Bruce is normally right up with the weather forecast, so it was surprising last week that he got caught out with several paddocks of silage cut as the promised fine weather fizzled out, ominous clouds gathered and rain began to fall.

He let the cows hoover up one paddock of wet grass, and gnashed his teeth as the rest lay waiting for the silage contractor, who took much longer than expected to finish on the farm before us.

It all worked out in the end, with a windy afternoon drying the silage and the contractor picking it all up. The bunker is full to bursting and once it was covered we had a full 24 hours of rain which will grow grass and crops all through December, so we've rapidly switched from near-disaster to nothing to complain about.

You would think with the rush of calving out of the way we could leave the vets alone for a while. But our domestic animals had other ideas. Our old cat Crunchie disappeared for a couple of days and turned up with his head hunched over and neck at an odd angle.


How he did it is a mystery — maybe he ran into a tree, or overestimated his jumping ability. Luckily painkillers and anti-inflammatories saw him come right in a few days.

The next odd patient was a chicken, Nut. We raised her from an egg and she was the friendliest chicken we've ever had. It often seems to happen with cows, too — the most engaging animal is likely to suffer catastrophe.

Jack brought Nut inside one morning, tucked under his arm, looking hunched and miserable. Although we've had chickens for at least 10 years, we've rarely had a sick one, so I looked up her symptoms and thought she could possibly be egg-bound.

One of our friends who lives nearby is a vet, so Bruce interrupted his breakfast to ask him to check out our sick chicken. He very kindly agreed to pop over once he'd finished his toast, and just as well we did ask him because my diagnosis was completely wrong — a stuck egg wasn't her issue, it was peritonitis.

This is tricky to fix at the best of times, and while our friend the vet has operated on chickens before, he thought she was a little far gone and we had to make the tough decision to let her go. Poor Nut.

To improve my paltry poultry knowledge, I've joined a Facebook poultry discussion group where I've learned some fascinating tips, such as how to hatch an egg down my cleavage (not going to happen), how to get extra protein into chickens by hanging up dead fish in a net so the chickens can peck at the resulting maggots that fall onto the ground (sorry) and all kinds of other equally fascinating stuff.

As if we don't have enough animals giving us grief, fate somehow landed us with an extra couple of farm dogs. The mother and son combo (named Tess and Jack, which is slightly awkward as we have two children with those names) arrived via a circuitous route through various farms after their owner moved into town and couldn't take them with him.

We already have three working dogs (plus Milo, who under no circumstances could be described as "working" unless being ever-vigilant for food scraps counts).


Tess was quite old and not up to fetching cows and calves, so there was nothing really for her to do here. Luckily one of our staff fell in love with the big old huntaway and has taken her home to live out her retirement in the suburbs.

Jack misses his mum, but to everyone's disgust appears to have fallen in love with Milo. Or in lust, at least. The feeling seems to be mutual and sometimes I wonder if we have a Labrador, because he's never home — he and Jack are off "enjoying" each other's company.