Ag still essential but restrictions force stud change

Ag still essential but restrictions force stud change

Coronavirus
SOLITARY SEASON: Brad and Ray Schroeder, Gunallo stud, have moved their September 3 ram sale from their Panitya property just across the Vic border into SA.

SOLITARY SEASON: Brad and Ray Schroeder, Gunallo stud, have moved their September 3 ram sale from their Panitya property just across the Vic border into SA.

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Tougher restrictions have meant Victorians are able to get into SA but for those on this side of the border, the permit system is reportedly working well.

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Six kilometres may not seem like much for those living in rural areas, but being that far across the SA-Vic border has had a huge impact on the Schroeder family's lives and even changed the location of their Gunallo stud's ram sale.

Brad Schroeder says he and his father Ray agonised over what to do for their September 3 sale, with their clients spread equally across SA and Vic.

They have decided to hold the sale not at their Panitya, Vic, property but 10km into SA at a friend's hay shed near Pinnaroo.

"We were told South Australians that come across would need to isolate for 14 days but the Vics can view the rams prior to the sale without isolating and make their selections and then bid on AuctionsPlus," he said.

"We've already had some ringing wanting to come and have a look at the rams."

The Schroeders were noticeable absentees from this year's South East Merino Field Day and Karoonda & Districts Stud Merino Field Day, and Brad says it has been tough not being able to promote their sale rams.

He is also resigned to the fact that they may miss seeing the top rams in their 2019-drop offered at next month's Classings Classic and Adelaide ram sales.

"We do enjoy working with our sheep and you work hard for those high price highlights during the year," Brad said.

"We purchase sheep from SA to breed in our stud but we haven't seen anything this year. Since COVID-19 we've really only seen our sheep and our farm."

Brad accepts the need to get the virus under control and is grateful they are more fortunate than some, being still able to go back and forth to their nearest town, Pinnaroo, as a cross-border essential traveller.

"Some days I do get really stressed about this but at least there is green grass in the paddocks and we live where we live," he said.

"It would be horrible living in Melbourne at the moment."

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Ag escapes border closures

The SA-Vic border remains the frontline in protecting SA from the worsening COVID-19 outbreak in Vic.

But even with the state government's hard border closure at midnight on Tuesday last week, Victorians with specialised jobs such as meat buyers and sheep classers have still been able to cross the border, with agriculture remaining on the essential service list.

But, they must follow strict guidelines including wearing a mask, keeping records and self-isolating when not working.

SAPOL's website states applicants should apply at least 72 hours before their planned cross-border travel, but Stock Journal understands some wait times have gone well beyond that as those in ag seek to gain an essential traveller number.

Since July 29, 18,335 travellers have entered SA, with nearly 13,000 considered essential.

Nutrien Ag Solutions Naracoorte agronomist James Heffernan has been inspecting clients' crops across the border in the Apsley, Vic, area several times a week and has had no issues crossing the border.

He says it only took him a day and a half to receive approval for essential cross-border travel and says the online application was "simple and easy".

"As long as you tick the boxes and provide the information they require it is all straightforward, then it is just a matter of getting a COVID test every seven days, which takes five minutes up at the hospital," he said.

"It (Vic clients) is probably only 15 per cent of what I do but Naracoorte just with its geographical location is an important service town for people on both sides of the border."

A fortnight ago, Murray Bridge-based Merino sheep classer Bill Walker travelled to Esperance, WA, classing commercial flocks after receiving clearance to fly, although he says WA authorities were "learning as they went along".

Late last week he applied with SAPOL for a specialist worker permit to enable him to catalogue rams for Vic clients' upcoming sales without spending 14 days in isolation on his return.

He is pleased it has been approved, although he says he did have to "double check" the permit as some of the wording was not clear.

"There may be some that might say, 'Why can't they get a stock agent to do it?' but we are talking about the whole package of meat and fibre, and how sheep are lotted up can make a big difference to a sale," he said.

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