At 10.15 she produced the calf, with Ella on watch from the kitchen window. I was busy saying good bye to Rachel and Issa, who went back to Auckland today.
This calf is a very anxious little heifer. 745's calves have had that tendency, unfortunately, but with her presumed calm inheritance from her sire, I hope she'll settle in time.
The eggs we set just over three weeks ago should have hatched on Thursday or Friday and four were successfully out by yesterday afternoon. But having checked the eggs with a torch, I knew there were two more live chicks in the two unhatched eggs. One had made a hole in its shell by late yesterday but seemed to have given up on getting out. I brought it inside and with a pair of tweezers, carefully broke away the shell around the end of the egg the chick should have been opening, pulled away a little of the membrane and then put it carefully back under the hen so it could finish kicking its way out. Past experience has shown me that if you pull a chick right out, it won't have exercised its rear end sufficiently to close off the navel area, will be born with its gut open still and will usually then die. I concluded that pushing itself out of the egg must be an important part of the process.
But this morning, I discovered that chick still in the egg, now cracked all over from the weight of its mother and stuck in position by the dried membrane around its head. I didn't hold much hope for its survival, was concentrating on trying my best for it, so didn't take any pictures.
I extracted it a bit more, then leaving it to recover for a little while, with its neck at least unbent, I checked the other egg, which by now had a small bulging crack. But there wasn't much activity inside that one either, so after checking the chick's position with the torch again, I removed the top of the egg, then pulled the membrane free of the chick and left it with the other one, on top of the still-warm fireplace, to get on with hatching properly.
At some point in the process I had a hair-drier in hand, carefully warming and drying their wet down.
Over the next three or four hours there were increasing peeps from the box and both chicks were holding their heads up and able to move around a bit. I began to feel a bit hopeful! The fireplace top was now cooling and I thought they were staying upright sufficiently for them to go back under their mother who, once they were there, remained sitting on them for a while. With four much more active chicks, she eventually got off with them in the late afternoon, so I brought the floppy babies back inside to keep them warm until evening, then returned them to the nest when the hen settled down for the night.
Jet's daughter lay quietly while I approached for a stroke. Her hair is so fine and silky.
Gina's son is not nearly so accepting, so I talked quietly to him and left him alone.
This is the Puriri tree in the Pig paddock that fell in the storms of 2007. It has recovered very well and in another hundred years, someone might ponder what happened to it earlier in its life to create such an interesting trunk.
Look what Stephan brought home!
After borrowing Jonny's trailer, Stephan went to town to meet a guy at a truck depot, to pick up our long-awaited cattle crush. We delayed its arrival for a few weeks (since we are by no means ready for it anyway) when we asked the CombiClamp people to include an extra sliding gate in our package, which they didn't have in stock at the time and it had to be manufactured. But here it all is. It's a very expensive but worthwhile bit of equipment!
Zella's son, with whom we'll have a lot of contact over the next six months, as he comes in and out to the milking shed with his mother - and in a few weeks will spend his nights in there, separated from her so we can have her morning milk.
We brought the two of them in this evening for Zella's third milking for this lactation - yesterday evening was the first. We keep all of the milk from the first three milkings, being good quality colostrum, poured into two-litre icecream containers and frozen, for emergency use later, should we need it for other calves. We can now throw out what's left of last year's colostrum, similarly stored. We have some near-neighbours with pigs, so it will not be wasted.
After the various treatments we gave Zella when she was dried off in July, we now have to milk her eight times at least before we drink her milk. Most farm-animal treatments have meat and milk with-holding periods, time-frames during which neither may be used for human consumption. They're based on the time it takes for drug residues to fall below acceptable levels for human consumption. We always extend them by an extra couple of days.
749 had a little heifer calf skipping around her this morning.
Watching this sort of thing, you'd have to conclude that calves have no idea what they're doing and only get fed by accident.
My two little rescued chicks have survived. I'm so pleased, having thought it quite likely they'd not have made it through the night and into today. They're still a bit floppy (at top and bottom in this picture), so I kept an eye on them during the day to ensure that if the air cooled, they'd made their way under the hen. She was very good with them, sitting down whenever they required her warmth.
I watched 773 throughout her labour, from about 8.40 this morning, from the house windows. She delivered a heifer by flinging it to the ground as she turned around, just before 11.30.
This was my most anxiety-filled half hour of the week: getting the cattle crush off the trailer and onto the ground without bending any bit of it.
It was a bit too tall for Stephan to lift it straight off the trailer with the front-end loader, so we had to strap and lift it at each end, then lower it carefully down without the tractor bucket touching the crush. As we worked, we realised it couldn't go right down without being on too much of an angle, so we packed posts and battens underneath, for it to rest on at each end. It can stay there until we're ready to shift it into its permanent position in the new yards.
Ella spent last night with Emma for Emma's 12th birthday party and this evening Christina and the girls came out for one of Stephan's pizza dinners.
The girls went out for a walk to see the new calves while I was doing my molasses and Magnesium rounds. I handed Ella my cow brush as I passed, so she could make 807 even happier.
Ella will be off again on the bus early in the morning, back home to Whakatane.
A hen on chicks is fun to watch, as tiny heads appear amongst her fluffed-up feathers.
Four of the chicks are black and there is the blond one and this first-hatched brown. Their mothers are whichever hens were laying reliably as we collected the eggs.
Two of the eight we put under the hen were infertile - we may have collected them too early in Nigelson's residence.
807's son is looking good. 807 is proving a very good little mother.
Milking ability is always the unknown variable in two-year-old heifers. Most of my herd now produce good quantities of milk and so their daughters usually manage to feed their first calves adequately. One never knows in advance though, how the genetic dice may have rolled.
First thing this morning, here was Henrietta 141 with a just-standing calf, looking for her first feed.
This calf's sire is a bull who will have only this one daughter here, since I only bought three straws and two of them did not result in pregnancies.
This is the eighth heifer calf of twelve calves born so far.
I was handing Stephan a cup of coffee this morning when a movement through the trees at the bottom of our garden caught my eye. It was one of those odd experiences where I had to look twice to figure out what I was seeing: a whiteface animal running but the body was the wrong colour and the animal was the wrong size. Besides, Stephan had moved our cattle along to the other end of Jane's place last night - and thank goodness for that!
We left our morning coffees and went directly across the stream, called our 14 non-pregnant animals to come away from any possibility of the little trespassers mixing with them.
We rang the young neighbours whose calves we knew these would be but there was no answer.
Furious that this situation has occurred again, we quietly set about restoring order. The calves are hand-reared, so relatively quiet and indeed, as soon as this lot figured out we were non-threatening, many of them mobbed around me, sucking on anything they could reach, bunting me for milk. It looked to me as if they'd just been "weaned", which in a hand-rearing scenario presumably means they've stopped being fed milk in the last day or two, and have wandered off from where they ought to be.
Last time this happened there were only five calves in the group we found and they were easy enough to push back through the gap in the boundary fence through which we thought they'd come. But 20 animals wouldn't have been quite so easy to handle with just the two of us, so Stephan rearranged the internal electric fence (which we had built to keep our cattle in their paddock but was inadequate to exclude small, lost calves) and then cut a few wires of the boundary fence, so we could lead the calves back up into the bush. Pushing them from behind wasn't going to work because they thought we were the potential source of food and would have turned back to us continually.
Fortunately several came through to follow us, as we made as many appealing milk-sucking and encouraging noises as we could imagine, and the others followed those who followed them. I stopped here to count twenty past me, then took this picture of the state of the fence.
When I spoke with the lovely owner of the property later, she said she thought her late husband had built this fence as quite a young man. These hand-hewn Puriri strainers and Totara battens and posts would likely be over 60 years old.
This is not a stock-proof fence. It has not needed to be for a long time, since on this side there had not been animals for decades and on the other, we'd electric fenced wherever our cattle were grazing on Jane's property.
When we emerged from the bush, we found ourselves in an open area where the calves had obviously been grazing until they wandered, with nothing to prevent them going up into the bush and on to wherever they chose.
We decided that the best option was to move them through the well-erected temporary fence that was keeping them out of the garden and away from the area where the previous calves came through the boundary and on to the shed where Stephan understood they'd been raised, where we could secure them. Otherwise they could have returned to the bush, or wandered out to the road, neither of which would be satisfactory.
On the way they found their former feeding trailer - a big tank into which milk is poured, with a teat for each calf all around the outside edge - and they weren't going to move from there, once they'd started sucking on the empty teats! Stephan uncoupled the trailer from the quad-bike it was attached to and we pushed it back to the shed, with all the calves trotting along with it, then carefully pulled it back out once we'd stood some gates up to keep the calves inside the shed.
I cleaned and filled the calves' water container, took some pictures in case there was any troublesome outcome.
I then wrote a short note to leave at the front door. Admittedly it wasn't a very long note, since I was feeling quite frustrated and cross about the whole thing but I thought "Your calves are now locked in your shed. Urgently phone Stephan to discuss replacement boundary fence." would have conveyed a fair idea about what had happened in the young people's absence.
But it seems not. The upshot was/is that we are now accused of having gone onto the property specifically to disturb and upset the young people's calves, that we have been mischievous and trouble-making. The young man phoned and left an answerphone message with a great deal of swearing and bluster, telling us we've been recorded on camera, that he's phoned the police about us, that he'll take us to court if we do anything to his calves ever again.
We attempted a return call, answered by the young woman, whose response was equally aggressive, before she quickly hung up.
We have thus been unable to ask how many calves there should have been (in case there were others still up in the bush yet to emerge) where they have come from (some were from the same dairy farm as the previous calves but others had a different code on their tags and one, none at all), since I would like to gauge the level of risk to my closed herd of their having been on our pastures.
This is not the outcome I would expect, although in light of the last time this happened, not at all surprising. The young man never said thank you or sorry after the last incident, when we found his calves and returned them to him, saving him the loss of around a thousand dollars he must have spent on their then-recent purchase.
I rang and discussed the situation with his grand-mother, owner of the property, whose own expectations are similar to our own: your stock wander, you fetch them back, make sure it doesn't happen again, apologise for any disruption or inconvenience caused and throw in a cake or a bottle of something nice to boot. You do not tear blue strips of the people who've had to put up with your carelessness and have had to go out of their way to put your negligence right!
Doubtless there'll be more to hear about this. In the meantime I'm just supremely grateful the calves didn't find their way to mix with our animals. Separating them probably would have required bringing the trespassers to our yards, which would be entirely unacceptable to me. Their having been only at one end of Jane's place for a short time is more manageable, even though supremely annoying, in that I'll simply quarantine it again, as I had done since June and the last trespass event.
The non-pregnant mob had to go back Over the Road, since that's the only grass I have, several days earlier than I'd intended.
Henrietta has obviously fed her calf - the left side of her udder is noticeably emptier than the right - and little daughter was having a snooze as her mother grazed around her.
Stephan went past as I stood there, stopping for a quick conversation, and I noticed this post in front of me: there's not much left to hold it upright, other than the overall tension of the fence. There are also a number of small Totara saplings growing up through the wires, which will be holding it all together at the moment. Nobody pushes on it, so it requires no urgent work.
There is now a two-wire fence along the new drain at the edge of the Bush Flat track. I hadn't run any tapes along here to protect the drain, because I made sure to move the cattle into the Small Hill on their way to the Big Back, through the winter. But it is inconvenient having a lane out of action so this is a useful job to have done.
As we brought Zella in for milking this morning, we watched in surprise as Demelza did a bit of a skipping run across the paddock with the calf. It's reassuring when she does; I presume it means she's not in terrible pain from her arthritic hips. But she is becoming increasingly lame and generally slow-moving.
This is (three of) the second lot of four cows I brought to the flats today, the earlier group (723, 126, 792 and 166) now being in Flat 4 at the end of this lane. These four from the cow mob (710, 716, 698 and 119), went to 5b, to the right. They could start calving in the next few days and I'd like to have them handy for feeding out Magnesium and molasses over the next few evenings before they begin.
I wondered what would happen to the calf who'd come out of Flat 2 on the left, into the lane. She sought shelter in the drain as the strange cows passed, then eventually returned to her mother through the fence.
When walking with Elizabeth and Sarah last week, I'd sought out the sole Sun Orchid growing in the wide lane area near the Pines paddock, disappointed to find it had been nipped off at ground level by a grazing cow. Today I discovered it again, with the intact flower spike still growing.
I hope it will have sufficient resources to allow it to bloom.
I mixed the six animals on the bottom of the calving date list, so they can remain away from the flats until the others have all calved. There's not enough grass on the flats for everyone to be there at present and I only need to check these every day or two for the next couple of weeks.
We decided we could keep this morning's milk, from Zella's twelfth milking. It'll be lovely to have fresh milk and cream again and Stephan will begin to make cheese.
714 had a little heifer calf with her when I checked first thing this morning.
607 had been looking pensive for much of the morning and just before noon began labour in earnest.
Daughter 807 watched from the other side of the lane. 807 was born in that same paddock.
Just under an hour later, I helped a bit to pull out this black bull calf. He wasn't big but 607 seemed to have been in some pain and stopped pushing properly, possibly because some bit of the calf was caught oddly inside her pelvis.
Strange cow: 710. She appeared to be itching her nether regions, rather than having trouble getting up.
Zella and her calf were at the far end of the House paddock this morning, so we put them out into the lane to bring them down, thinking it would be quicker. Not really. Zella eats, all the way, and the calf kept trying to go under the fence into the drain.
I think Zella gets worse every year, more stubborn about what she wants to do.
714 in the foreground at right, her two daughters in the middle and grand-daughter at left.
We've not had any "coloured" calves yet this year, everyone having produced a wholly black (or a bit brown) calf.
I watched 716 through the morning, obviously in labour but showing no real progress. She was finding it difficult to get up on her hind legs and when I found her lying with a pool of the calf-sac fluid at her rear, I became concerned.
To help settle my nerves, I usually go off and set up the gates ready to take a cow to the yards, which I did.
Upon returning to the paddock, I thought I saw a tiny flash of white at 716's rear, so waited for a few minutes more. The next contraction showed me two feet; so all was well.
Within half an hour she delivered a little bull calf.
I sped home, had some very quick lunch, changed clothes and we went to town for a 1pm funeral.
The funeral was for a lovely man named John Galley, husband of Karen, with whom we'd both worked during our joint time in the Kaitaia Dramatic Society. John was a Vietnam veteran, something I'd not realised, so there were a number of men there from his unit.
A week or so ago Stephan sprayed the grass on the site for the new yards. It looks like a huge area but once we put the cattle crush nearby, it didn't look quite so big.
Nice to be able to tell easily when a calf has fed from an udder: 716's front left teat has obviously been suckled.
Cute fluffy gorgeousness.
Across the other side of the lane, the calves in Flat 2 were tearing around, having a lovely game together.
Because the weather has been so cold and dry and there's little grass growth, I have three or four cows in each paddock where they've calved, hoping they'll find enough to eat until there's some rain and warmth to provide better conditions.
There's about a bale of hay left, so we took some of it into the paddock for Zella and Demelza's evening treat. I had also erected a tape across the paddock, to make it a bit easier and quicker to bring Zella in in the morning.
At 8.45 when I went to check on an in-labour Emergency, I found her with a couple of membrane bags, one containing two front feet. She delivered a nice little heifer at 9pm. A lovely end to the week.