Category Archives: farm

01:50 in the morning

I know I’m only adding a new post about once every year now, but every time I log in the whole writing-page-thing has changed again, and it takes me five minutes to find out where things are. That’s annoying! Why do people keep changing things all the time? There was nothing wrong with the way it was before, or before that, and far as I can see there’s nothing better about it now.

Anyway… That’s me whingeing.

I came back to my blog to look up something about chicken expenses and instead started reading back through the most recent posts (which were only written this year) and already I’d forgotten them.

I’d forgotten that in January I had nine head of cattle, which at the time seemed like a problem because I’m never going to have them killed, and I don’t have any land of my own, so where am I going to keep nine head of cattle? At the moment they’re still living on the farm, the good old farm, but they can’t stay there forever.

Well, now – in May, only four months later – now I have 13 head of cattle, and it’s all through no fault or action on my part: the cows and heifers had calves, presumably because of visits by neighbouring bulls who didn’t stick around long enough for me to spot them. I had no idea any of the cows were pregnant until one of them had a calf, and now there are five calves.

I just thought I’d mention it. I liked reading through the blog posts and it surprised me that I’d forgotten things so quickly.

The calves are lovely, and the cows are healthy. It’s just that 13 of them? It’s a bit of a disaster, really, and it happened so quickly.

Notes

This morning Baby the chicken stood up tall, stretched out her neck, puffed out her chest, then crowed like a rooster. Five times, too; it wasn’t a one-off. I couldn’t believe it! From the first crow I just stood and stared at her, thinking something along the lines of “What the hell?!” I’ve never previously had any reason to wonder if she’s male; not once, not ever. But then suddenly she’s crowing loudly – sounding like a rooster, even looking like a rooster.

I don’t know what’s going on. I still think she’s probably female, but it was such a convincing crowing performance that now I’m not sure. And she hasn’t laid an egg yet, either, and she’d be about eight months old, or maybe even nine, which is presumably really really late. So, I just don’t know.

It’d be a disaster if she’s male. One rooster will be bad enough. I’d much prefer none at all, but Mr is such a sweet bird I couldn’t bring myself to have him killed. And the same thing would happen if Baby is a boy – how could I have her killed? She’s been my favourite all along and most of the reason I’ve kept the chickens at all.

I just hope she’s a girl, that’s all – a girl who crows like a rooster.

*****

I’ve learned some things about myself:
– I like driving at 70 kilometres an hour. It’s the perfect speed on the open road: relaxed and spacious.
– I like sitting in the dark. I’m still living in my parents’ house, and while they’re away on holidays I’ve been leaving most of the lights off in the kitchen and living room because there are no curtains in those rooms and they have a ridiculous expanse of windows. It feels too exposed to be lit up at night – the neighbours’ houses are only metres away, and also there’s a busy public road down the hill. I hate feeling like I’m on view all the time, so instead I leave the lights off and creep around in the dark, lit only by the stairwell light and the streetlights outside. And tonight I realised that I really like doing that. There’s a cosy feel about being in the near-dark. I think I would like being a little creature who lives under a rock and peers out.
– With my weight loss continuing, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to be dying, and I think it would be okay. It would solve a lot of problems for me, which makes me laugh, but seriously, it would. I wouldn’t need to find somewhere to live or something to do; I wouldn’t need to find anything at all, because I wouldn’t need anything: I’d be dead and gone. This is theoretical, and probably death by disease would be horrible – slow and painful. But the idea of dying soon and getting it over with, that part that appeals.
– I really can’t stand people, even the nice ones. I miss my old hermit life. I used to be able to go for weeks without seeing another person, but now I’m lucky to get through even one day quietly. The people are everywhere.

*****

I can’t remember what I’ve previously said about the cows (they were getting out, into neighbours’ properties) but the other day 13 of them were found on yet another neighbour’s place, and then I spent much of the next day walking them back to where they’re supposed to be. I’m spending all the hours between putting the chickens into their day-pens and letting them out again to walk along the farm fences, patching them – putting in star pickets, attaching droppers to the wires, tightening wires, whatever I can manage to try to keep the cows in. It’s such a worry I feel sick when waking up. There’s probably not going to be enough grass. I’m probably not going to be able to get the fences into order (the creek paddock is about 20 hectares, and one boundary fence is literally falling down in places, and I have to carry all the supplies because it’s too steep and muddy to drive the tractor). It’s just a disaster.

Morning notes

– Fluffy the chicken has a wound on her side and a patch of featherless skin around it, with other feathers above it broken off. I think something must have attacked her the other afternoon, even though I was nearby getting the chickens’ night houses ready – well within hearing distance – and didn’t hear a thing. Yesterday I managed to pour some Betadine (antiseptic liquid) over the wound and cover it with Vaseline (petroleum jelly) hoping it will help keep out nasties like dirt or flies. Fluffy actually stayed still for the duration I was holding her, which is unprecedented, so I suspect she’s been scared by whatever happened.

– Yesterday morning I watched over all three chickens for an hour to make sure nothing attacked them, and to make sure Mr the cockerel didn’t jump on Fluffy (as he continually tries to do). It’s possible (though I think unlikely) that she was wounded by a rooster, and if Mr jumps on her while the wound is new it would make things worse. He was behaving himself for a whole hour, though, so I moved away to get their day pens set up. But when they came over to get in the pens and were within two metres of me, that’s when he jumped on her. I was so angry I could have killed him, but couldn’t get to him quickly enough to grab him and smash his body against something hard and inflexible.

– I still haven’t found a way to get the cows back from across the creek next to the agistment property (some of the cows I was worried about the other day). There are five cows and four calves. Three of the calves are very young and will have trouble walking across the creek because it’s rocky and thus slippery.

– Of the cows mentioned in that link above who are back in the farm’s paddock after continually escaping from the agistment property, yesterday four cows and three calves had escaped into the immediately-neighbouring property. It didn’t seem like an emergency, though, because:
(a) they can’t get out on the public road, or at least not easily;
(b) they can’t get back to the macadamia farmer’s property and resume ruining his harvest (probably); and
(c) 19 of other-people’s cows and calves agisted on the immediately-neighbouring property have been breaking into our coffee paddock for the last week, so our group seemed small in comparison.

Yesterday with some help from other people I got our cows/calves back into the farm paddock. They might get out again because I don’t know where they got through the fence the first time. But the immediate problem is to make a fence to keep the neighbouring cows out of the coffee paddock. There are clear paths from the neighbour’s lawn into the paddock, so I need to make a 50 metre fence to close off that corner. Yesterday I put in some star pickets and today I’ll put up the wire.

– I have no idea why the cattle are moving around so much; it makes NO SENSE. I walked around the farm’s creek paddock two days ago to check the fences (but have only checked one so far, and it’s terrible). The grass situation is surprisingly good for this time of year. Normally in winter the grass stops growing, but this year there’s still a bit of growth. It’s possible we might get the cattle through until Dad gets home from his holiday, but it will be touch-and-go. (What does that mean, though? “Touch-and-go”?) If we have to buy supplementary feed that will be too expensive. I worked it out the other day and it would cost about $100 per day just for hay alone. When Dad gets back it’s likely he’ll sell the whole herd, and cattle prices are so low at the moment that he’d lose a lot financially if we’d fed them hay for weeks beforehand. (Selling the whole herd is so sad I won’t let myself think about it.)

– I’ve lost 9 kilos since last December and don’t know why. It’s a good thing, not bad; walking up hills is so much easier now. I feel fitter, but it’s probably just that I’m not carrying so much weight, making the task easier. But such a big weight loss so quickly is a bit strange. I don’t think I’m eating fewer kilojoules, and I don’t think I’m using up more of them, so I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe I just forget to eat sometimes, or I have a nutritional deficiency, or cancer. I have the BMI of a person my age in Bangladesh; that much I do know. (If you want to check your own, the BBC’s Global Fat Scale will tell you.)

– I don’t know what the point is: every day, trudging on. What’s the point? But that’s probably a Stupid Human question. There probably isn’t any point. We’re just here. We keep on going till we’re not here any more, and that’s all there is to it. Keep going. No point, just do it. But that’s not much motivation, hey? I don’t get it.

Stressing

Things are not going well and I’m hoping that writing this down will help, or at least give me a good place to whinge (which might not help but usually feels like it does).

My parents are on holiday overseas until the end of June. Since they left last week, the cows on agistment down the road from the farm have escaped at least three times. Twice they went through a neighbouring property and then out onto the public road, where it was just lucky that nobody ran into them in the dark.

I haven’t found where they’re getting out. None of the fences are good – any individual cow or calf could manage to get through anywhere it wanted to – and there were spots where one line of wire has broken, but I haven’t found a gap where a whole group could go, and as there are calves in the mix too (including four almost-newborns I found yesterday) somewhere there must be an obvious and easy hole in the fence for them to walk through, and a track either side of it. And I haven’t seen anything like that.

One boundary of the agistment property runs along a creek which is forested, so that’s probably where they’re getting out – I can’t see the fence when it’s overgrown – but if they’re running under bushes there’d be a track into that spot, and I haven’t found that.

Complicating matters, the property is too steep for me to drive the tractor on. And walking around it is awful: in some spots the weeds are head-high (after walking through them yesterday, last night it took 30 minutes to clear my clothes of farmer’s friends, little spiky weeds that attach as you brush past them). And I heard reports that a neighbour saw three brown snakes only two weeks ago (even though it’s cold at night now, so I would have thought snakes would be hibernating). And the most likely reason the cows are getting out is that they’re being chased by dogs, either wild or domestic running wild, so I keep fearing that somewhere down in the valley out of phone range I’ll be, y’know, attacked by wild dogs.

Bloody hell.

Yesterday we reached worst-case scenario, kind of, because a neighbour who has had the cows through his property a few times already insisted (very nicely) that something be done about them because their manure is getting into his macadamia nut harvest, and the co-op threatened to refuse his output. The poor man rounded up the damn cows and put them through into a second neighbour’s place, and I walked around trying to find a hole in the fence and to get them back into the place they’re supposed to be, but by late afternoon I hadn’t been able to do either. Then, roughly 15 minutes after I’d left the cows at the creek (thinking they’d be okay to stay there overnight, seeing there’s loads of grass), they’d run back into the macadamia neighbour’s place again (I have no idea where or how or why) and he had to round them up and get them out again, this time into a third neighbour’s place. He rang me in some distress, and I was then stressing as well, and then, to top things off, on the drive home from the farm I found the cows had run through the latest neighbour’s property and out the front gate and were all out on the public road in the dark.

With some help from a different neighbour and the farm’s new owner (and her little kids, who jumped into the car and sat in it quietly while she helped block the cows into the yards by car-light and torch-light) we got the cows to walk up the road and into the farm’s paddock instead of putting them back into the agistment property. At least they won’t get into the macadamia neighbour’s place overnight.

So, the immediate problem is over for the moment. Next: there are still 4 or 5 cows and their very young calves out of the agistment property and across the creek in another neighbour’s place, and I haven’t been able to think of a way to get them back. It’ll be a long walk for the babies even if I can find a way to get them back to the agistment property, and I can’t imagine how they got over the creek in the first place, but now they’ll also have to walk back to the farm along the public road, which they won’t have done before, so it’ll be a slow trip. (It would be better to leave them where they are until Dad gets back, but if there are dogs down there the calves will be targets.)

Running out of time to finish my whinging, so let’s go to points:
– they’re not my cows and it’s not my property; I don’t see how I’ve got stuck with solving this;
– the farm’s new owners can’t help very much: the man has gone back to work (he flies in and out) and the woman has small children to look after;
– there are now too many cows in the farm’s paddocks for winter and I’ll have to buy in hay or something, which will be really expensive, and might not keep the cows happy enough not to escape again;
– I can’t ask Dad what to do because if he knows about what’s going on he’ll be worried all the time and it’ll ruin their trip, plus they’re on a ship at the moment and I doubt I could contact them anyway;
– I don’t know how to get the cows and calves back from across the creek.
– forgot to say earlier that a neighbour’s bull is in with them, and he’s previously created trouble when trying to move them around (he stands in the gateways and refuses to let anyone else through), but last night he was pretty co-operative, thank goodness.

Pinkeye and vets

The blind calf is recovering really well and is not blind any more, and now that he’s in a paddock with some other calves around him he’s much happier. A few times I’ve seen him running and jumping, which calves tend to do when they’re relaxed and playful. So, the vet did a great job. And I’m patting myself on the back for managing to keep both calf and cow confined in the yards for weeks in wet and windy weather without them becoming miserable or unhealthy.

And I’ve just paid the vet’s bill: $279.00. I was hoping for $250, so the actual cost wasn’t much more than that, which was a relief. But at the same time I’ve been mildly stewing since reading the itemised expenses because the vet charged $99.90 for “mileage” – calculated at 54km, which is a few more kilometres than would actually have been travelled. I’d have been happier if he’d called it something else instead or included it under the consultation cost, or just bundled all items under one name: “expertise”. That’s what I was paying for: his expertise and experience. And I’m still glad I called him out to help. He did a good job.

There are a few other calves with pinkeye now, though. Over the last week I’ve been spraying their eyes with an aerosol antibiotic from the farm supply shop. You’re supposed to spray them three times a day, but it’s hard enough to get them rounded up into the yards just once a day, so that’s all I’ve been doing – once a day – and two days I missed doing it at all.

The spray hasn’t worked very well, though, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising. One calf seems to be recovering by itself, but there are still two who need more treatment.

I saw in a brochure, Pinkeye in cattle by the Department of Primary Industries (a PDF and includes somewhat gruesome photos), there’s a penicillin cream for pinkeye available from vets which you only need to administer once every 48 hours. I was going to try it. This morning I called in at a new vet’s place in a small town I drive through on the way to the farm. I explained the situation – what I’d tried already, what I wanted to try next – but the vet just offered to sell me some antibiotic powder, an alternative version of the aerosol antibiotic I’d just finished saying I’d already tried and hadn’t worked. She said the penicillin cream is only available on prescription and a vet first has to go to your property to check the cattle personally.

The brochure doesn’t say anything about that, only that it “must be purchased from a veterinarian”, so I felt mildly pissed off. There’s no doubting the calves have pinkeye, so I don’t see why it’s necessary to pay for a vet to visit them first before allowing us to buy the cream. Based on the previous bill, the cost of travelling would be $99.90 and the consultation would be $130, and that’s without paying for the cream itself.

I’m not convinced the second vet knows what she’s talking about, though; maybe a consultation and prescription are not actually necessary. My parents happen to be in the original vet’s town this afternoon, which is lucky, so they’re hoping he will agree to sell them the cream based on having been out to see the first calf. We’ll see what happens.

UPDATE:

The original vet confirmed that it is indeed necessary for a vet to visit the cattle first before prescribing the ointment, but he was willing to sell my parents two tubes of the stuff just based on the fact he’d previously been out to the farm to see the first calf. (The tubes were $15 each, I think, but I’m not sure I heard that right. The receptionist told my parents that the best way to administer the ointment is to put some on your finger and then smooth it into the calf’s eye, preferably into the gap between eye and eyelid. If instead you use the tube to “inject” the cream where it’s supposed to go, there’s a danger the calf will move his or her head and the plastic tube will injure the eyeball.)