When Jared McArdle hopped on the ferry to Victoria from South Australia this week, he did not expect to be trapped by a sudden lockdown alongside 12 of his sheep.
- A Kangaroo Island farmer and his sheep are stuck in Bendigo as Victoria enters lockdown
- They are stuck because the Australian Sheep and Wool Show 2021 has been cancelled at the 11th hour
- Hundreds of exhibitors, farmers and 2,000 sheep are now stranded in Victoria
The Taljar Polwarth Stud breeder was all set to present at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo today, but at 5pm last night received word that the show had been cancelled due to Victoria’s snap, five-day lockdown.
This meant he and hundreds of exhibitors — and 2,000 sheep, many from interstate — are now stranded in Victoria, unsure of their next step.
Mr McArdle said the Kangaroo Island ferry was cancelled today due to rough weather and he does not know when it will next be available.
“The mood this morning is just flat,” Mr McArdle said.
“The show society said that we can keep our sheep here for as long as we need [to], so we thought that is probably our best port of call at the moment.”
Getting back home tricky
He said that, even if a ferry was available today, getting back home would be difficult.
“We’ve got feed. We’ve got yards. And we didn’t fancy them staying on the back of our ute for what might be three days trying to get home.”
Questions about returning home
Georgina Wallace from Tasmanian Merino stud Trefusis brought 10 of her finest sheep to the show, some of which are pregnant, and was left wondering whether she could get them home.
Ms Wallace has already booked a fare on the Spirit of Tasmania, but spent the morning trying to get approval to enter her home state with her woolly cargo.
Ms Wallace said she had heard stories of Queenslanders who had arrived on Thursday — only to have to pack up and leave Bendigo in the middle of the night.
“They had to get up at 3am this morning to get back over across the NSW border before midnight. So they had an 18-hour drive ahead of them,” she said.
Ms Wallace has always loved going head-to-head with the best sheep farmers in Australia at the show — she has even picked up the Grand Champion Fleece award three times.
But now she’s just hoping she can get home and isolate at her farm in the small pastoral community of Ross.
“The main thing is to get them back safe and sound and in good health and that I don’t inflict this on anybody else.”
The senior vice president of the Australian Sheep Breeders Association, Peter Baker, said producers at the show were devastated.
“After missing the show in 2020, we got to the door, but couldn’t quite get the door open,” Mr Baker said.
“We have sheep from all over the country here … it makes it really, really difficult.”
Sheep had already arrived
Show secretary Margot Falconer said nearly 2,000 sheep had already been transported to the showgrounds at Bendigo when news of the cancellation came through.
“At least last year we made the decision early … so, it didn’t cost us this much, but this year the financial implication will be high, not just for us but [also] for all of the sheep breeders who have invested so heavily in coming to the event and all the site holders and food vendors.”
Ms Falconer said 7,500 visitors were expected at the event, and pre-show ticket sales were at a record high.
“It was going to be a massive event,” she said
“We kept thinking it would just be Melbourne. We didn’t realise they were going to shut regional Victoria down yet again.”
Ms Falconer said organisers had asked the government whether judging could take place for the sheep already at the site.
“[We got a] flat no, judges and stewards were not deemed to be essential. So, you just have to cop it.”
Should the snap, five-day lockdown end as planned, the dog trials will be held next weekend and fleeces will be auctioned in October.