May 11 is D-day for the AAM Investment Group as it prepares to put Queensland's first undercover commercial cattle ring selling complex to the test at Longreach.
That's the day that's been set for the first general store sale at the yards in eight years.
Only ongoing bull sales and a special store sale in March 2019, when 6000 AACo steers were offered, have been held in that time, but a $3.274m redevelopment has been underway behind the scenes, thanks to funding from a number of sources.
Just about every aspect of the Western Queensland Livestock Exchange, which was leased from the Longreach Regional Council in 2017, has received attention in the last 12 months.
"Until people come and see it, they won't truly appreciate what we've done," AAMIG regional manager Gavin Tickle said.
Walking down the lanes, he pointed out pen upgrades that include latching and strike-out gates, plus extra catwalks, while a new administration building and ablutions block have been installed behind the existing canteen.
A new seven-way draft and processing area, which can automatically draft cattle into buyer pens on selected weight ranges, brings the number of drafting areas for the yard to four.
In an innovative move, the dual direction weighbridge has been placed in the heart of the facility, to cater for the movement of cattle being weighed for private sales as well as sale day action.
"It works really well," Mr Tickle said.
"We've had a big design team look at all aspects of the yards and how they go together.
"Our focus was on using what was already here, taking it and making it better."
That extends to the spelling area, where additional feed pens have been installed, along with 720 lineal metres of shade in four strips over the transit yards.
Cattle are being fed in 24m bunks, feedlot-style, and Mr Tickle said that meant up to 100 head could eat at one time, rather than a lesser amount around racks of hay.
"It delivers the exact amount of hay per animal, and because we have organic certification, another advantage is that we can clean the bunks out," he said.
"We have the best water in western Queensland, from the Thomson River - that's probably the best asset, that cattle drink the water.
"I believe we have the best transit facility in Queensland."
He's not done there though - the money received through two state government Building our Regions funding injections, the federal government's Building Better Regions Fund and its Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Scheme, the Longreach Regional Council, and AAMIG itself is also delivering improved lighting to washbays, a dedicated shower bay for drivers, and upgraded train loading facilities.
Mr Tickle said user safety and animal welfare had been key themes in their planning.
The new undercover selling ring that stands tall at the complex offers operator comfort as well, which Mr Tickle said set them apart from many of Queensland's other yards, where agents, vendors, buyers and spectators are subject to the elements as they move along laneways.
"We offer fans, seats, shade, and we'll have our Stocklive online selling system operating simultaneously with the live auction," he said.
Elders branch manager Tim Salter described the unfolding redevelopment as innovative, especially the pre-sale weighing and undercover seating for sale elements.
"AAM has engaged local agents from the get-go, on the design, and kept us up to date all the way through," he said. "Adoption might be the biggest hurdle but the comfort factor and online selling will help with that."
AAMIG had anticipated restarting sales last year but they didn't get off the ground, partly because the upgrades hadn't started, along with unfavourable seasonal conditions and prices, Mr Tickle said.
He said 800 to 1000 head had already been booked for the May 11 sale, and two others, on June 15 and July 13, were planned after that.
For all the big news in beef, sign up below to receive our Red Meat newsletter.