The week beginning the 31st of December 2016.

This page was missed from the record and then lost in the mists of time ... until I found the gap and wrote it in July 2019.  As a time traveller, it has entertained me to write this week's news in retrospect, with the benefits of hindsight, although there are some deficits in my memory.

Saturday the 31st

The vet sent through the lab results on the bull's foot lesion we examined last month.  A vet at the works took some post-mortem samples and sent them off to the lab.  The pathologists have indicated a possible case of Bovine Digital Dermatitis, something not commonly found in this part of the country, in a herd like mine.  Hopefully we never see its like again, but it's worrying that the bacteria were found.

At 6.40am I inseminated Demelza with Summitcrest Focus 2U66, a conception that would become Spot the Elephant, born on 3 October 2017, 276 days later.

Angus cattle

Here is Imagen being followed by the yearling bull.  Imagen will go to the works this winter, so it won't matter whether she's pregnant or not.  The bull was with them to ensure Zella was in calf, which she already was, by now, with lovely Zoom, but at this stage, I didn't know that.

cattle tag

I found steer calf 822's tag in the middle of Flat 2.  He must have been sleeping with his head outstretched when someone trod on his tag and ripped it from his ear.  While we've had many broken tags over the years, his is the first ripped ear.

Angus cattle

While lots of the cattle were resting quietly, 606 and Fancy 126 were having a very active time down the bottom of the paddock, repeatedly mounting each other.  I was concerned about 606 still being in standing heat because I'd already inseminated her just before noon and now it was four o'clock.  She'd been in standing heat when I first checked before six this morning.

606's insemination did work and so did Fancy's, done early on Sunday morning, conceiving bull 176.

Soon after dark this evening, some idiot let off a couple of very loudly banging fireworks just across the road, which set all my cattle stampeding.  Stephan was out on the flats and shouted all manner of expletives in that direction and, thankfully, that was it.  I think the cattle are somewhat predisposed to excitement anyway, in the middle of mating.  I'm glad I wasn't inseminating someone at the time: metaphorical sex fireworks are all very well, but not real ones when you might be kicked in the shins by a sharp hoof in response to a fright.

In bed late tonight I rolled over to open the window just as a Ruru, or Morepork, the little native owl, flapped against my lit window to catch a moth.  It was an extraordinary thing to see.  Marvellous.

Sunday the 1st of January, 2017
cow and calf

Cute sleeping baby but her mother was of more interest today: I was sure she was on heat, but I was having difficulty determining her timing.  She tried mounting several of the others, but nobody was mounting her and her heat-detector remained white.  I inseminated her at 8pm and she conceived as a result, so my assessment and guess-work were good enough.


Dexie 101 has a copper injection site reaction or abscess.  These sometimes happen and are not of great concern.  Her system will deal with it without my intervention.

Such injections are supposed to be given in the anterior half of the neck, which this lump proves is not my practice.  I generally inject into this area, on a balance between meat-quality requirements and personal safety: the further up the neck I go, the more movement there is as the animal attempts to avoid my nasty needle and the more chance of injury to me.  With a good headbail I might be able to restrain every animal and inject closer to the front of the neck but it would add significant time to the job and stress to the animals.

On our "kill sheets" from the works, there are sometimes reports of "injection site lesions" but while beef remains only a commodity, without recognition of quality nor penalty for defects, I'm sticking with personal safety and efficiency as my priorities.


Stephan spent an hour or two mowing Flat 3 and then Flat 2 to the left.

Monday the 2nd
cows and calves

Grey 607 was on or coming on heat at seven this morning.

She was stalking around the paddock, sniffing everyone, looking for someone to fulfil her sudden desires.


You think hand signals don't work with cows?

I'm not sure.  Sometimes I think they understand.  Maybe it's telepathic or empathetic, rather than visual.

There was also the open gate to a paddock of fresh grass.  That might have provided a hint.

cow and calves

Poor little ear.  He seems fine though, with his lovely mother's care.

723 is always such a good mother.  If I were a calf, she's the mother I'd choose.


These two seem pretty happy in each other's company too.

This was 746's unofficial rest year, when she didn't get pregnant again after she'd had 788 and I kept her anyway, because I think she'll be a good cow.

calf and cow

A quiet moment for 607, between trying to get anyone else to stand when she tried to mount them, or anyone to mount her, which nobody wanted to do.

Young Glia (as 807 was later named) ended up being smooth polled, without the scurs her mother and her sister, Jet 777, carry.

Genetically it's difficult to say what that means in her case: either she doesn't carry a horned gene, or she only carries one scur gene.  She needs a horned allele and two for scurs to have them, as I understand it.

calf and cow

It's funny writing this page two and a half years after I took these pictures: I had forgotten that big, leggy 812, was a tall, leggy calf.

She developed a very unhelpful habit of chewing on the heat indicators, her mother's and, I suspect, those of other cows too, since I found a couple with holes in the plastic envelope and no dye capsule inside.  Hopefully she dropped those, rather than swallowed them.


These are Emergency, who it turned out was not actually on heat today, her mother Eva, who was coming on heat, and 607.

Within the next two hours Eva had begun standing and her indicator had turned red.

In the evening I inseminated 607 just after six, which didn't work, and Eva two hours later, which did and resulted in the lovely Dushi 170.

spider nest

It's baby time in the spider world.

low cloud

It was a warm evening and the clouds were oddly low over the hills of the Herekino Range; but there was only a tiny bit of rain in the gauge on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday the 3rd

Before seven this morning I went to check 87 and his mob out in the Spring paddock, finding him actively interested in little Dexie 146.

There was later evidence of her having been mated on the 11th, so I don't think she was really on heat today.


In the hot midday sun, lots of the big insemination mob were standing in the shade.

Twenty minutes later, they were all back out in the sunshine, grazing.  The wind was very warm.


Stephan brought the chainsaw with him and we went to make the Frog paddock safe for the insemination mob, wearing their pressure-sensitive heat indcators: I don't want them rubbing themselves on low-growing tree branches.

Wednesday the 4th

Endberly, pushing around with her yearling daughter.

cows and calves

The insemination mob had finished Flat 1 so, having set up the gates ahead of them, I let them out the top of the paddock to make their way to the Frog paddock.

These two, Ellie 119 and 723, carried on feeding their calves as everyone else left.


I took the opportunity to get some teeth photos of Ellie.

She's now just over four years old and has five of her incisors properly up.  The sixth, at an odd angle on her left, is something I've seen quite often in this herd.  Their permanent teeth often erupt like this, before eventually lining up with the others.  The small tooth remnants are the last pair of deciduous incisors.  They'll be replaced sometime in the next year or so.


Eventually Ellie, 723 and their calves moved and I followed them out to shut them in the Frog paddock.

Yesterday, while Stephan was doing the pruning, I erected an electric tape around the swampy area in the middle of the paddock, where there are several trees the cows could rub on - and we're trying to get them out of the wet places anyway.


Demelza has flaking scabs and cracked skin on her prominent areas, after being on heat overnight on the 30th.  The cows mount each other repeatedly, especially when two or more are in standing heat at the same time.  All that rubbing of hairy skin on hairy skin causes some damage.


Little 167 who nearly died, has returned to full health.  I'm glad we were able to help her and did so in time to save her.


Jonathan and Char-Lien brought a couple of visiting friends out for some pond time.

The diving board has remained solid despite having launched a large number of large people!


Some new fancy slide trick...

It's pretty scary, I hear, going down head-first on your back, not being able to tell when you're going to hit the water.


Time for a snack.  We often spot ripening bananas when sitting by the pond.  They hide amongst the leaves and are sometimes difficult to see.

Thursday the 5th
cows and calves

It was darker when I took this picture than I've made it look, at 6.20 this morning.

Some of the cows were still lying down - and some calves weren't waiting for them to get up for breakfast!

It's lovely seeing them really early in the day, when they're just getting up and on with things.  Six in the morning seems to be a popular time to come on heat, so it's worth coming out as early as I can, to check.

Ellie 119 and 742 were on heat and so I watched them through the day to work out when it was best to inseminate them, doing both in the evening at eight o'clock.

Half-way through the morning when I checked on this mob, I found that Curly's calf, 812, had removed her mother's heat indicator again!  Not helpful!

boy on tractor

Stephan's brother Edwin, Sue, their son Nick and his son, Thomas, came to visit.  Thomas was very pleased to be allowed to sit on the tractor for a while.


Then Jenny Dymock, local entomologist, arrived with her husband and a couple of sacks of Tradescantia, infested with the beetles we hope might survive here and challenge the swathes of the weed along the stream banks.

So many weeds come down the valley stream.  We work to keep them from spreading out onto the farm but it's an endless task to try and rid our area of them altogether, when the next flood brings more seeds and bits of weed ready to grow.


These narrow holes are what we'll be looking for as evidence of the beetles' survival.


Bull 151 has a little mob of four cows.

I'm not altogether sure of his merit so am not using him widely this season.  He can have more cows as the follow-up bull after insemination.

His calves turned out to be slightly less excitable than I thought they might be, slim at birth and born early, all of which were good things.  A short gestation was also useful when the post-insemination cows he mated were consequently to calve late in the season, making them not as late as they would have been with a longer-gestation sire.  He only produced one daughter, with Grey 607, and she was not quiet enough to keep.

Friday the 6th

Lunch.  The blackberries are ripening; there are several black ones on these bushes.  The calves like eating them as they ripen.

They are still very sour when only red, but presumably sweet to a calf's palate.


Queenly 107 was fractious on her way in to the yards but fortunately very calm as I inseminated her.  There were a lot of biting flies on the animals' sides when standing still in the bottom yard.

On the way back to the paddock they were in quite a hurry.  I try to keep them calm but some things are beyond my control.  They are Queenly, Emergency and two of the yearlings.  It's easiest to take animals who don't have calves, as company for the insemination candidate.


Christina and Dan came out with daughter Emma and Dan's grand-daughter, Olivia.  The girls are close in age.

There was much swimming, synchronised jumping, diving and sliding.

farm track

While this sort of weed control looks unsightly, it's better than allowing Bellingham Quarries' weeds to spread around the farm!

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