WITH a WorkSafe prohibition notice placed on the ramshackle Midland pig saleyards last week, small p

30 Nov, 2006 07:00 PM
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Bakers Hill pig farmer Dave Sloan said he felt small producers were at the mercy of the processors because of the yard closure.

³The writing has been on the wall for a long time, but I don¹t think it is right for WA farmers to be left high and dry,² Mr Sloan said.

³There would be an absolute war out there if it happened to sheep farmers.

³Where do we go? What is the future for farmers who run livestock in general?

³They should tidy it up or fix it up and it would be okay.

³Why are pig farmers at the bottom of the food chain?²

Mr Sloan said he had been forced to take his pigs to the abattoir, which saved him money on yard fees that had increased because of the low yardings, but gave him nothing to fall back on.

³The abattoir is offering a fair price, but I like the competition at the yards,² he said.

³It is a level playing field; somewhere to off-load old sows and boars instead of hoping the processors will take them.

³All the butchers like the saleyards because they can see a wide range of pigs and select the ones they want.²

Mr Sloan said some cultures in WA preferred to buy a pig and kill it themselves as part of their Christmas celebrations, but that would be impossible without saleyards.

The Sloans recently returned to pig farming and are questioning their decision after what has happened.

Serpentine pig producers Ian and Pauline Squire, who have sold via auction at Midland for more than 10 years, feel they have been short-changed by various state governments that have known about the need to upgrade the facilities, but have done nothing.

Mr Squire said the Labor Government was meant to support the working people, but even with the plans to build new saleyards at Muchea there would be no facility for small producers to sell pigs.

³What would it hurt to build a small area for pig sales?² Mr Squire asked.

He remembered when the Midland yards held about 3000 pigs and it would take hours to walk around selecting which ones to buy.

³Now you would be lucky to see more than 200 and it would take a few minutes to view them,² Mr Squire said.

³It appears that small producers are being made to sell via weight and grade, which would average a lower return for us than what we could get by auction.

³We have been much better off selling at Midland because the small butchers in the metro areas have nowhere else to source their pork, and people can bid on a good quality yarding.²

The Squires have been consistently topping the prices at the Midland saleyards.

Their baconers fetched the top price of 231c/kg on November 8.

³Through weight and grade the price would average between 160-180c/kg,² Mr Squire said.

He said small producers could not sustain themselves with that kind of price and more would leave the industry.

³There is a cloud over the industry for small producers,² Mr Squire said.

³I cannot see us staying in it for the long term if there is no saleyard.²

Mr Squire said most of the pigs produced in the state came from a minority of the producers, but the majority were small farmers who needed a place like Midland to oprate their businesses as best they could.

Perth Pork Centre livestock manager Dean Romaniello said that since Elders and Landmark ceased operating saleyards for pigs earlier in the year, it had been touch and go for the saleyards.

³Sometimes sales have been cancelled because there were not enough nominations,² Mr Romaniello said.

³It would be sad to see it go if it does, but it is not all that bad as butchers can still buy direct from producers.

³If you buy direct you agree to a price where both parties are happy and it is consistent all year-round.

³You do not have the fluctuation in prices if contracted and would not see the highs like at Midland, but you would not see the lows either.²

³It is not the end of the industry because only 2pc of pigs we kill would have gone through the market system,² he said. ³Most pigs are contracted to a buyer.²

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