The potential loss of Warrnambool's saleyards has been labelled a "bloody disgrace" by farmers who on Wednesday called for councillors to spend money on upgrades.
City councillors voted 4-3 on Monday not to award a tender for up to $5.66 million in works to complete further upgrades at the facility, a move that has stunned both agents and farmers.
For farmers, the yards are not just the place where they buy and sell livestock but a men's shed and a social outlet.
They questioned why the councillors would consider closing a facility that makes money while keeping open Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum which runs at a loss.
Councillors on Monday voted to consult stakeholders and the community over the future of the saleyards, and farmers on Wednesday were keen to make their views heard.
Farmer Gerry Conheady, who has been buying and selling sheep in Warrnambool for about 30 years, labelled the decision a "bloody disgrace".
"I was very surprised," he said.
Mr Conheady said money from the saleyards had been spent on other council facilities rather than being put back into the centre.
He said if the facility closed he would end up selling to Midfield Meat. "I'm not going to go to Mortlake," Mr Conheady said.
Port Fairy's Kelvin Duncan said he had been going to the saleyards for about 60 years.
He said the council's decision was a "big surprise".
"It's a big asset to the Warrnambool area," he said. "Mortlake is too far away for a lot of people."
He said a trip to the saleyards meant a trip into town for him, and if it wasn't there he would miss the camaraderie. "We all meet up," he said.
"It would knock the town about if it goes. It will affect a lot of people. A lot of people work here."
Cudgee's Neil Anderton and Timboon's Jeff Wallace have both been going to the saleyards for about 55 years.
Mr Anderton said he hoped the council did "the right thing" and keep the facility. "We certainly need to keep it if possible," he said.
He questioned how the council could spend money on tourist attractions but couldn't do that at the saleyards.
"This is more essential than that," he said. "What's got me beat is why they've spent so much to put the roof up the top and walkways and now to wipe it out, how silly's that?"
Mr Wallace described the saleyards as "like a men's shed" or a meeting place.
"It brings a lot of money in," he said. "It employs a lot of people around the community. More than you think."
He had a message for councillors on Wednesday: "Spend some money".
Ellerslie's Neville Symons said closure of the facility would be "disastrous" for the area, the suppliers of livestock and everyone involved in the industry.
"The system has been allowed to run down. It's like having your own car and if you're not going to do any maintenance, eventually it's going to do something in the end," he said.
Mr Symons said political decisions had led to the loss of Fletcher Jones factory and the Woollen Mills. Warrnambool had also lost Nestles and the Co-op. "And now we're on about the yards," he said.
"It's a service to the community really and it will be one less facility, and when you take out one that means less competition in the marketplace."
Mr Symons questioned what the council meant by consultation. "They need to speak to the farmers and users of it," he said.
While he uses the private Mortlake selling centre, he said he wanted Warrnambool to stay because it provided another outlet.
Warrnambool farmer Barry Brown said he was surprised with the council's decision and was pretty upset about it. "I want to keep it going," he said.
"The only reason this is all run down was because they've been pouring the money into Flagstaff Hill and getting nothing for it.
"I think they should shut down Flagstaff Hill before they shut down something that's making money."
Mr Brown said he loved the camaraderie with other farmers. "You can have a chat, if you've got something wrong with a cow you can have a chat to other farmers and find out what might be wrong with it," he said.
Farmer Keith Bonnett also said he would like to keep it. "At the moment it's functioning and they've made quite a bit of profit over the years," he said.
Moyne Shire councillor Jim Doukas, who was at Wednesday's calf sales, said the council decision was very disappointing.
"We've been down this path before and everybody said we need the yards," he said.
"They haven't said it's closing but that's the path they're taking apparently. What else can we do except fight the good fight?"
Cr Doukas will join the campaign to save the saleyards.
"Warrnambool have survived the good and the bad over the last 50 years, and both yards are operating and all making money," he said. "So why change now?
"It's better to keep the yards than spend $40 million on an art gallery."
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