It had been 50 long days since the last sale at Stortford Lodge though given the amount of change it really feels like a lifetime. Who could have imagined that in 2020 a pandemic would sweep the world, causing disruption everywhere it went? But the move to level two for New Zealanders opens up much more of the country and means all livestock sales at yards are back on the calendar.
Appropriately, Stortford Lodge was the first to reopen and not a moment too soon for Hawke’s Bay farmers battling relentless drought. To have the sale yards open again means many farmers can see some light at the end of what has been the toughest tunnel many have travelled through. There were no doubt sighs of relief as stock trucks headed out farm gates in the early hours of Thursday morning. Ironically though, the smell of wet wool was strong in the air around the sheep pens but much of the region is in far too deep now for a few millimetres in the rain gauge to be drought-breaking.
Being back at the yards it was great to see the familiar faces that make up the Stortford Lodge family though it was clear most are very aware of the seriousness of the guidelines and regulations in play and prepared to do their bit to ensure the yards were a safe place for everyone. There was no cafe open to sit down and have a good old catch-up and the administration staff were hidden away behind plastic screens. Entry was only via the main doors of the complex and on arrival a contact tracing register had to be signed. Throughout the sale people were reminded to keep their distance from each other, which in the moment could slip the mind after a month and a half of not seeing each other or competing on the rails.
New protocols aside, the important point is the yards are open and have cemented their future because they were sorely missed over the lockdown. Long story short, it was damn good to be back at the yards.