The week beginning the 4th of November 2017.
Saturday the 4th

Queenly 149 isn't looking ill but she isn't thriving either.  She has lost a lot of weight since her difficult calving.  I found her sitting in a quiet place on the hill in the Middle Back this afternoon and prompted her to get up so I could watch her move.  She seems able but a bit slow.  Slowness is a concern but she appears normally alert, not overly so, nor depressed, either of which would indicate a problem.

Sunday the 5th
cows and calf

Calves are funny.  788's daughter, upon meeting Jet 777 today, bounced up to her in a very assertive manner, as if to take her on in a social-order challenge.


The clover is flowering in the House paddock!  It's good to see growth at last.


I had decided that 750 must not be going to calve in this period, since she'd now gone well past the 28th when I expected her to calve.  I'd consequently not been watching her very carefully over the last couple of days.  When I awoke from a sleep this afternoon, there she was with feet protruding from her rear and I couldn't be sure how long they'd been there.

I gave her a couple of hours until I couldn't see her any longer in the dark.  As there was no obvious progress, Stephan and I went out to bring her in to the yards; here we go again.

The calf was a bull, not enormous but still a reasonable effort required to pull him out, alive.  I'm looking for any research reports on extended gestations due to climatic conditions and haven't found anything.  This calf is sired by our bull 151, whose other calves' gestations have tended to be a bit shorter than their mothers' averages.

We left them by the race, with late-calving 743 for company and when I checked later, the calf was up and at his mother's udder, looking for or having his first feed.

Monday the 6th
cow and calf

750 and her son in the roundabout this morning.

They spent most of the day here before 750 would willingly move with her calf to the House paddock.

two calves

These two are heifer 788's small (six days old), and Jet 777's huge (four days old), daughters.

farm view

The Cabbage trees are flowering prolifically.

milking shed

At 8 o'clock this morning I saw 725 walk very briskly across Flat 4, thought, she's started.

Throughout the day I watched her, seeing her grazing quietly or marching around with her tail out, sometimes running across the paddock.  She took a long time last year and was similarly unsettled, so I left her to it.

But by 6.30pm when she'd still not shown any definite signs of progress, I sent her and her companion (not-pregnant 145) on their way to the front of the farm, so I could get her to the yards easily if necessary.

Here 725 was standing in the house-cow holding paddock on the right, while Stephan milked Zella and Demelza looked on.

While I know that 725, like her elder sister 606, is inclined to take quite some time over her labour, the problem is that I can't know whether this is just her doing her thing, or her not doing her thing because there's actually a problem.  So just after dark we started getting her to the yards - at which point she produced a fluid-filled bag.  But that wasn't really enough to indicate everything was definitely where it should be, so we carried on with the plan.

Up the race she was as much of a pain as she'd been when I inseminated her earlier in the year (which didn't work, so this calf is sired by bull 151), trying to turn around in the race, violently moving around so that working with her was quite difficult and potentially dangerous.  But I was able to feel two feet and teeth and then confirm that the head was in an appropriate position and then we simply let her out, just as we'd done last year, to get on with things on her own.  I didn't think it likely that this would be a huge calf like any of the others we'd had to help, 725 being only one day beyond her previous longest gestation period.

An hour later she still hadn't done much and I had to go to bed and hope for the best.

Tuesday the 7th

At dawn I went out to have a look and saw 725 and a small, moving, upright body in the half-light.  Good.

dairy products

The morning routine here is now milk-centred.

In the sieve with the muslin cloth is yoghurt I've been culturing from some I'd bought and really liked.  A recipe in Stephan's books talked about draining yoghurt so that it isn't full of whey, so that is what I do.

Each day I put about a third of it into fresh warm milk and leave it in the hot-water cupboard for 24 hours.  A couple of days later it failed and was just curds and whey; I don't know why.  Perhaps not all of the yoghurt bacteria survive each round of culturing?

The jar on the right is Kefir, a cultured milk product, about to be strained...

dairy products

... and then we drink the liquid, and the Kefir 'grains', those cauliflower-like solids, go back in to fresh, warm milk until the following day.

I always rinse them with our lovely water before they go into the fresh milk; I suspect chlorinated water would not be good for them.

Kefir is supposedly very good for the gut and we certainly notice various positive changes in our personal workings when drinking it.

I was sent the original grains by mail by a friend, so if you fancy trying it, I could do the same.  The grains seem very robust, tolerating being forgotten in the fridge for several weeks at a time (when we had no fresh milk), although they then take a couple of cycles to return their production to a pleasant taste.

The sieve is falling apart - too many trips through the dishwasher for the plastic, presumably, so I've "sewn" it back together with wire.  I hate throwing stuff out if it can be fixed.

cow and calf

725 and her bull calf in the Pig paddock later this morning.


The young mob needed to go back Over the Road and they also needed a copper injection, having missed being done when I did all the cows before calving.

Nothing the two of us did could convince these three to go up the race - short of beating and shouting or prodding them with sharp implements, perhaps, which we wouldn't do because then they'd be scared animals not going up the race.  Stephan eventually brought a steel gate in to the crush pen and wedged it against the angled rails, then tied the other end to the rails to squeeze them all into a race-width space so I could inject them from the cat-walk.  We know many ways to skin cats around here!

While they were not cooperating, we subjected them all to a lot of very pleasant scratching and stroking.  If they're going to be uncooperative, they might as well be tame and uncooperative.

Angus calf

This calf has delightfully feathery legs.  He's quite distinctive in the mob and I later connected him with mother 742.

man and cow and calf

Stephan came out with me to move the mob of twelve cows and calves, so that we could draft Queenly 149 and her calf out and bring them to join grey 607 and her calf in the Mushroom 1, where there's more grass for an ailing animal to graze.  I think I was a bit hasty in sending 149 out into the hills, although that seemed sensible at the time because that was where most of the feed was and she seemed fine then.  She doesn't now.

flood debris

This is a view of the Frog paddock, with the tall Puriri tree behind me and the stream to the left.  The debris around the fencepost surprised me when I thought about its presence that far above the usual stream level, indicating that the water must have flowed across a lot of this part of the paddock, carrying driftwood quite some distance.  Which flood?  Not sure, there were so many, with different stream levels in different places and we couldn't get out here to see the water when it was happening.

I think of these as fairly safe paddocks in heavy rain but this would indicate less safety than I thought, especially for little calves.

two-year-old heifer

Gestation day 276 for lovely 787 and she doesn't look like calving is imminent.  She's the sixth and last of the two-year-old heifers, in calf to Kessler's Frontman, an easy-calving bull I've used over a few years.  792 was also in calf to that bull and required some help, so I'm still feeling a bit anxious about this one, in this season of repeatedly necessary calving assistance!

Wednesday the 8th
man and cow

Jet's calf needed pulling out again!  Different sort of place from her birth, much colder and quite a deep hole.  The culvert pipe under this gateway isn't long enough and there's been a hole here for some time, marked by a batten and a bit of tape, so the cows stay out of it but calves aren't quite that savvy.  I'd been woken by a bellow from Jet and looking out the window saw her daughter bounce up out of the ground as she tried to escape.

Stephan got her up and she went off, looking a bit stiff.  I'm not sure if she'd just hurt her leg by falling in or trying to escape, or if she's been stiff since birth from being so huge and so cramped.  She could walk well enough, just looked a bit uncomfortable.  With nothing really obviously wrong, she'll presumably come right in time.

cow and calf

One of the two mobs of eleven pairs is now in the Swamp paddock (across the stream, to the left in this picture), having moved from this, the Blackberry, yesterday.  Somehow Fancy 126's calf had got back in here, presumably via the stream through the two electric fences.  He would have received some instructive shocks and wasn't going back.  His mother came quite willingly out of the other paddock and back along the lane to join him.  After a feed, they joined the others again.

When the calves are born (mostly on the flats) the bottom wires of the fences are off and where I can, I gradually turn them back on as the calves get bigger and steadier, so they learn not to touch them - by touching them and getting shocked, of course, but our fence unit has the useful function of being able to have its voltage level turned half-way down for this time of year, although a shock is still a significant jolt.

new deck

Stephan, finishing nailing down the deck.

native orchids

This is a bank beside the bottom of the track down through the Big Back North paddock and last year I spotted about three Sun Orchid plants here.  This year there are more (the fleshy, green, long leaves) and they're quite mature-looking plants.  It's not an area that will get much sun, so they probably won't bloom but that doesn't prevent fertilisation, either within the closed flower or potentially by investigating insects.

Thursday the 9th

The "hospital" paddock, Mushroom 1.  Queenly 149 was grazing out of shot but 607 was lying with both calves, quietly in the warm sunshine.  607's lame front foot appears not to bother her much now but we will have a close look at it whenever she gets down to the yards.

I took the picture primarily because the big slip on the very steep, bush-clad hillside in the background appears to have increased in size.  It's hard to get a sense of it in the picture or even when looking from here; through binoculars, it appears that the slip has exposed or created an almost vertical face.

cow and calf

Another calf who'd ended up on the wrong side of a fence.  714's son was sitting, quietly waiting, out in the Swamp paddock when I went to move them this evening and was soon happily reunited with his mother.  When I opened the gate to the Spring paddock for them all, he was still having a long feed, until his mother couldn't stand to wait any longer and they came running down to cross the stream with the others.


607's gorgeous daughter.  She's quite wary of me at present; I hope she'll settle down.  Her sire, 151, has a reasonable temperament but there are some feisty individuals in his background, so there's a possibility she won't, but I hope so.  I like having grey cows in the herd.

cow with bottle-jaw

Queenly 149 is now looking worse than she did when we brought her in on Tuesday.  This swelling beneath her jaw is something often called "bottle jaw".  Usually it's associated with an excessive parasite burden but can also arise from other intense stressors, as, I think, in this case.  The best immediate treatment is that which we're providing: easy access to the best feed we have and no need to expend a lot of energy getting around to find feed and water.  I'm watching her carefully.

I am reassured that she is not in imminent danger of collapse by the fact that she spends most of her day eating, the thing she most needs to do.

Friday the 10th
Angus calves

Spot the Elephant and Zoom follow their mothers up the lane to the Windmill paddock each morning and then sit down in the gateway.  It's probably a lovely warm place to be, with spongy Kikuyu growing over the lime-rock providing warm, dry ground.  And every morning, when either of us goes out to check the live-capture traps around the farm, we have to make them get up and go into the paddock so we can shut the gate.

Stephan, troublesome creature that he is, has a horrible skin infection under his plastic finger splint.  Off to the doctor again, wondering if we were wasting our and their time but were assured that it was a very sensible visit, that if we hadn't gone, by the end of the weekend his finger, possibly his entire arm (oh, alright, they didn't really say that), might have been engulfed by a flesh-eating colony of toxic bacteria!  All it took for this to become a problem was the finger getting and staying a bit wet for too long (the resident nursing services were distracted by other things, occasionally) and his systemic Staph. aureus took hold and had a party in his finger.  More antibiotics.  We have in the past discussed attempting an intense course of treatment to rid him of the bacteria but understand that recolonisation is likely within a short time, making it all a bit pointless.  His carrier status doesn't affect anyone else (he used to give the cows mastitis, but we've fixed that by the routine use of milking gloves and antiseptic in the udder washing water), and only occasionally causes him minor flare-ups in superficial skin wounds, which usually resolve on their own.


After walking around the Spring paddock checking on the cows and calves, I walked through the reserve area in the top NW corner of the farm looking for orchids - found many plants, few flowers, although there were more greenhood orchids there than previously.

What an extremely cute patch of moss.

a former hole

This used to be quite a deep hole.  The earth moves!

cut scrub

Around the other side of the farm in the Big Back North, I looked for the Lancewood tree Stephan had accidentally cut when clearing scrub a few weeks ago.  Strong winds have toppled it...

cut scrub

... but its leaves still live, since the trunk wasn't cut all the way round and is still intact on one side despite being bent over.  I wonder if we could splint and bandage it?  It's rather prone to further trouble in this position, might be safer standing up.

native orchids

The sun orchids are maturing at a range of rates around the farm, depending on the warmth of their positions.  Here in a sunny place some of the flowers are on the point of blooming.

Angus calves

The Big Back North is still quite a large area in which to find animals, so it's helpful when they gather together in groups.  I'd already seen a few calves with their mothers at the bottom of the slope and here were the rest of the calves together at the top.

The Middle Back is just behind me over my right shoulder.

cow with bottle-jaw

A subtle change but Queenly 149 is looking just a bit better today than she did yesterday.  She's still eating whenever I look at her.

While there might yet be more to it than I realise, her continuing willingness to eat does make me think that she has suffered more than I thought from calving and her recovery has demanded more than her reserves could provide; and I should have made her life a little easier than I did in putting her out on the hills.

She continued to eat voraciously and this swelling resolved over the next few days.  Her calf appeared to be more settled too, probably getting more milk than she was when 149 was least well.

Throughout the day white-faced 787 had been standing looking thoughtful, not eating, swishing her tail from side to side.  Having reached 278 days in her gestation, it was reasonable to think she was about to deliver her calf.  Just as it began to get properly dark, I saw her with her tail out, hunched, definitely in labour.  It would be so much easier if she'd done this during the day so I could see her easily.

At 10.50 I could see two feet in a bag.  An hour and a half later, which is getting on a bit in time, I used my ball-point pen to break the membrane, so that if she delivered the calf while I wasn't there, it would have a better chance of being born without membranes over its face.

Another hour and she didn't look like much had changed but wouldn't settle down to push while I watched, so I went away again.

At 1.55am I went out determined to get her in if there was no more progress and could see two sets of eyes away up the paddock, as she licked her just-delivered calf clean.  Clever sausage.

Cows' eyes are like those of cats when bright lights shine into them: they reflect back white light.  Possums and Moreporks (our little native owl, Ruru) reflect red.

So there we are, all heifers successfully calved, no cliff-hanger to leave you waiting for next week's page.  I will include this calf, a white-faced bull, in this week's tally.  There is now only one left to come, 743, in calf to bull 154, before he went off to the works.

Calf tally: 18 heifers, 20 bulls = 38 of 39.

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