Vigorous debate over whether Warrnambool City Council should spend up to about $1 million on roofing part of the Warrnambool saleyards is the latest episode in the battle between the Warrnambool and Mortlake saleyards.
Warrnambool council’s saleyards advisory committee chair Owen O’Keefe said “the council needs to get on with it (roofing the saleyards).”
Mr O’Keefe said cattle producers and stock agents had shown loyalty to the Warrnambool saleyards during the past 11 months despite competition from the Mortlake saleyards.
The Western Victoria Livestock Exchange (WVLX) opened at Mortlake in January this year but its stock throughput for the past 11 months has been below its target.
Mr O’Keefe said it was time Warrnambool council returned the loyalty shown by producers and agents and gave the saleyards “a vote of confidence” by roofing part of the saleyards.
He said about $500,000 had been put aside to roof holding pens that had a dirt floor.
Those holding pens, used to hold cattle prior to their penning for sale, were difficult to use in winter when they were muddy, and in summer when they were dusty, Mr O’Keefe said.
He said while the council had estimated roofing the holding yards would cost $1 million, there were other estimates that it could be done for half of that cost.
Mr O’Keefe was keen to point out the saleyards were not a financial burden on ratepayers.
He said no money from ratepayers went into the saleyards with all upgrades being done with grants and loans that were repaid with saleyards revenue.
He said while the saleyards’ operating surplus had declined in recent years, that was due to a decline in cattle throughput affecting saleyards throughout Australia.
National cattle numbers are recovering after an earlier sell-off of stock because of the drought that affected much of eastern Australia.
WVLX Stock Agents Association president Glenn Judd had a different view, not surprisingly, on whether Warrnambool council should roof its saleyards.
Mr Judd believed the council would be “foolish” to do so because of the competition from the Mortlake yards. He said the council would get more value for its money by spending the $500,000 for the roof project “elsewhere.”
Mr Judd said throughput for Mortlake’s prime cattle sales was building up and its store cattle sale numbers were “as good as anywhere.” He said Mortlake was attracting up to 16 cattle buyers to sales, which meant good prices for producers.