The week beginning the 24th of November 2018.
Saturday the 24th

Over the last few days Zella's calf has been producing quite smelly and loose faeces, which probably indicates some intestinal stress due to drinking far too much milk.  Stephan has continued to milk Zella twice a day but she's barely had any in the evenings and the morning milking has produced about half the amount we'd expect.  The calf is six weeks old now and it is obviously time to start separating him from Zella overnight, before he becomes unwell.

So last evening we brought them in as usual but this time after milking, drafted the calves into the little area by the milking shed and left the cows in the driveway area.  There was quite a lot of protesting mooing throughout the evening and overnight.  I wore earplugs to bed.

cow and calf

This morning I let 807's calf out while Stephan milked Zella.

I don't think this is a resentful look; I think she still loves me.

I contemplated separating only Zella and leaving 807 with the two calves overnight but as we've witnessed Zella's calf feeding from 807, I wasn't willing to risk that he might resume that when his mother was unavailable to him.

This way both cows and calves have company overnight and it will do 807 no harm, once they all get used to the new pattern.

cow and calf

Zella's calf didn't seem to know what to do when his mother appeared.  Bovine stress is an interesting thing, in that it takes some minutes for them to settle down when a stressor is removed.  It is probably so for all mammals.

Tonight as I lay in silence before sleep, and several times when I woke in the night and heard nothing from the cows, I wondered if they'd somehow discovered a way back to each other.  But no, all was as it should be and they didn't start calling until 6am.

This is Zella's eighth season, so she must now understand that nightly separation is just the way of things and after the first night's surprise, she now knows all will be well.  Unlike Demelza, and Imagen before her, 807's temperament allows her to follow suit and accept that the separation will be resolved in the morning.  What an excellent little cow!

Sunday the 25th
cows and calves

There were some very heavy rain showers this morning just after dawn but the weather cleared during the morning.

After lunch when the streams had gone down again, I went out to fetch the four cows and calves from the Bush Flat, bringing them forward, intending to take them to the yards for tagging and castration (as necessary).

But at the bridge they stopped and refused to go further.  This happens sometimes, particularly after water has been over the bridge.  I don't know where they sense danger, perhaps it is simply changes in the appearance of the bridge - it's either swept clean, or today had some driftwood and debris on the concrete.


Before we went away to have a cup of tea and leave them to think about their behaviour for a while, Stephan fished a nice-looking half-round post out of the water, where it was caught against the bank.

cows and calves

When we returned the cows still wouldn't cooperate so we put them in the milking shed area out of the way and went to fetch Zella and 807 instead.

Here 807 is greeting her mother, 607.

cows and calves

We tagged and castrated the two calves.  Usually I weigh them at this stage too but I felt it was more important today to get the tagging and castrating done without having the scales in the way and taking the extra time over that task.

Afterwards the calves dashed down the Pig paddock as if there was no discomfort from the tight rubber rings around their scrota.  It looked like their new ear tags bothered them more, although I bet it all hurt.

Even having watched these animals come across the bridge and having them here in the Pig paddock, the four cows and calves still wouldn't cross the bridge.  We gave up and took them back to a slice of Flat 1 for the night and will try again tomorrow.

Monday the 26th
sick chick

A couple of days ago this chick started wobbling as it walked.  Yesterday I found it on its back on the lawn, unable to get up.  On its feet again it seemed to be getting around ok but in the evening, I realised it wasn't going to be able to stay upright overnight and needed support.  It spent the night in the box behind it, cradled by some nice hay.

While it continued to eat and drink healthily, by Tuesday morning the paralysis had advanced to the point that the bird would need bodily support all the time to stop it collapsing.  That wasn't a good way to live.  Chicken expert and friend, Sue, said that even the passing version of (this probable case of) Marek's Disease takes a couple of weeks to come right.  I handed chicken and cleaver to Stephan and sadly said goodbye to the little bird.

I've not seen Marek's before, as far as I can recall.  One of the little pullets looks like she's partially affected but has not worsened beyond some instability when walking and flapping.  We'll watch her, see if she comes right.

cows and calves

Half of the group of eleven calves were sitting in the long Kikuyu under the central Puriri in Mushroom 2 when I went to get them late this morning.  The bottom wire is off, having been disconnected for the calving period and while some of the switches are back on, this one needs physically reconnecting to the top wire of the reserve.

cows and calves

All the way down the lane this calf stood out as the best grown and quietest.  Eventually I figured out she belonged to Jet 777.  At the yards we put tag number 877 in her ear.

I try to plan who will have which number, often giving the calf a number with the same last digit as her mother, or some other combination that will act as a memory prompt for me later, within the range of tags I have available each year.  For instance, Emergency 111's daughter got 183, because I like that 1+8+3=1+2=3, if you follow, to match her mother's 1+1+1=3.  Everyone else got more straight-forward tags, except 184 belongs to 145 and 185 to 155 and I'll remember because 184 doesn't end in 5.  There are a few like that, who I'll hopefully remember because they're not following the pattern.

878 is a nice number but when I thought about it a bit, decided to use it on 787's steer calf, who will only be here for six months, because if I use it on a heifer who stays here, I'll be forever transcribing 878 and 787 and never knowing which I meant to refer to.

cows and calves

After I'd walked that group down to the bridge, Stephan started bringing the reluctant four from Flat 1, hoping they'd more readily follow another group directly over the bridge today.

They still needed some stern prompting but eventually someone started across and the others followed.

Northern Rātā

This is the big Northern Rātā from the farm side, as we were setting up tapes in Flats 1 and 2 for the mobs of cattle.

There is still a faint touch of red and I could see what looked like flowers through binoculars but it's not the stunning show I hope for every year.

Also in the photo are Puriri, Taraire and Totara down the left side, Rimu in front of the Rātā and Nikau palms at the bottom and in the right corner, more Puriri.  There are probably some other species in there too but they're not clear in the picture.

cows and calves

The last lot for the day, Eva's mob.  Eva's daughter, tagged with number 190, seemed much less friendly afterwards.  Eartags hurt for a while, but like human earlobes, come right again fairly quickly.

It was good to get all this work done today.  The weather forecast had been unhopeful, predicting a fine morning and heavy showers this afternoon but it was the other way around and after heavy showers early in the day, the rest of the day was fine and warm.

Tuesday the 27th
cows and calves

The four separate groups of cows and calves had spent the night in adjacent areas and early this afternoon I combined them.  In Flat 1 that meant I removed the electric tape half-way up the paddock between them, so they all had the whole area.  They seemed to be sizing each other up quite quietly, without violence.

In Flat 2, there was a bit more upset.  Grey 607 paraded around growling like a bull, while two or three pairs of cows had head-to-head fights and chased each other around.


During one of the chases, a group of calves was frightened into a mini-stampede during which several of them didn't notice the fence until too late and five of them leapt through the wires into Flat 3.

I left a section of the fence with the bottom wires propped up for them to come back through, but they didn't.

bee on clover

I often wonder, when watching bees, if I'll personally live beyond their species?

With hives in the Road Flat, there are a lot of them all over the flats and we regularly have collisions as I ride along the tracks across their flight path.  I often have to stop and flick a stunned bee off my shirt or gingerly remove my helmet so it can get away from me without stinging.  Usually I ride slowly enough to be able to duck when I see them coming straight for me.


Another fine blackberry crop is developing.


I took some photos of the ferns along the drain, thinking they'd make a great background picture on the computer screen.


Tī Kōuka flowers.  I've never before looked at them up close.  Pretty.


On the flowers were many honey bees, several native bees and this creature.


It is Navomorpha sulcata, a Longhorn beetle.


This is Cleavers (Galium aparine) and I don't know why it has curled, malformed leaves on some of the plants.

The plants feel sticky but not because they really are, it's just the effect of all the tiny hooks on the leaves.  It has good medicinal properties, apparently, so it grows where it grows and I don't worry about it.  I find it in several of the tree reserves but not in the paddocks, so presumably the cattle eat it willingly.

flax stems

The flax stems, when they first grow, have the most beautiful and subtle range of colours.


Our three-variety apple tree has many fruit.

I have been thinning some of the clusters - picking out the smallest ones - because otherwise the fruit will become too heavy for the branches before the end of the season.


This is the larger of our two Feijoa trees, the one that did not fruit last year and which I pruned quite heavily a couple of months ago.  The other tree, which fruited quite well last year, has fewer flowers so far this season.


The red Hibiscus, always a bit of a spindly little tree, looked like it was dying during the winter but after pruning, it now appears to be recovering quite well again.

I've never dared prune it too hard, except when excising a lot of diseased branches but perhaps I need to research how to do it well and see if that would make it better.  To date, other than the disease season, I've only pruned it for shape, to reduce the branches that stuck out into the walkway.


I went out to Flats 2 & 3 in the early evening to get the separated calves back with their mothers.  That meant separating the mothers from the rest of the mob, so they didn't all pile out into the lane.  It wasn't too difficult, since those cows were standing near the fence, calling to their calves on the other side, so I ran some electric tape around them, creating a lane to the gateway.  I needed to walk the four mothers I'd managed to gather together, up the lane to entice the calves to come along to the Flat 3 gateway, where they went out under a spring gate.

When 723 was feeding her calf, I noticed the hairless area around the hole in her right ear, indicating that she has only very recently lost her NAIT button tag.

cow and calf

Oh!  Wrong tag number!

It doesn't really matter very much but I had meant 126's calf to have number 186 and Ellie 119's calf should have had 191, since most of her calves have had 1X1 numbers.  I really thought I'd correctly identified them in the yards; obviously not.

The most important calf to correctly identify was Gina 142's son, because if we'd put a ring on his scrotum, he would have no future as a breeding bull and he's the only pedigree bull calf this year.

Wednesday the 28th

The only thing we've caught so far in our magpie trap is this possum.

It had to come home, to be enticed to crawl into one of the wooden live-capture traps, before it could be shot.


When we went up the road today to prepare to move the young mob to the Road Flat paddock, I noticed this new (to me) sedge plant growing in great clumps in the wet places on our side of the fence.

I believe it to be Carex vulpinoidea.  My grass and sedge book does not identify it as an invasive species, only an opportunist along roadsides and in poor wet places.


The orchard trees are looking nice and the grass needs mowing.


Over on the northern edge of the designated area, there are four trees: a pine nut, a walnut, a pecan and a persimmon and all are thriving.


There's a moderate amount of fruit on most of the trees.  This pear hasn't set so many before.


One of the plum trees.


I'd hoped the cattle would all be at the western end of the Over the Road paddock, ready to move, but they'd taken little notice of my earlier calls as I came along the road.

So I went back to the other end to lead them up and around the hillside.

Spot is looking bedraggled and stressed: she's on heat and they often don't eat much when in that state and put up with hours of mounting by others in the mob.  It must all be very tiring.


They gradually came up the hill following my call and then Stephan met us from the other end and when they'd come around the top of the reserve, they sped down the hill past us.


Then across the road...


...and into longer grass than they've seen for a few weeks.  There's a lot of good feed between the Parsley Dropwort flower stems which are also still soft enough to eat.

Thursday the 29th
cows and calves

Together we walked the mob of 15 cows and calves from the flats to the Middle Back, via Route 356, this afternoon.  We saw lots of grass in there from the top of the hill last week, so it should keep them happy for many days.

dead weasel

Stephan checked the DoC200 trap box by the gate and found this deceased weasel.  Those traps are fast and deadly to small creatures.

It is identifiable as a weasel because it has an entirely brown tail.  Stoats' tails have black at the tip.

Friday the 30th

Stephan dropped me at the airport before 6am and went home to milk Zella.

I went to Auckland, it being a good sort of time to go and see some friends, see where Jill now resides, she having been moved from her old rest home room.

I travelled in to town by bus and train, and sitting on the train noticed a young woman on the platform as the train stopped.  She got in to my carriage and sat down almost next to me: it was Matariki, Stella's best friend.  Extraordinary.  Later in the day, as Jude, Stella, Louie (truant) and I drove to visit Jill, I saw one of my lovely feminist friends on the corner of an intersection at which we had to stop.  I spent the rest of the day looking out for other people I know!

Jill's new room is in a newly-built hospital-care block.  The room is larger, lighter, much more pleasant than her old one and, most importantly, has a hoist set-up in the ceiling, for the days she forgets how to move, which are happening more frequently now.  The staff seem less stressed, with fewer people to care for - or maybe they're all new and haven't yet been put-upon quite as much as those in the other building.

I think Jill at least vaguely knows who we are.  Jude goes to see her every day, often with Stella.  She seems quite settled, more comfortable and far less anxious than when I last saw her.

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