I forgot to include this photo I took on Jude's long-zoom camera during last week. Over three or four days, there was regular brawling out in the paddock, as numerous Pukeko fought to establish superiority in some ongoing argument.
Primarily there was a lot of chasing around, with wings held up toward their tails, white bums flashing as they ran after each other, screeching. Every now and then a bird would fly just before it was caught at a run, flapping up and over the fences and drain, to land in safety in Flat 1.
There were only a few of these stand-up fights but they're always exciting to watch.
And a photo I forgot to take today (or yesterday) was of Ella and Stephan, the Father and Daughter picture, before Ella went off on the bus early this morning.
We need to weigh the calves. The time for weaning has come and so today we got the big mob in and weighed everyone - even the two I don't like weighing because they cause trouble.
Opportunist 746 on the right, never lets a chance go by to grab an exclusive snack ...
We set up a couple of upside-down TopMilk bins by the race so I could step easily up and down from the ground. Stephan did most of the cattle moving, although I went down and helped bring them up from the bottom yard when we'd done the half who came up first.
The two who I don't like to weigh are 823, who tried to jump out of the race as a yearling and consequently earned a place on the works list and Meg 699, who did the same thing at the same age but got to stay by virtue of being one of the identical twins. I try not to have Meg alone in the race, although she has on occasion since that early misdemeanour, behaved well enough. Both of those animals walked slowly enough over the platform that I was able to record their weights.
When we had finished, we drafted the cattle into two groups: 48 continuing on as the "big mob" and the 13 shown here, cows and calves about to be separated from each other.
I didn't want to interrupt this last feed but as soon as I opened the gate to Flat 5d, Gem left her son where he stood and walked into the paddock: her last calf, his last feed.
There are seven cows because the twins will now stay together until they go off on the truck to the works (and I'll try and get them in the same truck pen for the journey as well).
Again as I write about them going, I know I will miss them a great deal. But neither has ever produced a calf whose temperament was calm enough to keep.
The cows' feed was restricted, both because the paddock has recently been grazed and also because I'd run a tape across it, to portion the grass out in a controlled manner.
The calves may eat as much as they like and keep on growing.
Today the heifers averaged 247.3kg and the steers, 257.6kg. We haven't yet weighed Zella's and Glia's sons.
Adjusting to 200 days the heifers average 259.8kg and the steers 268.4kg.
The average growth per day (gpd) was lower than usual, at 1.04kg/day. That would be because we didn't weigh for the first time until some of the calves were three months old. When calves are weighed early, the gpd is higher, because gain in the first few days is much higher than later in lactation.
During the afternoon we had a te reo session with one of our class-mates who looked like he was struggling a bit during the last couple of classes. It's always so rewarding in terms of one's own learning, to help someone else learn something. We spent a couple of hours conversing in simple sentences - if I do this, what will you do? If I don't do that, I'll do this other thing instead. I'm going to town to buy some clothes.
I am enjoying it all very much.
The little Brown Quail we sometimes see were foraging around underneath the ute when I went outside today, so I went quietly to a window to photograph them as they moved up the track.
Presumably they are two adults and their four chicks.
I asked Stephan to go and put a tape around the damaged Tī Kōuka on the Flat 1 fenceline, before Zella had another go at it.
Day two of weaning.
In the picture Gina 142 is looking back at her calf, one of those pacing up and down the fenceline.
Today and tonight are generally the noisiest times, before the animals become accustomed to their separation and gradually settle down into their newly independent lives.
This is a good weaning area for us, up the top end of the flats: we can hear them if we listen outside, but the mooing is not audible inside, so doesn't keep us awake.
Weaning time, when the cows' udders fill to capacity but are not being suckled, is when I can see whether or not they've been evenly producing milk.
This is 613, with a dry front right quarter. I am surprised, since it was the left side that was, last year, affected by mastitis after weaning and it would be those quarters I'd have expected to be less productive this season.
It is possible that the calf was getting enough from the other three teats and simply left this one to dry off. It wasn't as if he suffered any malnutrition, looking at him three weeks ago. On Sunday he weighed 277kg.
Eva and Delight caught my eye as I walked back down the lane, alone as they were in the corner of Flat 5a, while the others were all waiting further up the paddock.
Eva's udder is generally quite productive-looking but right now it looks like that huge calf is sucking everything out of it.
Eva weighs 604kg and her daughter, 284kg.
I walked up the lane to set up the gates for them to come across to Flat 3, then changed my mind and let them go diagonally from 5a to 5c.
One of the carnivorous plants now living on the kitchen windowsill; this one Drosera capensis (Alba), an attractive little specimen.
They only catch the little flies I barely notice are in the house but there are quite a number of them stuck to the plants in their pots in the kitchen.
Mr 176 is going through an unattractive phase, I think. His face seems to have grown faster than his ears.
Today, as has become usual this year, there are no Putangitangi, Paradise Ducks, anywhere on the flats. Yesterday there were two, the first I've seen since a family group flew in back in January.
I call to any who fly over, hoping they'll land. One of our neighbours reputedly has a duck phobia and there's often a lot of shooting from that direction. The few who remain are not safe there.
Stephan took this picture, he said, because he was delighted by the ease with which the post-hole borer dug down into the soil beneath the huge stump of the Kahikatea tree. He'd thought he would have to chisel his way through roots all the way.
About a quarter of an hour later I arrived to inspect progress. Stephan was already onto the next post hole.
A fence doesn't get built one post after the other along the line, especially in terrain like this. The end strainer posts go in, then it is bisected somewhere along the line, at one of the high or low mid-points, then at various key points along the way, before the rest of the posts go into the ground between the others.
The post in the hole dug in the photo above, is the one in this picture on this side of Stephan.
I wandered across the Windmill to check on the weaned calves and remarked to myself that there is no longer any Hedge Mustard growing at the top of the paddock. It's been a couple of years at least since I last had to pull any out and it looks like we have finally beaten it. It is worth fighting new weeds when you first see them, before they really take hold!
What is it about Demelza's daughters? She did and they all do this thing: standing alone watching everyone else leave.
It's bearable, though annoying, when I can see them, in a flat paddock like this. But there have been many anxious moments when I've feared one of them has been stuck somewhere. It does not help that my fear is not just the product of my active imagination but based in horrible experience!
I looked down to see where the house cows were this morning, since Stephan was a bit late going to milk Zella but there was no noise coming from any of them; they usually start calling if they think he's not there in time. Glia was away over the bridge still, Zella was at the gateway and there was only one calf in the little closed paddock by the cowshed ... except it wasn't closed. The gate down the end was open and Zella's calf was quietly grazing alongside the driveway.
He's so used to waiting to feed from Zella - often now doesn't try for a while after milking, since there's probably not much to be had - that he'd ignored her as she often does him. Stephan milked the normal amount from Zella and all went on as usual.
This is why it pays to keep pest traps set all the time!
Neither of us has seen this big, black Tom cat before.
I didn't see how terrified the poor thing was until I looked at the picture. He was soon relieved of his anxiety. He had a fine set of gonads and not a single white hair anywhere on his body.
He was a big cat but pretty thin, like most of the dumped strays we trap or shoot. People are cruel. Cats should be loved or disposed of humanely - except if people would only de-sex their pets, there simply wouldn't be the problem of too many cats!
I need Flat 5d for the next lot of weaning cows, so moved the first seven down the lane to 5a today, with their calves in the Windmill keeping pace beside them. They'll be able to see and hear each other across the lane still. I like to gradually increase the distance between them, so nobody gets too stressed.
On my way out to fetch the big mob I saw two creatures running across the top of the House paddock and into the lane: this frightened rabbit kept running down toward me in panicked flight from ...
...this rather small feral cat. It was barely bigger than the rabbit.
The cat must have seen me and had stopped at the top of the paddock before daring to venture out into the lane to see where its prey had gone. When it noticed me moving again, it turned tail and ran off into the long grass.
Somebody - or bodies - regularly uses this track in and out of Mushroom 3. I was thinking we should bring a trap but it might be as interesting to bring the trail camera for a few nights. It's probably just a possum or two.
Kikuyu grass is quite sensitive to being repeatedly trampled and these sorts of tracks are often obvious through the grass where there's regular traffic.
I drafted the next four weaning cow and calf pairs out of the mob as they came along the lane from out the back, on their way to Mushroom 3's lovely grass.
710, 723, 773 and 792 all went into Flat 5d with a small strip of new grass for them (they're on strictly reduced feed at weaning, to help their milk supply stop) and their calves are now in Mushroom 1.
As usual I found it quite difficult to make my "keeping" decisions when considering the heifers. 710's daughter, 870 is a stunning calf with a great growth record so far but she's too twitchy on the scales for easy handling. I had wanted to keep 773's daughter, 873, and 723's daughter 863 but they have similar temperaments.