Imogen 155 was first for insemination this morning, both of us commenting on the lovely ease of bringing a few animals along from Flat 5a to the new yards, then quietly returning them to the mob.
Back again after breakfast for the other two who were on heat yesterday, Henrietta 141 and yearling heifer, 877.
877 isn't tame to touch yet so she didn't much appreciate my proximity and interference.
Then back to the paddock again with the mob. I had to make sure I moved them before the sun got really hot later in the morning, there being only shade enough here for a few animals.
Everywhere there are rabbits. Looks like they won't be too hard to shoot.
The House paddock's new bit of fence, with a trough, is now installed. The trough will be shared with the area near the yards. We have yet to finalise how that part of the fencing will be arranged.
Stephan went out to Mushroom 3 and pruned any low branches that might dislodge or activate the cows' heat indicators, then I shifted them so they had ample shade under the big Kahikatea and Tōtara trees.
Late tonight I was out there under the full moon, checking everyone when suddenly there was startled movement from some of the cows as a feral pig ran through the middle of a sitting group of them. It appeared confused by the cattle and changed direction, dashing up the slope and through the cows who were sitting and standing around me, starting a mini-stampede. I spoke calmly to them all and the pig eventually found its way out of the paddock and ran off toward the bush. What you see when you don't have a gun.
An even colder start to this morning than the last one I remarked upon: 6°C! There was lots of mist around, although the sky was, as usual, clear.
Spot (the Elephant) is a strange-looking heifer. I don't like her conformation and nor do I like her bullying temperament with the other cattle.
She has a similar gait to her mother, Demelza, so I anticipate hip problems if she lives that long; I have decided she will not have the opportunity. Having a name and being the last daughter of a favoured cow does not guarantee you automatic placing in the herd.
That is something I've had to be tough on over the years and, sometimes, perhaps not tough enough. In a small herd, one can end up breeding poor cattle by favouritism, introducing troublesome conformation faults. It remains to be seen if I've gone too far in that direction with Eva's progeny, now that Eva seems to be having hind leg difficulties, as Demelza did. Hopefully hers is more injury-related than inherited.
We've been watching a Scottish farming television series sent to us on a USB stick by a kind reader, Richard, called This Farming Life. It's a fascinating and frustrating programme, showing people farming in ways we don't here, with astonishing levels of intervention in calving and lambing in one case. On that farm a young cow with an appallingly awful udder was shown being delivered with great drama, of a huge bull calf. From the context of the rest of the programme, that bull calf will doubtless go on to be one of the high-priced sires the farmer sells to other breeders. The bull will potentially pass on both calving difficulty and dreadful udder structure to his daughters. Here he'd not get out the gate with his testes.
Jet and Fancy were both coming on heat this morning, staying close to each other with lots of sniffing and moving around.
As I wandered I was accompanied by the continual, high pitched "pee pee pee pee pee" of at least one Pīpīwharauroa (Shining Cuckoo) chick, somewhere in the trees by the stream nearby. When I went to look, I only caught the briefest flash of its striped breast but saw its busy foster parents dashing here and there to meet its constant demands for food.
Stephan's sister, Elizabeth, came out to stay the night with grandson Maihi, who's been staying with her for some of the school holidays. Maihi really wants to see Zella being milked, so needs to be in residence for an early morning start.
We checked with Maihi if he wanted to try milking Zella, but he said he'd prefer only to watch on this occasion.
I thought this amusing: 190 (at left) was standing quietly, minding her own business, as hot cows Fancy and 773 turned circles around each other, until one of the circles got a bit close and she didn't bother to move - or was so deep in her own rumination that she didn't notice the activity. 773's body bent her head round and she still didn't move.
Fancy 126, on the right in both these pictures, has stacked on condition since she got so thin after she lost her calf four months ago. Look at all those folds and wrinkles!
Zoom was also involved in all this at some stage, looking like she too would be coming on heat today.
After Maihi and Elizabeth went home to water her garden, Stephan and I got the insemination mob in to the yards to weigh the calves, before drafting some of the cows out to join the bull mob. I can't keep feeding so many animals on the flats.
We put the rest of the mob in to graze the shady area around the yards while we went off for some lunch.
Sitting down to my computer over lunch, this was what I saw out the window: Maihi's shoes, set down when he went to fetch some seed pods for Floss before leaving, then forgotten.
Just before 2pm, at the height of the day's heat, I inseminated Fancy 126 with the same bull Imogen had, Ayrvale Bartel E7.
Later on we went back to inseminate 773, using one of the two remaining straws of the double-defect carrier C A Future Direction 5321. If successful, a resulting bull calf would be castrated and later eaten as exceptionally good beef, in which case the genes wouldn't matter; a heifer would need to be tested to see which of the defective genes she carries, or not. I don't want more of those genetic defects in the herd but I also don't want to throw the semen away. Some of the animals I've bred from those lines have turned out to be very nice cattle and once we got really lucky and missed both defects in the case of our bull 43, who tested clear of both carried by his sire and went on to sire some of my favourite cows.
Then we went out to make sure the eight pairs earlier sent toward the back had gone all the way, which they hadn't. Stephan walked them along the lane while I drove slowly behind.
While I checked the bull mob, Stephan pulled some more Ragwort.
Friend Liz, from Auckland, was up to do some interesting things around the area and came to stay the night, on her way from one interesting thing to another. We dined and talked before going back out to the cows to inseminate Zoom, who got the last straw of the same bull as 773. A steer from Zoom with her Jersey heritage and the great carcase record of the bull could make the best beef we've ever had! (Unfortunately the insemination did not result in conception and Zoom and I had to reconvene three weeks later.)
A more successful "three weeks later" endeavour was this evening's setting of ten fertile hen eggs from Elizabeth's flock, under our regularly-clucky hen. Our laying hens are getting on a bit, so it's time to refresh our flock.
After an early morning check with Liz for company, I inseminated Gina 142 with the other bull in the threesome shown in the previous link, LT 598 Bando 9074. I haven't used him for years but last year bought five straws to give him another try.
Jet was on heat but not ready to be done until later on, so I left the two of them under the trees by the yards while we all left, Liz on to her next meeting and us to town.
In town we picked up a new stainless-steel milking bucket, ordered about a month ago but the order having been wrongly forwarded, we'd had to wait for weeks longer than was reasonable, an annoyance because the most recent plastic milking bucket we'd bought was becoming more and more unsatisfactory. It had been quite expensive but the plastic was of poor quality with a rough finish, so could never be cleaned easily. I don't know why we'd not bought stainless steel in the first place, other than cost at the time. It would have been a saving in the long-run, for a bucket bought ten years ago would presumably still be going strong.
At 2pm we had 1.5mm of rain!
Glia was on heat today, three days earlier than I expected. Her last heat was 18 days ago. Most cycles are 21 days but can range from 18-24 quite normally.
Then it was Jet 777's time for insemination, having the same bull as Gina this morning.
I didn't buy any semen this season, deciding instead to use up some that has been in Greg's bank for a long time. My collection had been spreading a bit too much through his bank as newly purchased straws were added wherever there was room in the canisters.
My sister, Jude, with Jasper and Louie, and foster-child Faith, and nearly-dead miniature Chihuahua, Cecil, arrived this afternoon.
They'd planned to come yesterday but when Cecil was injured on Sunday by their other dog, there had been a day lost from trip-organisation. Cecil looked very much like he was not going to recover but the vet they'd consulted had agreed that time might change things for the better. Jude and I had talked about our lovely small-animal vet in Kaitāia, and that it would be fine to take Cecil there for further assessment or euthanasia while they were here.
The kayaks provide great entertainment. I can't remember if they're going to go home again, wherever that was. Somebody will claim them one day, no doubt.
Faith was very excited to come out on the farm with me, having heard so much about it from Jude and the other children.
Here she was calling the insemination mob to the gateway while I was setting up the other gates. They were mostly not coming toward this new, small human.
Faith has been part of Jude's family for most of the past year and I've met her on two or three occasions when staying with them in Auckland.
Jasper brought his model airplane. I thought they'd find it restrictive to fly with so many trees around the edges of the flats but they said this was far better than flying in their local city park, because they didn't have to worry about hitting people! And there was much more room.
I always think of parks as wide spaces but of course they're usually less open than these flats, with trees and other obstacles in the way.
Just before dark I took Louie out with me to move the bull mob. The boys have never visited on their own, as Stella so often did, so it's nice to spend time with them individually. They're both quite different personalities from their adventurous and always-independent elder sister.
Stella has a summer job making props for a television series, presently making hundreds of lychees, so could not come on this trip.
This is Zella's left hind foot, with its troublesomely long outer toe now broken off at the crack that appeared a couple of weeks ago. (My apologies for the blurry photo, it was quite early and the light still dim.)
The long toe on the other side is still deformed. Hopefully it too will break at a more normal length.
We were going to get Large Animal Technician, Rachel, to come and do some further foot remodelling with Zella but I think we'll wait and see how things develop for a little longer. Zella has been walking much more comfortably in recent weeks than she was last time we had her seen to.
When I checked on the insemination mob early this morning, I found Gertrude 162 with a half-red indicator, seemingly more alert than usual but little else to say she'd been on heat, so I decided to wait for more indication during the day. There was quite a bit of mucous during the day and I should have acted on that but didn't. Two days later there was blood, so she had been on heat and ovulated. Now I'll have to wait another three weeks for her next heat.
Will he or won't he ...?
People are easy to catch!
Poor Cecil's condition having not improved, we took him to the vet. Fiona discussed his possible future with Jude and the children and explained the best option of euthanasia. There were lots of tears while they all gathered around as vet nurse Sandi held Cecil still and Fiona injected the drug to kill him.
It was a quiet and tearful car-ride home.
There had been discussions about where they'd like to bury Cecil, whether in the cat cemetery at the top of Flat 1, or under a new tree somewhere near the pond and in the end they were pleased that we had no objection to him being buried on the island in the middle of the pond.
As a gentle shower fell, Jude and the children gathered there and said their goodbyes to a small animal who has been part of most of their lives for the last twelve years.
Waiting for breakfast.
Here it comes.
The two cows happily go off to graze during the night; sometimes they come in on their own in the morning, other times they wait to be fetched.
Faith and I went off to check on the insemination cows, after she'd watched Stephan milk Zella.
It always takes a bit of careful watching, to see how cattle will respond to a small child. Faith's movements were not alarming the cattle, so I was able to let her stand and watch them as I checked around.
Zoom is looking lovely and doing a great job with her son. He's a well-fed calf.
Louie brought his air rifle up to see if he could shoot some rabbits but first needed to do some target practice. The two boys spent a couple of hours out in the paddock together.
When they were happy they could hit what they intended, they went off after some rabbits but were unsuccessful hunters.
Stephan took them out to hunt possums, later in the evening.
It appears that only two Kōtare chicks survived the cold winds that blew constantly into their nest hole in their first few days.
Elizabeth brought Maihi and his cousin, Ihorei, out for a swim.
Faith was braver about swimming now and had cast off the life-jacket, confidently able to swim from the slide to the jetty.
But life-jackets are still a good idea if you're not a confident swimmer and might end up under your kayak.
They all appeared to have quite a lot of fun together. No one was hurt. There were only the tears of a small girl who spent far longer in the pond than perhaps she should have and got a bit tired and cold but still didn't want to get out.
Floss observed it all from her usual perch in the Sebastian Apple tree. I have to bring her to the pond whenever we're down here or she sits in her cage and screeches. She does not like to be left out.
Faith has been lovely, quietly sneaking out of her bed in Jude's room when we get up, and coming out to watch the milking.
Then as we've done every morning, we went together for the first check on the insemination mob.
I took Jude and Faith with me for the mid-morning check, passing Louie and Stephan on the way.
Stephan was teaching him some fencing knots.
While I walked around bull 178's cows, Jude and Faith explored the stream crossing between the Frog and Swamp East Left.
Then back to the insemination mob where Faith introduced Jude to Andrew, whom she's been stroking every time we visit this mob.
We stopped to talk to Louie and Stephan who were now preparing to hang a gate in the new Windmill paddock gateway.
This beautifully blooming Hibiscus was a cutting from the plant my sister, Rachel, gave me many years ago.
The primary plant has been through some health challenges and whenever I've pruned it, I've attempted to strike some cuttings. This little one spent most of the past year looking almost dead, but now here it is in healthy glory.
This was Louie's second trial of this imaginative slide style. Watching his first attempt, I thought it wise to ask Stephan to stand nearby to arrest any unintentional side-ways movement as the tubes rolled down the slope.
After swimming there was a lot of urgent movement, only a bit of shouting, and (nearly) everything went into Jude's car, everyone got in, and off they went, on their way back to Auckland.
Before I moved the bull mob into the Swamp East Right paddock, Stephan set off up the hill to see to the Ragwort.
I've had to take it easy since overdoing it the other day and am now nursing a sore belly again. Damned surgery. The only reason I can't regret having it is that I would have been dead otherwise. I just wish I had returned to normal a lot quicker than this!
Maybe this is the new normal. Bugger.
Out checking the insem mob late tonight, I found them all together at the top end of Flat 5c (they're ranging across Flats 4, 5b and 5c for grass and shade). That they were relatively closely together struck me. Often they'll be scattered across half a large paddock like Flat 2 but here they were in the top third of quite a small paddock. I find their social movements endlessly fascinating. It may simply have been because there was quite a bit of feed there and they just sat down where they were grazing together when it came time to rest.