By
16 Nov 2010 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

New life. A new calf. Glossy and russet, with white markings to his head, he was born in the night and walking by dawn. I’d mated Maggie, a Jersey, with a Hereford, perhaps foolishly, because Herefords throw big calves and that could complicate the birth. She was due some time after October 25, though the exact date was a mystery. As it happens, there was no difficulty; one day she’s alone, the next day, Maggie has a son.

So now The New Boy, or The Calf, as he is getting to be known, wanders the paddocks, hiding behind tussocks when not with his mum. He isn’t named because we named the last daughter, and she ended up in the pot. They say the first rule with animals you’re going to eat is not to name them. But I think the physical closeness we’ll have with the boy will end up with him finding a moniker.

There’s been a massive spring growth spurt. Those weeds in the vegie garden that I didn’t manage to get to are now taller than the vegetables themselves. The grass around the house is so long it’s curled over and dragging on the ground. Every tiny green shoot in the house block garden, those between the flowers, has become a clump of grass and a big chore to add to my list.

Luckily, winter’s pig paddocks have been re-sown and look to be growing well. A gentle green fuzz has started to appear when you look at them from the house. With rain forecast and some warm days gone and to come, that part of the Puggle Farm experiment may work. The small square of land I sowed by hand in autumn is looking very lush – a separate patch of land for Maggie to graze over summer.

I’ve asked a neighbour if I can use his place, too. It’ll take a lot of hot tape and star pickets and a temporary water trough, but worth it to have another option for rotating her over the warmer months.

Maggie came to me with her last calf already a few months old. Her front teats were already quite small and not producing much by then. This time, I can manage her differently – milk her early and keep up production from all four teats. If only she’d stand still. Her bag (udder) is as taut as a snare drum. She is very protective of her calf, not wanting to be led into the barn (or bring herself into the barn) like she used to. She won’t stand for the milking. A huge animal that isn’t comfortable with the whole thing makes this novice dairy hand very nervous.