The week beginning 4th of October, 2003.
Saturday the 4th

It's rather a poor picture taken from too far away, but there can't be too many Auckland City boys who have access to their own private duck-feeding pond!

Sebastian and his private duck pond

Further out on the farm, Stephan and I found this family of five Paradise ducklings, with only their father looking after them.

five Paradise ducklings in a small pond

I've seen them over the last couple of days and also at night when I was out checking the cows and calves, and there is most definitely no mother duck.  There must obviously have been a female duck, but what has happened to her since she laid and incubated these eggs, I don't know.

Sunday the 5th

Aotearoa-New Zealand's daylight saving began this morning at 2am, which then promptly became 3am.  Sebastian went home to his mother, since today is the last day of the school holidays.

Monday the 6th

Calves popping out all over the place today.  Two cows who came back from over the road the other day produced bull calves, the second being the second white-faced calf for the season, looking just like his mum, #56.

56 and her newborn calf

I went over the road to have a look for the two heifers who I'd not seen the other day when we brought the cows down.  I was pretty sure I'd seen the fuzzy grey one on Saturday, when I looked across there, but wanted to make sure they were both alright.

I spent ages wandering around the 20 acre paddock looking in the gullies and patches of bush.  On the side of a hill, I approached this small tree, out of which flew an alarmed blackbird, so I had a closer look within...

a small Totara tree, in which a Blackbird is nesting Blackbird nest and eggs

Eventually I gave up and went home, having found no sign of #357 (Fuzzy) who I presumed was most likely standing somewhere in some trees, watching me walk past her.

Later in the afternoon, Stephan and I went back up for another look and with huge surprise, came across this sight...

357 and her fuzzy bull calf

... Fuzzy and her very similar looking bull calf!  I have kept extremely careful records this year and have known the expected birth dates for all the cows and heifers and this one in particular, who was inseminated only once.  On careful checking of my records, I discovered I'd simply recorded the insemination date as January instead of December, so had just left Fuzzy where she was, expecting her to calve from sometime at the end of the month.

Fortunately she seems quite well and settled with her calf, which I'm fairly certain is less than 24 hours old at this point.  We left her where she is, for the moment, since it's quite a long walk down the hill and across the farm to join the other calved cows.

Tuesday the 7th

This situation always causes a bit of excitement.  Calves tend to get silly around gates and rivers and can suddenly dash off in the opposite direction to that intended.  At this particular crossing, we can push them all onto one little peninsula of earth and then "encourage" them to cross - which either means they go before we reach them, or they get physically shoved down into the river, so they're not left behind and lonely in the paddock, since all their mums have gone on to better grass.

a collection of uncertain calves on the riverbank

We were successful this time and they all went across and through the gate with little fuss.

We went over the road and gradually coaxed #357 and her calf down the hill - after spending half an hour hunting for the calf!  The paddock has several patches of subsidence, where underground streams have caused deep holes in the ground, which could be hazardous to a small calf, still wobbly on his feet.

#357 has not yet dropped her after-birth, a problem I had with one other, older cow last week too.  I shall have to watch her to ensure she does so in the next few days, or intervention will be necessary.

Wednesday the 8th

I watched #114 from my window, across the fields, beginning her labour, for about an hour while Stephan and some of the children from down the road were helping Grant move his cows further back up the road again.  When they all returned, I suggested we go out and watch, since she would presumably not be long in producing the calf.

four children waiting to watch a calf emerging from a cow

We sat and waited for ages, while nothing seemed to be happening.  The wind was cold and the sky cloudy, so it wasn't the nicest day to be sitting out on the damp ground.

114 giving birth

Eventually we saw some feet, after I'd begun to wonder if something wasn't quite going right!

Kendra hiding in some rushes for a better view of the cow

Kendra snuck in a bit closer for a better look and eventually we saw the nose and head of the calf, another white-faced baby, as it emerged from the cow.  Then we all went home and warmed up.

I haven't taken too many calving-action shots this year.  If you want to see what happens during the birth process, have a look at these three from previous years: Onix in March 2002, #32 in March 2002 and #3 in March 2001.

Thursday the 9th

Just over 20mm of rain fell early this morning and caused the rivers to rise very quickly.  It usually takes around 70mm of rain to cause flooding to the point that it prevents us leaving the property, so that rain must have fallen very fast indeed.

In the middle of that dreadful wetness, #16 produced her calf, a heifer, about which I'm very pleased, having inseminated her with a straw from Merchiston Playboy, who's the sire of Onix, #348 and a number of others.

16 and calf

A cow with this much milk could well feed another calf (or two!) but we choose not to bring in calves from elsewhere.  We did so some years ago, but then had to deal with a case of scours which spread through all our own-bred calves and the whole thing was a nightmare. We're also in the business of breeding up to a straighter Angus herd and buying in spare dairy calves (which would be the only type of calves available) would not move us toward that end.

Later on, the rain cleared and we were treated to a most beautifully warm, sunny afternoon.

Fuzzy (#357) dropped her after-birth late last night, a very smelly mess!  I don't think she was feeling terribly well for a couple of days, but appears to be on the mend now.

Fuzzy (357) and her calf

These four (Ivy, #358 the recovering steer, #367 and Abigail) are still in their own paddock, so their feed levels can be maintained.  Their paddock is sheltered and was very warm in the afternoon sunshine, so the four of them were just standing, chewing their cud, enjoying a "standing sleep" as they often do, eyes half closed, completely still apart from the ongoing jaw movement.

ruminating cows
Friday the 10th

Here's Isla and her calf, just after we moved their group of seven calves and their mothers into the larger group of thirteen, since the grass isn't growing and management is getting a bit difficult!

Isla and her calf