The last Australian Sheep & Wool Show was a surreal experience for Aurora Park Hampshire Down and Border Leicester stud principal Mathew Hill, St Helens Plains.
In 2021, Mr Hill had prepared as much as he could to show off his prized sheep on one of the first events of the day, only to be devastatingly denied on the day of the show.
"As we all arrived, we set the sheep up, had them scanned, weighed and all ready to go, and my pens were right next to the judging floor," he said.
"So all I had to do was take the sheep around five metres and we were there for the judges, except that couldn't happen because of COVID."
But it wasn't all bad for Mr Hill who said the camaraderie of many other people who arrived at the events boosted spirits somewhat.
"We all wound up just ordering pizza, with me and my friends sitting on the judging floor, eating that up and then we went home," he said.
But since that ordeal, Mr Hill said things had been going really casually, despite the ongoing lockdown impacting Victoria.
In fact, the stud had been incredibly productive over the last few years, with good sales and great interest from around the country.
"Ram sales throughout the year have also been good - everyone's got quite a bit of demand for rams, especially for Border Leicester rams, and all sales for those are just skyrocketing for us," he said.
The sales were very much reflective of the good weather sheep producers were seeing in all areas of the country, according to Mr Hill, with large rain events generating a huge amount of feed.
"All of NSW has been restocking and even Victorians have been trying to put pressure on locally to buy their own rams when everyone else [around the country] is also trying to get rams from us," he said.
"So it's just a real fight, which in the end is actually quite good for the breeder."
The stud has also been working hard transferring embryos with the aim to get a few good ewes and rams into this year's show.
"Some of them are all full brothers, so they all look very similar, which is quite nice for a stud to have sheep be full peas in a pod," he said.
Mr Hill said his hard work throughout this year would be paid off by getting his sheep out onto the judging floor.
But he is mostly looking forward to the great camaraderie at the Bendigo show, catching up with fellow heritage stud producers from around the country.
"It'll be great to to see all my friends again, which will be quite good, with maybe another pizza or two," he said.
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