The trials of getting our New Bull home from Dunedin
Fourteen years ago, as green lifestyle block newbies, we decided to add a Highland bull to our block in Wellington to use over our non-highland beefies. As luck would have it, we got in contact with Greg and Lesley Mudgway, of McMoos who offered us several mature options, and then mentioned they had a calf called Ronny who was nearing weaning age. Well, to cut a long story short we decided to go with Ronny and at six months he joined our little block.
It was love at first sight with this bundle of fluff. He had the most wonderful friendly nature and soon became a hit with all our visitors to our farm. The fluffy cross moos he produced were so adorable, we just had to get a pedigree Highland female too and so our little fold began.
11 years and many beautiful highland calves later we sadly said goodbye to our beautiful Ronny.
Some months later, Lesley told me of a mature black bull she had bred that she was bringing back to Wellington and would we like him, so Baxter came to join our fold. He too gave us some beautiful calves, but unfortunately, lameness took him far too soon.
We kept Ronny’s last calf, a heifer called Leah, as she is a beautiful girl with all her dad’s good looks and nature. We also still have Baxter’s last heifer, Sophie, who is still young but developing really nicely. Along with our original breeding cows, we had to make a decision, do we get another Bull, AI or do nothing.
Meanwhile, a fellow NZ Lifestyle Highland Society member,
and great friend, Lisa Grennell had been telling me about a breeder in Dunedin who she had got some AI straws through and who was doing some really good things with breeding Highlands. She has kept a gorgeous heifer calf from the first round of AI and has more due this year, but she and husband Mal were also keen to bring a bull back into their fold. They settled on a lovely bull calf they had decided to name Sir Lancelot, and when I saw the bloodlines and photos I was intrigued, maybe I could source a new boy from this fold too. She put me in touch with James, who owns Strathburn Fold who sent through a couple of potential Pedigrees and photos of Bull calves he had available.
I settled on a lovely red boy, named Niall. He was roughly the same age as Lisa’s boy, so we decided we would do a road trip down to Dunedin together to pick them up.
Lisa picked me up from the airport in Nelson and we headed off to Glenhope to pick up her 3.6mtr Ifor Williams Trailer. We drove up her drive and were greeted by an army of at least a dozen pigs, big and small. They surrounded our car demanding lots of pats and cuddles when we finally got to the top of the drive.
We finally managed to pries ourselves away from the piggies and Lisa hooked up the Trailer to the 4WD. We decided to go as far as Christchurch that first day so we did not have too far to travel the next day.
Lisa and I had a history of road trips together, including nearly running out of gas over the Remutaka Hill with trailer full of stock, and a runaway cow (stories for another day), so as soon as friends heard we were off on the road again the messages started. The common feature was – check the gas gauge, so you can imagine my disbelief when we had been on the road, about an hour and in the middle of nowhere when Lisa goes – oh my god the gas gauge is on empty! I had heard a familiar ding, a few miles back but thought no, it must be Lisa’s phone, couldn’t possibly be the fuel warning sound. I was wrong. To make matters worse, we had stopped at a truckstop earlier for a pitstop and could easily have filled up there. With fingers, toes and everything else crossed, we carried on for mile after mile of nothingness, and like our first adventure, we literally coasted into a gas station at the first town. At least this time the trailer was empty.
Whilst filling up, Lisa peered into the back of the 4WD and found a can of Petrol. Mal was aware of our history and had sneaked one in ‘just in case’! Thanks Mal, but next time let me know please.
We eventually made it to Christchurch and found the motel Lisa had booked earlier. To say it looked dodgy was an understatement, but we were tired and hungry so we checked in, parked up the Trailer and found our room.
I tossed and turned all night and by the morning was convinced the bed had fleas or was it bed bugs. Lisa’s night wasn’t much better. She was woken by a light we had left on in an adjoining room going light and dark. She got up and discovered a door opening and shutting by itself. Possible ghost, bedbugs and fleas – what next? We quickly decided we could shower when we got to Dunedin and hightailed it out of that place as fast as we could.
The next thing was to find an open Café where we could buy a cup of coffee. Do south islander’s not do Saturday morning coffee. Every Café we came across was closed. We became so desperate for coffee we decided to drive through the larger towns, rather than by-pass them on the highway in the hope of finding coffee. Bad move, as we found out on our way back home, all the cafes in these towns were on the highway.
We eventually found a Wild Bean at the BP where we fueled up, I had taken charge of the gas gauge by now and was making sure we were always well tanked up. Finally, with some caffeine inside us, we were once more alive and happier to get back on the road again.
While going through Timaru we came across a little piece of Tuscany. Fields and fields of sunflowers. We had to turn around and go back and take photos. No easy feat on a highway with a 3.6m trailer in tow but in true Lisa fashion, she managed it. We left the motor running as we were only planning to take some quick photos. When we got back I could smell something burning and smoke coming from the engine. ‘Oh, it does that’ Lisa commented, while I went into a minor panic. She turned the motor off for a few minutes and true to her word, when she turned it back on the smell had gone.
We finally made it to Dunedin where we had arranged to meet James up at the farm so we could drop off the trailer. We used Google to direct us and were taken to a sharp U-turn corn
er up a hill that our car and trailer were never going to make. We managed to find another, much more manageable route and began the windy trip up the hills behind Dunedin, eventually ending on a road barely wide enough for one car. We found the farm but the gate was impenetrable from the angle we approached it so we decided to keep going and look for somewhere suitable to turn around. Of course, there was nowhere!!
Eventually Lisa decided to turn into a driveway with a culvert at both edges to turn around. How is this woman going to manage this I said quietly to myself while I hopped out of the car and pretended to be some help directing her. I had nothing to worry about it. Lisa did it with ease and I was in absolute awe of her backing skills. I can’t even back a car, let alone a trailer.
We eventually got back to James, who must have wondered where we got to and after introductions took a wander to meet his lovely fold. Strathbairn Fold is in the most gorgeous setting looking out over the whole of Dunedin and the bay. It is breathtaking and the only ones living there permanently were the cows – I had view envy of those cows.
After being shown our bulls, who were still with their mums, we arranged to meet James early the next day to get the calves on the trailer and head back to Glenhope.
The next day we gassed up first – I wasn’t going nowhere without a full tank, then we headed back up to the farm. This time James was standing by another gate, the angle of which made entry to the paddock a piece of cake. If only we had known about that yesterday.
James and his dad, an ex dairy farmer, were there looking quite the farmers in their overalls. The boys are still with their mums, they said and Lisa and I looked at each other thinking ‘this will be fun’. James’s fold would have been about 40 animals including calves and Bull and they were grazing all over the paddock. How was he going to split off two calves?
We had nothing to worry about. They moved some fencing around on their portable yards, and within 10 minutes had all the fold through the yards and out again, splitting off our calves into the race. It was like clockwork. I wish I had videoed it.
James put a halter on to both the boys to help guide them on to the trailer. Niall went up first. A bit reluctant but he went in ok and James tied him while he went back for Sir Lancelot. He was supposed to be the more chilled of the two, but was not keen to go on to the trailer. James managed to get him all the way inside the trailer when he decided he wasn’t staying and turned and headed for the open door. James dived to stop him and in the process Sir Lancelot’s little horn got caught in James pocket. He had momentum by this stage and took James for a wild ride out the back, and down the ramp while we quickly moved back to avoid the stampede.
Miraculously, James managed to free his pocket from the horn whilst still keeping hold of the halter. The second time, went much smoother and James was able to close up the trailer and release the moos from their halters, before escaping out the side door. 15 minutes max and the boys were all on board and ready to go.
We said our goodbyes and headed for Glenhope. The trip home was reasonably uneventful, with the boys travelling well. That is unless you count me distracting Lisa at the wrong time so that she missed the turn-off and we ended going through the Centre of Christchurch with a 4WD and trailer and wouldn’t you know it, the 4WD started smoking again. Thankfully, a stop for gas was enough for it to cool down and for us to carry on.
On arrival in Glenhope, we put the boys in the calf paddock and gave them some hay and some treats before leaving them for the night. They slept well for their first night away from their mums, or so we thought, as we never heard a peep out of them. The next morning we go out to see them and discovered they had got out through a hole in the fence that was there for the pigs and should not have been large enough for calves. Thankfully, Mal and Lisa’s farm is fully deer fenced on the parameter but they had recently ripped down most of their internal fencing as it was getting replaced. We had 45 acres of varying terrain, including ex forestry and bush and two missing calves. And so, the search began….
We headed to the top of the block first but couldn’t see them anywhere. At this point we separated and took off in different directions to hunt for them. About an hour, and many miles of walking later I heard Mal and Lisa calling me. They had come across them down a gully and the boys calmly followed them back to the calf paddock. Whew!!!
I flew back to Wellington that afternoon. Initially, we had decided to leave Niall and Sir Lancelot together for a few weeks before bringing him to Wellington, but after the morning’s escapade, we decided the sooner the better as the two were trouble together. Lisa booked herself and the trailer with Niall onboard on the Bluebridge for the cook strait crossing the next Friday morning. Thankfully the weather was calm and the sailing was smooth and they both arrived happy and relaxed. I met Lisa at the ferry and an hour later we had Niall in the calf paddock at my place and introducing him to Sophie who was going to be his paddock mate while we tamed them both.
Both Sir Lancelot and Niall have been getting lots of brushes, cuddles and treats in their respective new homes and are adjusting really well. Both boys have lovely natures with Sir Lancelot being extremely chilled. We are all thrilled with our new Bulls and can’t wait to meet their progeny in the future.