The week beginning the 27th of January 2018.
Saturday the 27th

This is Emergency, who was on heat twelve days ago.  The skin on any prominent area of their backs gets seriously rubbed as other cows mount them during those few hours.  Some will have small bald patches immediately but on others the effects on the skin don't show up until later, as shown here: the skin is flaking away where it was damaged.

The forward-most hairless patch is where her indicator was.

The small growth from her right hip is an interesting feature I hadn't noticed in the field.


I watch the cows all day from the house, looking out for any determined movement amongst them that might indicate a cow coming on heat.

Just after 2pm, most of the cows started to move, from the top end of the paddock to the right, in the direction of the big trees down the other end.  They tolerate being out in the hot sunshine for a while, but when someone starts moving to seek shade, most of the others realise they're a bit hot and follow.

cattle in the shade

Big trees give the best shade, although when the air is hot, it's still pretty warm even here.

I moved quietly amongst them, checking indicators and rear ends for mucous, being careful to attend to any movement, since standing so closely together also created a few tensions, that were relieved by the occasional violent shove and a rearrangement of everyone nearby.

mown paddock

Mushroom 1, mown yesterday after the cows had grazed the paddock.  I'm hopeful that mowing will help smooth out some of the pugging from the wet winter, by composting grass into the low spots, making the regrowth more even...   I don't know if any of that really happens but the thought comforts me.

Stephan took the semen bank away to have it replenished with liquid Nitrogen.  I have to remember to check the level regularly when the weather is hot because the Nitrogen evaporates more and more quickly as the level drops.  We keep the bank somewhere shady and cool and wrap it in an insulating cover, to try and protect it from the heat, so it lasts for about four weeks from full.

Sunday the 28th
tractor mowing

More mowing, this time with the big old slasher Stephan was given by Terry, with whom he used work doing pest control trapping.  It's big and tough enough to get through the rushes, sedge, small scrub and lumpy bits of ground in paddocks further out around the farm.

Stephan has mowed the flat part of the paddock before but not this upper area with all the rushes, since it was mostly inaccessible until he installed culverts over the drain last year.


These two cows were intently sniffing a particular spot in Flat 1 this afternoon, rubbing their lower jaws on the ground and standing in the Flehmen position (noses wrinkled, breathing the scent over the gland in the back of their noses).

I walked over to see what they were interested in but could only see a little muddy depression where they'd been rubbing.  The following day I looked around again and found a very smelly, rather damp and squishy lost scrotum, from one of the steer calves.


This is real Carrotweed, Wild Carrot, Daucus carota.  It has been growing here, along the edges of one drain at the bottom of Flat 1, for the last three or four years.  Stephan sprayed it a couple of years ago but it's still here.

Today I tried pulling one of the plants and discovered it was remarkably easy; so I took the lot out.


It differs from Parsley Dropwort, the other stuff commonly called carrotweed, in having hairy stems and tap roots.  Parsley Dropwort has numerous round tubers on its roots and is almost impossible to pull out by hand.

I spent some time quietly amongst the insemination mob as the daylight faded.  I can now stroke all three yearling heifers as far forward as their shoulders, which is a nice level of tameness.  They'll get even quieter as they age.

Monday the 29th

Heidi phoned this morning and said she and Dave were stacking hay in their shed and were going to run out of room for it all; would we like to buy some bales?


Nice hay is always handy to have, and had we had some last winter, we would have fed it to the bull when he was lame and the others to which we brought freshly cut grass from the orchard as supplementary feed.

Angus heifers

Then Heidi took a break from picking up bales and walked with us to see some of the heifers she bought from us last and the previous year.  They look fantastic.  She does a great job of growing them on.

cow and calves

Back at home Demelza and the two calves had settled in the shade in the roundabout, while Zella was down in the Pig paddock grazing the lush grass.


Out on the flats I found several cows sitting in the hot sunshine.  The breeze was primarily from the north, which ought to have made it too warm, but it seemed not.  Lots of cows were in the shade of the trees over by the stream but these few seemed very happy here.

These last three days were the hottest of the summer but with the humidity down near 50%, it hasn't felt nearly as hot as some other days.

slashed sedge

Stephan had taken the big slasher out to the Middle Back and was doing something he's wanted to do for a long time: mowing as much of the thick sedge as he could get to.

I swam!  I don't usually, unless it gets very hot, which it now is.  It's lovely to just drop one's clothes on the ground and fall into cool water.  The coolness lasts for me for at least the next hour, which is a great relief.

Tuesday the 30th
tree reserve

Young bull 160 was in the Puriri tree reserve in Mushroom 3 this morning.  I am not happy.  This is not the first time he has pushed through a fence and in this case he will have done damage to the usually-protected tree.

I don't know why he's pushing fences when they're electric but he must have received enough shock to deter him from coming out again on his own.  I called Stephan to come out with the tools to loosen the wires and together we chased him out again.

lost tags

Last Sunday I wrote that I'd found these tags on that day, after having seen 746 rubbing herself on one of these trees.  But it wasn't then, it was today, on their next visit to the paddock, when she obviously did the same thing with the same tree.  The cows are going around pretty quickly at the moment, with the Kikuyu growing fast.

I came home and told Stephan we'd now not be able to identify 746, without her tags.  Joke.  She's white-faced, the only cow with a white foot.

During the day the Kotare chicks fledged and I missed every one.  I had the trail camera aimed at the nest but the chicks must have flitted out so quickly that it wasn't activated.  The last one went some time during the late afternoon, after I'd seen only one left in the nest and the parents still flying in to feed it.  They would have gone off to the trees by the stream and so we didn't see them again - or at least if we have done, the chicks aren't distinguishable from their parents, nor any one bird distinguishable from all the others!  I'm glad they nested so close this year; it has been a great pleasure to watch the whole process.

Wednesday the 31st
cow and calf

I watched 838 helping himself to breakfast this morning because Endberly was not ready to get up, and thought about calves being raised on milk they drink from buckets.  That had always seemed such an unnatural thing, requiring the calf to drink with its head down, rather than sucking from something at its own head level.  But it would seem it probably doesn't worry a calf what angle it gets its milk from.

garden produce

The garden is being surprisingly productive in this very hot, humid season - although you can see the Pumpkin plant is succumbing to a humidity-related fungal attack now, as did the rock melon, before the melons were ready.

Angus bulls

Bull 151 has spent a few days in the neighbouring paddock to the other two bulls after returning from his time with Zella, because I didn't want any territorial arguments between him and big 87 with his injured leg.  But when I moved 87 and 160 today, 151 got quite frantic, running up and down the fenceline, so I let him through to join them in the move.  He quietly walked in to the new grass, head down and eating.


The cows, back in the Frog paddock.

The tree stump is dead, despite our efforts to protect it within a fenced reserve after we had to fell the damaged Puriri.  I had hoped it would regenerate from the base of the trunk but apart from one tiny shoot, which then disappeared, that didn't happen and the bark gradually rotted, showing that death had occurred.

In early November Stephan rearranged the fence around the trees to the right, opening this small area to the paddock again, since the protection was no longer required.

The odd-looking tree to the right is the Pukatea that once grew up with a Totara that has since died.  The Pukatea is quite spindly in places where its branches had had to grow through the Totara to the light.  It seems to be a healthy tree.  There are two small pictures of it with the Totara here and here.

Angus cow

729 with a big dry smear of clear mucous on her side.  I'm pretty sure she was on heat three weeks ago but other than a bit of mucous and one deliberate walk over to some other hot cows, there was no firm sign it was so.  I put the new indicator on her back in anticipation of this heat, so I don't miss it.

I had the cows in the yards earlier today for that purpose and particularly to give a Copper injection to the six in the insemination mob who are yet to come on heat.  I have been wondering if we still have a bigger copper deficiency problem than I think, which may be impacting on their fertility.

729, 775, Genie 150, Dreamliner 787, 788 and grey 812 all got the injection.  I also did the cull cows, partly as a test to see whether it does have any adverse effect on a cow in early pregnancy.  It's supposedly a stressful injection but part of the stress is the yarding, which here isn't really very stressful at all.

Thursday the 1st of February

729's indicator was red this morning and she was being followed around by one of the bull calves and occasionally mounted by other cows.  There'd been heavy showers early in the morning and I was keeping an eye on the streams.


By midday the water was definitely coming up so I decided to bring the insemination mob forward, closer to the yards.  Lots of calves hung back behind the cows and I had to make sure they all went across the fast water.

Back near home the main river was getting quite high under our bridge and I did some quick calculations to figure out whether it was too early to inseminate 729 - she probably came on heat sometime in the early hours of the morning, evidenced by the rubbed patches on her pin bones and the very dirty indicator, so she'd probably be ok to do now.  We took only four cow and calf pairs across the stream, so if we had to leave them on that side there would be enough feed for those few around the roundabout until the river went down.

I inseminated 729 in pouring rain and then we took them back to join the others without incident.

rising stream

An hour later and the water was starting to go over the bridge.

Brian had phoned and suggested a visit and I said he might be lucky to get in, so should come immediately we finished our phone call.

rising stream

But he got stuck down the road behind a herd of dairy cows and didn't arrive until a little while after I took this picture.

It's still safe enough to cross when the water is like this, but too much higher and the flow is quite strong and you start to lose track of where the edges are.

When we were sitting down with cups of tea, Brian mentioned he had a meeting to go to at 7pm; I told him it was a bit late to tell us that and he should phone in his apologies.

men and heifer

We went out for a walk around the cows, 807 proving again that she doesn't mind who she meets, she'll still ask for a scratch around the ears.

It's always good walking amongst the cows with another farmer, because sometimes they'll see things I've become too used to to notice any more.  It also makes me look more objectively at the animals, to try and see what someone else might see.


5.10pm and the water was still coming up.  There was no way anyone was getting out of here in the next couple of hours!

When we were wandering around the pond together, I looked up and saw six Kukupa flying overhead.  I haven't seen more than three together for a long time.

budgie chicks

Three little budgie babies, out of their nest to dry off a bit after I had to clean their feet.  Budgie chick poo is sticky stuff and forms hard balls on the feet of the birds, even when I replace the insert in their nest daily to try and keep them clean.


There are three bull calves and only one has been consistently active with the hot cows: 178, son of skinny Deva 135.

The cow in this case is 725, who is sadly on the cull list, primarily for being a troublesome animal at calving.  I also can't safely inseminate her because she gets really fractious when constrained in the race, despite her otherwise good temperament.

man, cow and calf

While I was quietly watching my cows, I was also watching Stephan trying to get Demelza to walk toward the gate so he could get Spot and Zoom out of their paddock for the night.

Leaning on Demelza is something we find ourselves having to do quite often.  It often makes little difference.

Friday the 2nd
full moon

The morning after the full moon.

The moon looks odd like this.  Usually when it rises, the shape I've always seen as a weird rabbit sits the right way up.  Here, on the way to setting this morning, it's diving straight down.  I probably don't see it full and setting often enough to have noticed that it rotates.

Weird that I've spent my whole life not noticing.

Angus cow

Queenly 107 is a thin cow.  She has been a thin cow for a lot of her life.  I do not know why she is a thin cow.  Her mother and grandmother were well-conditioned animals.  I, or something in her metabolism, have failed her somehow.  She is healthy enough, always gets back in calf, but being this thin isn't good.

Angus cow

606, on the other hand, has long been relatively fat.  She stays fat all the time, obviously not having to work very hard to maintain that condition.

Being in good condition seems to be good for a cow, whose feed intake is usually reduced over the winter period when the grass growth is slowed; it allows her to remain in good health and recover quickly from the feed restriction, as soon as the grass grows again in the spring.

A thin cow, on reduced feed, is a bit too close to the edge of "healthy", if anything goes awry and has no reserves if she becomes unwell for any reason.  A fatter cow is in a better state to withstand challenges.


When I planted these Cabbage trees years ago, it was to stabilise the river bank, partly because we intended to remove those horrible Elephant Ear plants at some stage - they're a noxious and spreading weed that appears all along the banks of this stream.

Today Stephan went to work on them with a machete and some herbicide.


He made quite a difference to the landscape.


Buried here were the bodies of about two dozen sheep.  In the very early days of the Mathew family's residence on this land, a couple of dogs belonging to a pig hunter attacked the sheep out the back of the farm, killing several and harming many more.  Some had to be euthanised immediately but those that could be saved were stitched back together and nursed back to health by Patrick, who was still able to do his own veterinary work, even though he was no longer practising.  The loss of the animals, says Stephan, nearly broke them; they could not afford to lose so many.  They subsequently received $20 in compensation from the owner of the dogs.  His dogs went on to a repeat performance on another farm.  Dogs should always be euthanised when they've killed sheep.


The twins are beautifully shiny in the summer.  They've turned into really nice cows - apart from Meg's unfortunate nervousness.

weedy nostoc

This Weedy Nostoc is more lively looking than is usual at this time of year.

new fence

When Blue was here, he and Stephan came up and built this little fence around the new tank.  This is the first time I've been up for a look at it.

A week or so later something tricky suddenly occurred to us about the plumbing of this tank.  The main system had gone off and I'd turned the tap on to allow this water to feed the troughs.  Stephan then got the main system going and neither of us had turned the tank tap off again so the water from the much higher intake was now feeding up to this tank by both its top inlet and bottom outlet.  The top inlet would have shut off when the water level activated the float valve but there was nothing stopping the water coming in the bottom and it turned out that that flow was much faster than the overflow pipe, as I discovered late one dark night when I came up to close the tap and checked the tank to find a lot of water pouring out through the vents in the inspection lid.  Thank goodness it has such vents or presumably we could have ruptured the tank.


There must be sufficient numbers of fish in our pond to attract a variety of Shag visitors.  This one seemed quite happy to sit here on the jumping board as we moved around in the shed and I opened the end door of the greenhouse to get a reasonably close picture.

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