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"I'm Headin' back east - like it or not"

July 29, 2008

Well the workload is gradually starting to pick up. We had two more calves to collect today and more are on their way. Actually it's good to get a bit of practice in before things start getting really manic.

Sometimes what seems like a simple 30 minute task can blow out into an hour or more and mess up the rest of the day's schedule. Today's drama was in bringing one the new calves and her mother back to the calf's pen and milker's paddock...

Cows are actually fairly clever animals and they generally know where they're supposed to go and where they shouldn't go. For most of the year they're also pretty cooperative and basically go where you want them to go. Recently calved cows are a completely different beast - they're frantic, nervous, unpredictable and seem to make a point of going exactly where you don't want them to go.

This afternoon we had to bring one of the heifers that had calved back over to the milker's paddock next to the cowshed. The heifers were grazing in a paddock which is a fair distance from the cowshed and due to the recent concreting of the main race into the shed the journey there was a little more complicated than normal, meaning we had to take the cow along a race, up 500 metres of road and through two paddocks before finally arriving at the cowshed.

Everything started smoothly - it was no big deal drafting the cow out of the paddock away from the rest of the herd and she started following the quad (with calf in trailer) down the race ok. She even followed it out onto the road and up the hill to the first paddock. But then something clicked in her mind and she took off running all over the place and made a deliberate effort to get as far away from the gate to the other paddock as possible.

Despite us having travelled over a kilometre and up a hill, she kept looking out East towards the paddock we'd removed her from. No matter that her calf was a few metres in front of her, she lost her senses and started bolting back towards the original paddock, presumably thinking her calf was back there again.

Broken fence

She made it through the gate and took off along the road a bit, finding a broken section of fence into another paddock on the other side of road. Ok, a little inconvienient but maybe we could take her out the gate and over to the shed along another section of road... Of course not! As I got her out of the paddock she took off down the road in the direction we'd come from, but she didn't stop and turn at the intersection - she carried on down the road past the neighbours place and over a bank, looking for a way to get through the fence - back East - towards her original paddock.

Of course I zapped down the road on the motorbike and parked a little further along. By now the cow had crawled further down the bank and was pretty much hidden by blackberry bushes and other plants. Great, that meant I had to get down there too in order to get her out again.

Eventually I did get her out and by now by brother had grabbed another motorbike so we were able to escort her back along the road and into the desired paddock. Mission accomplished - but it was one of those 30 minute jobs that more than doubled in time.

On a brighter note, we had our first "keeper calf" today - a heifer born to one of the main cows; We keep all heifer-calves born to cows since AI (Artificial Insemination) was used to ensure strong genetics. We don't keep the majority of bull-calves since this is dairy farm not a dry-stock farm, and we don't keep any of the calves born to heifers since AI wasn't used on them.

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Broken fence to the neighbour's property
An early start on Christmas morning
Cooking dulce de leche
Milk payout drops to $6
Payout to drop further?
Grass cut for silage in front of Mount Taranaki
Sore fingers
Fertiliser truck driving up a grassy hill
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