Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Stretch" Update

The calf, now named Stretch, because of what Dr. Bob and I did to him during delivery is still alive and well.
He is now walking well despite still swollen knuckles and is quite active.

His mother doesn't really want to know him so we are doing a combined bottle feed and a maternal force feed by tying her up with some hay as a distraction so she can't escape his greedy sucking.

Yesterday he escaped from the yard and came up to the house for a visit.

He follows me around like a dog.
I think I am in for big trouble with this one.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More Cow Problems

After 15 years of virtually trouble free births we had another "stuck" one yesterday.
One cow had given birth early in the morning and both were doing fine but I noticed another was missing. That afternoon there was still no sign of her so I set off in search.
Sure enough there was the heifer under a tree by the creek in quite a deal of distress.
Dr. Bob was quickly on the scene and thought she needed immediate attention. The front feet and part of the head of the new calf was visible but there were no signs of any life.
So we did the "pull trick" once again and it was really stuck. The heifer was trying to help but she was exhausted and eventually fell to the ground. This seem to relax her a little and we managed to get the little bull calf out.

Amazingly there were some signs of life. Dr. Bob weaved his magic and we eventually got the little thing breathing.
The mother recovered enough to stand but her baby couldn't. We had done a little bit of "damage" to his front legs during the pull.
We managed to get some milk from the mother and the calf sucked it down from a bottle.
Bob thought he had a 50:50 chance of surviving. His head and tongue were badly swollen.
Next morning I went down to the yards and he was trying to stand, very wobbly, but at least he was alive.

I mixed up some calf formula and put him between my knees to drink. After he got the first taste he was away!!!!!
At lunchtime he drank another litre.
I tried to get him onto his mother but she just kicked him away.
Post natal depression?
He was still wobbly so had no chance to persist.
At dinner time he drank another litre. We managed to get his mother tied up and encouraged him to suck but I think the formula had done the trick. He just wasn't hungry.
At least she didn't kick this time.

We shall try again tomorrow morning.
The major problem right now is that he thinks I am his mother!!!!!!!!
So it is a matter of urgency to get the mother/son bond going so I am not saddled with three feeds a day for the next 3 months.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Vintage 2008 Begins

The weather on the South Coast of NSW has been very unsummer like. We have had very cool, even cold days, with lots and I mean LOTS of rain. The drought is officially the south east, anyway.
This has caused havoc with the vintage all along the coast.
Grape sugars are not developing, thin skinned varieties eg. Semillon, are splitting and it is a constant battle to keep fungus, especially botrytis, at bay.
So we decided to pick our Semillon early.
Sugar level was around 10.5 Baume which means a wine around 10.5% alcohol, low by most standards. This is commonly known as a Hunter style as that particular famous wine growing valley north of Sydney suffers from the same climatic problems that we do and they have been picking their Semillon early off and on for decades. This is a unique wine which shows, early on in its life, grassy apple like qualities with obviously good acidity. However it ages amazingly to a toasty honey like flavour. It can have a bottle life of up to thirty years.
Picking started on a cloudy but fine day and we managed to get around 230kg of relatively clean fruit from our four rows.
I had never made white wine in my vineyard before and it was quite a steep learning curve being responsible for all aspects.
White juice is more sensitive to oxidation than red and it is necessary to take specific steps to prevent that from happening.
The right quantities of sulphur dioxide and a co antioxidant, ascorbic acid (vitamin c) have to added at the right time and levels constantly monitored.
This involves quite a deal of laboratory work.
Other additives include DAP a yeast nutrient to help avoid "stuck" fermentations and pectic enzymes which assist in releasing the juice from the crushed grapes.
We also added bentonite to the juice. This is a clay that is used to clarify the wine after fermentation and it is better to add it in at an early stage in the process so as to avoid an additional step that could encourage oxidation.
The grape bunches went through the crusher/destemmer quite easily compared with Cabernet Sauvignon thanks to the thin skins and we achieved a very good juice yield.
This free run juice was immediately drained off from the crushed grapes (the must) through a basket press and the remaining skins, seeds and pulp (the marc) were given a light pressing to extract more. We avoided a hard pressing so as not to include any tannic materials that would show up in the wine later.
The marc was returned to the vineyard as a soil conditioner.
The juice was then transferred to stainless steel tanks and innoculated with a specific yeast culture. There are plenty of wild yeasts on the grapes that could do the job but this is fraught with danger as some can be slow, others can cause off flavours and some even spoil the wine.
Fermentation started about 24 hours later and is continuing.
The problems of grape growing in the Shoalhaven Coast region was a hot topic at the South Coast Wine Show Presentation Dinner last Friday night, especially as it was sometimes difficult to hear the speeches over the roar of rain on the restaurant roof.
All the details of the wine show as well as results can be found on: