Life slows down in 2020

The Land's livestock writer Hannah Powe reflects on 2020

Wool
More time spent at home: Hannah Powe, her dog Flo and heifers were happy for life to slow down in 2020. The autumn heifers were also happy to spend extra time on their mums, rather than being weaned early like the Q-drop.

More time spent at home: Hannah Powe, her dog Flo and heifers were happy for life to slow down in 2020. The autumn heifers were also happy to spend extra time on their mums, rather than being weaned early like the Q-drop.

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With her feet planted firmly in Australia, The Land's livestock lover talks about the unpredictable, unexpected yet positive side of 2020.

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Unpredictable is probably the best word to describe 2020.

Kicking off the year I spent the first few months flying across the country, from Victoria, to Queensland down to Tasmania and then across to Western Australia, all cattle related of course.

But little did I know that would be the end to my adventures, and much the same the last of the shows, for the foreseeable future.

My feet became firmly planted on the ground here in Australia.

My travel plans were halted, as were a few big life experiences I had on the cards for the year including judging at the Sydney Royal Show - a big dream of mine. And finally getting to go to the University of Illinois.

As the season kicked, the grass grew and the abundance of green feed was a nice change during spring calving.

As the season kicked, the grass grew and the abundance of green feed was a nice change during spring calving.

Among the panic, uncertainty, cancellation notices and being forced to become home bodies, life began to slow down a bit which I enjoyed. There wasn't a race to get things prepared over the weekend for an event or hours spent travelling somewhere for something, rather more time to focus on yourself.

Don't get me wrong, as farmers things did not dramatically change. We were still required to get up and do our job of providing food and fibre.

But I hope some of you realised it is okay to say no or you learned how to factor in more down time to look after yourselves. I did, spending more time running, at the gym, reading and learning.

As most businesses, the team at The Land have been working remotely from our homes since mid-March when the pandemic hit.

Beautiful sunsets returned and replaced the dust storms of 2019. Photos: Hannah Powe

Beautiful sunsets returned and replaced the dust storms of 2019. Photos: Hannah Powe

This has meant, like others, that I have battled the issue of reception and connectivity - and I only live within half an hour of Orange!

From losing reception mid-call or on our morning meetings, to power outages and internet cutting out on deadline, the amount of last-minute rushes to my parents or the number of times I've said "can you hear me now?", "what about now?" continues to grow.

I also moved twice during 2020, so that was a bit interesting seeing as I crushed my finger moving furniture last year. Luckily no fingers were harmed this time.

The weird and unpredictable nature of the year not only hit my personal life, but my cattle with more interesting diagnoses; a mummified calf, photosensitivity and an umbilical cord hernia that resulted in a ruptured intestine.

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If you want to see whacky, just come past our place and we'll have something happening.

The introduction of the Taking Stock column that will appear weekly in The Land in 2021 has been a fresh concept, and I hope our readers have enjoyed it.

Writing about our views and opinions on what we are seeing or doing on our travels and what we talk to farmers about has allowed us to grow and create our own voice and style of writing.

A recent column I wrote about livestock showing the younger generation a way of life hit close to home for me. Give a kid and animal and see how much they grow.

My column on communication could hurt breed development got people talking, and it related to show societies too.

Moving into 2021 I hope to see growth in this space; societies coming back together and refocusing on common goals.

A whirlwind year and a new set of challenges greeted producers across the country when selling season hit. But being the resilient and determined bunch they are saw them overcome these parameters and restrictions to celebrate some amazing highs.

Prices boomed across a number of industries causing records to tumble within studs, at sale yards and more widely on a national and breed basis. Being able to share in these milestones was a highlight.

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I wrote in a Taking Stock column about missing seeing the moment a prized animal was slapped champion, but this void was filled with seeing the hammer fall on high-dollar animals and the smiles that moved across vendors faces, not to mention the emotional thank you speeches given at the conclusion of the auction.

Producers had to change-up their marketing programs, with many adopting methods they had never tried or thought about prior.

From videoing or picturing entire sale drafts, to just listing on an online platform for the first time, numerous studs said "why haven't we been doing this for years?".

Pregnancy-tested-in-calf Angus heifers, rising 24 months, sold to a top of $3900 a head at Gilmandyke Angus.

Pregnancy-tested-in-calf Angus heifers, rising 24 months, sold to a top of $3900 a head at Gilmandyke Angus.

Likewise, buyers stepped out of their comfort zone and bought sight-unseen or through these platforms for the first time.

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We were reconnected and reinvigorated despite border closures and lockdowns. People grew their audience and their client base, and I hope these new ways stay and I can log in anywhere and watch basically all the sales of the season.

This adaptive and "keep on, keeping on" nature was seen throughout the agricultural industry when the highly anticipated hay and harvest season kicked off.

Good rain throughout the growing season meant crops were looking exceptional, but the challenge soon came - getting hay made or paddocks stripped before another fall of rain.

Alongside working for the paper, I spent some time casually working on the sample stand at Gooloogong during harvest, which is always a nice way to connect with a broader group of farmers and meet some friendly faces along the way.

This also replaced my annual overseas trip to North America, which was missed.

Anyone that has followed my journey and year in review over the past few years would know I am accident prone. I never was as a child, but I definitely am now.

Luckily this year the only operation I had was a second surgery to fix part of my nose that I broke two years ago after still not being able to breathe properly.

Our dogs got unlucky though, with several grass seeds in ears and eyes meaning they had a number of surgeries.

My thumb from last year is still there with no one ever really noticing except for the odd way I hold my pen when taking notes or how clumsy I am trying to carry things.

Sitting back reflecting on this unpredictable year, it was eventful but not a complete write off! Here's to a bigger and better 2021.

Wishing you all a safe and happy new year! See you back out and about soon.

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