The week beginning the 8th of October 2016.
Saturday the 8th
cow and calf

726 was nervously sticking to the fenceline with her new calf, early this morning.

I wanted a good look at her weird udder (the front half being huge teats, rather than a nicely-shaped udder), so I could work out whether or not her calf had fed.

cows and calf

Here is Gem with her daughter, and Meg, still pregnant.  Nobody guessed Gem's date.

This calf is the first sired by Eva's son, 144.  The others so far were sired by 137.


I go nearly everywhere by bike at this time of year, to save energy: I get terribly tired because suddenly there's so much to do, after months of relative calm.  Seeing Gem's little calf lying half out in the lane under the Flat 2 fence, I stopped the bike and walked on up the lane, so I didn't startle her.  As I passed I talked to her the whole time and next time I come up here, I'll ride very slowly, also talking to her as I slowly pass, so that she learns that my noises and movement are not necessarily things to be frightened by.

I try not to startle calves because I believe frights now make them much more likely to become nervous adults.

cow's discharge

Grey 607 has the usual discharge, after calving last week.  I pinched a bit between my finger and thumb and sniffed it to check for any odour.  It normally has no unpleasant smell.  If it did, I would suspect an infection, which is very uncommon after a normal birth.

It was a warm, sunny morning but the ground is still mostly puddles of water.


The "not yet" cow mob were in the Pines paddock, sitting around in the new area at the bottom, which used to be part of the Small Hill.

When we were dealing with the chaos last night, there had been a sudden commotion from (I thought) the Mushroom paddock, presumably white-faced 714's calf coming in contact with an electric fence wire.  I'd ridden out to check and by then all was quiet there.  As I came out here to check these cows today, it occurred to me that I could have been mistaken, that there could have already been a birth amongst these cows and a calf I didn't know about yet might have been in terrible trouble!  Fortunately there was no such calf.


The little pink Manuka tree out in the Swamp paddock swamp looks like it may have grown a bit larger this season - I didn't want to fight my way across the swamp to get a closer look, even though it is so pretty.  Most Manuka are white or with only a tinge of pink in the centre and while many people have crimson Manuka as specimen trees in their gardens, finding them in the wild is not so common.


The Rimu I've been watching for some years is doing nicely.

... Later ...
flowering vine

More flowers, these of the Bush Lawyer vine.


When I had a lull in proceedings I came home to join Stephan for the burial of Erin 132's poor calf.  Another burial hole, another tree in the garden.

Sunday the 9th
cow and calf

Late last night 749 was standing alone at the end of the House paddock and at 3.40 this morning there was some loud bellowing, so it was no great surprise to see this very satisfactory sight early this morning.  I like animals who get on with everything exactly as they should.

calving cow

Just before 8.30 I noticed 716 in labour across in Flat 2, so got Jude's 30x zoom camera out to see how well it worked at its maximum distance.  I took this picture from about 160 metres away.  It's always good to see two feet and a nose!  716 had a bull.


In the afternoon I phoned Jacob next door to come and watch Ellie 119 calving.  We sat together on the track in the lane and watched her with binoculars and the zoom camera.  Fortunately she did everything as she should.

In the picture the bag around the calf is hanging down with some fluid inside and the calf's front legs are visible.


Without being able to clearly see what was happening at that distance, I managed to catch this excellent action shot, as Ellie got up after pushing the calf's body out.


Then we watched for a while to see how long it would take the calf to get to her feet.

Ellie's gestations have so far been 274 days (twice) and 275 days, so it would seem she's likely a reliably short-gestation cow.  I will probably use last year's son, 151, as a yearling this coming season and will see how much influence he then has on his calves' gestations.

A few weeks ago I posted a topic on the Lifestyle Block website forum, inviting readers to consider coming here for a spring or summer holiday, to help and learn about calving, farming, fencing, whatever was desired.  Nobody responded.  When we were staying with Kate and Geoff the following weekend, Kate suggested that people don't like free stuff and that I should try charging for the experience; so I did: I posted the same thing but called it "spring or summer internships" for $250 for five days (or $400 for a couple, for the same period).  Ross almost immediately replied and said he'd like to come in October, so he could be here for some calving and this afternoon he arrived, having driven up from Heretaunga (Hawke Bay) over the weekend.

Monday the 10th

Ground conditions are not quite good enough yet for most of our fencing jobs but this dilapidated fence along the edge of Mushroom 1 has needed replacing for some time and would provide a variety of teaching opportunities, with good access from the track.

Stephan and I have talked about his fence for a while and decided that a conventional (post and batten) fence would be the best option, providing a solid side to the lane from the back of the farm.

Ross and Stephan began stripping the old fence first thing this morning.


I went off to check my cows, including taking this picture of 606's vaccination abscess, from the 7-in-1 vaccine she had several weeks ago.  I had squeezed it out a day or two ago but my pictures weren't clear.

She and Curly have had noticeable lumps where Annie vaccinated them (at the time of the TB test, which is done on the other side of the tail) and on both cows the abscesses have ruptured to release quite solid pus and a bit of blood.  Interestingly the pus which came out had no smell at all, unlike that from an infected wound, which can be quite unpleasant.  I sloshed some iodine into this hole, to make sure my fiddling with it didn't leave any bugs to grow in the open wound.


Stripping the old fence and removing the posts only took the two workers a couple of hours.

Then Stephan did some earthwork up the other end, to create a bit of a water-course on the paddock side of the fence, to prevent water running down the track whenever it rains, which scours out the fine metal and leaves it unpleasantly bumpy.


There is currently a family group of Pukeko (about four adults) with six little chicks, living around the pond and out into the House paddock.  They get braver by the year, in terms of proximity to us.  That may not be a good thing, if they end up living in the garden and eating everything we plant!

Angus heifer

Room Service.

Fancy 126 wasn't getting up for molasses and Magnesium, so I took it to her.

Tuesday the 11th

This morning Stephan and Ross started thumping the posts for the Mushroom 1 fence.


Dan and Christina came out for a jaunt, so Stephan and Ross came in for lunch.  Dan, who has now started a course of chemo-therapy, said he had an unusual craving for chocolate éclairs and would Stephan like to whip him up a bit of Choux pastry?  Christina said she could but if Stephan did it now, the pastry cases would be cool enough for filling by the time they got home.

They weren't the tidiest éclairs, squeezed out of a makeshift plastic bag with a corner cut off; but they worked out perfectly and were extremely tasty, even without chocolate or cream.

cheese press

While they were cooking, we had a show-and-tell session with Stephan's latest cheese press, a design modelled on an old press someone lent him.

cheese press

Having been unsuccessful in finding the right sized sheaves for the pulleys, he'd decided to try turning some out of Rata, which appears to have worked a treat!


Then it was back to the fencing job, where it was time to begin running out the wires, until I interrupted Ross to take him away to watch Meg calving.


Meg calved very ordinarily, staying quite close to Gem, who stood for a while and then lay down, not bothered by Meg's temporary interest in her calf.

There's a real difference between a cow's inappropriate, intense interest in a calf which is not hers, as if it is her own, and the passing interest in a calf near where she's calving, as in this case.  Meg alternated between licking her niece's back and then after a contraction which expelled some birth fluid, licking the ground and getting to know her own calf's smell.  The confused cow on Friday, was very determinedly licking the umbilical cord of the calf she'd claimed, and took no interest in the fluid she was expelling during her labour, thus identifying with the older calf's scent, not that of her own.

Meg's calf was born at 4.07pm.

The photo I posted as "today's photo" when Meg calved, along with the calving guesses, are at the bottom of last week's page.  None of us got either of them right.  Take whatever comfort you like if you got anywhere close.  I can't quite believe my identical cows, finally conceiving on the same day and both having daughters, still managed to calve on different days.

Angus calf

There are too many shadows here but I liked having got this close to Ellie 119's daughter as she lay beside the gate into Flat 3.

Angus cows

Five more cows in on the flats now, these in Mushroom 3, having their molasses and Magnesium.

Wednesday the 12th

The fencing continues...


Then I took Ross away from the job again to watch 701 calving at the bottom of Flat 2.

I let Ross have the binoculars and I took 30x zoom pictures, which weren't always of the highest quality but this one shows a typical presentation, the tongue often being the next thing you see after the front feet.  I think this tongue might have been pushed out a bit too far and clamped between the calf's jaw, because it kept slipping out the side of her mouth after she was born, which it shouldn't.

cow and calf

A bit later we went back with some molasses and Magnesium for 701 and to identify the sex of the calf.


Stephan had carried on with the fence while we were away and then showed Ross how to put the battens on.

budgie chicks

Six budgie chicks in one nest box get very messy, so I have to clean them out every couple of days.  Their parents are doing very well.  They get priority feeding, needing replenishment daily, while the rest of the aviary is still on a two-day feeding schedule.

There was a seventh chick but I could find no evidence of it at all today anywhere - and it wasn't even the smallest one, it was one size up from the smallest.

It's a clever practice, laying an egg every two days, incubating the first immediately so the chicks are born two days apart and thus require different levels of care as each new one is born.  Being a small chick amongst larger, older siblings is obviously potentially dangerous, although generally they tend to survive the inevitable trampling, especially if not too often disturbed.

Thursday the 13th

From the window at 6.40 this morning, I saw Fancy 126 with her new daughter, her first hours turning into a beautifully sunny, still morning.


I went to look at the orchid plants along the Bush Block fenceline today and was horrified to see that the long Kikuyu along the margins of the bush was eaten, the remainder trampled and there was cow manure all over the place!  I was livid!  This is the block we deliberately fenced off from our cattle 18 years ago.  The only cattle which have ever been in here since have belonged to the uncooperative neighbours and it looks very much like they've been in here again, for a significant period of time.

Up around the old house site in Flat 4, things looked the same.

Stephan and I had an angry rant about it all and I went home and phoned the neighbours, something I have in recent years left to Stephan to do because I got sick of the level of verbal abuse to which I was regularly subjected whenever I asked them to behave considerately or helpfully toward us.  This morning's reaction was, fortunately, much more subdued and cooperative.  I don't know what has changed but I'm glad it has.


Stephan, apparently acting as supervisor, while Ross did all the hard work of digging a trench for a replacement electric cable.

sleeping calves

More little calves sleeping alongside the track.  See those ears behind the trough?


The new fence, almost finished, at least creating a usable paddock again.

We decided to replace the old wire and batten section at this end with wooden rails, with the double electric feed wires along the top as the extra high barrier I like to have during weaning.  Here the cows and calves will be able to touch each other during the weaning process without coming in contact with the electrics.  The double feed wires will continue down along the inside of the post and batten fence at a height which won't affect tiny calves but where it will deter other animals from contemplating jumping over the fence.


Meg's daughter, who looks rather similar to her cousin/full sister, Gem's daughter, except perhaps a little more curly.  At some stage I'll get a picture of the two of them together for comparison.


The female Clematis flowers of the vine near the Back Barn gateway.


I had to walk around most of the Spring paddock to find all ten of the cow mob, checking udders for signs of sudden filling which might indicate the possibility of calving sooner than my clever spreadsheet indicates.

Then back across to the right of this picture and down over the ridge ...

native orchids

... to the southern edge, where the Greenhood Orchids are coming up all over the scrubby slopes.

Friday the 14th
cow dung

We spent a couple of hours this morning getting the neighbours' pregnant heifer out of the Bush Block.  They'd tried twice yesterday, taking their dog with them the first time, which I hastily requested they not do, because I really hope there might be Kiwi living in there and dogs kill Kiwi without their owners having any idea at all, unless they're kept completely under control and in sight at all times.

I feel utterly distraught about the damage to the bush, vast areas having been trampled and grazed by that animal and possibly others.  The cattle have made their way in and out of the bush through a shaky fence which we'd have replaced a long time ago, had we ever been able to negotiate a cooperative relationship with the owners of the 10-acre block.  I can never fathom the carelessness of people who pay no attention to where their animals are.  How could you not know that your animal was not even on your property for long stretches of time?  I didn't know there were straying cattle in our bush because I would have had to see movement where there should not have been any, in dark places I don't usually look, to have known they were there.  It was only by chance yesterday, that I happened to see the evidence of the stray cattle in the wrong place.  This is not fresh dung; it has been here for many weeks.

Talks have now commenced about replacing the ancient and faulty fence.  There has never been any reasonable cause for the antipathy toward us, beyond our politely but strongly expressed distress over activities which directly impacted our lives here, mostly involving clouds of toxic, dark smoke from the illegal burning of anything from mattresses to cow bodies to tyres, and issues concerning the control of wandering dogs.  I would be so relieved if none of those problems happened again.

Rain then fell for a couple of hours, so I'm glad we got the bush-bashing out of the way before that started.

Angus heifers

When the rain cleared I went out to move the heifers, who had been in the Big Back South for several days.  I left them grazing the nice fresh green grass in the little lane between there and the Bush Flat, but didn't go back to shut the gate behind them, which turned out not to have been altogether sensible.

cutting scrub

Meanwhile Stephan had taken Ross out to have a bit of scrub-cutting experience in the PW.

cow and calf

With other distractions, I'd not gone back to check on little 701 calf and I didn't really like the look of her mother's engorged udder, nor her floppy, head-back appearance as she slept beside this fence.

cow and calf

When she stood up, she looked quite hollow, in the area in front of her hips.


I radioed back to the house to ask Stephan to start thawing some of Zella's stored colostrum, to at least give her a bit of energy to keep going.

Little calf took the bottle very enthusiastically and then went looking for more from her mother but failed to find the right sort of teat - those troublesome extras on the back of some of the cows' udders often cause confusion, since they do produce just a little milk.

cow and calf

Meanwhile Ross had been doing my Magnesium rounds and I shot out to the Mushroom to have a quick look at Queenly 107 while he was still there, because I'd seen her begin labour, I was fairly sure, at about 3.30 this afternoon.

Neither Ross nor I spotted anything unusual about her behaviour as she ate the molasses and grazed quietly but when I returned less than an hour later, she was feeding a new daughter.

This is 138's first calf.

Calf tally: 7 heifers, 6 bulls (-1 dead) = 13 of 40.

The annual Eva's Calving Date Competition has now ended with the birth of her calf on Saturday, 22 October.

Congratulations to Jacob, who correctly guessed the date and the sex of her calf.  The first picture is on the Competition page.

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