Just before 4am I came to check 813 and found her lying and pushing, two lovely front feet visible already. When the calf's nose was coming through, I helped by holding the feet between contractions, so she made slightly faster progress through the tough bit of the birth. When the calf was on the ground, I went back to bed.
Getting 813 through her first pregnancy and birth is very satisfying. She and Glia are the two daughters of bull 137, a somewhat excitable fellow. Glia's marvellously quiet temperament has always surprised me; 813 was quite calm as a young calf until she got a fright in the yards when I did something unwise. As a yearling she was still disappointingly skittery; but by last summer she'd calmed down again and so I put her in the mating group where she saw me several times a day and I was eventually able to scratch her tail and back. She has remained calm and strokable throughout this year.
813 has been a bit troublesome when others have been calving, being intensely interested and getting in the way but she's fine now with her own calf.
She didn't strike me as particularly big but in the pictures this calf looks like a very well-resourced baby! 813 has been in excellent condition throughout her pregnancy. Some (mistaken) people continue to maintain that heifers' feed supply should be restricted during pregnancy so their calves don't get too big. It's unfortunate nonsense: the only time you can and should make all efforts to control calf birth size is at conception. Strong, healthy, well-grown mothers are best placed to give birth to their calves, feed them well and get pregnant again for next year.
(That's Henrietta 141 in the background, still pregnant.)
The bulls are out in the Swamp paddock and we try to ensure one of us has seen them at least every couple of days, to make sure they're where they're meant to be and not getting into any sort of trouble.
On my way back from eyeing the two of them quietly grazing, I found another patch of sphagnum moss. It's fabulous stuff.
775's daughter has a tiny white spot on her right eye.
One of the things I fear during calving, other than deaths and difficulties during births, is that I will be ill. There is nobody to whom I can delegate some of the things I wish to be done as I do them at this time. Last week Stephan was afflicted by a cold or 'flu that sent him to bed for most of three or four days and I had thought I was going to miss it. Last night my throat was sore, this morning it is worse. I will spend as much of today in bed as I can, in the hope that rest will help me get through it quickly.
I saw this calf and the word "soggy" immediately came to mind. I can't remember where I first heard that description of well-fed cattle, indicating plenty of fat under their skin.
I think this calf must be growing at a fantastic rate; he's now 16 days old.
716 had been looking pensive since 7am and here she is at 10.40, with the calf well on its way out, a nice pair of front feet visible.
At 11.19, she delivered her daughter.
While I was watching 716, 813's daughter was bouncing around, often coming quite close to me before dashing away again.
Having received only a handful of entries to The annual Eva's Calving Date Competition, I sent a gentle reminder (some who received it suggested it was closer to begging or emotional blackmail) to my regular readers, explaining that while they may not have been interested in the prize we always offer, since they either didn't want to come and visit or knew they could turn up any time anyway, the point of the competition is far more about connection with a usually-solitary farmer than winning a prize or guessing the correct date.
Before the competition's closure I happily received another 11 entries, even one from Stephan, who had regularly attempted to trick me into telling him when I thought Eva would calve. I spotted his wickedness every time and he promises he didn't sneak a peak at my list, although his guess is suspiciously good.
I slept for three and a half hours, leaving Stephan to keep an eye on things. A couple of hours later he quietly woke me with the news that Dreamliner 787 had just calved: she has a daughter this time, her third calf.
Another little white eye spot, this one on 716's daughter, born this morning.
I was very pleased to observe 716 and 813 being gentle with each other's calves as this new one blundered into the other's personal space. Adults 607 and 710 were so violent last week with each other's calves that I had to separate them. The poor little things just wanted to explore and kept being bowled sideways and through fences. Maternal hormones can do terrible things to a cow's brain and behaviour.
This gorgeous-looking calf is unfortunately rather wary of me. Her sister was similarly disposed last year, so got sold with the weaners. I'd like to keep one of 749's daughters but I want a quiet one.
Last night at dusk I watched this calf and one other, streaking around Flat 5b - and up and down the other side of the fence in 5a as well, after they went under the tape gate - sometimes racing her companion and then carrying on alone, running as fast as she could for several minutes. Watching calves play is one of the absolute delights of this time of year.
I did my late check at 9.45, wanting to go to bed as early as I could to nurse my cold/'flu bug, but found 166 in labour. I came home for an hour and then went back out to check on her again, waited around in the cold dark for three quarters of an hour before I could see the calf's tongue, figured all was well and went home. A few minutes later I heard the characteristic new-mother bellowing as 166 must have delivered her baby.
Fancy 166 was standing with her little daughter, who was curled up beside the 5a fenceline and her afterbirth was abandoned in the paddock. I picked that up and carried it to the drain reserve and popped it over into the long grass near a little tree. The placenta and associated membranes are quite heavy, probably five or so kilograms in weight.
Kees and Darush came to service the digger, checked it thoroughly and found no nasty surprises, so the verdict is still extremely favourable.
Note the digger is levitating in this picture!
Up and about mid-morning, 166's daughter is a strange-looking thing, the whites of her eyes just showing, so she looks somewhat alarmed.
She is the full sister of last year's calf, Fancy 188. I didn't really mean to repeat that mating but got distracted when Fancy 166 was due to be inseminated and gave her the same sire as last season. It wasn't until I'd thawed the semen straw that I realised what I'd done and at $50 a pop, wasn't about to waste it.
Dushi had been looking distracted since 10am, had a foot visible in a membrane bag by noon and when I went over to check, she'd pushed the calf out as far as his chest and then rested, so I pulled him the rest of the way so his breathing would not be restricted. Being stopped at chest level is risky, since there's likely pressure on the umbilical cord stopping oxygenated blood flow to the baby, and it can't breathe because of pressure around the chest. Dushi probably would have got him out just fine but better to reduce his stress.
Like the other two two-year-old mothers, she was extremely quiet with her baby, so much so that the next time I looked at them, they were sitting quietly together; the calf hadn't even tried to get up yet. I went to check that all was well and couldn't see that there was anything amiss. An hour or so later the calf was up and walking, then fed.
We sent the youngsters back Over the Road this afternoon. I watched steer 861 as he passed, checking his previously-injured foot, which seems to have grown out without causing him any bother.
In the evening Gina 142 was in labour as it got dark. I went to look with the torch at 8.27 and found her with the calf's membrane bag presenting, so went back to the house for a while. At 9.05 I checked again and her calf was standing beside her! Fast work.
At 10pm $8000 appeared in our bank account, the tardy refund for the electric UBCO bike. The whole experience has been unfortunate, to say the least. I remain surprised that UBCO, who maintain their bikes were created for farm use but did not ensure they were suitable for use in wet conditions, opted to refund rather than replace. The dealer says they won't continue to sell them as farm bikes because they're not suitably water-proof. While I would really prefer to have an electric bike, if UBCO don't have confidence in their own creation either, I'll be looking elsewhere.
At the end of my last check, one of those magical moments I note because I can't easily capture a picture. I was about to go through the steel gate at the end of the lane near the house, to check on Eva before retiring for the night and saw in the torch light the sparkle of a beautiful, perfect spider web between the batten fence and the gate. I paused for a moment to admire it, then with apologies to the orb-web spider in the centre, broke it.
Whenever I see a perfect web I always think of a cartoon once seen and, I suspect, faultily remembered - and as I try and write this, my brain hurts and it's all getting fuzzy: I think it was one of Burton Silver's Bogor series, in which a spider has a bet with the snake (and here is the memory problem, because why would there have been a snake in a Bogor cartoon?) that it can't move without destroying something beautiful. The spider had made the snake form and hold itself in an upright circle and then created a perfect web in that space.
Funny face: 813's daughter again.
I did everything slowly today, took stuff to unstuff my sinuses, stuff to mask the other aches and pains, felt dreadful.
811 must have itched her ear very enthusiastically against this post and broke her legally-required NAIT RFID tag. Bother.
I've long thought the Allflex brand tags must not be up to much but after discussion with other farmers, realise that part of the problem is farming with trees - although in this case, a processed tree.
I will order a duplicate 811 tag when I next send away for NAIT tags for the calves.
These tags are not permitted to be reused and it would be impossible to get the pointed bit of the other half of the tag out of this bit without obviously drilling it out.
166's daughter again. The tape gates are electrified by the top wires system so I've had to work out ways to hook them on bits that are non-electric, because a calf could conceivably get tangled in the tapes if it went through and caught a loop around itself. Sometimes I tie the tapes across the gateways as a single barrier, so the calves can walk or run underneath but here I wanted to have a bit more of a visual and physical barrier to their free passage, the calves on each side needing to stay with their own mothers.
When I did the evening molasses round, still-pregnant 745 was the only cow to come up Flat 1. The others were all grazing down the bottom end, with their calves.
Glia and Fancy 166 having left Flat 5a, I let the cows and calves out of Flat 1, gently urging the calves to go with their mothers. They move fairly well, if not hurried.
745 looks very close to calving. She stood around looking like this for long periods today.
As 745 (on the right) and 607 grazed quietly, I noted how little apparent difference there is in the roundness of their bellies. But there is still a difference when one watches the cows moving: bits of solid calf bulge out of 745's right side when she walks, whereas 607's is now just her innards, with lots more room for grass since she gave birth to her calf.
Henrietta 141 produced her bull calf sometime before my first check this morning.
This is the last of the S Chisum 6175 calves and the fifth bull. Last year all of his calves here were heifers.
745 was watching me anxiously as I rode past, first thing this morning. I am glad she has calved; I was beginning to wonder about her. In her previous four pregnancies she has delivered her calf on day 273 or 274, so I was expecting her to calve a week ago.
That looks very wrong.
I went in to the paddock and followed this calf around until I worked out he belongs to 613. I remember looking at him last night because he has had a bent right knee for a couple of days - something I see in some of the larger calves sometimes, seemingly related to some sort of overexertion, rather than probable infection in that joint, although I cannot be certain. I didn't notice anything wrong with his mouth and surely this much difference would have attracted my attention.
I took a lot of pictures to have a look at in detail on the computer screen, rang and arranged a vet visit, then came back and saw him feeding successfully and, considering his knee issue, changed my mind about walking him all the way in to the yards. I cancelled the vet call but arranged to pick up two injections for the calf, one antibiotic and one pain relief, presuming Stephan and I could probably sneak up on him and catch him on our own later.
Broccoli for dinner tonight, before all the flowers open.
During the day a lot of the flowers did come out and while the flowers and buds still tasted fine, the stalks were quite tough and fibrous, so it's obviously better to eat them young.
When we came home from town with the drugs, we set off to catch our calf. On the way there I saw 171 with two calves and hers was not the one feeding - the scar on her son's right thigh makes him easily identifiable.
I went into the paddock and interrupted this happy scene, sending 787's little heifer running off to the correct udder, instead of stealing from this cooperative and naive young mother.
When we reached Flat 5d we found our calf and a couple of others out of the paddock in the lane, so gently herded 613's injured calf and another into the corner formed by some wooden rails and the steel gate, where Stephan pounced on the calf and, finding him quite an armful, ended up falling over on the ground with him in some sort of embrace that fortunately kept him restrained.
I took this photo to send to the vet and while it looked frightening when I first saw it, it gradually became clear that the calf must have collided with a fence, probably flipped through it as his two teeth caught on the wire, tearing them out of his jaw. His other six teeth are still in line but it was all a bit messy to see very clearly what was going on.
I gave him the two injections and we let him up to go back to his mother through the fence.
Over the next few days we moved the mob toward the front of the farm so that when he was due his next three-day pain injection, he was much closer to the yards.
What is it with white spots this year? This is Henrietta 141's pedigree son! Looking at yesterday's photo of him (Thursday's last picture) the white spot is visible there too but, not expecting it, I hadn't noticed it.
I made ice-cream this afternoon, with lots of glorious, thick, fresh cream, eggs, sugar and 100% cocoa chocolate!
While I worked I was keeping an eye on 742, in labour over in Flat 3. It turned out I wasn't watching quite closely enough and when I looked again, she was licking her just-born calf on the ground. That's number 28; three to go.
Dushi is doing well with her little brown son. He's a bit flighty, keeps ending up in silly places and getting a fright when I go to help reunite them. He must have gone out into the lane, then back into the cemetery reserve, where there are wooden rails through which he then couldn't get back to the paddock and had to be helped back to the lane first. On one occasion he jumped and went over the low rails: great training for being a bull who doesn't respects gates, yards or fences!
Calves tuck themselves away in all sorts of hiding places, here a hole in the ground, made some time ago by one of the bulls.