The week beginning the 7th of September 2019.
Saturday the 7th

The heifers spent the night in the area around the new yards site, with not quite enough grass but lots of big tree shelter from the cold weather.

This morning I opened the spring gate behind which they were standing, waiting, and nobody moved!  Eventually 787 came out and as she often does, worked out there was good to be had if she followed any suggestion I made, and led everyone down the lane to Flat 1.


At mid-day the cows were waiting quietly in the Blackberry paddock, having eaten all the grass.


I set the gates for them to go into the Swamp paddock across the stream and then watched each cow as she passed me, looking to make sure all their babies were still in those big round bellies.  At this stage of their pregnancies, it is often possible to see bulges of bits of calves when the cows walk.  An "empty" cow would be obvious in comparison.

You may recall that last year I compared identical twins Meg and Gem when Gem was pregnant and Meg was not, showing the slight difference in their shape.

Sunday the 8th
young cattle

Dreamliner 787 leading everyone again.  If only we could enhance this behaviour and train her out of the annoying slowness she otherwise demonstrates when she's at the back of a mob in the lanes.

Monday the 9th

The Pukeko family from the pond island have hatched five chicks in the last couple of days.  This morning they were outside the house, picking around in the aviary seed refuse.  Three adults appear to be parenting this clutch.

I use the MetService Rain Radar constantly at this time of the year, to work out when I can go out without preparing for rain.  It does not always work.  This afternoon I moved the heifers again and as I walked along behind them, big raindrops began to fall and soon they were all together in a great deluge.  I was too far from any shelter to bother even trying to get out of the rain, so rearranged my jacket over my camera belt and carried on.  It stopped as quickly as it had started and I wetly walked home for a change of clothes.

The rain radar doesn't always show short local events, even when the rain is very heavy!  It's possible I would have seen it had I been at my computer but it hadn't been there when I'd checked before going out.


After some lunch I went back out, to walk to the cows and move them.  I'm trying to do a bit more walking, having been struck by a late-winter glumness that usually responds well to some physical exercise.

As I walked out of the first stream crossing, I noticed a new plant on the bank where sometimes some sun orchids grow: it is another tiny Akeake seedling.  They are appearing in very many places along the stream banks now that those areas are protected from the cattle.


The bleak-looking Back Barn paddock.  It always looks horrid in the winter but still grows some grass and the cows seem keen enough to graze happily here.  It must taste alright to them.


Once I knew everyone was there, I led them across the stream into the Spring paddock, where they can stay for a few days.

This picture interested me as I processed the photos because the first cow on the right is Fancy 126.  Sometime around now her calf died.

Tuesday the 10th

The two grey friends, although I don't think they're as close now as they were when they were calves.

They're completely different from each other, 812 being so tall and rangy and Glia so stocky and well-covered, despite having already reared one calf.


When I walked into their paddock, I noticed a great deal of water trickling along the drain (behind me) we dug last year, which prompted me to take this picture.  I have been noticing that the ground is far firmer here this season than it was last year, when I fenced this corner off to stop the cattle churning it to slush.

There has been much less rain than usual this season but it never takes much to make a lot of mud.

Wednesday the 11th

This epiphyte fell out of the big Puriri in the driveway in last Thursday's big wind.  These crunchy leaves are a favourite treat.

It took a little while to get the heifers past here and in to the yards for their copper injection.


Afterwards we sent 14 of them Over the Road and drafted the seven pregnant animals back toward the bridge.  Here they were a little later, following me out to their new paddock.

Thursday the 12th

Sometimes one has a dud birthday.

Firstly nobody rang me up all day and even if they had done so, I'd have had to put them off because this was the one day in the week I could kōrero Māori anake, my second whole day for Mahuru Māori.

cow and dead calf

I took myself out for a walk in the early afternoon and as I approached Fancy 126, realised something was a bit off ... and then noticed the black lump at her feet.  At first I thought she'd simply calved early for some reason and that the calf had died in the process.  It was still warm underneath and I felt very, very sad.

Then I spent some time inspecting her, immediately, and then again after a walk around the rest of the cows, during which time I considered what I'd found.

Next there are two pictures of the dead calf.  If you don't want to see them, don't click on the button.  My comments are visible below.

The button.
dead calf dead calf

At one point I realised the calf had a pink nose and I was initially alarmed by the possibility that some stray bull had somehow got in with my cows, producing this earlier-than expected calf.  But then I noticed that the skin inside her mouth was sloughing off - in the left/top picture you can see bits flaking off her tongue.  That the pigmented skin had rubbed off her nose and bottom lip, meant she must not have died this morning and a close sniff confirmed that she was not "fresh".  Dead calves go off quite quickly in that warm uterine environment, so she would have died in the last day or two, prompting her mother to expel her body.  Her hair was also shorter than is normal at birth, confirming her eight months' gestational age.

I took the right/bottom photo when I was checking her over, counting teats, seeing whether she had any white hair anywhere - none, completely black.  When I flopped her hind leg over to lay her on her back, her hips seemed oddly flexible, allowing both hind legs to lie flat on the ground.  Later I wondered whether perhaps she had some sort of connective tissue disorder, something that also affected her heart, and when she got to eight months in gestation, her size overwhelmed her heart's ability to cope and so she died.

That's one possibility.  The other, more frightening one, is that this death was caused by something infectious I don't yet know my herd has contracted, and there may be others.

Writing this page two weeks later, there have been no further sad events, so I think this one gets chalked up to a genetic accident, the sort of thing that sometimes naturally happens.


Just as I finished checking the rest of the cows, Fancy appeared and began grazing enthusiastically.  I pondered as I wandered around, went and sniffed those hanging membranes a couple of times to reassure myself that they were smelly like the calf, so that there really hadn't been anything I could have done to prevent the calf's death.

There was quite a lot of bruising in Fancy's vulva, indicating that she'd had some difficulty giving birth to the calf.  When they're dead, they don't present in the nice, streamlined way they do for a normal birth.  It may have come out with its head folded back, or one or both legs back, which would have made it a bulky delivery, even when a month smaller than full-term.

Then I went back to the calf again, took a couple of extra photos and pulled the calf along to somewhere I could curl her up just through the fence into the reserve.  Feral pigs will probably find her body but I hope not.


I walked back and found Stephan at the yards site doing some measuring and got him to move some strings so I could bring Zella and friends from Flat 5a back to the Windmill paddock.

Friday the 13th
cattle and sick possum

This morning I brought the cow mob from the Spring paddock to the Bush Flat, so I could observe Fancy 126 more closely.

When I judged they'd all had enough time to get there in their slow way along the grassy lanes, I went back out to the Bush Flat and found several of them looking intently at what turned out to be a sick possum.

This is why TB-carrying possums (which this one cannot be, in TB-Free Northland) are a danger to cattle: cattle are extremely curious and even though this possum wouldn't have let them sniff it directly, they were all sniffing and licking patches of grass over which it had presumably passed.

sick possum

It was a very ill animal, with something wrong with its right eye and patches of fur missing.

I called Stephan to bring the rifle and shoot it and when we examined it, found it to be extremely thin.  We left it lying on the edge of the drain and nothing came to eat it over the next couple of days.

We then drafted 15 of the cows up into the Big Back North, leaving behind the first four on my calving list and Fancy, whose birth membranes were now hanging out a little more than yesterday.

I will watch her closely to ensure she expels them and doesn't get sick.

It is time to open the annual Eva's Calving Date Competition.

Please ENTER HERE by midnight 20 October.

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