Every day is a new adventure here on the farm. I often post photographs and stories on my Facebook page, and people keep suggesting that I start a blog. So here I am! I’ll give it go and I hope that some of you will enjoy my stories about what happens here on the farm at Gregory’s Red Angus.
To start off I’d like to introduce you to the menagerie of critters that we have collected over the years that are our close companions and the favourites in the herd. A small insight into who we are and how we got started and a few pictures of some of the activities that go on here. I will also start other pages on topics that are ongoing and include a daily update as much as possible.
Sapphire is a beautiful lady and a very gentle Belgium Shepherd. Now into her later years, she spends most of her time sleeping in one of her many beds around the balcony. Always on high alert, she can be sound asleep at night next to me outside my bedroom on the balcony when all of a sudden she will start to make a low grumbling sound. She can smell a fox from quite a distance. She will leap up, run off down towards the yard fence and bark furiously at them. I often follow her with the spotlight at night and the fox can be right over the other side of the paddock. The gentle night breeze brings their scent in and she knows that they are lurking close to the house.
Having chickens roaming the yard during the day and her protecting them is essential. She may be old, but her bark is still very much a deterrent to any fox who dares to come in too close. She’s our chicken protector, a loyal companion and loved by all.
In her younger years she was handy with small calves that had difficulty finding the gate when I moved the herd. She never chased them but would menace and guide them through for me. She doesn’t go out into the paddocks any more since her eyesight began to deteriorate and prefers to stay close to the house.
Puff accepts only a gentle hand and she gives it back the same. I have owned many cats throughout my life but Puffy is absolutely adorable and so gentle in nature. She sleeps with me every night and I have to slide my pillow aside to make room for her so she can sleep between my head and the bedside table. We go through this ritual where she loves to be patted. She will do a circle three times while I’m patting her, before she settles down into both my arms for a full cuddle. Once she’s had enough, which takes a minute or two of just chill’n for a bit and purring, she will then move over and into her spot. If I ignore her or I am asleep when she arrives, she comes and puts her wet nose on my face. There is no escape, Puff wants you to love her and if you don’t give her the attention she wants, she will pester you until you do.
This cat is a cat haters worst nightmare. He eventually wins everyone over with his personality. I’d challenge anyone to live with him for a few days and not have Boris become your mate. Boris doesn’t need much affection, but always has to be close to you. He won the last cat hater over by curling up on the back of the couch and nuzzling into the back of the gentleman’s neck. Jim would go out to the fence in the evening with a glass of red and notice Boris would wander out and join him. Jim enjoyed his company, but he was a long way off wanting to touch him. Boris didn’t care, he was quite happy to just hang out with Jim. But that night when he snuck in and nestled himself into Jim’s neck on the couch, that ruined the poor man.
Boris gets what he wants and you don’t even know that he’s there. He too sleeps on my bed and is always lightly nestled up against me.
Squiggles is tiny. She’s the smallest of our cats and is a little pocket rocket. Elusive, independent and lives mostly up high and on top of things like the boat, house roof or the chicken shed. But she too comes in at night and sleeps next to me on the bed or on her own cat stand in the bedroom corner. I call her Spidey Cat because she uses the trees and rooftops around the house to travel around the yard. No cuddles required with her, she hates being held, but does love the occasional pat when it suits her.
Wedge Cat, Grub Cat she has a few names which have been given to her over the years. You definitely know when she’s on the bed, it’s like a brick has landed and she will not move for anything. A real bruiser, she will take on any stray cat that comes into our yard. Solid as a rock, she never backs down from a fight. Handy to have because living so close to the State Forest, we do get feral cats here from time to time. Super loving and she loves to sit on your lap, Meisha is the alpha feline.
Mako thinks that she is a dog. She is never inside and is always the first on the scene at the car door if anyone arrives and can usually be found sleeping in one of the dog beds. She too doesn’t like to be picked up but loves a quick pat. She went missing once for twelve days and came back foot sore and thin. We believe she went for a ride in the back of a Ute that belonged to a tradesman working here at the time. Once he stopped she must have jumped out and spent almost two weeks making her way back home. When she turned up she was very hungry and dehydrated. We never did work out how far she was taken away from the farm.
She got locked in our car once after I’d been unloading the shopping. She spent two days locked in the car. By the time we found her she had made the front passenger mat her kitty litter and had rearranged a jumper on the back seat into her bed. No water or food but she was fine. I now tell people not not leave their car doors open when they are here and I always check the car before leaving.
Keisha our oldest cat is your typical farm variety feline. Expert rat and mouse exterminator, she once disappeared for two years and was found living on top of the bales in the hay shed even though we had been looking out for her the whole time. She had survived by catching mice, rats and small birds and had been hiding and sleeping on a bed of feathers and small bones that she had accumulated during her absence. We believe that she ran away because all of the other cats had ganged up on her, so she was brought back and given the bungalow in the shed to live in. She was in there alone for years with her food and a kitty litter. We had a gym set up in there so she would still have human contact but no other cats were allowed to go in there.
One day and we don’t know what caused it, but she decided to join the world. At first she would hang around outside the door and run back into the bungalow at the first sign of another cat. Each day she ventured further out until eventually she gained her confidence and started sleeping on the outside furniture. Now in her later years she’s taken up her spot on the chair outside my bedroom and has mellowed a lot. She still occasionally catches mice and rats, but gone are the days of her being scared and nervous of the other cats. She now bows out of any fight and will simply walk away if another cat challenges her. She’s had a strange life here but she has finally found her place and is part of the family.
Mango and Monty
Brother and sister, these two Conure’s live in an aviary right near the house and are excellent for letting me know when someone is here. No-one gets by without being announced and they are the cheekiest of birds who enjoy lots of attention and plenty of different kinds of fruit and seeds.
Pap, Daniel and Alley
All three are retired now but were once ridden every weekend throughout the State Forest that surrounds our property. Unfortunately I broke my back five years ago, I’m now fully recovered but horse riding is no longer something that I can do. They spend their days eating grass and having a fine time enjoying each other’s company.
Pap on the right is 26 and came from a horse riding camp for school kids. Old and grumpy, he is definitely the alpha out of the three. Daniel on the left is 19, an ex competition quarter horse who loves to play with sticks, take a dip in the dam and get covered in mud. Riding him use to be fun. There weren’t too many times you didn’t get off him and thank the stars that you’d survived the day’s ride. He was super fast, agile and would jump anything. We got him purely because the owner didn’t want to sell him to a competitor. She wanted him to go to a home where he would enjoy life as a trail horse. Alley in the middle is an ex camp draft. She too was a competition horse that was sold purely because the owner wanted her to be retired. Beautiful to ride, Alley was always so easy unless water was involved. She’s terrified of it. You’d be in full gallop and if she came across a puddle, the only way forward was to jump it. You’d never get her to go through a creek or river, so our rides had to be kept on tracks that were dry and preferably puddle free.
Sixteen years ago Lady belonged to the neighbours and was a twelve month old heifer who was being raised for meat. She would stand at the fence and moo at me every time I went out and rode past on the quad bike. Eventually it became pretty obvious that she had taken a liking to me so I did a deal with the farmer before the herd was sold and bought her from him. She has given us six calves over the years, all of which we have kept, and is the most placid cow I have ever owned. I can do anything with her. She will let me sit leaning up against her while she is chewing her cud resting. And I can sit on her back and give her a cuddle and she doesn’t even flinch.
I remember when she gave birth to her first calf. I was so overjoyed that I couldn’t help myself and picked up the newborn and helped it to the teat. Lady just stood there with her head turned licking my leg. Most unusual as new mums are usually very protective. She has always been trusting and has always been my favourite cow. She will never be sent away and will always be kept close to the house.
A very handy herd cow, when I call the herd to be moved, she always leads them through the gate into the next paddock. We don’t chase our cattle unless absolutely necessary. We don’t use prods, sticks or dogs and low stress farming is a priority. Our motto here is happy cow makes a happy farmer. All of our animals here, the dog, cats, horses, birds, cows and even the local wildlife do not fear us. Handling the cattle is almost always easy, which is important because most of the time my husband works away and I am here on my own running things. They trust us and if they don’t we make the effort and teach them that life here is good and they have nothing to fear.
Star is one of the many females that we have kept that came from Lady. We also have Annabelle, Jezzabelle and Clarabelle. All have produced calves and Star the youngest had her first calf two weeks ago. The photo below is of Lady and Star when she was a calf.
GRA J16 Jesus was bred by us and has sired over 200 progeny so far. He produces beautiful low birth weight calves and has pretty close to a 100% success rate over both cows and heifers. The size of the herd doesn’t seem to bother him either nor wear him down. He has been known to serve up to 80 cows at any time and never has any problems. Here’s a story that I wrote and posted on Facebook a few months back.
I don’t know if you read my post a few months ago about my son Alan’s girlfriend Leah jumping out of the scout, standing in the gap between it and the gateway to stop Jesus our bull by placing her hand on his forehead. He’s quite a long bull, 5yrs old, lovely temperament, great calves and he was bred here. It was no surprise to me that he stopped when she did that, not taking anything away from Leah’s bravery, as he has always been a gentleman, but he was pretty grumpy that day. He was badly lame and I’d been trying to get him up from way down the back of the property for ages to see the vet. On my own I don’t like to take chances with getting sick or injured animals out of the paddock and he was being very difficult and not wanting to move from a spot under a tree. Fear and pain will make all of us a bit cranky, especially when just laying there, being left alone in some sheltered gully is way more appealing to them.
By the time the vet got to see him his hoof was quite bad. All a beefy has to do is stand on a stick, or something sharp the wrong way, cause a small cut, dirts gets in and the body produces puss trying to clean the foreign objects out. If not treated it spreads. On initial consultation, not much hope was held by Tim the vet or Ears my husband. His hoof was in a bad way, but rather than shoot him, both men decided to do their best, then see what happened. All the correct medications were given, pain relief, anti-biotic and he was locked up in our stockyard paddock with a ring of feed and a trough. Weeks passed and he didn’t improve. His hoof was oozing puss and was so swollen that it seemed cruel to keep it going. Tim had drilled a hole through his hoof from the top to the bottom under sedation to try and drain the well of infection. Once it gets into the bone they’re history and this was looking pretty bad. We left him to recover for a week or two, but the treatment he had been given him didn’t seem to be working.
For whatever reason, I just couldn’t give up. I arranged for a large bottle of a long acting anti-biotic and instructed Ears to start a continual regime of injections, which being long acting every four days. In the beginning Jesus would begrudgingly enter the race when motioned. By the end the Quadbike was needed to herd him in. Jesus had become very aggressive and dangerous to be around. He’d obviously had enough of being made to go through the whole thing over and over. It would have been painful too, having to navigate his way through the race, over the sticking up wood planks, across the weighbox floor and into the crush. This went on for three weeks until I began to see a tiny sign of recovery and it was then stopped. For the next couple of months he began to waste away but he seemed to be coping a little better. He was now standing on his hoof a lot more, but he was still struggling.
No more medication was given after the third week and he was on his own. Day after day I’d go out there and say his name and tell him he’s a good boy, but he now saw me as a threat. If I walked into the paddock he’d front me. He even went after me once he could walk again. The tell tail signs of aggression in his manner were pretty clear. I couldn’t help him, all I could do was drop a round bale in his feeder with the tractor and let him be.
Six months and the infection had settled, he was standing on the hoof, could walk without a limp and the swelling had gone down about half. I decided to get Ears to help me move him. We used the bike and menaced him down into the paddock next to the house. The paddock is a good size for a bull and has good shelter and water but way more space than the stockyard paddock. I wanted to see him start to use his hoof, so less hay was given and he was forced to graze for his feed. A couple of biscuits of Lucerne were thrown over the fence each day to encourage him to walk towards me, so I could see his progress. It was also my piece offering for such an awful time he’d had.
Every day I could see a tiny improvement in both his step, and his attitude towards me. Within a couple of weeks I was entering the paddock and dropping it in front of him, at the same time keeping my distance just in case. Eventually it became a metre or so, I would never fully trust a bull, but I am now thankfully in the good books again and all of the aggression has gone.
Tonight for the first time since his horrific hoof infection, he trotted or basically ran across the paddock towards me. I gently dropped his hay on the ground and he came to a stop and ate. To see a 900+kg animal like that purposefully heading towards you at a fairly quick pace, is very unnerving. If he had of ran at me a few months ago like that I would have been in trouble. I am happy to say that Jesus is on his way to a full recovery and I am grateful that Ears went out on a limb and risked his life to save him.
Update: Jesus is now back out working and is doing a fine job with the ladies.
Fritz The Rooster and his Hens
Fritz was raised by a neighbour from one of our eggs from a past rooster named Fortesque. He’s unbelievably protective of the many hens we have but a complete bastard to humans. All of us here have been attacked many times by him whilst collecting eggs and attending to the hen house and he will sink his talons into you at any chance he can get. If it wasn’t for the fact that he looks after the ladies so well an axe would have been shown to him years ago.
GRA M16 Monty was bred and raised by a cow who was 16 years old. Her lovely nature was passed onto him, because for a bull Monty is the quietest, easy, gentle boy I have ever raised. After we weaned him he was put into the paddock next to the house and let into the house yard every now and then to get use to us. Not long after he was in there, we had an orphan calf to raise. To give the calf some company we would put her into the paddock with him in between feeds and Monty took it upon himself to look after her the whole time they were together like a cow. He would groom her and sleep next to her and they were inseparable. He would even stand there after she’d been fed and let back into the paddock and he would let her suck on his little male nipples for comfort.
It was hard trying to get a photo of her sucking on him, but you can see that he has his legs back and is standing ready to accommodate her desire to suckle. I was only ever the milk wagon, Monty was her substitute Mum. He would stand at the gate patiently while I was feeding her and as soon as she was finished drinking she would run straight back to him. When we separated them, there was the same weaning process as you’d see from a cow and calf. Monty loved Isobel like his own and showed us that bulls are capable of being very maternal no different to a cow.
Isobel was born and was found sucking on a heifers teats in the paddock. I thought that she belonged to the heifer as the heifer was pregnant, but by day three I could see that she had become very thin. Normally I try to leave a first time Mum alone to bond with her new calf, but on closer inspection I could see that the heifer didn’t have an udder and eventually worked out that the cow who had given birth to her had completely abandoned Isobel. This cow had been injured and was not suppose to be pregnant. She must have given birth and not wanted to have to raise a calf in the condition that she was in. As you can see in the photo, Isobel was very thin and very dehydrated. She’d gone three days without a drink and had not received any colostrum. We brought her up to the house and commenced raising her. Because she hadn’t received any colostrum, we were told by the vet to keep her separated from the other cows until her immunity had been given a chance to develop. The photo below shows how thin and dehydrated she was even after we had fed her.
Isobel at three months of age and looking pretty healthy being raised on Jersey milk obtained from a neighbour. Isobel is now around ten months old, weaned and doing extremely well in a herd close to the house. It was a sad day when I gave her the last bottle. She called for me for a couple of days but didn’t take too long to work out that she was not going to get any more milk and quickly settled on eating grass and silage.
Six months old and yep that’s me giving her one last cuddle before she was put out to become a part of a herd. She was the fourth calf in sixteen years that I’d raised successfully. Six months of a first light feed and one just before dark had been a bit of a chore, but seeing her grow into such a beautiful specimen of a heifer was very rewarding.
If you would like to see a video of Isobel having her morning feed, go to the videos on the main page.
GRA J01 Jemma was born and raised by a cow with only one chamber out of four producing milk. We were unaware of that, so by the time Jemma was three weeks old, she was struggling from not enough nutrition and I had to intervene. Every day I would try to get her to drink from a bottle. Regardless of the fact that she was starving, she would clench her teeth and refuse to drink from me. I ended up having to forcibly tube the milk into her stomach with a special attachment that goes onto the bottle for sick calves. I asked everyone I came across vets, old farmers, grain store workers, anyone involved with cattle what I could do to get her to drink. Two weeks went by and every day I would get her in, try to get to feed her then end up having to push a tube down her throat. The little bugger was adamant that I was not her mum. I guess the simple solution would have been to wean her, but I didn’t want to do that. I devised a plan and set about getting Mum into the crush and giving her Lucerne to eat while I stood at the back of her with the bottle of milk under her udder like it was a part of it. Jemma would go about her business drinking from the only teat that worked, changing occasionally to the others just in case there was milk in them. She’d find the rubber teat and drink from it thinking it was her mums. I’ll never forget the look on her face once she realised that it was me who was holding the bottle on the other end. She stopped mid suck, eyes as big as golf balls staring at me, then continued to drink like everything was fine. After that it was easy, she accepted the milk from me, would come into the house yard from the paddock twice a day, then go back out to Mum for a comfort suck. She too was six months old before I stopped feeding her and has since produced two beautiful little calves. My reward was her giving birth to a lovely little calf on my birthday. We named the calf Jemmy and expect to see her have her own calf in the next few months.
There was no sleeping in with Jemma, as soon as the sun came up, she’d start bellowing for her feed. Our son Alan feeding Jemma first thing in the morning.
If you would like to watch a video of Jemma and her newborn calf, go to the videos on the main page.
Sweetie was another difficult calf that was raised not by bottle, but by her Mum who we had to get into the stockyard crush twice a day for six months. Her mum had given birth then given birth to a second calf and forgotten about Sweetie. We found Mum and the stillborn and didn’t know that Sweetie existed. Mum was left to grieve and accept that her calf had died and it wasn’t until we had gone in to remove the dead calf a day later that we discovered Sweetie in the next paddock in the long grass all alone sleeping. No other cow had calved and Sweetie was the spitting image of her mum, so she had to be a twin, but Mum had accepted that her calf had died and didn’t want anything to do with her. The two of them were brought up into the stockyard and we did all we could to try and get the Mum to accept her, but she was adamant that Sweetie was not hers. Much to the disgust of the cow, eventually all we could do was put the calf onto her each day to be fed. For six months morning and night we had to go out, get the cow into the crush and let Sweetie have her feed. Sweetie is now almost ready to give birth to her first calf and it will be a very exciting time when she does. Let’s hope if she has twins the same thing doesn’t happen.
If you would like to watch the video of Sweetie being fed go to videos on the main page.
Spook born sixteen years ago had been chosen to remain a bull. At six months of age he developed a joint infection and was treated. We were told that he’d need to be steered as the condition could potentially be a problem when mounting cows. We got him castrated by the vet, but decided to keep him as a mentor for young males after they’d been weaned off their mothers. Like Lady, Spook would come when called and he would show the younger males that there was no concern to be alarmed. They’d look at him for direction whenever we walked into the paddock. They’d see that he wasn’t worried about us and very quickly learned that their was nothing to be scared about now they didn’t have the protection of their mums. He is getting slow now so he’s in the house paddock and has been retired. We are going to have to build a big fire when he dies, or borrow someone’s backhoe when the time comes. We don’t send our dead animals off to the knackery, we always burn them especially when they’ve been good animals. It’s our way of allowing them to become a part of the land again. The thought of them becoming dog food is not something that I’d like to happen with our cattle. That probably sounds silly to most but what does it matter, it keeps me happy and that’s important for me to be able to be a farmer.
OUR STORY AND HOW WE BECAME FARMERS
My name is Christine and my husbands name is Christopher. Calling your partner your own name Chris is a bit weird so I had to come up with a nickname for him. We would enjoy a beer or ten at the local pub and before the start of each session I’d say “Cheers Big Ears!” Eventually I started calling him Big Ears and over time that has been shortened to Ears. This photo was taken when we first met. I was working for Australia Post delivering mail but had spent most of my career working in a bank before I decided that I wanted a job that was outside and on a motorbike. Ears is a Petroleum Engineer and had spent his entire career working all over the world for all of the major Oil companies. We met on a HRC motorbike ride weekend. We hit it off pretty quick and within a few months had bought our farm. I’d always wanted to live on the land and so did he.
We bought the farm but didn’t have a clue what we were doing as both of us had grown up in the suburbs. The first few years were very interesting. I remember not knowing what a calving cow was suppose to look like and would go out into the paddock every two hours throughout the day and night checking to see if anything was happening. We didn’t know how to do anything and there is an enormous amount that you need to know in farming. You have to know everything from animal husbandry, grass production, chemical control, fencing, mechanics, plumbing, the list goes on. Farming is a serious, demanding task and it doesn’t stop just because you want a day off. It’s a 365 day of the year commitment and it’s not easy finding someone to fill in for you if you get sick or would like some time off. Every single day there is so much to do and it never ends. As the seasons change so does the job. Whether it’s bucketing down with rain or stinking hot, the animals have to be looked after and the farm has constant maintenance and improvements that need to be done. In hindsight if we had of known what we were getting into, I doubt that we would have taken it on. It has taken us years of learning to get close to making things right, but boy has it been a journey which both of us have been privileged to have experienced.
The Cool Stuff
Driving tractors and using machinery is awesome fun. We look forward to hay season every year in the spring, when you have excess grass, where we get to work together cutting, teddering, raking, baling and wrapping our own silage. I usually have to cut all the hay and tedder all of it before Ears comes home from work. I’ll then rake it all and he will bale, leaving him to wrap it once it’s done. He then goes back to work and I’m left to bring it all in from the paddock and stack it for over the summer months. The preserved silage wrapped in special plastic is then fed out over the summer months once the grass has died off and the unwrapped grass, which is hay, is used in the winter. The cows love the silage. Once wrapped it goes through a fermenting process and is extremely sweet as the sugars are still in the plant because the grass is not fully dry. There is never any left on the ground and the cattle get fat because the nutrients locked in the silage are much higher than that in hay.
Both Ears and I are mad motorcyclist. We ride both ride dirt and road bikes and have also done courses on race tracks. I guess one of the attractions of owning a farm is the ability to always be on a bike. I love riding around on my quad bike, regardless of the weather. Checking the herds has never been a chore for me, it’s the best part of the job.