NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

RAIS­ING CALVES may seem very com­plex, and there is a lot of science and tech­ni­cal de­tail says Wendy.

“Best prac­tice is very com­pli­cated, but best prac­tice can also mean you want to do the best you can and some­times that’s over­whelm­ing, and it’s a hell of a lot of hard work. That’s why I say the ba­sics are more im­por­tant, to do them well be­fore we worry about any­thing else. If your calves are in a draught or there is a build-up of am­mo­nia, it doesn’t mat­ter if you’re giv­ing them a mo­lasses block, a pre­bi­otic or a pro­bi­otic or some­thing fancy, you need to fix the ba­sic prob­lem first.”

• A small, plump, stocky, in­tro­duced game bird pre­dom­i­nantly grey and brown, with a for­ward-curl­ing black plume ris­ing from the top of the head. The fe­male’s crest plume is much smaller than the male’s. • Males have a black chin and cheeks edged with white and sep­a­rate white ‘eye­brows’ which join on the fore­head. The breast is blue-grey and the lower belly cream to rust brown with dis­tinc­tive black scal­lop­ing shapes. • The fe­male is slightly smaller, duller and browner with more sub­dued scal­lop­ing on the belly. • Com­mon over the whole of New Zealand but less fre­quent in West­land and coastal South­land. • Found on the rough scrubby edges of rivers, in­lets, forests, roads and ru­ral gar­dens where good habi­tat in­clude bracken, tus­sock grass, matagouri, gorse, black­berry, and lupins. • Breed­ing sea­son runs from Septem­ber to Fe­bru­ary – nests are a flat­tened grassy area of­ten placed against a log or rock. • Eggs are beige with dark splotches and in­cu­bated by the fe­male in 22 days. • Eggs hatch at the same time, partly achieved by the chicks call­ing to each other while still in the egg. • Bum­ble­bee-sized striped chicks leave the nest as soon as they are dry, and are able to fly at just three weeks. • Con­sume seeds of many kinds, some fruit and leaves. • Feed mainly early in the morn­ing and late in the af­ter­noon, spend­ing more time for­ag­ing when food is scarce, eg win­ter. • The young are ini­tially fed in­sects. The call of the male cal­i­for­nia quail is dis­tinc­tive. The call­ing bird is usu­ally perched slightly above the sur­round­ing area, on a post or branch, and has been de­scribed as sound­ing like ‘Chi-ca-go’, ‘Dick-ver­coe’ or ‘qua-quergo’. In the au­tumn, fam­ily groups join up and stay to­gether un­til late win­ter when the ‘covey’ (group of quail) breaks up into breed­ing pairs. Males can be very ag­gres­sive when court­ing and of­ten fight each other. Courtship dis­plays when at­tempt­ing to woo a fe­male in­clude head dips, puff­ing up of con­tour feath­ers and spread­ing of the tail feath­ers. These birds are ex­cep­tional at clean­ing up spilled seed be­neath bird feed­ers. How­ever, quail are no­to­ri­ously shy and it can be chal­leng­ing to at­tract them to even the most bird-friendly prop­erty. You can make your block more ‘com­fort­ing’ to Cal­i­for­nia quail by: • sprin­kling seeds near brush and shrubs or in a low broad ground feeder; • hav­ing wa­ter baths/drip­pers on the ground; • plant­ing abun­dant, dense shrubs and thicket-like patches of veg­e­ta­tion where they can eas­ily re­treat to.

• About 17-20cm long, weigh­ing about 26g (fe­males) to 34g (males) • Males are olive green, slightly paler on the un­der parts, with a head tinted pur­ple. • Fe­males are browner with a nar­row white-yel­low stripe across the cheek from the base of the bill and bluish gloss on top of the head. • Most dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture are the winered eyes. • Found in na­tive and ex­otic for­est, scrub, farm shel­ter belts, ur­ban parks and gar­dens through­out the North, South and Ste­wart Is­lands. • Al­most com­pletely ab­sent on the main­land north of Hamil­ton, other than on Coro­man­del Penin­sula. • Septem­ber to Fe­bru­ary. • Nests are usu­ally in the fork of a tree un­der dense cover, from near ground level up to 5m. • Clutch size is typ­i­cally 3-4 and a pair can raise two broods in a sea­son; eggs are pale pink with red­dish spots and blotches. • Pairs re­turn to the same breed­ing ter­ri­tory each year. • Feed mainly on nec­tar from many na­tive and in­tro­duced plants, but in late sum­mer and au­tumn they will eat fruit and berries. • Will also eat many in­sects and spi­ders by glean­ing (col­lect­ing off) trunks, branches and leaves. ‘Hawk­ing’ (catch­ing prey in flight) is an­other method. • Young ap­pear to be fed in­sects al­most ex­clu­sively. The bell­bird is quite an ag­gres­sive bird both ter­ri­to­ri­ally and when it comes to de­fend­ing a food source. I once wit­nessed a very se­vere aerial ‘beat­ing’ of a long tailed cuckoo at the hand of a bell­bird – the cuckoo didn’t stand a chance. Most Ki­wis can eas­ily recog­nise the bell­bird by its melo­di­ous song which com­prises three dis­tinct sounds re­sem­bling the chim­ing of bells and these can have re­gional ‘di­alects’ just as peo­ple from dif­fer­ent parts of New Zealand can have no­tice­able re­gional ac­cents. It’s some­times con­fused with the sound of the tui but the bell­bird ‘voice’ is more ‘pure’ in tone. The bell­bird loves nec­tar-rich plants: flax, kowhai, va­ri­eties of banksia, cab­bage tree, bot­tle­brush, fush­sia. Sugar and wa­ter in a feeder will also at­tract bell­birds.

• Septem­ber to Fe­bru­ary • Nest built by the fe­male high in the canopy, lay­ing 2-4 white eggs with dark ‘splotches’. • Pre­ferred diet is nec­tar and honey­dew from plants such as kowhai, fuch­sia, re­warewa, flax, rata, po­hutukawa and gums. • In the breed­ing sea­son, the diet is sup­ple­mented with large in­ver­te­brates such as ci­cadas and stick in­sects ob­tained by hawk­ing (cap­tur­ing while in flight) or by glean­ing from the out­side of trees. I think the tui has the most melo­di­ous song of all na­tive birds, per­haps ri­valled only by the bell­bird. An­other won­der­ful fea­ture is its dis­play flights. This in­volves fly­ing up­wards, high above the bush and then mak­ing a noisy, speedy, near-ver­ti­cal dive back into the canopy. Note: don’t do as Cap­tain Cook did – it’s il­le­gal! Their top six favoured plants are kowhai, moun­tain flax, cab­bage tree, moun­tain five-fin­ger, ngaio and tree fuschia. Bird feed­ers are also a great way to pro­vide a reg­u­lar food source of sweet­ened wa­ter for tui which will keep coming back. A sugar/wa­ter ra­tio of 1:8 or 1:10 is am­ple – any stronger and you run the risk of at­tract­ing bees and wasps – and never use honey as it spoils quickly and can make birds ill. Keep the wa­ter clean by re­plac­ing it reg­u­larly.

• Males are sim­i­lar in size to a house spar­row, with the fe­males be­ing a lit­tle smaller. • Males are brightly coloured with brickred breasts and ch­est­nut man­tles (back), grey­ish-blue crown and nape, wings black with a prom­i­nent white wing-bar and shoul­der patch. • Fe­males are dull brown­ish-grey but with sim­i­lar wing mark­ings to the males. • Wide­spread through­out the New Zealand main­land, Chatham Is­lands and Ste­wart Is­land. • Oc­cupy a wide range of habi­tats such as pine and other ex­otic forests, in­dige­nous forests, sub-alpine scrub and are com­mon in gar­dens, parks, or­chards and farm­land. • Septem­ber to Fe­bru­ary, when they will be­come quite ter­ri­to­rial. • 3-6 pale blue to grey­ish eggs with red and dark brown spots are in­cu­bated by the fe­male alone but both parents feed the chicks. • Feed pre­dom­i­nantly on seeds in win­ter, in­clud­ing tree seeds, and a va­ri­ety of other seeds taken from on or near the ground, eg ce­re­als, fat hen, chickweed, dan­de­lion. • Chicks are fed al­most en­tirely on in­ver­te­brates (eg flies, bee­tles, moths, cater­pil­lars, aphids and spi­ders) and a large pro­por­tion of the adult diet also con­sists of in­ver­te­brates dur­ing the breed­ing sea­son. The chaffinch is the most com­mon and most wide­spread of New Zealand’s in­tro­duced finches.

Dur­ing wildlife and bird pho­tog­ra­phy for­ays, my ob­ser­va­tions are of a fairly shy, aloof bird that prefers to avoid the fierce com­pe­ti­tion that other back­yard birds like the spar­row get in­volved in. That said, out­side the breed­ing sea­son, chaffinches will of­ten ‘mob up’ and live to­gether in small flocks, some­times pair­ing up with other species of finches and oc­ca­sion­ally with oth­ers like fan­tails or sil­vereyes.

The male chaffinch has to work to get his girl. He be­comes very ter­ri­to­rial es­tab­lish­ing his ‘patch’ in late July to early Au­gust and then sings his heart out. Fe­males will visit his home turf and when she even­tu­ally likes what she sees and hears, will form a pair bond with the res­i­dent male. Un­for­tu­nately, he isn’t al­ways re­warded with fidelity and loy­alty after his hard work as the fe­male may leave the ter­ri­tory dur­ing nest­build­ing and mate with other males in ter­ri­to­ries nearby. Seeds, seeds and more seeds. This is prob­a­bly the key to at­tract­ing these rel­a­tively shy birds. Leave an area to go to ‘fal­low’ in your gar­den which will feed chaffinch and many other species of birds.

One of their favourite foods is sun­flower seeds. They will take seeds scat­tered on the ground and pluck seeds from the flow­ers them­selves. Next time you’re think­ing about putting some colour into your prop­erty, per­haps con­sider plant­ing some vi­brant sun­flow­ers for the chafffinches. n

dan­gers to chil­dren in their en­vi­ron­ments in the same way we al­ways have. Ap­pro­pri­ate su­per­vi­sion of young­sters is al­ways re­quired, no mat­ter the laws around re­spon­si­bil­ity for ac­ci­dents. You don't want them drown­ing, even if you do have a prop­erly fenced wa­ter­way that com­plies with health and safety rules.

As owner-oper­a­tors with­out staff, peo­ple on small blocks are less ex­posed to the risks of hav­ing other peo­ple on the prop­erty. We don't need to su­per­vise staff who "know bet­ter" and refuse to wear safety equip­ment as pro­vided or can't or don't fol­low in­struc­tions.

If you get a con­trac­tor in to do any kind of heavy work, your obli­ga­tions are to know and out­line to them any haz­ards which ex­ist where they will be work­ing. You must also be sure that the per­son you have con­tracted to do the job has the ap­pro­pri­ate skills. For in­stance, you would not con­tract some­one with more money than sense and a shiny new dig­ger who's never built a road, to cre­ate a track along­side a steep drop into a swamp. At best you'll prob­a­bly get a poor track; at worst, a dig­ger in your swamp, pos­si­bly with an in­jured driver in­side.

Peo­ple you con­tract to do work are re­spon­si­ble for their own health and safety plans, how­ever you must con­firm that they have one. They must, like any­one work­ing on your land, re­port any haz­ards they dis­cover and any ac­ci­dents while they're on your prop­erty.

You must out­line your emer­gency pro­ce­dures too: • can they con­tact you by mo­bile phone from where they're work­ing? • what is your RAPID num­ber in case they need to call for as­sis­tance?

We can­not af­ford to treat our­selves and our own safety care­lessly. In­juries are rarely mi­nor events. Even the small­est cuts or knocks can slow you down for a cou­ple of days if you hurt some part of your body you use all the time. Ma­jor in­juries to joints, bones or the spine can take months to heal and even longer to re­store to pre­vi­ous com­fort. Some­times that won't be pos­si­ble and you'll have to live with the on­go­ing con­se­quences of the ac­tions of a mo­ment. If that mo­ment could have been avoided by an ac­tion you didn't take, liv­ing with the re­sul­tant in­jury's ef­fects can be a bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence of re­gret.

Even if no­body is hurt, in­ci­dents which cause equip­ment to break or be dam­aged are of­ten in­con­ve­nient and gen­er­ally costly to re­pair. While you might think that's what in­sur­ance is for, in­sur­ance never re­stores all the time you take to fix things or the time lost on the job you were do­ing.

For me the pur­chase of a farm bike sev­eral years ago au­to­mat­i­cally ne­ces­si­tated buy­ing a hel­met, even for the very mod­er­ate speeds I might reach around the farm. I've banged my head once since, when I flew into a ditch. I'm glad I had the hel­met on; I was hardly hurt at all, but I do remember feel­ing the cush­ion­ing in the hel­met as my head banged back on the ground.

If some­thing aw­ful does ever hap­pen, you will need to demon­strate your usual good prac­tice. For ex­am­ple: • do you keep your tools and ma­chin­ery well main­tained? • have you iden­ti­fied and dealt with any haz­ards around your prop­erty? • do you re­move the keys from vehicles and en­sure chil­dren do not have ac­cess to farm ma­chin­ery? • do you al­ways wear ap­pro­pri­ate safety equip­ment when work­ing?

Farm­ing is one of the most dan­ger­ous in­dus­tries and whether it's your 'real' job or some­thing you do for plea­sure, many of the risks are the same. Be­ing badly in­jured will put a stop to ev­ery­thing you do, work and plea­sure, re­gard­less of whether you were be­ing paid when you hurt your­self.

There have been floods of let­ters to the ed­i­tors of the farm­ing newspapers out­lin­ing peo­ple's re­sis­tance to the new leg­is­la­tion. We're all such in­de­pen­dent sorts, those of us who choose to get out of the way of em­ploy­ers and work for our­selves, that re­stric­tions on how we work are un­wel­come in­tru­sions. But every­one ends up pay­ing for ac­ci­dents and se­ri­ous in­juries. We all con­trib­ute to ACC and the health sys­tem and some peo­ple who are un­nec­es­sar­ily in­jured will spend what re­mains of their con­stricted lives be­ing de­pen­dent on the care of those or­gan­i­sa­tions and it is that burden which will be re­duced by at­ten­tion to the preven­tion of in­juries and ac­ci­dents. Not to men­tion the re­duc­tion of the per­sonal, hu­man cost.

It's chal­leng­ing hav­ing a new mind­set im­posed by leg­isla­tive change but the aims are pos­i­tive for all of us.

Next month I'll work through the process of set­ting up a Farm Safety Plan.

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