I set the Magpie trap at the top end of the Windmill yesterday, there being far too many Magpies flying around there and this morning I was excited to see a something in the trap; until I realised it wasn't black and white and was too still to be a bird.
It was one of the biggest possums either of us have seen recently. Stephan brought a wooden live-capture trap up for the possum to crawl into from the expensive mesh Magpie trap and then shot it.
I think Zoom might just be pregnant! She's shown no sign of coming back on heat after my technically unsuccessful insemination three weeks ago, so it must have been good enough to get some sperm cells close enough to where they needed to be to achieve conception. I'm very pleased.
I'm really pleased with the little bulls, they've grown really well and while this isn't the best-posed photo of 176, I think it shows some aspects of his physique to advantage.
Stephan loaded a few of the lovely new posts onto the tractor and set off up the hill this morning.
The posts won't go in for some time yet but over 80 of them need to come out here, so it's never too early to start bringing them, a few at a time.
I took the GPS for a walk, marking this gully, its edges, small grass clearings, important trees and so on, making my way up to where Stephan was working.
Gullies like this one suddenly stop further up the hill and there's "ordinary" land beyond. Presumably water running underground from further up the hill emerges and then continues both over and underground, forming the gully to the bottom of the slope and the stream.
Now, with such dry weather, the soil in the bottom of this groove is barely soft, although in some gullies the water runs year-round.
Stephan was working to remove battens from the fence and rolling up all the old barbed and straight wire.
Gary from next door had spent a couple of hours with him yesterday doing some preparatory tree clearing.
Having earlier been quite concerned about 176's temperament - he always growled, snorted and pawed the ground whenever I approached any paddock he was in - I have been very pleasantly surprised by his behaviour since the beginning of mating. Being able to quietly walk around him like this demonstrates exactly the sort of calmness I like in my cattle. He just sat here as I checked the cows and heifers sitting near him.
There have been a couple of bulls over the years whose vocal threats were matched by quite alarming behaviour in the paddock and they had to leave. They may not have intended me harm but it's too late to regret not making a firm decision by the time a bull is on the attack!
Later in the day he mated white-faced 714, who has been of interest to him for the last few days. My hope that she was already pregnant and that this was only some sort of smelly hormonal surge, prevented me from remembering that indeed, a bull can often detect heat for two or three days before the cow is receptive to mating. But she is the nineteenth cow inseminated and only the first to come back on heat afterwards, so things are going pretty well so far.
There are a few posts along the old boundary fence that are still quite solidly in the ground and they're all Puriri.
But there's a range of structural integrity in the Puriri posts and strainers. This huge one was rotted at ground level and hollow...
...now home to a large number of weta.
These fascinating insects move scarily fast but I crouched watching them for a while, absorbed by the tactile use they made of their extremely long antennae, feeling around with them before and during movement. I presume their eyesight isn't strong, living almost entirely in the dark. (I believe these are a species of cave weta.)
I take pictures like this so I can shudder at them later: a hole in one of the gullies, full of weta.
A bit of mapping. The top pink line is approximately where the new boundary fence work is underway. The 7-shaped pink outline on the right is an area from which we should cut firewood and clear for pasture.
The main gully runs up the blue line in the centre, although I've wandered off a bit at the top. My plan is to transcribe all these marks onto paper and gradually fill in a map we can use to plan where the reserve fencing goes. It's really hard to tell where you are when in the middle of all the trees, in relation to anywhere else.
Insects are fascinating up close. The green mozzie started me noticing the little things flying around me in the evenings. This larger creature was on a wall.
Some fat madams. This is the cull mob, currently Over the Road, out of the way, while mating continues down on the main part of the farm. They were complaining today, standing at the bottom of the hill by the trough, so I opened the gates to the larger part of the hillside.
869's facial features aren't quite as striking now as when she was a newborn and nine days later, but she's still easily recognisable as that calf. She has similar facial hair to her grandmother, 613.
I hope she's ok. She's the slow calf, the one often sitting alone after everyone else has risen to go somewhere. Something odd happened on her first day, possibly connected to a bit of delay during her birth, or some rough-and-tumble amongst the cows, but she's always seemed healthy otherwise since then. Perhaps she suffered some oxygen deprivation and is just a bit slow.
Seventy years of growth along the boundary fenceline means there are a number of fairly large trees in the way, requiring quite a bit of clearing.
The neighbouring block is all uphill from us and all long-regenerated bush, it having been decades since Arthur allowed cattle in there before it was sold. Trees dropped into that bush will rot down and become part of the forest floor quite quickly, other things growing up through their rotting branches because of the additional light then available.
But inevitably some trees come our way, requiring a lot of subsequent tidying up, which is the heavy part of the job.
When I was up here a few hours ago, this huge Totara was still standing and Stephan was expressing some trepidation about felling it. I'm sort of glad I didn't know when he was doing it and relieved that it all went entirely according to his plan.
Stephan thinks he's going to try and get this large trunk section back to the garden somewhere and do something creative with it.
This is the reason a lot of the fence is still upright: trees grown around wires.
The age of the bush on both sides of the boundary suggests not much maintenance has ever been done in keeping the fence-line clear. That's something we'll have to be a bit better about, to make sure the new fence lasts for as long as possible. Totara, like the huge one in the picture above, grow like weeds everywhere here and over decades become enormous, fence-destroying trees, so need to be removed when they're still weedy little things.
Nobody would have heard all Stephan's chainsawing, there having been several saws working across the way on the dairy farm, where a stand of Pines is being felled.
That hill will look quite different in a few days' time.
Yesterday I spoke with the vet about calf 861's foot and arranged to get him some 3-day pain relief in the first instance and decide if further treatment was required once we'd had a close look at his foot.
We brought all the calves in for their 7in1 vaccines and 861 also got his shot of Metacam, an anti-inflammatory, to mask some of the pain he's obviously still feeling in his foot.
After looking closely at photos I took of his hoof over the past couple of days, I concluded that the injury was, as shown here, to the top of his hoof, where some larger animal probably stood on it, which could have happened when he was standing or lying down. The top of the hard part of his hoof has been cracked and I'm reasonably confident that the little bit of pus is the body's normal response to the injury, rather than infection; but I will be watching him closely over the next few days to make sure he doesn't show any signs of increased soreness, which would indicate the need for antibiotics as well.
The damaged part of the hoof will grow down and out over the next few months. It may make a difference to whether or not he leaves here with the other weaners at sale time, if it requires further treatment at that stage, or a level of careful observation I wouldn't wish to impose on someone else.
This is the big mob, with bull 176, on their way out along Route 356 to the Middle Back, with Stephan following to ensure they all come. The cattle have become accustomed to following really nicely along this track, even without a fence on the top side.
We rode back together on our little bikes, mine silent and fume free and Stephan's not.
Then Stephan went back to his tree-felling activities.
This is Mapau, a little tree with red/pink stems and branchlets, which is just as brightly coloured within its trunk.
Mapau is only a small shrub-like tree, I think, so unfortunately never big enough for the timber to be useful in wood-working, with its lovely hues.
Late on a very hot morning, nearly all the cows and calves with bull 176 were sitting in the shade under the tall Kānuka and Totara trees in the Middle Back.
I only check them once a day at the moment, make sure everyone's ok and look for any sign of the bull being interested in or having mated any of them. I'm glad I decided to put the bulls out, rather than carry on inseminating. With only 714 having come back on heat so far, it would have been a lot of work for very little return.
867 is grey 607's son so might well have scurs developing under those little pointy bits of hair on either side of his poll.
Since 607 has scurs, we know she has both two copies of the scur gene along with one horn gene (the allele paired with that is 'polled', which is dominant and so she does not have horns). Not all of her sons have been scurred, so while she must pass the scur gene on in every egg cell, only half (statistically) of her progeny receive the horn gene and this steer presumably got both, if he has scurs under his hair. They'll show up more in the next couple of months if they're there.
It's fascinating being able to draw genetic conclusions from the appearance of some of my animals.
A Tui egg, I think, and it doesn't look like it hatched normally, rather like its contents were eaten by (probably) a rat.
Some of the branch-based felled-Puriri regrowth in the Bush Flat is showing the effects of the dry weather again (the yellowed leaves in the foreground).
But bearing in mind its continual recovery and growth over several years now, I expect it will come right again.
Our lovely friends Cathie and Andrew arrived this evening for a few nights' stay. They brought all sorts of fabulous treats from a boutique food store, which we began enjoying together.
One of the substantial-looking Totara posts in the boundary fence which fell over as soon as the wires on either side were cut.
Totara is great above ground and below but at ground level it rots much more quickly - although even that takes decades.
Mathew came out to join Stephan and Andrew on the fenceline for a few hours this afternoon.
861's foot, with the swelling above his hoof gradually reducing. Still under the influence of Tuesday's injection, he is walking comfortably on it.
Meg and Gem enjoying some mutual grooming, licking each other's head and neck.
We check the sheep daily at this time of year, always watching for signs of flystrike.
The lamb still has lines from shearing due to her dense Southdown-cross wool.
Andrew and Stephan clearing trees from the fenceline this morning, when I arrived with coffee and sandwiches. (Catering is not my usual thing, so everyone's suitably impressed.)
This area has so many mature trees and entwined roots on the ground that it will become part of a reserve after the boundary fence is built.
What's this? Another teat disorder in my herd? I have no idea what the white spots are about. It's causing no obvious problem so I'll watch and wait.
The injured foot looks cleaner and less inflamed again today.
I check this every day, observing the foot, the calf's willingness to bear weight on it and his general demeanour, always alert to the possibility of an infection taking hold. So far, so good.
The bull was sniffing and then staying near Eva this evening, even tried to mount her once. There's not enough going on to say she's on heat or even necessarily coming on. I hope she isn't.
Her three-week return date is two days away, so this could be meaningful, or she might just smell enticing because of the hormone fluctuations that still happen when oestrus would be due.