally I'd see them at least occasionally.

I heard the first Pipiwharauroa (the migratory Shining Cuckoo) today.  They're always a little later here than in other neighbourhoods where people publicly report the first one heard each spring.

Tuesday the 27th

We used a chunk of our 10GB internet allowance to live-stream the US Presidential Debate this afternoon.  I knew lots of the radio commentary I listen to would be discussing it and wanted to have seen it myself.  I'm glad we don't live there - which isn't to say I'm certain we won't be affected by that election's outcome, should the unbelievable occur.

Angus cows

I'd left the mob of 13 cows wandering up the lane to Flat 5b around noon but at 4.30 noticed the gate into Flat 4 was open!  I'm not sure if that was my carelessness or the cows interfering with the latch.  All seemed quiet though, with these two (sitting) cows in with Imagen and Zella, who were taking no notice of them now, although there was presumably some upset earlier when they first appeared.  I coaxed them back in to the other paddock with their herd-mates.


This is the presumed Coprosma propinqua Over the Road, now covered in male flowers.

Wednesday the 28th

We had a bit of near-bother this morning with several wandering dairy cows on the road outside our gate, where they'd obviously been for most of the night.  When I first walked out I thought one of them was actually in with our mob of 18 who had been grazing the round-about since late yesterday.  There would have been opportunity for significant contact between the animals over the top of the gates and rails, which is bothersome from a biosecurity point of view.  We drove the cows back around the corner to the rest of their mob which had somehow got into a neighbour's extended garden and went back to shovel away as much dung as we could see, before putting our cattle Over the Road, as previously planned.  We can't eliminate the disease and parasite risks from the faeces of other herds but we can reduce them by not having our cattle cart great clods of the stuff in through our gateways from the road.

I'm glad we were out early: some well-meaning individual might otherwise have thought it wise to pop those wandering cows in with our lot, to get them off the road!

After a couple of coffees while I searched my grazing areas spreadsheet for some grass for my cows, and decided which animals needed to be drafted into another "possibly soon" calving mob, I went out to move the mob in 5b, where they'd been for a little bit longer than was best.  As I approached, I noticed grey 607 in the corner of the paddock with her tail out, looking agitated!

cow in labour

After a few minutes she lay down and produced this normal-looking bag, much to my relief, because she's not due to calve for another ten days.  Today is only day 270 of her gestation, with 277 being her shortest ever before and I felt sure something must have gone terribly wrong for her to be doing this now.

I put her quickly through to the diagonally opposite 5d and let the others go into 5a to the right so they'd be near but 607 would have ample grass to herself because she was no doubt a bit hungry, which is no state in which to go into labour!  I then went off in a hurry to find 607 some Molasses and Magnesium, since she's not yet had any.  (She was on the list to become part of the group which would start getting it later today.)

cow and calf

Her labour went perfectly normally and as the feet emerged I could see they weren't black (always a fun bit of anticipation with my non-black cows) and when the calf was born, she was obviously not normally grey either, with the charcoal colour and kinky fuzziness of Hypotrichosis.

I went home for lunch and Stephan came back in from somewhere out the back to ask me if I knew there was a calf on the farm?!

Mid-afternoon I went to find the pregnant heifers, because they hadn't appeared in Mushroom 3 after I left the gates and lanes open for them out of the Big Back.  As I walked out from the end of the metal track where I had left my bike, I recalled that I'd never gone back to the top of the ridge between the Big Back North and the Middle Back, to close the gate after taking the two groups of cows out in either direction and so that would explain why they heifers hadn't turned up: they'd all be sitting in the sun down the bottom of the Middle Back.  I went back to the bike and rode around to the other side of the farm, to walk in to the Middle Back via the Spring.


As I walked around the Middle Back looking for three heifers, I saw a flash of colour in one of the gullies, as this young (or ill?) Rosella clambered around on the dead branches.  It eventually burrowed in amongst the litter and disappeared.

Angus heifers

I'd only found seven of the heifers, so had radioed Stephan to ask him to come in from the bottom of the Big Back to see if he could see the other three, and by the time I was pushing the heifers up the steepest part of the Middle Back hill, he had started calling them from the top, which always helps move them in the right direction.

native Jasmine

We walked back down the Big Back together, letting the heifers make their own way down and I went to see the Jasmine vine in the Bush Flat reserve.

native Jasmine

It is just starting to flower.

I've never detected any scent from these flowers, so have wondered if I have correctly identified the plant.

new calf

This didn't look terribly effective, a calf who only finds her mother's supernumerary teats, which might work a bit but certainly aren't going to provide sufficient milk to deliver the necessary first good feed of colostrum.

new calf

Definitely a Hypotrichosis coat, which is very puzzling: I have always presumed 607's family carried a simple colour dilution gene, although I have often wondered why she has such a poor tail switch - the long hair at the end of her tail is sparse, which is characteristic of Hypotrichosis.  Looking back at a photo of 607 at her birth, she certainly does look a likely candidate and the hair on her body has some interesting growth patterns, in that it doesn't all grow in the usual directions, as it does on her normal-haired, black herd-mates.

As far as I understand Hypotrichosis, it has to come from a parent who has it and in cattle with at least one black parent, it must be being inherited from the non-black side, even though some of these cows have looked to me as though they have quite normal grey hair: it must still be caused by Hypotrichosis for this to show up in any of their non-black calves.

Thursday the 29th

I felt fairly sure this morning that the calf must have fed - there was a certain softness to one of 607's teats, but then I wasn't so sure and so kept watch for any sign of feeding as the morning progressed.


To add to my general anxiety, I noticed this odd appearance of 710's vulva.  I think it started the other day, because I noticed more pinkness than would normally be present around this black-skinned area, which would have been a bit of swelling making the internal flesh slightly prominent.  But it is rather more swollen now.


And then this!

This rather large cheek swelling seemed very out of the ordinary and bearing in mind 475's age, body condition and late-stage pregnancy, I was concerned that anything wrong with her teeth or mouth needed to be addressed quickly, so that she didn't become uncomfortable or ill so that she'd stop eating.  I decided I'd get the vet for her and 710 and so made an appointment for tomorrow morning.  Since I'd actually sent 710 out the back with her mob, in the mean time I sent the pictures of her swelling to the vet to find out whether he thought it was something I really needed to have him see or not.

woman, cow and calf

607's calf looked trembly and wobbly and I suspected she still hadn't had a feed, so we thawed some colostrum from last year and I carefully warmed it and we took it out to the her.  607 gets a bit stroppy in the first few days after calving but is still quiet enough to work closely with if we're careful.  Stephan cornered and grabbed the calf and then I started trying to get it to take some milk from the bottle.

After she'd had the bottle milk I spent a while trying to get her to latch on to a teat, but she wasn't very cooperative and my back was burning from the strain of holding an unwise position, so we left them to it and will try again later if it looks necessary.

Later I did some research on colostrum and what happens to calves which don't get it in good time or sufficient quantity.  Calves don't receive antibodies to anything from their mothers before they're born, like humans do, they get them from their first colostrum feeds, within the first few hours of birth.  There is much written about the poor outcomes for calves which don't acquire this "passive immunity" but as it is only protective for their first few weeks, until their own immune systems begin to develop, I suspect it's not the end of the world if a calf, which will be well nourished for the next six months, doesn't get it.  Dairy calves don't seem to do very well if they've missed out on colostrum but they end up in a system where they're raised in great numbers in confined spaces after being transported from place to place, on milk which doesn't come directly from their mother, often in insufficient quantities.  The stressors on those calves are far greater than the experiences of these calves here.

Angus cow

726, itching her nose on the gate latch, before blowing showers of snot everywhere.

Mallard and ducklings

There's a new family on our pond.

A little later there was an upset, with lots of Pukeko squawking and I ran down to see duck and ducklings swimming madly around and Pukeko chicks and their adults all running for cover.  Somebody must have got into someone else's territory.

Just after five I went to check on the cows and discovered that 475 no longer had any kind of lump in her cheek at all.  I have noticed that she often keeps a wad of cud in her cheek while chewing but it's not usually as noticeable as it was this morning.  During the afternoon the vet had also emailed back to say it would be appropriate to observe 710's swelling to see what happened next, so I radioed Stephan and asked him to ring and cancel tomorrow's appointment.

cow and calf

And then this lovely sight: little calf has worked out what to do to stay alive and healthy.

Friday the 30th

With the approach of calving as my main priority, I'd neglected to think about the passage of time with regard to the sheep.  For the sake of the survival of their lambs, they need to be vaccinated against the common clostridial diseases, about six and two weeks before lambing.  When in town this morning, we called on the vet and purchased enough 5in1 vaccine to give the three of them two doses each.

Stephan's regular ewe training now came into play.  He called them to come for their daily maize treat, then shut them in the yards and we gently restrained them in the small race so I could inject each one under the skin at the top of their necks.  We'll do it again in another four weeks.

It's time for the annual Eva's Calving Date Competition.

Please ENTER HERE before 16 October.

For a bit of extra entertainment, we're having 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 Gem and her daughter (born 7 October, 4.39pm), with Meg, still pregnant, on Saturday morning, 8 October.

By the time of publication of this page (3.20pm on 11 October), Meg had still not calved but looked like she'd begun her labour.

identical twins
OctoberGem 698Meg 699
1 6.25am: heifer, Suzi
2 10.30am: bull, Suzi
6 9.45pm: heifer, Sue
7 11pm: heifer, Megan
8 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
11 1:30am: heifer, Bernie
3.30pm: heifer Shelley
midnight: heifer, Renée
12 11.15pm: heifer, Shelley
13 heifer, Dominique
8.00am: bull, Jenny
heifer, Dominique
10.00pm: heifer, Jenny

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