I think calves’ ears are a ‘seedy gauge’. When they are at three o’clock and nine o’clock the calf is saying, “I’m not feeling very well”, and when they are at four o’clock and eight o’clock the calf is saying, “I am definitely not very well!” On Thursday, one of the new jersey calves looked miserable - her ears were at five o’clock and seven o’clock. I looked at the other ears in the cowshed … they were at two o’clock and ten o’clock. Little Miss Pumpkin needed some TLC.
There had been a change in the weather and I had set the heat lamp up for the new babies so I knew she wasn’t cold, but although she hadn’t scoured and her navel was fine, her tiny face was saying things weren’t right. A phone call to the dairy farm she had come from brought a quick response and within half an hour Little Miss Pumpkin had been injected with an antibiotic and I had enough packets of electrolytes to dose the entire herd with! We decided to monitor her closely for two days and if there was no improvement I could choose another calf. Sometimes calves just die. You can do everything right and everything possible but, if there is no will to live, or if there is a genetic problem, any amount of care or expensive vet bills won’t help. We decided that two days would be the cut-off point and the countdown began in Little Miss Pumpkin’s life. If she didn’t, or couldn’t, make an effort to help us she would be sent to Heaven before the economics became silly. Pumpkin and I had several chats over the next two days as she was moved out into the sun or moved in from the rain. By the beginning of day two she was looking brighter and was drinking electrolytes voluntarily from the calfateria. We decided to stay with the execution. By Sunday her ears were back at three o’clock and nine o’clock, and by Monday the ‘seedy gauge’ was well on the rise and all was happy at Middelmost.
It is so hard to be hard and accept the realities of life. At times I hate being a farmer and yet, as my heart was breaking over the thought of Pumpkin not making it through, I was arranging for the Farm Kill Operator to come and deal with the Three Little Pigs who are no longer little but are rather large and rather horrible! I felt like such a hypocrite as I coaxed Pumpkin back into the living and compared the pigs with the space in my freezer. But, their time had come and, to be honest, I will be pleased to see them go next week.
All mothers coo over their babies and regularly check the milestones of their growth. Newborn piglets are so cute as they scurry around looking like baked beans with tiny legs attached. A couple of weeks later, ten or more cheeky pink faces peering at you from under the safety of Mama Pig’s big, fat tummy is definitely a melting moment. Then comes the scamper-through-the-grass- looking-like-a-porpoise stage (this is after you have discovered them in the grass where they shouldn’t be!). It’s-fun-to-grab-the-hose is the next stage and this milestone becomes a tad disconcerting as they grow bigger and the level of the hose becomes higher than the top of your gumboots! Not long after this, piglets decide they are the only animals on earth that you should be looking after, and that squealing loudly while you are scrubbing out their pen should assist you to go faster and deliver the food more promptly. From squealing and waiting for the food to be dropped, the increasing volume of pork greeting you at meal times becomes alarming (especially when, in unison, they leap up and try to catch tea in mid-air). Following the jump-up-and-spread-the-milk-everywhere stage is the jump-up-and-meet-you-at-ninety-miles-as-hour stage and this usually happens just as you have leaned over the fence to retrieve the plastic water bin they have tipped over (yet again). Later, when the replacement concrete water bin is seen flying across the yard and into the bushes, and when taking a hockey stick into the pen with you is a survival necessity, it is time the freezer space was filled. So, the processing requirements for the two pigs going elsewhere have been ascertained and the Farm Kill Operator and I have arranged the time.
The tui I rescued from the water trough has finally decided to depart Middelmost’s garden. For the first couple of weeks after his rescue, he had stayed in the flowering gum. He was obviously a little worse for the wear and was not going far with a wonky wing. He would blunder his way down the flowering gum and into a droopy conifer where he could easily reach the ground and flounder across the lawn to where I always have a dish of water for the ground creatures. I remembered what ‘Jack the Tui” was fed at the Mount Bruce Bird Sanctuary and the tui at Middelmost had a bowl of honey and water, a bowl of jam and water, and a split banana put out with the water dish. He would come down on a regular basis and sit drinking first from one bowl and then from the other, as a selection of delicious ants stupidly trailed past him to the water and honey. The tui regained his strength and started to venture further and by the end of September was to be seen flapping and climbing all over the place. One day last week he disappeared and I know it had nothing to do with Albert as he had got himself accidentally locked in the hayshed while I was away for the day. I searched the property high and low and found no trace of feathers, no indication of a mishap. I guess the tui has made his own arrangements. I’ll keep the bowls out for a while though just in case he decides to return.