August came in with a blow (literally) and had a few dips along the way. This month we have dealt with the destructive nature of wind, the difficulties of working alone, lice, rubbish and a lame cow. But on the latter end of the month things were looking up. James returned part way through, typically after the stressful events had happened, but he was able to help with the cleanup and larger jobs.
Lice have been prevalent in the area this winter and we were not left unscathed, with Enid and Guinevere falling prey. The first I saw of it was when Gwen had a bald spot on her neck and a small patch of blood. Being the inexperienced farmer I assumed she had taken a horn to her neck and it would heal over in time. A few days later however and multiple patches had appeared over her neck, shoulders and rear end. Enid was also beginning to show the same signs. Talking to both our families and consulting the great oracle of the internet threw up ringworm, mange and lice as possibilities. Still unsure (as they had been drenched a couple of weeks ago) I attempted to separate the two from the herd and put them in the yards where I could call a vet.
My attempts at separating them were unsuccessful and I ended up sweaty and disgruntled, with the whole paddock of cattle racing up to the yards. To add to my frustrations Blackadder and one of the recently weaned steer calves decided to jump the gate from the adjacent paddock and join the herd. Blackadder wasted no time in sniffing out the ladies and trying to procreate. Now at this point I was alone, unsure whom to call and James was uncontactable on the rig (and pretty useless to be honest as he was 2 days worth of flights away at the best). I wasn’t about to work the yards with horned animals and so I was resigned to returning the lot back to the bottom paddock and eventually joining them with the rest of the steers as one herd. I can only imagine what the neighbors must have thought if they saw me going round, up and down the paddocks and yards!
During the morning’s events I also discovered that Aileene was lame. Fortunately, due to her being somewhat slow moving, I was able to mover her up to the yards along with her calf Gill-Eóin. Observing her along the way it was apparent the problem was located in her front right hoof. This was confirmed later when the vet visited. Their diagnosis was likely an abscess in the hoof, or possibly a bruised bone. We ended up having two vet visits for her, a week apart and both gave the same diagnosis, but found no abscess on removal of part of the hoof. On the second vet visit Aileene’s behavior was appalling and it became apparent we could no longer keep her. Despite her ailment the cow put on a brave face and tried to run at James on three occasions to knock him over. She also kicked a great deal in the crush when the vet was trying to handle her. James came away unscathed as quick thinking and lightening reflexes let him stand his ground and give her a good whack with the livestock crook. We just can’t tolerate a dangerous animal on the farm and will be parting with her once her calf has been weaned. Her lameness is actually on the mend, slowly and she will be returned to the herd in a few weeks.
I was able to get a vet on one of their visits this month, to come down to the bottom paddock and have a look at the two cows. They said it was most likely to be lice and that a dose of drench should sort the problem out. Apparently the pour on cattle drenches are not that effective at being absorbed into the skin and work in a herd by the cattle licking each other and ingesting the product. Injectable and oral cattle drenches were recommended to me. After looking at the variety (and prices) of different products on the market James and I decided to remain with the pour on treatments. They appear to be the most cost effective and user-friendly (with a drenching gun) and in reality we have had no problems up until this point. Using what was left of the drench we had, I then engaged in some drive-by drenching. This is not a recommended method for drenching cattle, but I was on my own and couldn’t separate the two who needed it. Also our cattle are unafraid of the Land Rover but keep their distance when you are on foot. Surprisingly this worked very well as I was able to spray both sides of each cow and within days the patches were starting to clear up.
43mm of rain this month, which is just below the mean rainfall for August at 45.9mm. The weather has been slightly cooler than the average, sitting around 14.7° C. Soil moisture is still good and we may well be lined up for a reasonable spring pasture flush. Certainly the paddocks are looking good and we hope to cut hay as soon as possible. We have managed to graze the back 3 ½ paddocks this winter with only minimal feeding out of hay. El Niño is still lurking in background with 4 of 7 Bureau of Meteorology models indicating that summer 14-15 will see a return to dryer conditions.
After the wild weather we experienced at the beginning of the month I was left with a broken shed and lots of branches blocking the lane. There was some damage sustained to one of our fences too. Some assistance was required clearing up the lane but the folks who came to help did a fantastic job and in no time I had access back to the yards. Deva did a splendid job of supervising. I then spent a day clearing what remained from the paddocks.
Having James home means there are a lot more tasks that require two people to do and usually get done twice as fast. The damaged area in the fence was fixed over a two-day period where we installed new strainer posts and hung two gates. This now allows generous access into the boundary if we need to take in equipment. At some point we intend to get into the boundary area and clear up the fallen branches and leaf litter before summer and the bushfire season.
We also decided to clear a few old bottles, which had been left by the previous owner in a hollow in one of the back paddocks. This has been on our to-do list for a while and it was good to finally decide to do it – until we got in there. It became clear that this had been used as a rubbish tip and the bottles were merely the surface. A LOT of hard work and a few trips to the rubbish tip had the area looking much better. As there was still some broken glass though we have put up a hot tape fence around the hollow so the cattle won’t enter it and risk injury.
Our regular tales of the woe of weeds extends into this month too where I found some tufts of African Love grass in the dam area. I followed the advice of our stock agent and cut all the seed heads off, burnt them and sprayed roundup on the rest of the plant. Thankfully I haven’t found any more so I don’t believe it has spread to any of the paddocks. I am always on the lookout though.
Whilst I was at it I also sprayed some particularly nasty looking thistles that had cropped up.
At the end of the month we planted some more fruit trees. We have a site on our farm where, down the track, we want to build a home. In part of this area we are planting an orchard or fruit and nut trees. So far we have apples, pears, pistachios, cherry, apricot, pecan and pistachios. Hmm it sounds like there will be some jam making in a few years!
This was Deva in the fog one morning. The last week of August has seen a series of chilly and foggy starts which break away to glorious days. I edited it to look quite atmospheric and couldn’t ask for a better pose!
The look ahead:
- Drench cattle and look at vaccinating for pinkeye.
- Separate the boys from the girls.
- Plant more fruit trees.
- Soil testing.
- Continue the battle against the weeds.
- Some blog updates.
A note to our lovely readers:
There is so much work that goes into our farm each month that I am struggling to keep these monthly updates short and sweet. James and I will be trialling some more frequent, bite size blogs so you can follow whats happening sooner. As always any comments and feedback are always appreciated. You can comment on these posts or use the email box on our about page here.
– Rachael & James