The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 16th of October 2021 - part 1.

I found a little bit of history, but forgot to put it in last week's page: Forty years ago, on the 15th of October 1981, I met Stephan and his father and then came to this farm for the first time that evening.


My parents had bought the house on the hill at the bottom of Diggers Valley when they finally sold the house in Cable Bay, the one my father had once said he would only leave feet first. Jill's restlessness always took precedence and so we moved, again. I don't know why they chose Takahue, possibly its proximity to Kaitāia was attractive, or perhaps it was just a property in their price range.

I don't remember meeting Stephan at all, only being very cross about his father, Patrick, having walked, in his shoes, on the new carpet that had only just been laid in my bedroom, when he went in to look at the view.

There were aspects of that place I adored; it had a warm, dry, shed half-way up the driveway, in which I set up a plant potting interest, propagating dozens of plants and seeds. I had a lovely time. There were also a couple of deep ponds, from which I remember dredging buckets full of interesting creatures to study under the microscope. I still remember some of those creatures, met for the first time, the insect larvae and weird little swimming bivalve things (ostracods) in particular.

It was from that house that I left home, four months after my seventeenth birthday, and went to Auckland to work.

Saturday the 16th


Three degrees when I went out this morning before seven. I was glad to see Gina's calf feeding.

Here she is later in the morning, when we came to milk Gina's congested quarters out again.


Fancy 191's calf was tucked up warmly in the drain between the Windmill and the yards.

I like to get photos of their faces when they're little, for comparison later. And because they're so pretty now.


Gina's willingness to do the circuit through the yards and around to the headbail is extremely helpful. She's never baulked at putting her head into the bail or anything, then stands quietly most of the time.

Her cooperation was probably one of my considerations last year, when thinking about whether or not she could stay another year: at least when she needs help, she's easy to work with.


These two from Flat 1 were snoozing under the Windmill fence. Recognising them as the tame daughters of 166 and 183, I went over to give them both a stroke. They're so lovely and soft and warm in the sunshine.


A Pūtangitangi haunt, a bull-made mud puddle in the middle of Flat 3, with duck footprints around the edge. Nothing special, I just liked it; liked to be here where the birds had peacefully been.


Why do newborn calves have to look so dead? It's horribly alarming.

By the time I got across to that side of the paddock, his mother was there licking him awake.

Pūkeko chick

Out the front by the old yards and down in the Pig paddock, is a family of Pūkeko, with three chicks this size.

They must be getting used to my coming and going, this one not instantly running off at my approach.


Confined to quarters: Al lying in his shady mud wallow.


Sometime in the last two or three weeks Stephan altered the top end of Flat 1, installing this gateway, so we could more easily get the cows and calves out into the lane when we want them to go to the yards.

Today we used it for the first time and other than the cows wanting to rub their faces in the bare soil, it worked very nicely.

We took the seven pairs in to weigh and tag their calves: 860 and 865, who'd been at the bottom of the paddock; and 162, 166, 183, 745 and grey 812. 745's was the only bull calf requiring a ring. We've been doing most of the castrations early like this for the last couple of years and it appears to be much easier on them when their testes are tiny. Previously we'd waited until they were old enough for at least their first vaccination but having vaccinated the cows late in pregnancy, I'm counting on their having received some passive immunity from their mothers in the colostrum.


I needed to go and have a look at 792's calf (a bull), despite the risk of upsetting and startling him: I needed to make sure he'd fed successfully and all was well with him.

He got up and bounded away, but fortunately not too blindly, soon slowing as his mother caught up with him.

On the ground was 792's afterbirth, dark and partly dried out and very smelly when I picked it up to throw it into the reserve under the trees. The blood vessels are impressive!

Sunday the 17th
cows and calves

Look at that Gina, looking at Endberly's calf like she's hers still.

We milked Gina out twice again today.


Setting up a tape across Mushroom 1 with Stephan, I stumbled across this large hedgehog. They're not usually out during the day. It rolled into a ball when I nudged it with my boot. It had a lucky escape from "pest control" since neither of us wanted to carry it home to dispatch it.

cows and calves

With tapes forming a wide lane across Mushroom 1, we moved the cows and calves from the Windmill paddock, on their way to the back of the farm. I want to save most of the grass in this paddock for some of the later-calving cows.

Monday the 18th

Glia looked like she was in labour for much of this morning, standing around looking thoughtful, swishing her tail and her udder's quite full.

I don't think I've noticed her triple hair whorls before, on the top of her head.

cows and calves

Stephan and I went out together to move the cows and calves from Mushroom 2, again, first setting up a tape lane through Mushroom 3, so they could go directly to the Bush Flat.

cows and calves

We moved them in two little groups, since three decided it was calf feeding time as soon as we arrived. That worked well though, with the calves more able to keep track of their mothers and follow them across the stream, their first stream-crossing experience.

Some of them bunch up their hind muscles and leap as far across the water as they can, usually landing with a surprising splash somewhere in the middle; but at least then they're mostly across. Some we definitely have to push, or at least stop them delaying to think about going across.


I'd been watching Glia for hours, and had begun to think she might be having some trouble. At 4pm Stephan came out with me to get her in to the yards but found her, at last, with a membrane bag at her rear.

While I carried on watching Glia, Stephan spent some time with Zella, scratching her all over, picking ticks out of her ears...

Half an hour later still not much had happened so I went to see if Glia would let me have a bit of a feel internally and I discovered a foot, so at least the calf was probably in the position it ought to be.


Dushi and Zoom, both close to term themselves, were sniffing the breeze from Glia's paddock.

cow and calf

It took Glia another hour from my feeling the calf's foot until I could see the bulge of its nose and its tongue, then only ten minutes more to push him all the way out.

The rather large calf, Andrew's only offspring, was born at 5.40pm. He's grey and fuzzy, just like his mother.

While Glia may have contributed to the calf's size through the bovine equivalent of gestational diabetes, I'm glad we're not expecting any more calves from Andrew: his calf's birthweight appears substantial.

The 2021 calving date prediction sheet is available here.

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