No sooner were the chicks installed in the laundry than we got a call from Johnny. Apparently he’d arrived home late this afternoon to find our new calf waiting in the yard so he was loading her to bring over to our place.
A little while later, the rumble of a farm bike and the rattle of a trailer heralded the young heifer’s arrival. Immediately, we could see how bright, lively, inquisitive and nervous this little Jersey/Fresian cross was – a very different story from poor Willow.
We had only just got her coat on and moved her into the paddock when Maisie and Robyn came home from school. As they came up the drive, we could see their faces light up. After lightening quick change from school uniform, they joined us in the paddock and had the honour of giving the calf her first bottle feed.
At some point during the feeding, the calf was named TJ – the initials of Maisie’s last and much-loved primary school teacher who recently died of cancer.
TJ quickly drank the two litres of milk and began the tentative process of getting acquainted with Poppy the lamb and the chooks with whom she’ll be sharing the home paddock for the next while.
So, as of this evening, our growing livestock register stands at:
- One lamb
- One heifer
- One rooster
- Three laying chickens
- Five day-old chicks
We’ve been considering at least one more lamb and really, around here, who knows what tomorrow will bring or when we’ll gifted another blessing to steward?
… he rose from his sick bed and felt somewhat human again. I had such great plans. Booking 5 days’ leave sandwiched between two weekends meant nine consecutive days away from work and busy getting stuff done around the smallholding. Or not, as it has turned out.
Sadly, out of the last 10 days, I have spent the best part of seven of them in bed, on the loo or lying on the couch thinking about going to the loo or back to bed. After a visit to the doctor and some tests, it turns out that I have had concurrent campylobacter and rotavirus infections, the same stuff that killed Willow.
With just two more days before I have to go back to work, today was the first day when I actually felt like doing anything like tackling some of the jobs around the place. So, while Wendy tackled the wildly overgrown shrubbery…
…I slowly but surely worked my way down the drive, regrading and redistributing the metal by hand to even out the surface and smooth things as much as possible.
I have lost a bit of weight in the last week but I hadn’t realised how much the dehydration and lack of food had taken it out of me. Just raking and smoothing 150m of drive almost did for me so I finished off and headed back to the house to enjoy a few minutes sitting with Wendy, drinking tea and enjoying the view.
We are still bottle-feeding Poppy the lamb but she is supplementing this more and more by grazing in the home paddock. That said, one lamb – even a guzzler like Poppy – isn’t enough to keep pace with the Spring growth.In order to keep the grass in good order and deal to any weeds before they reproducing, I spent a pleasantly sunny hour topping the paddock.
After a quick sandwich for afternoon tea, for lunchtime had come and gone without either of us noticing, we headed to the local rural primary school to collect the newest additions to our small holding.
We had ordered five Brown Shaver chicks through our friend Michelle (Johnny’s wife) who works at the school. One of the mums had placed a bulk order for local kids and parents, sourcing the chicks from the country’s major producer in Christchurch.
As part of a much larger consignment, the days-old chicks were flown up this afternoon, collected from another farm and driven to the school in a heated box. From there, we whisked them home to take up residence in a lamp-heated cat cage in our laundry, ending their 1,000km journey with munch of Peck n Lay and water.
Funnily enough, these little squeaking bundles of fluff were not to be the newest additions for very long. Just as we were cooking dinner and getting ready to take the youth group to an indoor climbing centre for the evening, we got a call from Johnny telling us to get ready for another arrival.
* Average taken from figures from 2008-2009 to 2010-2011 financial years. Source
** Child Poverty Action Group’s estimate of annual cost to provide breakfasts for the poorest 30% of primary and intermediate schools ($18.9 million) Source
Wandering through my Twitter feed, I came across Scott Yorke’s tweet about his latest post at Imperator Fish which contains the chart above.
While I know, like and respect some of the consultants with whom I have worked in my time in New Zealand, these figures only increase my concern about the real costs of the culture of consultation that exists today and raises more questions about who benefits from the same.
Acknowledging that one infographic can never tell the full story and recognising the private sector can spend money however shareholders will allow, I would guess that the true cost/benefit of, and the tangible return on, public sector consultation would be almost impossible to calculate without employing yet more consultants.
On the other hand, the cost of poverty – whether first hand for those in its grasp or the consequential impacts elsewhere in the economy has been diligently recorded in the quarterly Vulnerability Report from The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) since it was first published three years ago. It makes for sobering and occasionally harrowing reading.
As a former public sector social responsibility manager, I know that there are no easy answers to child poverty and the associated health implications or to addressing the cyclic issues that keep families in poverty and debt. As a citizen who immigrated seven years ago to give his own four kids a better start in life, it troubles me that many in this country are unable to do the same and seem to have little hope of ever doing so.
That the government seem to diminish, marginalise, or worse blithely ignore the issue is unconscionable.
We had our first loss on the smallholding earlier today when our calf Willow finally succumbed to the infection she has been fighting for 9 days. Speaking to our vet this afternoon, rotavirus is the most likely culprit. He says that it is currently prevalent in the area and many folk are seeing losses amongst newborn calves.
Willow seemed jaded the day we unloaded her from the trailer, so she was most likely already infected and we’ve been fighting an uphill battle since then. For a week now, we have been tube feeding several times a day, alternating between calf milk and electrolytes in an effort to keep her hydration and nourishment up. Latterly, we have also been administering injections of antibiotics, penicillin and pain killers to get the virus under control and keep her comfortable.
Wendy and Maisie have been the mainstays of the care effort, demonstrating veterinary care skills that belie their relative inexperience with such things. It has been a sad but salutory experience for us all, forcing us to fast-track our ‘on the job’ learning about general animal welfare and hygiene regimens, as well as more specific stuff like giving subcutaneous injections to cows.
Before sunrise one morning last week, I carried Willow to the shed in the back paddock to get her out of the storm that was blowing through. As I did, it dawned on me that this was something that people have been doing since they first domesticated animals and I more fully appreciated the privilege and responsibilities that come with stewardship.
It feels like we have a lot to learn, though are told that we did everything right and the battle may have been lost before it began. Undoubtedly more calves will follow but we’ll always regret losing our first so quickly.
Ironically, it may well be rotavirus (or a campylobactor infection) that has kept me in bed or the bathroom since last Wednesday. Hopefully, the meds and the electrolytes will kick in soon – especially as I’m meant to be enjoying a week’s leave starting today.
To end on a brighter note, we have new tenants – a nice couple who moved into the cottage last Friday and are slowly settling in.
We’ve had an interesting twenty four hours. SWMBO and I were both up during the night to try feeding/hydrating the calf with little success. After a disturbed night, I woke at 0500hrs to the sound of lashing rain and strong winds and a sick and cold calf sitting in the wettest place possible, just inches from the stall full of dry hay I’d prepared for her last night.
Realising that things were worsening, I spent the next hour shifting equipment out of and hay into the old feed shed in the back paddock before manhandling her up the hill and into a much drier and warmer spot. In hindsight, I should have moved her there at the first sign of problems but, being pretty new to all this, I just didn’t join the dots early enough.
Having missed the school bus (along with half the kids on the same route due to the driver leaving too early), Maisie has spent the day helping Wendy managing things. She took the calf to the vet with my mate Johnny and it turned out that we had a fairly good handle on things; the calf most likely has coccidiosis and this has been compounded by the scours we saw yesterday.
Like humans with diarrhoea, the more the calf gets dehydrated, the weaker it gets and the less likely it is to recover. So, to cover all the bases, we got antibiotics to fight the infection and electrolytes to help rehydrate her. The injection was no problem but the calf was hardly suckling so the only way to get her fluids up was by using a feeding tube. Hearing that this would be another $50 bucks, Wendy and Maisie saved the day (and $40) by using our $10 aquarium gravel cleaner as a feeding tube and funnel.
So this evening, while the rain lashed around the shed, we set to and fed the calf for the second time using this hi-tech solution before tucking her in for what will be a much warmer and drier – and hopefully healthier – night.
Two days ago, we were joined on the farm by a four-day old heifer, Willow, a russet-coloured Jersey/Angus cross purchased through my good friend Johnny*. The plan is for Willow to be the start of Maisie’s college/OE fund, raising her to breed weaner calves that can be sold on.
Wary Willow meets Abbie during her first bottle feed.
The calf cover keeps her warm in the spring Westerlies.
Willow and Poppy get acquainted.
Tentative to feed from the bottle, it turned out that she has calf scours (diarrhoea) and possibly coccidia, so we’ve confined her to a temporary stall under the main deck and have kept her fluids up all day. Hopefully this, plus some vet meds and electrolytes we’ll pick up tomorrow, will see her perk up and recover.
* You can see Johnny doing his off-farm rural postie job in this recent TV news piece.
While they hardly do justice to the majesty of the skies and the beauty of the landscape in which we live, I hope that the pictures (just a few of many I have taken recently) will give you some sense of why we feel blessed beyond measure, from sunrise to sunset.
Even my evening commute provides me with an opportunity to once again to appreciate why many Kiwis claim this land as God’s Own.
Having ringed her tail a few weeks back, we drove through our gate to find a tail-less Poppy skipping about the home paddock. As we got closer to the paddock, we were greeted by the surreal sight of Poppy staring through a gate from which her now-detached tail was drooping.
The headquarters for a well-known house moving company is in area where we live. By that I mean a company that moves house rather than the stuff inside houses. Occasionally, as happened this morning, my dawn commute is temporarily halted by a late finishing house move (as they tend to do such things at night when the roads are quiet). This is what it looks like when two halves of a house pass within feet of your car at about 40kph.
Ariella turned 21 today. My thoughts are a mess – I’m trying to comprehend where those years have gone but also celebrating Ariella’s life journey so far, from tiny infant to independent young woman. I’ll share no more – except in the form of a few pictures from a meal Wendy and I just shared with Ariella and her best friend Ariel.
The less exciting present
The more exciting present
The present she really wanted
The medal-winning bestie and the 21 year old