Stock agents and the city council say Warrnambool’s saleyards are faring well against increased competition despite big falls in its operating surplus and throughput.
Warrnambool City Council’s corporate strategy director Peter Utri said the saleyards’ operating surplus for 2017-2018 was $125,000, about half of the surplus it generated in 2016-2017.
Mr Utri said the saleyards’ throughput in 2017-2018 was 61,000, down from 80,000 the year before.
He said some of the decline was due to increased competition for numbers from the new Western Victoria Livestock Exchange (WVLX) that opened at Mortlake in January and some was because of the drop in national cattle numbers.
The yards were still operating on a sound financial basis, Mr Utri said.
He believed cattle numbers had picked up at Warrnambool in recent times because producers had tried other yards and returned to Warrnambool.
Mr Utri said the council had deferred expenditure on roofing part of the saleyards until the next financial year.
There was a shortfall between the funds available for the work and the estimated cost and the council was seeking grants to meet the gap, he said.
Mr Utri said the saleyards was primarily “the agents’ business” and they continued to strongly support the yards, as did producers.
Warrnambool Stock Agents Association president Kieran Johnstone said Warrnambool saleyards’ performance spoke for itself as having ably competed against the new Mortlake yards.
Mr Johnstone said prices paid for cattle at Warrnambool had been at least equal to those paid at other south-west saleyards.
Mr Johnstone said the agents were keen for the council to roof the saleyards and $540,000 had been set aside for the project.
WVLX director Brendan Abbey said it was satisfied with the number of beef cattle sold at Mortlake but it wanted to increase the number of dairy chopper cattle offered.
He said the Mortlake yards had attracted about 30 per cent of the throughput previously handled by the Warrnambool and Camperdown saleyards.
Mr Abbey said it would be a loss for Warrnambool ratepayers if the council invested further in the Warrnambool saleyards.