File photo

Staff at Stettler Auction Mart keeping busy despite pandemic restrictions

‘We have a lot of technology nowadays so it’s made it a little bit easier to deal with something like this, that’s for sure.’

For the staff at the Stettler Auction Mart, things have stayed pretty steady over the past few months despite the pandemic restrictions.

There have been some new approaches to how business is carried out, and it’s been quite successful to date, said Crystal Rairdan, owner and operator.

“The 4-H Sale was a success — it went off really well. The kids were all able to sell their animals, and there wasn’t too much of a price difference from last year. In fact, it was a little more average-wise than last year, so that went really, really well,” she explained of the online 4-H sale which was held this past spring.

The sales were held online featuring the kids with their calves posted to the Auction Mart’s website.

Rairdan also said some of their farm sales had to be postponed.

“Some of them moved to next spring; others were later in the summer – we just kind of played it by ear in waiting to see what the restrictions would be. We were able to have a few of them and they went really well,” she said.

In the meantime, the consignment sale, which is usually held at the Agri-plex, was held at the Auction Mart instead.

“It was really, really good. We were able to stay under our 200-people limit and everything sold decently,” she added.

And these days, Rairdan said staff are gearing up for the fall run.

“For the most part, because we have seating and we can socially distance everybody, we are able to have 100 people in the sales at a time. We don’t normally have more than that,” she said. “We are just trying to take it all one step at a time.

“As for fall run, it’s kind of based around harvest. So when the fall run starts is basically when the guys are done combining and have a chance to get their cows in and calves weaned and all of that. So we are starting to see some yearlings trickle through right now, and (looking forward) to the next couple of weeks our numbers are definitely higher than what they have been,” she said.

“So it’s starting to come — I’m assuming it’s going to be the first part of October before everyone has their combining done and we will really see a pick-up in our numbers. But so far, it just kind of feels like a usual year other than the extra cleaning and spacing of chairs so that everyone can be six feet apart,” she said. “The kitchen is also back up and running now, so that’s a good thing.

“So again we are just gearing up for fall run and hoping their isn’t another crackdown on regulations that would impede us to much,” she said. “I’m also hoping these cattle prices just keep creeping up like they are so we can get some more money in our farmers’ pockets.”

Rairdan noted that much of the Auction Mart’s ability to continue on a comparatively strong note through the pandemic also goes back to their already solid online capabilities that were being utilized in week-to-week operations.

“Also, being one of those essential services means that we just can’t shut the doors. It’s not an option,” she said. “Other than the extra cleaning and other steps we’ve had to do, and extra signs up reminding everyone to social distance and doing more things outside now instead of indoors — in the grand scheme of things, these things don’t really change a lot in how we run things,” she added.

Meanwhile, the feed store has kept up a brisk business as well.

“Every year we also always do a Union Forage and Corn Tour for a bunch of our farmers. We usually have a decent number of people come out to that.

“Last year, we had two bus loads full that we drove around to the different fields. This year, we were unable to do that, but we are in the works of doing a virtual tour. We’ve gone around and made videos of a lot of it, talked one-on-one with producers and had our representatives interject some points on various things. I will then build a big video and put it up on our YouTube page and then everyone can watch it when they need to.

“We have a lot of technology at our disposal nowadays so it’s made it a little bit easier to deal with something like this, that’s for sure. It’s not the same as walking through the pasture, but it’s as close as we can get for the time being,” she said.

Another event that had to be cancelled was a steak dinner that’s usually held as a customer appreciation during one of the fall sales.

“We’ve opted out of that this year knowing that we probably won’t be able to do it,” she said.

“So we did a ‘nominate your local farmer’ and gave away eight meals in the fields — we’ll have our cook make up meals and we will then take them out to each of the eight farms that won, and we will feed them in the fields while they are combining.

“We just drew the names yesterday, so in the next couple of week we will be delivering all of the meals.”

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