A shocking day

Yesterday was a shocker.

After getting Zoe off to school, it was time to do the annual “spring clean” of the fences. The event is triggered by the influx of youngsters into the herd. Every bit as adventurous and bullet-proof as your teenage son, these first-time calvers are new to the dairy side of the farm and love to explore far beyond the allocated paddock of the day.

The result: chaos. Sure, it only lasts a few weeks but, in that time, I could face divorce from a frustrated hubby sick and tired of chasing newbies around the farm. With all that in mind, I head off with the tester to gird the fences against the onslaught.

First stop is the all-important fence around the effluent pond. Nothing. “Not another #@$% battery.” Much muttering.

I’ve broken the farm’s electric fence system up into cells using a cadre of solar-powered energisers so that a single fault cannot bring the whole place to its knees and what I’ve discovered is that the batteries only last a season or two.

I wriggle the connections and ZAP! Well, at least I know it’s working. Test the blasted thing: 9 point bloody 6. No wonder I didn’t enjoy it. Pick up the clamp to attach it to the fence.

ZAP!

“AAAARGH”

“Need…new…clamp”

“What doing, Mama?” asks the little fellow in the Bobcat. “Never mind, Little Man”.

After a bit more spring cleaning, I discover a major fault down by the gully. Investigations reveal a blessed wombat has dug a perfectly good post right out of the ground, collapsing the fence and quite literally earthing it. A steel picket does the job nicely. And we’re up!

Job done, I roar the Bobcat through the gates, leap off and in a few paces find myself shrieking and dancing over a writhing red-bellied black snake.

Fellow dairy farmer, Nick Renyard (@farmer_nick_au) later described this snake as “pretty” but with ashen face, thumping heart and jellied limbs, that was not what sprang to mind a few moments later when the silence was again broken by Little Man.

“What doing, Mama?”

Back on the job and with a paddock selected, it’s time to bring the heavily pregnant youngsters across the road. We crossed that road a total of eight times (four return trips) over the course of an hour before conceding defeat. Young stock like to be driven by pedestrians rather than UTVs but I was tethered close to the machine by Little Man who understandably wanted to be part of the action.

We decided to take a breather (did I mention that low-stress stock handling techniques do not involve inter-spousal shouting sequences?) and let them settle for a couple of hours while we had a think.

In the end, it was Wayne’s brain-wave that saved the day: “Why not just let them run up the road?”.

A cunning plan indeed. Refusing to take the orthodox route along the track past the dairy, the rotters duly ran straight up the road and “escaped” through the road gate into the house paddock. Not there yet but across the road, yesssss!

There was much running, shouting and frantic arm-waving to get the mob of 50 trainees to run under the hot wire into their new home. All done wearing heavy rubber boots through deep mud. This morning, with aching hammies, I think of Cliff Young and marvel at not just the stamina but the ingenuity of the Legend.

Why it’s great to work with kids and animals

I’m so grateful for the support of people around Australia and as far afield as Canada in response to my post about how to save Australian dairy. It’s been so heartening.

But then, a rather nasty person appeared out of the blue on Twitter today and cast a cloud over my morning – for 10 minutes anyhow. Because, after that, I got to do some work in the paddock and enjoyed the company of my two little farmers and some other members of our team. Kids and animals are the perfect antidote for trolls.

Kicking back on the farm

By far the coolest animals on our dairy farm are the 2 year olds.

Just kicking back

With the fearlessness and carefree existence of youth, these girls really know how to relax!

“Cool” is also the understatement of the month for Spring 2012. The area set aside for revegetation is earning its sexy NRM-funding title of ‘ephemeral wetland’ with more regularity than I would like.

Does this count as the fifth flood of 2012?

On the other hand, the grass is growing in between inundations. If it would just stop raining for a couple of weeks, we might get some silage tucked away for summer!

Mother duck speeds her charges away from the cow track as the herd passes by.

Heifers home from boarding school

Heifers return home

“State your business!”

Youngsters of practically any species are funny, curious creatures and young cows are no different. These are our calves of 2010, back home after spending a season with Madeline, a farmer an hour up the road. Does home feel familiar? I hope so but in any case, these little cows have a bravado beyond their years and they weren’t showing any nerves as we sidled up to them.

At two years, they are about to calve for the first time and join the milking herd. It’s bound to be an exciting time for all concerned. Suffice to say, I’m rushing around the milker’s paddocks shoring up all the fencing for a good workout over the next couple of months and hoping they will be as quiet and gentle as the class of 2011!

I knew our heifers would be okay but I had to check

Yearling heifers

Our yearlings look lovely in their holiday home

Back in June, we were in big trouble. We’d had waaaay too much rain and there literally wasn’t enough dry pasture on the farm to feed all our animals.

I decided we had to send our precious heifers away on agistment. We were lucky enough to find a caring farmer just an hour away with just the right amount of land. While we know they are in good hands, it’s our responsibility to check in on them every few weeks and see how they’re going. Well, here they were today – looking great!

You can tell when yearlings are feeling good. They literally jump out of their skins. I walked into their paddock and caused massive excitement as they leapt and frolicked all over the place.

It’s been 12 weeks since their last drench and vaccinations, so we’ll organise another dose in the next fortnight to keep them looking terrific. They’ll meet their Jersey beaux later in the spring.