EDITORIAL: What impact will the new Mortlake saleyards have on other council-operated yards?

Rohan Arnold.
Rohan Arnold.

What impact will the Western Victorian Livestock Exchange at Mortlake have on other regional saleyards? 

Has it already begun?

These are the question on the lips of farmers and stock agents, after Corangamite Shire Council announced it was seeking a private provider to take on its Camperdown yards.

The council has decided to test the market for a proposed 15-year lease, with mayor Jo Beard saying the council was planning for the future security of the Camperdown facility in the face of potential competition from the new yards at Mortlake. But with the arrival of the WVLX imminent, will anyone take up Corangamite’s offer?

When the proponents behind the WVLX set up a yard at Yass, within the first 12 months of its operation three of the five or six council yards in the area had closed.

The Warrnambool Stock Agents Association and Warrnambool City Council have pledged to support the Warrnambool saleyards, with the council planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the near future to roof part of the facility.

But is it a wise use of ratepayer money if the Warrnambool yards end up with fewer cattle and fewer buyers?

The Warrnambool yards are currently profitable, according to the city council, however it posted a smaller than expected operating surplus last financial year.

A significant drop in the number of cattle going under the hammer was blamed for the downturn. A council report showed cattle numbers were down about 15,000, with gross turnover down by $2.1 million.

With construction of the WVLX underway, the massive state-of-the-art complex will be unlike anything the south-west has seen before.

WVLX director Rohan Arnold told Stock and Land in May the roofed yards would cover nearly 30,000 square metres.

“That’s about five MCGs, to put it in perspective,” Mr Arnold said.

He said his group had decided to build the yards at Mortlake because “there was a lot of talk but no action on regional saleyards (in the area).” 

However, there is some good news for Warrnambool. WVLX will have its weekly sale day on Monday, while Warrnambool saleyards operates on Wednesday.

Time will tell how other south-west yards fare, with the Mortlake complex due to begin operation in January.