The week beginning 2nd October 2004.
Don't forget to enter ISLA'S CALVING DATE COMPETITION 2004
Saturday the 2nd

Stephan and I went out for a quiet stroll to the back of the farm this afternoon, since he's not been doing anything much more than resting and acting!

Ivy eating an orange

Ivy, who is now in the Windmill Paddock (no, there isn't a windmill now, but there once was) with only Sybil for company, has become very fond of citrus fruit: from the unripe lemons on our tree to anything we bring her from the house.  She's not a very approachable cow, but this suits her just fine.  Once she's calved she won't be anywhere near as quiet!

checking the cows

Out in the back paddock, I wandered quietly amongst the cows, checking udders and my notebook to make sure there were no cows waiting to spring early-calving surprises on me in an inconvenient location.

Scratching Demelza's chin

Demelza really enjoys being scratched under her jaw.  She has what feels like a number of tick bites there, so it's no doubt very relieving for her.  When I'm alone with her, she'll actually follow me around the paddock to have me do it again and again!

Demelza is, of course, at some distance from the cows in the photograph above.  She and her friends, including steer 356, are about to vacate the nice, safe, flat paddocks for the scrubby hill ones, while the calving cows take precedence in feeding and comfort.

Sunday the 3rd

While we were out at the theatre last night, the season's first calf was born, to #307, who you may recall from an interesting trip through the bush some weeks ago, when she decided to move next door!

307 and her heifer calf 307's heifer calf
This is Crispin's first calf!

My list of the pregnant cows and the dates on which I think they may calve, put 307 fourth in line, and I wasn't expecting her to calve for another three days.  It'll take the data from a few calves to get an idea of how Crispin's gestation period measures up to that of the other bulls; but being Bertrand's son, it ought to be on the shorter side.

Monday the 4th
394 and calf

394 (pictured last week) finally had her calf - in the middle of a rain-storm, right next to the steadily rising river!  There is also a deep drain, which runs down the side of most of the paddock and then creates a separate grassy triangle in the lowest part near the river.  With so much rain, the drain was full and running very fast, straight into the flooded river and I watched as the calf stumbled his way curiously towards it!
I bravely leapt over the rushing torrent and picked him up, carrying him up the narrow muddy path to the larger, and flatter, part of the paddock.  I don't think he was very heavy, or I'm just very strong when I need to be.

Kauri shoot Kauri shoot Kauri shoot

This is the new Kauri shoot in my greenhouse, the latest picture (obviously) at right, with the other two from last week for comparison.

Tuesday the 5th
114 and her calf
114 and her calf

#114, the cow I brought in from the back last week as a surprise early calver, had her calf this afternoon.  I watched with some trepidation as the first of the birth fluids were a foul colour and I wondered if the calf would prove to be dead.  But as soon as her eyes appeared, she began to blink, so I relaxed and watched as her nicely marked face gradually appeared.  This is 114's fourth calf, her first heifer.  The calf's sire is Virago Quadrille 07.

Wednesday the 6th
Robert Swipe

Good-bye, Mr R. Swipe.

The last two nights of the play drew almost-full houses.  It was a delight to sit in the audience and watch people convulsing with laughter!  This was one of the more polished casts I've seen on the Kaitaia stage.

Thursday the 7th
Ivy and twins, again

Ivy has done it again: twins!  Over the last few days her udder has been filling quite quickly, but I thought she was too far from her expected calving date to really be on the verge of giving birth.  But here they are.  I didn't see them being born and by the time I arrived the larger of the two was up and about and had obviously had her first drink.  The smaller was curled up on the grass, but looked very much like she hadn't been up on her feet yet.  Stephan fetched a towel and I spent some time rubbing her dry (I had the calf just through the fence so Ivy couldn't attack me!) and she attempted to stand, but seemed unable to muster the energy required to do so.  We carried the calves up to the yards and managed to get Ivy into the race, where Stephan milked a couple of litres of colostrum from her, some of which I fed to the small calf.
The calves weighed 25kg and 17.5kg.

We took the small baby home and kept her warm, and I continued attempting to feed her, but she was gradually shutting down and died just after midnight.

Ivy's usual 280 day gestation (she routinely calved on that day for each of her single calves, no matter which bull was the sire) would have given an expected birth date of 22 October, so these babies are just over two weeks early.  The small heifer had a very irregular heart beat which I presume indicated that all was just not quite right with her internally, as well as being extremely small.  She was very beautiful.

Ivy's twin baby
Friday the 8th

Out for my first walk this morning to check on the cows, I heard one of them calling in the way that means she can't get to her calf!  Fortunately I wasn't carrying the camera (for reasons I shall shortly explain) so I have drawn an approximation of what I found ...

114's calf

The calf (394's baby again) had somehow made his way to the other side of the river and then fallen from that bank, catching his leg around the Manuka tree growing there.  His hoof was dug into the dirt, so he couldn't move at all and all his weight was hanging from that one leg!

I very quickly crossed the river, further down where it's nicely shallow, and knelt behind him, grabbed hold of the loose back leg, hoping to pull him back up the bank.  But as soon as I did so, his nose dipped down into the water and he's rather heavier than he was the other day, so I wasn't achieving anything except the risk of drowning him!  I slid backwards down into the river which coldly crept half-way up my thighs, filling my boots with water, and lifted him back up onto the bank a bit, so I could free his leg.  I held him there for a moment while I considered how to proceed: I thought if I let him go, he might well stumble and fall back into the water, so we'd possibly be worse off; or he might run off in fright, which would be unhelpful.  So I carried him, back toward where I'd initially crossed.

114's calf

There are some lovely boulders in the river beds, all covered in slippery mud and algae and ordinarily one needs to take care not to slip.  Carrying a calf at chest level meant my centre of gravity was rather high and when I slipped I couldn't help falling over!  The first time hurt quite a bit, but I picked up my bundle and carried on; the second time I sat down in the river and became even wetter!  At that point I gave up trying to carry the calf and let him make his own way to the bank, guiding him to where he could climb up and then opening the gate so he and his mother could reunite and go back into the paddock.

His leg didn't look too loose and wobbly, so I presume it's not broken.  He was also able to put a little weight on it, although he is obviously quite sore.  I don't think he'd been there for very long, since his belly felt pretty full and he didn't head straight in for a feed as soon as I let him go.  I took the pictures after lunch, when I went back to check how his leg was looking.

114's calf

The little heifer calf of 114, with her lovely white ear edges!

Ivy and calf

Ivy with her one twin.  Ivy still has the afterbirth swinging around under her tail; I'll wait for a few days, keep an eye on her general health, and if it doesn't clear, may have to consider getting the vet to see her.  The calf appears to be in great shape, running and bouncing around the place.  She has ample feed in Ivy's huge udder and should grow very well.


Back at home the ducklings are dashing about, enjoying the puddles and expecting to be fed frequently.  They always grow so fast!

pigeon babies

Our two little pigeons' latest babies have hatched.  I'll maintain a greater distance from them this time, so as not to put them off their parenting duties.


Anyone, from anywhere in the world, may enter this competition (one entry per person).  Entries may be submitted during the next four weeks and the winner will be announced shortly after Isla produces her calf.

The usual gestation period for cattle is 275 - 290 days (39 weeks and two days - 41 weeks and three days) and Isla was inseminated with the semen of Boyd Mainstream on 17 January this year.  Her first calf, Abigail, was born at 272 days at 11am; her second, Amelia, at 282 days at 8am; her third, Arran, at 280 days at around 11pm. This year, you'll be expected to guess the time as well as the date, to make sure it's quite clear who's guess is the closest!

The prize this year will be a woolly hat, in the colours and size of your choice.

The calving date will be measured in New Zealand "clock time" and daylight saving time will have commenced by then, if that makes any difference to your feeling about a particular moment in time.

The competition will close at midnight (NZ time) Friday, 15 October 2004.

Your email address will be used only to confirm your entry to the competition, and if you win the prize, to contact you for further details.  On 16 October, a list of the first names, locations, and the dates and times entered by all entrants will be posted.