The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 16th of October 2021 - part 2.
Tuesday the 19th

Yesterday when he'd dried out and was resting quietly, I felt the width of Glia's son's head and it was about the same as that of this calf, 183's 11-day-old daughter. She's not very big and he really is.


Because I want to use the Swamp paddock for cows and calves soon, I moved Andrew and 189 to the Small Hill.

Having kept them on the flats through the winter, it's fun having them moving around out here.


I regularly appreciate the sight of that Cabbage tree, Tī Kōuka, usually in the afternoon light from here on the Mushroom track, against the hill Over the Road.

fern leaf

I went up the little connecting track to the Swamp East Right to see if the three bulls had moved themselves through the open gates yet and if not (not, they were sitting down by the other gate near the stream crossing to the Frog), to move them from the Swamp East Left.

I noticed several of these large fern leaves on the other side of the fence on my way up. This is a brand-new frond; they change as they age.


Then back to the old yards out the front, where 811 and 775 were grazing, meaning to move them back to the flats; but it was too late.

811's labour was already well-advanced and she was in a safe place, so I waited and watched as she delivered the calf over the next 40 minutes, a heifer. This is bull 189's fourth calf and they've all been heifers so far.


I've been thinking about udders and the use of taking photos of them before calving, so that if it's not very clear if a calf has fed after birth, I can compare the pictures, in which it's sometimes easier to see changes.

Fancy 126's udder is not one I've had any doubt about since her calf was born four days ago, it being entirely obvious which teats the calf has favoured so far.

cow and calf

Glia and her substantial son.

cow and calf

After I'd given the heifers in the House paddock their molasses this evening I watched 191's daughter nosing into the bin with her mother: early training!

Wednesday the 20th
Stephan and a pine log

Stephan walked the digger out to pick up the two big logs this morning.

I passed him as I went to check something, then he having assured me he was fine on his own, went home to carry on with my own work.

Stephan and a pine log

An hour later he came trundling down the track with the first huge log.

He wasn't stationary in this picture, must have some kind of auto-pilot feature on the tractor.

Stephan and a pine log

An hour later again he came back with the other log.

Both were soon lined up next to the mill tracks, ready to cut up.

cow and calf

I watched 874 calve from the house in the early afternoon, since she was conveniently doing it where I could see her.


I had thought the calf was a bull, from afar, but she's another heifer, this one to the big bull, 199.

cow and calf

Gina's calf is feeding from her rear teats. I decided we could therefore leave Gina alone now, unless she seems too uncomfortable. Lots of the cows have very engorged rear teats for a while after calving and they usually come right on their own after a few days, generally when the calf discovers there's more milk to be had. Some of it probably doesn't taste that great to begin with but maybe they don't sense that.

Thursday the 21st

Out early this morning, I found the three little bulls from Flat 3 had come down the lane and were playing with Gina and Endberly's calves in the Windmill. They knew exactly where they'd come from and found their own way back before their mothers missed them too much.

My check on the seven Over the Road was easy, seeing all of them on the hillside from down on the flats.

cows and calves

Then out to move the seven pairs from the Bush Flat to the Big Back North.

cows and calves

They all moved easily, so I shut them in, leaving the calves to explore a whole new world.

Everywhere is spongy underfoot this spring. It's horrible and pasture-damaging but at least we won't go into the summer already in a state of drought, like the previous couple of years.


From just before and around noon, Zoom and then Dushi were both in labour in Flat 1.

cow and calf

At 2.05 Dushi had a membrane bag visible, was lying down, getting up repeatedly.

Ten minutes later I was watching from a distance as the feet and head appeared and watched her stand and then carry on pushing until she suddenly collapsed!

I ran over but by the time I arrived, her daughter was safely born. She must have pinched a crucial nerve on the way out.

Zoom took another hour and a half before any bit of calf was visible and her son was born with ease, at 4.26pm.

When I had another look through the binoculars and checked further out across the flats, I could see 749 in labour by the fence in 5b: I'm fairly sure I'd seen her grazing quietly within the last hour, since I regularly scan them all whenever I pick up the binoculars for a look at something in particular.


Half an hour later I went over to have a closer look, since she didn't really seem to be doing much.

She had one foot visible and it was the wrong way up!

So we brought her and a very conveniently-moving 168 out of the paddock and down to the yards.

With 749 restrained in the head-bail, I discovered the other hoof was stuck up against the top of her pelvis, stopping the calf progressing further. I also felt in to ensure the feet really were back hooves, by finding the hocks - the back 'knees' are quite different from the front ones.

We let her out at that point, to see if she'd like to get on with the hard part of her labour without our interference but she obviously didn't. 749 has generally calved without me seeing it and I suspect she prefers it that way.

With the end of the day's light fast approaching, we didn't want to wait around for too long, so back into the headbail again and I carefully put the calving chains on the calf's legs, an easy task when they're already out of the cow. Stephan then pulled the chain handles, bracing his feet against the poles in the race, while I attended to the calf and his progression out of his mother. Once he was out past his hips, the widest part, the rest would be an easy pull, with the need to catch the calf to stop him dropping slap onto the ground, so we changed places. Stephan had put the rubber mat in place as usual for an assisted delivery but still better to cradle the fall from a height.

It was raining all the while and we were very glad of our roof while we worked!

Until the calf was out, I wasn't sure he was alive but he was in fine form. Stephan opened the vet gate in the side of the race and dragged him out into the area beside and I checked to make sure he didn't have a twin still inside his mother - although his size suggested not.

cow and calf

Then we left them to it and went off to hurriedly get on with the evening's usual tasks.

I thought about the first time I discovered a calf's delivery hindered by the same problem, when one of Abigail's tiny calves' feet was stuck, stopping her labour progressing. That calf was coming frontwards but he was tiny and there'd been enough room, I think, for his angle to be a little off as he came through her pelvis. I released his foot as she stood in the paddock and the labour proceeded quickly thereafter.

I have a feeling there may have been another instance since that first.

Friday the 22nd

This morning I let heifer 168 go back to the others in 5b, where white-faced 746 was in early labour. Then I quietly moved 749 and her calf along to 5a, so they'd be near the others but didn't have to go so far.

811 and her calf from the front yards had spent the rainy night on this side of the stream, under the big Tōtara trees near the driveway and this morning I let the two cows graze along the lane and later opened the gate to Flat 1 for 811 to take her calf there.

775 went in to the little Riverbank area, because I want to send her up to join the other later-calving cows and heifers, but she'll be upset if I take her away immediately. She spent the rest of the day grazing in the lane and eventually made her way up toward the others, who'd come out of the Tank paddock.


At 11am I went to check on the seven pairs in the Big Back North, finding them all sitting and standing around on the steep slope up from the gate.

There was some mooing, so I went up to see why and who was doing it: Harriet 860's calf was through the electric fence, in with the two bulls in the Small Hill.

I climbed through the fence and propelled her down the steep slope toward the bottom gate, then out into the lane, into which I then drafted her mother to join her. I left them there, feeding, and came back a little later to return them to the paddock with the others.


Walking along the lane to check on 746 in 5b, I passed Glia's calf lying on the edge of the hump under the fence and by the time I returned, he'd slumped like this. I contemplated helping him up but decided I'd only do that if he hadn't got himself right by the next time I came back. He was quite relaxed.


Up along the Windmill track Endberly's and Gina's calves had found a nice warm place to shelter from the rain and wind.


I'd been watching 746 regularly from afar and at 2pm went out to have a closer look, then stayed there, under the thickest of the trees along the fenceline, to shelter from the rain while I continued watching her.

Stephan had gone down to Whangārei for an MRI on his continually sore shoulder (we think this goes right back to his near-death event in 2009), so I was hoping all was going to progress normally, so I didn't have to do any major intervening on my own.

cow and calf

At 2.39pm the calf was born, a bull, all black.

This is 746's sixth calf. It could have been her seventh, had she not had a year off when she turned three.

She's a reliable cow with a good udder and produces nice calves, although I've not kept a daughter since the first white-faced one, who also didn't get back in calf on her second opportunity and was a terrible bully to the others. 746 is unpleasantly violent at times too and that may yet blot her copy-book sufficiently to buy a ticket on a truck out of here.

Blotting her copy-book. I wrote that phrase without a thought of the cow holding her ink-dipped pen in her hoof. Of course ink and copy-books were long gone before my life began but I know what they were. And as a child we did writing practice, although ours would have been in pencil, free of the danger of ink blots. We were also taught to hold our pencils and pens properly (effectively, efficiently), something obviously not taught to children now, from my observation of all those students in the exam halls in recent years.

I like the idea of writing practice. A few months ago friend L-J and I began writing fountain-penned letters to each other as writing practice and for the pure pleasure of doing so. I've thought many times in the last week of returning to that exchange. There are a few people with whom I sometimes correspond in that way, although it does take a little more organisation and effort than simply sending an email.

The 2021 calving date prediction sheet is available here.

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