The week beginning the 29th of September 2018
Saturday the 29th
goose poo

A fulsome fowl keeps fouling our deck!  For some reason the goose has forgotten she's a sheep, abandoned her small flock and taken to living around our house.  She has revolting personal habits.

Last night, when I spotted her on the deck I went out to chase her away and she flapped her wings to get out of my way, connecting with my thumb.  It hurt so badly I felt sick for half an hour!  Having gone out in the middle of doing dishes, it wasn't until a bit later that I took my nitrile glove off and discovered what was hurting: I now have a partly-black nail and a painfully bruised thumb.

girl and bird

Penny was determined to make friends with Floss and appears to have succeeded.  There were no screams, so obviously no biting.  I think Floss might be mellowing.

Maybe she's more accepting of other fans of pink.


We put David and Penny to work, helping Stephan with the fence rearrangement at the top of 5d.


Penny was reportedly very good at getting the staples out of the old battens.

heifers on a hill

I had to shift the non-pregnant mob Over the Road; they're eating faster than I want them to.  Grass growth has slowed again as the result of a drop in temperatures over the last week.

Puriri trees

These are two Puriri trees and there's an obvious difference in their vitality.  Both have been protected from the cattle since we fenced the reserve on the hillside.

Usually the tree further into the bush area would be the healthier-looking one.

new gateway

The fencing job was getting on well, the new strainer now in and the gate about to be rehung.  The gate is a heavy one and after the strainer broke, the whole thing wobbled about and fell over if I unlatched it to try and open it, so I stopped using it.  The delay in repair was mostly because we were thinking about the change we'd make to the fenceline.

native orchid

Hands up!

I took David and Penny with me for a walk across the Mushroom paddocks, across the stream twice and up into the Bush Hill reserve to seek out the orchids again.

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photographing a plant

As you can see, they're enormous plants whose presence demands attention!  Not.

We went on along the hillside through the scrub, looking for more orchids of any kind but found no new patches of undiscovered plants.

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man and girl

I wasn't exactly sure where we were except that at some point, sooner than I thought, we came to the old boundary fence and the usual trail Stephan and I follow up and down the hill.

native orchid

David is the best orchid spotter I've been out with yet!  He kept seeing these ones as we walked down the hill and back to the paddock.

I found what I believe to be some Kiwi probing, when I bent to photograph an orchid plant.  It's the first time I've ever found any.  Whenever I find footprints in the mud, it would seem the Kiwi have been on their way to other places, rather than attempting to feed there.  Wet mud probably isn't much good for finding food.


Penny came out with me to the birds this afternoon.  She picked up the brush and pan and very usefully did some seed-husk sweeping.

Whose photo is it if it's on my camera, taken by David?  Apparently him.  Lucky I cleared that up!  Anything from here down with me in it was taken by David or Stephan.

Sunday the 30th
new fencing

David and Penny went out for the day to do some family house sorting.

I needed to gather up some of our electric tape reels to break paddocks in the approach to calving and most of them are currently protecting the newly-dug drains.

Stephan used steel waratahs to fence the drain in the Bush Flat to the left and also did part of the drain behind us on the right, freeing two reels and an armful of standards for my use.

three cows

I shifted cows around.  These three are from the main cow mob: 613, 607 and 749, who should be the earliest of their mob to calve.  They had their first molasses and Magnesium this evening.

During the day I shifted Eva, 807 and Endberly out of the Windmill to the top end of the House paddock, so I can watch them with ease.  The thin mob came in to the Windmill so I can have a good look at them over the next couple of days and check for any unusually-fast udder development.

Monday the 1st of October

These three spent a lot of the day in Stephan's shed, making spinning tops and a handle system to hold and set them spinning very, very fast.  David says the children at the school where he works as an assistant, have plastic tops and he wants to "smash them" in spinning competitions.


I spent the morning watching 807.

When I looked out the window at first light, the three were sitting where they'd slept during the night but at 6.50am, 807 had her tail out, repeatedly stamped her hind legs and then walked stiffly over to the trees by the fence where she sat down.

Then nothing appeared to happen for ages.  I went and checked occasionally, waiting for any sign of a bag or birth fluids but there was none.  I presumed she was just taking this in the same relaxed way she takes life.

By noon I had become concerned and went out with some warm water to wash her vulva and see if she'd let me insert my hand to find out what was going on inside.  I was able to slip my hand in far enough to feel the first bag but she wasn't happy about it and moved away.

I decided lunch would be a good idea before doing anything else and that if she hadn't done anything by one o'clock, I'd take her to the yards.  So we did.


On the other side of the bridge she suddenly sat down and popped out a dark bag.  When she stood up we carried on to the yards, so she'd be where we needed her if something else didn't quickly happen.

She lay down a couple of times and the light-coloured calf bag gradually appeared.  There weren't any feet in it though and she still wasn't doing anything in a hurry.

Stephan got the spare gate ready in the crush pen, since we anticipated we'd need it to get her up the race.  She fortunately went up without any resistance.


I donned one glove and had a feel, finding two feet and the head but the calf's position was wrong.  Thinking of a clock face, ordinarily you want to find the two feet at 7 and 5 and the head at 11, 12 or 1.  This calf's head was down at 7 and its two feet at 11 and 2.  Coming up at that angle, the feet were unlikely to enter the birth canal, so labour could not progress.

I left one arm in 807 while Stephan put another glove on my other arm and some lube up the sleeve and I gently inserted that hand too.  My two arms together are less than the width of a calf, so such stretching is all to the good, as long as it is done carefully.

I tried pulling the legs up but couldn't turn the calf.  I took off my gloves and went to phone the vet ... who wasn't available for about two hours.  Obviously I'd have to try harder; so I did.


I hauled on both legs together, simply pulling them up, then tried one leg to see if I could get it out (not sure why, seemed a good idea) and then toyed with the idea of putting chains on the feet but that's tricky and I wasn't sure they'd be of any assistance at that stage.

A couple of minutes later I went through the same process again and suddenly the calf was much more around the right way.  I presume there must have been a contraction that helped the calf turn into the right position.

In the photo, you may be able to see, beneath my left hand, the white of the bottom of one of the calf's feet.

We talked about the possibility of just pulling the calf but it's always a tough job - on us and the mother - and I thought it entirely likely that 807 would now get on with delivering it normally anyway, if we let her out of the race.


After eating some of the nice long grass around the area, she lay down on her left side and I went to help, just pulling on the legs with each contraction, holding them in place between pushes, so that her work was reduced.

She got up and changed sides and over the next few minutes the calf gradually emerged.  It was a nice size for a heifer, first-time mother.

(That's my calving hair-cut: really easy to wash at night when I get splattered with unmentionables.)


Once the chest is out, I often pull this way, picking the front legs up so that the calf's body turns as the hips come out.  A big calf can lock at the hips if it comes straight out but a slight twist gets it through the slightly wider diagonal width in the cow's pelvis.  The hips are, in this picture, less rotated than the photo makes it appear: mother is already on her side and I'm pulling out to this side a bit, in a direction that would be down, were she standing.

newborn calf

David and Penny came quietly over for a look at the calf, while 807 rested.

The calf shook his head, snorted, sneezed and I suggested the two people move away again as 807 looked back with acute interest, before getting up.  She came back to sniff the calf with obvious trepidation, before bellowing at him and dancing around as he moved more and more.

I was relieved all was so well, considering the delay.  It seemed quite reasonable to wait but more should have been happening during those hours.  I wonder whether, once the bags had begun emerging, successive sitting down and getting up and changing sides, would have got the calf into the correct position without my assistance?  But that might have taken another hour or two and at some stage the calf would have become stressed and there's always the possibility a calf won't come out alive if it takes too long.

Ten minutes later the calf had worked out how to stand on four feet and was then circling his mother looking for a feed, which she wasn't quite ready to stand and allow.  We left them to it for a while, letting the other two cows come up to this nice grass, to keep 807 company.

spinning tops

Work continued on the spinning tops until they were competition-ready.

David's spun so fast it hummed!  I think he's achieved his aim.

Having told us they intended to go on to his other aunt mid-morning, they didn't leave until sometime after four.

What an interesting day.

heifer and calf

I didn't want to make the calf walk too far yet, so left them resting near the yards and took 807 some Magnesium and molasses.

Just before dark we went back and attempted to move the calf in the wheelbarrow, which doesn't work as well when they're alive as when they're dead and not moving.  Stephan ended up carrying him for short stretches, then putting him down on the ground so 807 could see where he was - a cow often can't comprehend when you pick her calf up; it's as if her baby has disappeared.

As I did the molasses rounds for the other cows, I kept seeing Eva standing looking distracted and, bearing in mind the looseness of her pelvic ligaments during the day, I concluded she was in early labour.  By ten to eight she had her tail out, occasionally violently swishing it in annoyance, so it was definite.

I went out for a look at 8.55 and there were two feet.  I had a moment of panic when I couldn't see them properly because she'd defecated all over them and I feared they were back feet and we'd be back to the yards again.  But no, they were two quite small front feet, up the right way.  My other anxiety about this calf (apart from worldwide interest in her calving due to the Competition), is the use of this new bull for my cows.  As my pedigree cows are no longer registered, I don't have recorded EBVs for them, so don't know how their own birthweights would now compare with the Angus average.  The bull's birthweight EBV is a little above average and he has a negative calving ease score, earned by calves requiring assistance.

But it would appear that the bull and Eva have produced a very small calf.  Eva lay down while I was there and as she did so, a lot of air farted out from around the calf, so she immediately jumped up again to have a look behind her.  Next time she lay I could see the nose and the third time the head was born.  After that she stood for the rest of her contractions, as she usually does, soon delivering the calf, which fell on its head so that I felt it necessary to step in and pull it round so it could breathe easily - and check its sex: a heifer.

I left them to it while Eva licked her baby clean and came back half an hour later, to see if there was another calf, since the one seemed so small.  Half an hour later again and the calf was standing steadily.

How nice that the two animals I needed to observe carefully, conveniently got on with the job on one day!  Thus the Annual Eva's Calving Date Competition closed early.

As noted on the Competition page, Stephan is disqualified from winning the competition for various reasons I've made up.  Firstly those usual terms and conditions - staff and family can't win prizes, etc. etc., but he also had to be forced to enter a guess, showing a complete lack of commitment, told me his date and time as we were watching 807 in labour and Eva was standing in front of him, therefore had far more information than anyone else but still missed that she was on the brink of calving within hours.  So there.  Hannah wins.  Congratulations!

Tuesday the 2nd
wandering calf

Here we go: constant anxiety about calves going off to hide in the long grass on the edges of the drains, before they fall in and need to be rescued.  I walked quickly across the paddock and headed that small bull calf back to his worried mother.

cow and calf

Eva's daughter is very cute, of course.  She's also very calm, which is a nice sign.

Eva's front teats looked as though the calf had cleaned them by having a feed but later in the day I wondered if that were so.  She seemed very intent on trying to nibble bits of me and still looked very hollow.  When she walked she was starting to waver and seemed to be getting a bit stupid, like anyone does without food for too long.

cow and calf

I led the calf by the finger she was trying to suck, to Eva's udder and then helped her stay there.  There didn't seem to be much milk to be had from the front teats (the calf would suck for a short while then let go) until Eva started licking under her tail as the calf expelled some meconium.  It seemed that that may have caused Eva to allow her milk to flow freely and the calf latched on and kept on sucking.

I have noticed before that tickling a calf under its tail will prompt it to suck but had not realised that a cow has such a strong response to her side of the exchange.

After a good long feed, little calf curled up on the grass by the fence and slept for most of the afternoon.

new fencing

There is now a three-wire fence in through half of the stand of trees.  Stephan came back afterwards and pulled the concrete posts out and will have to shift the posts and battens somewhere else.  They might have a place near the new yards - and lots will be used there anyway.

I drafted Emergency and 714 out of their mob this afternoon, after doing a bit of thinking about expected calving times.

In this table, my start and finish times are the normal 275-290 day gestation period.  Expected is the date calculated using each cow's prior gestation periods - or in the case of the two heifers, partly based on their own gestation and that of their mothers' other calves.  The earliest and latest dates are calculated from their shortest and longest gestations in other years.

For those who've only calved once, I used that gestation period, so they have no early/late dates.

Harriet 141's Absolute is highlighted because his EBV for gestation is -13.0 days, with 98% accuracy, so he will definitely affect gestation length.  The breed average is -3.9 days (these shift over time as the breed average changes from the base year's 0 figure) and the other insemination bulls this year have figures of -6.8 (Focus), -4.9 (Chisum) and -7.9 (Harry).

calving spreadsheet
native orchid

Then I went for another orchid check.

Now I've looked at this picture, I'll have to go again because I'm suspicious about the tentative identification I made with the help of the Native Orchids website.  There is another orchid there whose colouration is more like this one but it depends whether or not this open mouth is round or not.  I had assumed it couldn't be because that species is not listed as having been found around here.

After doing a bit more exploring in other directions up, down and along the hillside from this little patch, I think was lucky to find them at all.  They grow almost in a line, in an area less than a metre in width and only about three metres in length.  There are less than 20 plants that I've seen.  There could be all sorts of unexpected things growing where nobody sees them at all.

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cows and calves

Newly-calved cows are really silly about other calves, seeing them as threatening creatures.  807 had taken her baby away to the edge of the paddock because Eva was chasing him away from her calf; then Eva's calf playfully followed, so Eva came too.

cows and calves

Then 807's calf went off for a run, which solved the problem.

Wednesday the 3rd

807's calf.  The grey cows usually either have a calf exactly like themselves or with straight black hair.  Endberly had the beautiful straight-haired silver calf in 2014, but we haven't had one of those again since.


Eva's daughter is too cute.  She's also the friendliest young calf I think I've ever met.  Must be her dad's influence.  Everything I read about him told me his progeny were quiet, too quiet in some cases.

I spent some time with her again today, reminding her repeatedly to suck from Eva's back teats where there's more milk than the front.


Stephan used more steel waratahs today to fence along the Windmill drain, freeing up another of the electric tape reels and a number of standards.  All these drain fences are 2-wire electric, with the bottom wire attached to the bottom wires of the fences, so they'll all be off at present for calving.  We've also turned down the output on the fence energiser, so the shock is half as strong as usual.

native orchid

Back to the Bush Hill reserve orchids.  They do look a bit like the second identification I wondered about but when I sent pictures to my local orchid consultant, he said he considers that other identity to be just a variant of the first.  So Corybas oblongus it is.

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While I was lying on the sun-dappled slope in the bush, I could hear hammering and knew Stephan was up to something interesting nearby.  When I walked back across the paddock, I found he'd installed the rails at each end of the culvert in the gateway of the Small Hill paddock.


Magnesium Oxide and molasses for the first time this season, for the young cows in Flat 5d.  They all knew what it was and were keen to eat it, having met it for the first time last year.

In here are 742, 745, 773, 777, 141, and 142, due to calve from a little over a week hence.

Thursday the 4th

I rode out in the light rain a couple of times today to check on the animals but otherwise stayed in my office, reading in preparation for a teleconference with my complaints committee this afternoon.  The rain was probably a good thing, since it's been dry for many days and while that's made conditions much more pleasant for walking and working, it could easily get too dry very quickly at this time of year.

Christina came out for an afternoon visit with Stephan while I was working, so they could practice their reo together.  We have an upcoming assessment.

Friday the 5th
native orchid

Elizabeth, Sarah, Maihi and Wanairangi came to visit this afternoon.  I'd suggested to Sarah on the phone that we have a te reo immersion visit, since they are far more fluent than the two of us.  But after struggling for the first twenty minutes, I suggested that we do this only for the first hour.  It's really tiring having to think so hard to say anything.  It will of course get easier.

We all went walking, looking at interesting things along the way.  Maihi and I climbed through a fence to have a close look at these orchids, Peka-a-waka, Earina mucronata.


Then he and I continued on across the stream and he struck off on his own for a little while, although he said he didn't want to be by himself too far away from me.

woman and cow

When we came home past the cows in the House paddock, Endberly was in labour.

After afternoon tea with a delicious assortment of baking from the kitchen of Elizabeth and Sarah, we walked up the lane and sat down to watch Endberly.

But nothing obvious happened over the next hour and I became a little concerned.  I concluded afterwards that Endberly was more nervous about the extra people than I sensed and waited until they had gone to get on with her labour properly.  Or maybe it just took that long.

cow and calf

She lay down to do most of the hard work in getting the head and shoulders out, then stood up for the rest, shooting her baby out with a significant spurt of blood, onto the ground behind her.

I stepped in to see what sort of baby it was: a heifer, Harry's first calf here, so I immediately decided her name is Harriet.

cows and calves

Twenty minutes later when I went past with the evening's molasses for everyone, she was up and looking for her first feed.


Stephan had taken another six Topmilk bins out on the ute to Flat 3, which is where the young cows had moved to during the day.

The cows are mostly very good about going to a bin and staying there, at least when I first put the molasses out.  I'll often have to move a bin to provide for someone who hasn't found a gap between more dominant cows.

The first cow in the line is always the most dominant, so as soon as she's finished, or thinks she has, she moves to the next bin, shoving that cow out of the way, and so a game of "musical bins" begins.  The last cow in the line often just withdraws and returns to grazing.  Some will look back up the line for an abandoned bin and lick whatever the previous cow left.

There's not a lot of grass around yet but with the rain yesterday and the lovely sunshine during today, it should really start growing.  Hopefully we'll not have any more cold snaps like we experienced early this week - with an overnight temperature of 1.5°C recorded on Sunday morning, following 2° and 3° lows on the previous two mornings. 

The annual Eva's Calving Date Competition has closed.

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