Just before noon and the cows in the Big Back South were all resting at the bottom of the paddock.
I've been watching 606 with interest, having told her that if she wants to stay on the farm for another year, she needs to be pregnant to the bull I inseminated her with three weeks ago. So far, so good. Today marks her possible three week return to oestrus and Mr 87 is showing no interest in her at all.
I was undecided about culling her this season, so decided to toss a coin in that way. Looks like she won.
I haven't been up to the orchard since we did some pruning in September. The trees are doing reasonably well, I think, with not nearly as much possum damage as last year, thanks to Stephan's regular attendance to his traps here.
The Walnut tree is gorgeous. It has very clear marks on its trunk showing how much it has grown each year.
Nut's Persimmon has fruit and is looking much more vigorous now than it has during the last couple of years.
There are lots of apples, possibly a few too many for the strength of some of the branches, but hopefully there'll be no big winds through here before they're ripe. The pears look as though they'll be later than most of the apples.
One position, at the NW corner of our grid, has proven entirely unsatisfactory, with now two or three trees having died there. Most of the others appear healthy and vigorous.
I found 716's tag in the middle of a clear area in Mushroom 2. We had trouble with Allflex tags breaking several years ago and it seems those problems have returned. This numbered tag is no longer a legal requirement but many of the obligatory NAIT tags have also broken and will require replacement before any of those animals go to the works; I'm not inclined to replace them before that time now, regardless of the new legislative requirements! They're expensive and obviously not up to their task, despite all having been correctly applied to the proper position in the cows' ears. None of them have been ripped out of ears, just broken.
We went next door this evening, for a house-warming event hosted by our new neighbours. It is a great pleasure and relief, after a very mixed experience with the many successive residents of that property, to meet a family with a similarly friendly attitude to our own upon first contact.
We came home fairly early because we had to do our usual jobs before dark and by the time we thought we might go back, the expected rain had begun to fall. While one would not wish rain on someone else's celebration, this time we're just glad it's here: everything has become terribly dry and the grass is hardly growing.
I tipped 79mm out of the rain gauge this morning, with enormous delight. It had fallen reasonably moderately, with occasional heavy falls overnight, which naturally brought the stream up over the bridge. It's such a relief to see puddles on the track again, for all that we spend so many months of the year complaining that it's too wet! Such is farming.
Eva's daughter Gertrude. I haven't done the pedigree tables for this year's calves yet, another of those time-consuming tasks I've had to put aside in the busyness of the summer so far. While I suspect few people actually refer to them, they're immensely useful to me over the years. During this mating season, as I've planned which semen my insemination cows will receive, it is to those pedigree tables I return, to see how my cows' pedigrees compare with those of the bulls whose semen I've bought. I have trouble remembering who's who beyond mothers and daughters and the occasional sire.
Whether or not this calf will remain in the herd will depend very much on her temperament as she develops. So far this year's calves are behaving really nicely, with only a couple of weirdly scatty exceptions. When we weighed them last week, I realised it would have been better to record the jumpiness of the few, rather than the quietness of the majority. Last year it was a different story. I suspect their copper levels have something to do with that, but need to do some more thinking and investigation.
Ellie 119 sat around looking odd for the latter part of today. Something hasn't been right. She returned to normal after about 36 hours but lots of the cattle showed later signs of suffering some sort of digestive disruption after last night's rain, so perhaps she was just a bit more affected than some of the others.
We have another crop of Monarch Butterfly caterpillars on the big Swan Plants outside the house. Usually they're killed and eaten by the paper wasps but this year that doesn't seem to be as much of a problem as it often is. Monarch survival is seriously threatened by the introduced wasp species.
I thought 750 had been mated about ten days ago, having then been of some interest to the bull, but it seems more likely she's on heat now, with actual signs of mating going on. I doubt he applied the face adornment for her benefit, it's just more of the mud from the new track, all lovely and soft still after the rain.
I had decided to move the mob but needed to ensure they were all there before I did so. Endberly was the only animal not to show up when I called them and I had to go looking for her. I heard her before I saw her, crunching her way through some lusciously-growing ferns on the other side of the wet area alongside the new track. I wasn't sure how I'd get her back to the correct side but once I went across to move her, she showed she knew very well which way to get back.
Our water intake has failed again after the rain swelled the stream and Stephan won't go up there to fix it for a day or two yet, so I needed to move this mob so they could have access to a stream. The intake and filter have been staying in place, so I theorise that the agitation of the increased flow of water into and through the small pool in which it sits, leads to air bubbles being sucked in to the pipe, which then gather and cause an airlock, which stops the normal flow. We may need some sort of air-bleeding arrangement to solve the problem but haven't yet worked out how to do that.
On my own, I had to ensure all of the calves stayed bunched up with the mob since they were to go out the wooden gateway just around the corner, then back along the lower main track to the Back Barn paddock. Once the cows start moving along the main track, any calves left on this side of the fence are inclined to come back along here, rather than continuing on to the gate, unless they're consistently pushed to keep moving in the right direction. Fortunately that all worked fairly well. The older they get, the better they are about understanding such infrastructure.
Before long there'll be a gate down to the left, which will make this sort of move a lot easier.
I came out early this morning to set up this access to the stream for the cattle, since the track crossing I'd left open isn't their usual emergency source and I wasn't sure they'd all have found it. I hadn't opened this part yesterday because of my concern about calves going under the wires and up or down the stream in the reserve. Then it occurred to me that I could use the electric tape, which usually serves to make a short lane across the Back Barn to this crossing to the Spring paddock.
The permanent wires are a bit high to stop the calves because the stream floods and debris could catch in the fence. The cattle usually only pass through here quite quickly. We have in mind another emergency water back-up plan which will keep the troughs supplied and avoid this option in future.
Here is my first insemination failure for the season: 607 with her tail out and 151 nearby, having mated overnight. So far the first ten appear safely in calf and thus my current conception rate is still 90%. I have no doubt it will fall a bit more yet but hopefully I've done a good enough job to keep it somewhere around 80%.
This is the appearance of the majority of the cows' back ends at present: covered with an unusually sticky, thick faecal deposit. I'm not sure why, but this happens quite often after a long dry spell and then some rain.
There's still a bit of grass around in some places for the two mobs with the bulls. It's the insemination mob that gets a bit tricky to feed, since they're confined to paddocks with pruned trees, and which are reasonably easy to get around to see them all at night.
After the lovely rain, we've had constant, drying winds, which have dried the soil surface again very quickly.
Tutaekuri, little purple potatoes, for dinner this evening, from Stephan's garden. With freshly-made butter, they were delicious!
Tutaekuri's translation is best not considered during the meal, referencing the similarity in appearance of these little dark tubers to the faeces of dogs!
We took Zella's and Imagen's calves to the yards this morning for their booster vaccinations and then had a look at Zella's left front foot, which she's been favouring for a couple of days. She had some very hard bits of mud stuck up in the flesh between her toes but nothing else we could find. Her feet are not particularly well formed. She has obviously inherited the shape of her feet from her Jersey sire, unfortunately, not Imagen, who at 12½ still has fairly well-shaped feet.
In preparation for fencing along above the improved Route 356, Stephan needed to fell some of the tall Kanuka trees. He stacked them all up as he cut them into lengths, ready to be collected on the firewood trailer.
Sometimes I take photos of him just because I like him.
There's a chainsaw cut in the left knee of his chaps, so I guess we'd better buy a new pair. Better than having to deal with a cut in his knee!
Finally, after weeks, months of waiting for him, Ryan turned up with a truckload of lime. The conditions were just good enough and I concluded that even with almost no breeze, the dust would eventually drift away without settling on the paddocks. I got him to apply it quite heavily (at about three tonnes per hectare, a little more than a ton per acre), thinking that there'd be less floating dust as a proportion of what was applied.
The cows were a bit unsettled by the activity and the weird cloud of dust which came their way.
The wind got up a bit as the morning went on but having had to wait so long to get Ryan here, I decided we'd keep going for another two truck-loads while we had him and did Flats 2, 3, 4 and 5. Now we'll wait for rain, none of which is expected within even the long-range forecast period.
Stephan went out to begin the first step in the fencing of Route 356, preparing to install the gate; the track will actually start here, when it's all fenced, rather than back around the corner to the left through the wooden gate.
This evening I had to inseminate Emergency's daughter, 150, for the second time. It was a faint hope that I could have got her pregnant last time, with my inability to find my way through her cervix with the inseminating pipette. I hoped I'd been at least in the start of her cervix, but I suspect not. This time she was just as quiet in the race and it was easier to work out where things were internally and I hope my timing was also perfect. Another three weeks and we'll know.
These chicks hatched in a nest at the end of the island, despite all the swimming visitors over the last few weeks. The sitting bird was even chased off by some small boys with sticks, on one occasion, when the rest of us weren't looking in the right direction, but still they persisted.
All Pukeko can swim, it appears, even very tiny chicks, and they've been out around the paddocks in increasingly wide forays for food with their three (that we've noticed) parents.
Summer has finally arrived, with very hot, sunny, near-still days. When the day was at its hottest, we wrapped the semen bank up in a light-coloured cover and went out to the other side of town to get it refilled. The Nitrogen is lasting quite well, with the bank wrapped to keep it as cool as possible and keeping it in a cool shed under trees - not by the yards in the little tin shed, which heats up like an oven in the summer sun.
Stephan took the steel gate from up near the PW reserve, between the Middle Back and PW, replacing it with a tape gate, so he could use it down here. Having hung it, beautifully, he constructed rails and re-strained the electric fence, so now we have a gate all ready for the Route 356 lane, whenever that next part happens.
I knew white-faced 788 was going to come back on heat and was waiting for some definite indications. Early this evening she trotted across to see the big bull, who was in the little Camp paddock on his way, with his little mob, to the Tank paddock. Once he and his cows were there, he stayed near the fence, mooing to 788 and she to him, across the stream.
But beyond that behaviour, there was nothing more definite to indicate that 788 was in standing heat. She kept bashing anyone else out of her space and nobody tried to mount her, nor she them. I decided I'd inseminate her first thing in the morning and hope for the best.