Friday, March 27, 2015

Snakes are definitely out and about...

I have had a run in with 3 in the last week. The first - I was pruning back my arrowroot plants and throwing some over the fence to the cattle, as they absolutely love it. All of the plants are about 2 metres tall, so I was tucked right in the plant chopping it back, when my eyes focused on something moving, and when it came in to focus, it was a dark brown snake slithering past my face about 4 inches in front of me.  I know they say you are meant to stay still, but, stuff that,  I was out of there...before I knew it I was in the middle of the house yard on my knees, wondering what the hell had just happened. It had also jumped out of the tree and was high tailing it out of there as well. I think I shuddered for about an hour or 2, and made myself a nice strong drink to try and get over it all. The second was a couple of days later, I could hear little Sam barking and barking, and I went out to investigate, and I could see a few toads gathering in behind the bins. I was muttering away to myself while I was fetching the dettol to spray them all, about how much I hate toads, and how they attract snakes etc, and as I came back to spray them, I noticed a black snake in there as well. So armed with my broom and my shovel, just in case, I started pulling things out to try and shoo it out of there. It ducked underneath the corrugations on the end of the verandah back out in to the yard, so I am hoping it stays away now. And then 2 days later another crossed my path on the driveway as I was leaving for work. It was black, but I think it had a yellowy greeny belly from what I could see, so I am thinking it was a tree snake. I didn't see it until I was just about on top of it, so I couldn't stop in time, but I didn't run it over, as I noticed it slithered away when I checked in my rear vision mirror.

In the last 12 months, the only snakes I have seen was a red bellied black in the chook pen about 6 weeks ago, which the guinea fowl chased away,  and a tree snake down at the cattle yards at about the same time, so to see so many, so close together, is unusual. I really hope this heat goes away soon so that they can all start to hibernate over the winter. They are definitely around in droves at the minute, so be careful, watch where you are walking and where you put your hands and your feet while gardening etc.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A big day of cattle handling...and another chicken processing day

The new heifers and bull calves are all about 8 months old now, so it was time to round them all up and brand them, needle them and castrate any bull calves, and put all of their NLIS tags in. We organised for a musterer to come in and he and his dogs rounded them all up and in to the yards. We put all the mothers through as well, as it was time for worming for all of them anyway. The musterer is an experienced cattle handler, so we organised for him to bring his brand heater etc so we could brand them all. He also castrated the 3 bull calves while he was there. It was a hot day, but it all got done.  We had a few very angry cows to deal with as well, so it can be a bit dangerous at times, and you have to keep your wits about you so you don't get hurt, they are very big and can be very dangerous if you get in their way.

I felt so bad for the cattle, but it is very quick, and they don't seem at all worried about it as soon as they are let out of the crush. The little bull calves all handled their castration really well too, it just amazes me that they just stand there, no reaction whatsoever, and then they just wander out of the crush like nothing has happened. This little bullcalf (the darker one at the front) has just been castrated, and he is just standing around here, completely calm, and oblivious to what has just happened to him.
We are hoping to send a few of the heifers off to the sales as breeders in May, along with some of the older cows as well for breeders, as we don't want to go in to winter again with too many cattle. We would eventually like to get down to about 6 heifers and 1 bull, with maybe a few steer to grow out each year. We're never going to make a lot of money out of cattle on 150 acres, so it is just to keep the grass down really.
The next day we also processed all of the excess roosters, we had 6 in total to do, not a nice job, but it has to be done. They were all just starting to harass the girls, and fight with each other, so the time had come. So 6 birds in the freezer, I roasted one up, much nicer when they are younger, as opposed to the older ones we did a while back which were all tough,  I managed to eat a little bit, but still not sure if I can do this eating our own chickens thing..

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Guinea fowl....NOT good mothers!

I knew that Guinea fowl were not good mothers....which is why I always try to either put the mum in a protected pen so she can hatch and stay with them, or either incubate or put the eggs under a surrogate chicken to hatch. Over the last few weeks, I had noticed that I was missing 2 guinea fowl, and they appeared yesterday, with 3 brand new babies in tow! Unable to get near any of them before I left for work, I checked on them all as soon as I got home. I found one baby nearly dead in the chicken house, and the other one had been abandoned. I bundled them both up and put them in a cage under a heat lamp and gave them food and water. The one that was nearly dead, would not do anything other than lie down, so I have been using a dropper to give it water, and I have made up a slurry of crumble and water and I have been using a dropper to try and feed it a little bit of food. It's not improving, so I don't hold out much hope. I also tried to see if I could get the last remaining baby and mother into a pen, but after being flown at by a very protective male guinea fowl who was determined to try and claw my face, and he also attacked the dogs, I gave up on that idea yesterday. Determined to try and give in another go this afternoon, I bundled up the healthy baby that I had in the cage, and put it in the pen area to try and attract the mother and baby over to it...I grabbed a half dismantled greenhouse as my barrier...yes...a funny sight I am sure, but it protected me from manic guinea fowl. Anyway, they would hang around the caged baby for a few seconds and then wander while I was standing there with my half dismantled greenhouse armour, I could hear a chirping coming from behind me...and out of the long grass wanders another baby!  I was like...huh??  Then the guinea fowl started to attack it, so I bundled it up, and put the 2 orphans in the cage back with the sick one.
I then thought that I should try and find the nest in case there were any others about to hatch or or had been abandoned, I found about 12 eggs that have hatched, and only 4 babies all up that I have seen...gotta wonder how they survive out of captivity. So, I am now caring for baby guinea fowls again, and also a sick one to boot....gee, thanks mother guinea fowl.
(This is the guinea fowl that wandered out of the bush this afternoon)
(These are the 2 healthier guinea fowl now keeping each other company)
(This is the unwell little guinea...I'm really not holding out much hope, and I am surprised it has survived this long..poor little thing)
The chicken mother hen from the last guinea fowl hatch has been looking after her brood really well, she is very protective of them, and they are now all ready to start venturing out and about a little bit each day. We lost one a couple of weeks back, I think it may have been attacked by a rat overnight, but there are still 10 out of the 11 that hatched, which is pretty good odds.
(Update 25th March: The sick little guinea baby died overnight, now I'm not sure about the first one I rescued either, it doesn't seem quite right either...sigh....we'll wait and see) 
(Update 26th March: The 2nd one I was suss on has now also died, so the only one left is the one that wandered out of the bush 2 days ago. The guinea fowl are still managing to keep the single baby they still have with them alive so 2 out of 12....pretty bad odds when they do it themselves)