The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 15th of January 2022.
Saturday the 15th
745 and bull 200 in the Middle Back

My most angular cow, 745, was on heat today, so bull 200 was staying by her side. Mating on a slope always looks precarious and it's easy to see how injuries could occur, but fortunately they rarely do.

I always think of 745 as one of my young cows but she's R9 ("Rising 9", will be nine this year) now.

The two R3 heifers are also in the picture, 889 sitting and 885 standing.

Andrew working on the roof

I could write that Stephan is such a slave driver that this morning he immediately put Andrew to work.

But truer to say that holidays here are whatever you want them to be and for those who spend their time in suits and offices, sometimes getting out and doing real stuff is the best kind of holiday.

calves sitting along the drain in the Bush Flat

Calves sitting on the bare soil alongside the partially-dug Bush Flat drain.

The rushes beyond them, to the far right of the picture, indicate the boggy ground I hope we'll address with this drain. It is wet there primarily due to surface water coming off the steepest part of the hill to the right.

874 coming through the Flat 5 gateway

I opened a gate for bull 203's little mob of five young cows and their calves.

Here is 874 with her odd-shaped ear tag, remodelled with scissors when I had to extract it from her ear where it had become stuck when it turned inwards. I rounded the corners so it couldn't become lodged in there again.

five lovely calves in Flat 5

The five calves were a bit slower to respond to the promise of fresh grass, so I photographed them before they came through the gate.

924 on the left is 874's daughter, starting to look very nice! 930 is a real stunner and 218 is turning into a very nice steer. 935 at the back and 942 on the right are a bit smaller but I'll have to analyse weight data before I can really say how well they're doing. There's a month in age between the youngest and oldest calves and a week or two can make a significant difference - three weeks can mean about 25kg difference in weight, for instance, which definitely shows in a calf's size or fat cover.

As we sat around the dinner table in the evening, I became aware of some explosions somewhere in the distance, so got up and went out on the deck to listen more easily. It sounded as though somewhere there was a very large fire which was causing the explosion of numerous gas cylinders. We waited to begin hearing sirens (we can hear the fire brigade's siren from here on a quiet day or if the wind is in the right direction) and I presumed that before long the rescue helicopter would fly over.

Nothing happened.

But a little while later Cathie read something on one of the news sites reporting the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcanic eruption near Tonga: that was what we'd heard! Extraordinary.

The explosions were deep and huge, one even shaking things in the house. People all around the country reported hearing them.

Sunday the 16th
Andrew with Glia

Glia is on heat, so Andrew is in attendance today.

Stephan with Zella's daughter

Stephan doing prospective house-cow training - like her mother, the calf likes having ticks scratched off and out of her ears. Stephan thinks the calf is quiet enough to consider keeping as a replacement for Zella.

We thought, with the popularity of Greek alphabet use of late, that we might call her Zeta; but then I found Zita, a Spanish woman famed for her life-long faithful domestic service to a single family, which seems apt. On principle I will not link to the Catholic Saints page, but I think the name's nice.

cows and calves in the Bush Flat

Cows and calves in the Bush Flat.

Dushi with bull 189

And turning to the left from that picture, the bull (189) was standing quietly with Dushi. Dushi was on heat today, I'm pretty sure, but I saw very little activity and no evidence of any afterwards.

Dushi has caused me trouble during insemination, when I've found it very difficult to tell whether or not she was on heat and last year she cost me two straws of semen to make sure she got in calf.
I'm glad the bull has the responsibility this year for his fine detection skills are more suited to her so-subtle cues.

Stephan and Andrew collecting the Kahikatea log from Flat 2

Stephan and Andrew, picking up the trunk of the Kahikatea we felled because it was rotten at the base.

a trapped Magpie

Aha! The Magpie trap has trapped a Magpie for a change - it has trapped numerous possums and hedgehogs over the last few months.

Andrew milling

Andrew, here at last to take up mill co-owner duties.

a mended fence

In the evening I walked around the PW checking cows and calves. There are patches of grass on the hillside and large areas of Kānuka amongst which they might be grazing, so I don't always see everyone but often, if I follow some instinct I can't explain, I find them in odd pockets, hidden away, quietly eating. As long as I can find the bull and see who he's with, that's all I need to know until tomorrow morning.

This section of fence was, for a while, hanging horizontally, its anchoring post having rotted away. Stephan came up here last October and banged a waratah in to anchor it vertically in the ground again and stop the animals escaping through to or from the Pines paddock.

the patch of temporarily fixed fence

It seems odd now to find barbed wire on any of the fences. There are a few little bits, here and there, part of ancient fences that have still been doing a good enough job to avoid being on the priority replacement list. As long as the barbed wire is not loose, it's relatively safe for the cattle.

This fence will go when we reorganise the Pines paddock and fence this ridge into a new subdivision of the PW.

The view of the hill (Over the Road) in the distance shows how much Kaimaumau smoke is still in the air.

Monday the 17th
the hospital calves in the yards

Last evening I thought Zoom's son was looking less well than he has of late, so we brought them in to the yards this morning to give him a shot of the antibiotic 921 had, hoping that would get on top of whatever has begun to bother him. I noted that he had loose, dark poo but didn't think much more about that.

more milling with Andrew

More timber milling.

a new gate for Flat 3

Andrew and Stephan replaced the bent Flat 3 gate earlier today. The tape across the inside is to stop bull 200 deciding to do an early rearrangement on its shape, by itching his head or leaning any other part of himself against it.

a smoky moon

Up the PW hillside again this evening. The smoky air causes some pretty colours in the evening sky.

a big pig in Mushroom 1

I've lightened this photograph more than the scene was at the time, so that I can now see that this pig is not the big black one from the other night but another altogether, with lighter patches on its head.

Tuesday the 18th
a split Pūriri

Here is the trunk of the Pūriri opposite the orchard, which I photographed from the orchard last November.

There doesn't look to be much bulk in the remaining, standing trunk. But as we know, these trees are very strong where they're not rotten.

a split Pūriri

And this one obviously had an old crack, where water and rot had been causing long deterioration, so that the tree above had sprouted roots down into the damp area, something the injured trees often do.

Stephan and Andrew had taken the tractor, saws, ropes and chains around to the orchard so they could remove the parts of the tree that had fallen into and were obstructing the flow of the stream. They were somewhere down in the stream bed beneath this branch.

A couple of high-water events have occurred since the tree fell, so there was already a lot of debris to remove from the branches before cutting away parts of the tree itself. They made sure to leave the substantial branches that had landed in the stream bank, to ensure it didn't all collapse on them or later fall further into the stream.

Gertrude 192 and bull 189

Bull 189 and Gertrude 162. Did the others tell them to "get a room" and so they did?

Everyone else was out on the hillside grazing and it took me a few minutes walking around to discover these two quietly sitting in this hollow. (Some of my 'walking around' time was spent eating some delicious blackberries.)


Al has such a nice tail switch.

I often think I'd like to wash it for him, make it lovely and clean and silky; but I suspect he'd immediately afterwards sit down and rub his bum in the mud.

Zoom's sick son

Zoom's son is still looking really terrible. I'd hoped the antibiotic would pick him up a bit but so far it's not looking terribly hopeful.

Wednesday the 19th
Zoom's sick son

Zoom's calf was looking quite unwell many times today but between those instances, he was up and grazing, appearing to move around reasonably well.

Zoom was calling all day, which confused things too; I think she was probably on heat but she might also have been distressed by a change in her calf, aware he wasn't responding as usual.

Later in the day the balance shifted a bit, the calf looked more unwell, so I took him some of the electrolyte mix and managed to get him to drink some of it before he moved away from me.

He had also begun straining to defecate and it occurred to me that he might well have succumbed to Coccidiosis, the parasitic infection the calves usually catch during the early weeks of their lives (and indeed he probably had it then too) but now his immune system has been so run down by the Theileria, perhaps it has overwhelmed him again. I phoned and talked with a vet a couple of times, who agreed to dispense more antibiotic and a dose of the specific medicine for Coccidiosis.

Here we were on our way to the yards, so I could administer the medicine as soon as Sandi brought it home from the vet for me.

The vet didn't want to prescribe any pain relief because she expected he'd be dehydrated and it would play havoc with his kidneys. In retrospect I wish I'd been more assertive about my wish to deal with the extreme irritation he was obviously suffering, especially since by my reckoning he had none of the appearance of dehydration.

And in the event the vet dispensed too little of the Coccidiosis remedy: she'd obviously shaken the mix very well, according to its instructions, but had then sent me half a syringe full of bubbles and air and I had to phone again for further advice. She said give him what we had and as long as he had the rest in the morning, it would be alright.

Thursday the 20th
Zoom's dead son

It wasn't alright. Nothing was going to be right, or wrong, for this calf any more.

From the coolness under his shoulders I think he'd been dead since last evening, probably not long after I last saw him just after dark when Andrew and I came back from a pig hunt.

Our poor beautiful calf. I feel so sorry for him, so sorry I missed something crucial, sorry I didn't cotton on to so many things I might have known to anticipate. Sorry I left treating him for the right thing too late, sorry I couldn't relieve his obvious pain and if I'd known it was about to kill him, I'd have shot him to put him out of his misery earlier.

Cathie and Andrew went on their way after breakfast, coffee and gathering themselves together.

I rang the vet and arranged to purchase a litre bottle of the very expensive Coccidiosis treatment, a bottle with a long expiry date, so I can use it next year too and I will anticipate this problem in the other sick calves. Coccidiosis is a given around here every year and obviously the extreme immune challenge Theileria poses knocks out their already-acquired immunity to it, so they need more assistance than I usually provide to get back on top of it again.

Zoom and 921

I left the two cows with the dead calf, so Zoom could decide when to leave him.

I can barely believe that 921 is still upright and 950 has died.

a green beetle

Here's a nice green beetle.

Friday the 21st
three more Magpies

There are too many Magpies around here.

cows and calves going in to the Big Back North

Before moving these cows and calves (who are with bull 189), I drafted out 775 and Gina 142 and their calves, 944 and 214. In my careful watching for calves looking slower than normal, I've noticed neither of them has quite as much vim and vigour as the others; in the case of 944, I've been highly suspicious of his health for the last couple of weeks. The four of them went into the very grassy Mushroom 1, while the other nine pairs came out here to the Big Back North.

It's not very long since the paddock was last grazed but there's not very much grass around and they have to take what I can find.

Stephan continuing digging the Bush Flat drain

I'd gone ahead to open the gates and Stephan was following the cattle on the digger, coming out here to the Bush Flat to continue digging the new drain.

Tutu flowers

These are Tutu flowers.

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