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The week beginning 16th October 2004.

Isla's Calving Date Competition 2004 is all over.
Congratulations to Alison in Canada!
The list of entries is at the bottom of the page.

Saturday the 16th

We took Nick, a visiting friend, out for a walk this afternoon across the farm.  As we approached the paddock where 356 and the yearling heifers have been grazing, I counted them, to ensure they were all there, but realised that Demelza was missing.  Then I heard her call from just across the river, but she wasn't coming to join the others, which is quite unusual for a lone animal when the others have all gathered together.  We went over to see what was up and there were her little black ears, just visible amongst some trees across the river.

A large Totara had partly fallen across the river a few years ago and the river has scoured out a part of the bank and somehow Demelza had fallen into that area from the steep hillside above it.  We saw her yesterday afternoon, so she hadn't been there for too long, but she'd been treading around in the mud and was very keen to get out.  She'd either scraped a lot of dirt down on her way in, or had made some extraordinary efforts to get out!

Demelza, trapped!

In the picture, the yellow arrow is pointing to Demelza's head and the blue one to where she was standing when we found her, underneath a piece of undermined riverbank.

Stephan dashed home to fetch the chainsaw, because there was a big root across the only way Demelza could walk out (below the left-hand corner of the picture), but she wouldn't go over it because where she was standing was so much higher than the river-bed on the other side of the root and cattle just won't willingly step into such situations.  I thought if we removed a section of the root, she would be able to walk down into the river and along to where she could climb out to join the others.

Once the cut was made, we were able to coax and push Demelza into the river and she was back to safety again.  We're probably quite lucky she didn't hurt herself badly when she fell down the bank.

But, did she fall, or was she pushed?

Sunday the 17th

I found 16's calf looking really unhappy this morning.  Her tummy was all tucked up and the hair around her face looked sort of fuzzy - the classic look of an unwell, or starving calf!  16 is now eight and this is her sixth calf and she has always looked after her babies very well, so I hadn't been particularly watching them and it was only that the calf looked so dreadful which attracted my attention.  I walked 16 and the calf out of the paddock and into the lane to set them on their way to the yards at the front of the farm.

Stephan milked the cow, discovering that her milk was filled with blood so it was a disgusting terracotta colour.  It didn't appear lumpy and the udder wasn't particularly hot, so I thought perhaps she had just had a lot of swelling-related blood vessel breakage within the udder, which probably put the calf off drinking it, rather than that she had mastitis and had continually kicked the calf away from feeding.  I thawed the frozen colostrum we'd milked from Ivy a couple of weeks ago and tried feeding that to the calf, with not a lot of success, since I couldn't find the proper teat and had to try and get some down her with a lamb-sized teat, which really doesn't work very well on an ordinary-sized calf!  Once I rediscovered the calf-teat and fed the calf with that, the milk went down much more easily.

I rang dairy-farming neighbour, Gavin Taylor, who kindly said he'd let me have some milk for a few days so we could feed the calf while we got 16's milk back to normal by regularly milking her out.

The next section has some very close-up pictures of a calf being born - if you don't want to look, or don't want someone with you to see them, click here to go past it.

This afternoon, I noticed Inga standing around looking uncomfortable, so wandered up to watch her for a while.

At 2.40pm, she produced the first fluid-filled bag and half an hour later, I could see two feet.
Inga in labour
Inga in labour
Then she continued, with all the usual lying down, getting up and then lying down again behaviour.  She seemed quite happy to be doing all this with her mother and sister present, as well as me, sitting comfortably against the railings by the gate.  What a convenient cow!
Inga in labour
Inga in labour

At 3.53pm the nose first appeared and took ten minutes to move as far as the right-hand picture.
Inga in labour
Inga in labour

I'm glad my sisters haven't expected to lie all over me when in this state.  Mind you, I suppose young unnamed twin could actually have got out of the way.  Getting the head out was long, slow going, but by 4.17pm the head was just about out, and then Inga stood up and it went back in again.
Inga in labour
Inga in labour

Then two minutes later she was lying down again and the next minute, the head and most of the body were out - after I had prompted the other calf to get out of the way!
Inga in labour
Inga in labour
Inga paused for a few minutes, then as she stood, the rest of the calf appeared and Inga licked her clean.  She weighed 37kg, which is pretty big for one of my first-time heifers' calves!

Monday the 18th

Quanda and calf

Virago Quanda 09 AB and her new bull calf.  He weighed a mere 30kg, a much more respectable birthweight for a first calf than Inga's large heifer.

Tuesday the 19th

16's udder

Stephan, expert hand-milker, has continued to milk 16 twice a day and her milk is gradually clearing, its colour now more beige/grey than obviously bloody.

120 and calf

120's new calf, born during the night and nicely licked clean.  She stood up and came to see who I was, so I took her picture for all those who are enjoying seeing the babies.

There are seven cows in our Camp Paddock.  It is not entirely suitable for calving, being half covered in scrub and having a number of tomo (holes where underground running water has undermined the ground), but at least it's closer to home for watching them than those paddocks further out on the farm.

I drafted Isla and two others out of here the other day, thinking the two were quite close to calving and needing to keep a close eye on Isla for the competition!  Now 112 has calved before any of them and I found her this morning, with her calf, quietly standing under the trees by the river.

This heifer calf is the full sister of 390, who calved last Wednesday.  112 is steer 356's (of the dreadful accident) mother.

112 and calf
16's calf having a bottle feed

Another feed for 16's baby, using the milk from next door.  She's looking a great deal better than when we brought her in on Sunday.  16 is still very attached to the calf, and the calf responds with some recognition, but has no interest at all in investigating her udder.  We'll obviously have to retrain her to feed from her mother, as soon as the milk is better again.

I had a call from the man from whom we sourced our drake last year, who wanted to find a white drake to keep his one remaining duck company.  I suggested that if he wanted him, he could have the original drake back again, since we've now bred some replacement ducks and have no need for a drake except for that purpose.

So last evening Stephan caught him ready to take him into town with us today, from where he would then travel to his new home and old owner.

the drake leaves home

Thursday the 21st


The young sheep have had a couple of days in a new place!  The neighbours at the front of the farm (the house used to belong to this farm) have no animals on their two acre property and their grass was getting a bit long and untidy, so they asked if our woolly lawnmowers would like to pay them a visit for a few days.  Having tidied up that small paddock, it was time to move them home again.  They'll spend a few days in the "Chicken paddock" where there's lots of nice fresh grass.  I'm hoping they'll only be on the farm for another week before they catch their last ride off to the meat works.

Kukupa in Puriri

In the Puriri tree near our house sat this Kukupa, this morning.  (They're called Kereru in other parts of the country: the native Wood Pigeon.)  The Puriri berries must have reached just the right ripeness, because the Kukupa have become regular visitors over the last couple of days.

Ian and Pamela popped in from America to check whether Isla had calved at the time they guessed.  Isla wasn't terribly cooperative during the official photo session.

Ian, Pamela and Isla
Ruth and a reluctant calf

We tried to get the calf to feed from her mother in the morning, but failed, so later in the day Stephan and I had another go.  I've always thought Stephan was better at this than I, but in this case the calf would only suck when I put her on the teat, refusing to do anything at all if Stephan tried.  The "putting her on" was exactly that: wedge the calf's back end against one's thighs so she can't get away, push the back of her head and neck down so her head is extended into the right area, open her mouth, and flick the teat into it, then make sure it stays in there as she closes her mouth.  What a fight!  However, every time I did it, the calf would take a few more sucks, although she wouldn't stay there if I let go.  We did seem to be making progress, despite the frustration and injury endured.

16 has been amazing throughout this process, bearing in mind she has never been handled this closely before.  She has allowed us to bail her up in a very restricted space, play around with her nether regions and fiddle with her baby and udder without once kicking us or making it in any way difficult.

Fuzzy and her heifer calf

Fuzzy (357) calved in the Camp paddock later on the same day as 112 and then wandered around with a long and strangely beautiful train of afterbirth, which was still quite firmly attached yesterday when I checked on her.  I didn't see her calf last evening, nor this morning, so went hunting for both of them this afternoon.

Fuzzy likes grazing a little patch of grass at the top of the paddock, beyond a patch of scrub which covers most of the slopes, so I walked around via where she'd calved, in case they'd returned there, then up a very steep part of the hill through some pretty dense scrub.  Halfway up I had to turn sharply to get up the slope and when I raised my head again to see where to next, there was the calf, all alone in the dimness of the bush.  Having been disturbed, she headed up the hill, which was where I found Fuzzy, without afterbirth, quietly grazing.

Friday the 22nd

Ivy and her twin baby.

Ivy's twin

Irene calving
I popped out to look at the cows just before lunch and noticed Irene in labour.  I went home, then returned in three quarters of an hour and saw what looked like a bit too much white on the foot in the membrane bag she'd by then pushed out!  She didn't want to continue lying down while I was watching, so I went away and worried elsewhere.  My concern was that the foot I'd seen was a back one, so she might have a breech calf.  However when I went back again, I could see the head on its way out, so stayed and watched the rest of the birth.  Irene is the first of the three new cows to calve and this is #26 in the stud herd, a bull.
curious calf
This little creature came to have a look at me while I was waiting.

Later in the afternoon we put 16 up in the race and put the calf on a teat and ....

16's calf, feeding on her own!

... she stayed there!!!

My lovely friend, Jorja, whom I've known for many years, since we were both part of a lesbian support/social group in Auckland in the early 1990s, finally came to visit!  She brought her flatmate, Tammy, and Tammy's mother, Mrs Chee, who is visiting for a couple of weeks from Malaysia.  Naturally I had to introduce them all to Isla.

Mrs Chee, Tammy, Jorja, Ruth and Isla

And then, early on the morning of Saturday the 23rd, Isla had her calf.

Isla has calved!

At about 5 o'clock this morning, Isla had her calf.  I wasn't there: I had last checked at midnight, and the calf was only just up and walking when I went out to have a look just after 6am this morning.  I could hear Isla 'talking' to her new baby from my warm bed, so knew she'd had him.  (Please excuse the devilish eyes from the flash - it was still pretty dim when I went out.)

Congratulations to Alison of Canada, whose guess of 8.42 this morning was closest to the actual calving time.  I would guess that it being nearly winter in the northern hemisphere, I'll be knitting a hat for Alison in the next few days!

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Entries received: 10 October: 10.00am: Lila; 1.30pm: Polly, Auckland; 13 October: 5.30am: Jill & Bruce; 19 October: 12noon: Meryl, Auckland (who thinks she'll win naming rights as well!); 1.00pm: Wendy, Waipapakauri; 20 October: 10.30am: Iphigenia, Auckland; 12.00noon: Ian, Taranaki; 21 October: 8.30am: Ian, USA; 10.00am: Hannah, Holland; 2.00pm: Joyce, Ohio USA; 7.04pm: Pip, Kaukapakapa; 22 October: 9.00am: Iain, Canada; 2.00pm: Shelley, Auckland; 4.00pm: Philippa, Hastings; 4.50pm: Chris, Oklahoma USA; 23 October: 8.42am: Alison, Canada; 10.29am: Brenda, East Waikato; 2.37pm: Kim, Wellington; 5.00pm: Nicole, California USA; 7.25pm: Ruth, Diggers Valley (but I already have enough hats); 10.00pm: Rebeca, Spain; 24 October: 9.30am: Stephan, Diggers Valley (who also already has enough hats); 11.00am: Valerie, Auckland; 11.44am: Alexandra, Kaukapakapa; 4.00pm: Jon, Auckland; 6.00pm: Mike, Lancaster UK; 7.00pm: Lynn, Paparore; 25 October: 11.00am: Melanie, Texas USA; 11.30am: Kevin, way down south; 1.30pm: Andrea, Oxford; Muriel, Kaitaia (who doesn't need a hat, but entered just for fun); 26 October: 2.00am: Sue, Levin; 27 October: 10.30pm: Jeff, Otangaroa; 1 November: 11.26am: Mike; 1.11pm: Bron, NZ;

Thank you all for participating!

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