THE future of a South West saleyard and what it should look like is still yet to be determined, according to WA Meat Industry Authority (WAMIA) chairperson David Lock.
Earlier this month the Liberal Party said if re-elected, it would spend $2 million to acquire land for a new livestock handling facility to replace the ageing Boyanup saleyards.
The election promise was a step forward according to industry, however a feasibility study conducted by WAMIA is yet to be conducted.
The study, to determine the capacity of the new Boyanup saleyards, will be held after the March 11 State election
Mr Lock anticipated the study, to be done in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA), would take six months.
"WAMIA has been charged with the task for determining the need for a South West saleyard replacement and to determine what form the saleyard might take," Mr Lock said.
"Would it be a traditional saleyard with buyers and sellers or will it take another form, to take into account the movement in technology?"
Mr Lock said all options were yet to be determined and were all hypothetical but WAMIA was looking into a livestock exchange centre "to move to electronic selling, instead of manual selling".
"WAMIA's role is to look at where technology is, where is technology in saleyards heading because we are talking five years until we have a new saleyard constructed."
The study will assess if there is a need for a saleyard and if so, where it should go.
"I would expect we would have a very different looking saleyard," Mr Lock said.
"The transaction of livestock is changing and will change more.
"If we look 50 years into history, pigs and other livestock were sold through saleyards and none go through them anymore.
"That movement of direct-purchasing by processors, the role a saleyard can play in live export and sales are different from a traditional buy and sell service role so I expect it to change in a number of ways, not just the people who operate it.
"We would expect if the facility is funded at all with public money, (the yards) it would be available to all stakeholders.
"Assuming the current agents don't seek to do something on their own."
Mr Lock said they would conduct an in-depth assessment and would not rush the process.
He said planning approvals and construction would take two years.
"If we make a decision in three years and have the finance sorted, we still have plenty of time to have it in place in time for the expiration of the current lease."
The current yards will close in 2022 when the Capel Shire lease ends.
The Boyanup yards are managed by the Western Australian Livestock Salesmen's Association (WALSA) - a Landmark and Elders joint venture - and leased to WALSA, unlike Katanning and Muchea, that are government run.
Mr Lock said the future of the saleyards was up to government and the Agriculture and Food Minister, appointed after the upcoming election.
Current minister Mark Lewis said discussions between WAMIA and industry on the relocation started in 2016.
Mr Lewis said the $2m pledged was for land acquisition, not for planning.
Red Meat Action Group president and beef farmer Gary Buller said further consultation was needed with industry during the study and design process.
Mr Buller said the beef industry needed more involvement.
"To have WAMIA leading the charge over the beef industry it is scary," Mr Buller said.
"To have a feasibility study to work out if we need a yard it's just rubbish.
"The South West has many small holdings and its not likely to decrease in the foreseeable future, it's more likely to increase.
"We will have more cattle, more vendors and all those people will need an outlet to sell cattle."
Mr Buller said the Liberals' pledge was "nothing more than a vote chasing exercise".
"What we need is a commitment to the beef industry," he said.
"If they were really committed they would say, 'we will build a saleyard'.
"They have had plenty of time to do something about it, while they were in power.
"It is an insult."
After touring saleyards all over the east coast and New Zealand, Mr Buller said a livestock exchange was needed for the region.
He said the facility would need new technology and reflect future industry needs.
"It needs to be a social hub for the South West and bring farmers back to the saleyards," he said.
"It means more competition and this is what the industry needs."
Mr Buller said there was demand for a replacement yard and something needed to be done soon.
"Who will commit it to us?" he asked.
"We need a party to commit, what government will present us a clear vision for the future?"
The importance of the site location was top priority for Nannup cattle producer Barbara Dunnet.
With more than 6000 cattle moving through the yards and mostly returning to the South West Ms Dunnet said the right site had to be located with "traffic in mind".
Ms Dunnet said the ideal location would be Gwindinup, as other locations would require extra funding for road access.
"There is a major road already there and roads heading into the Esperance direction, Manjimup and Augusta, so there wouldn't be the need to construct any new roads," Ms Dunnet said.
"It's already zoned as rural and has a buffer."
Ms Dunnet said the new yards needed to be multi-purpose with a sales ring to suit all livestock sales.
"It also needs to be set up as a hub for farmers, for farmers to do some shopping - but if its north of Bunbury I doubt that concept would work.
"If the location is not ideal, it could end up like Muchea, which is like a 'white-elephant' out in the middle of nowhere.
"What we need is a centre, a business centre to generate economic and social benefits, that supports biosecurity for the South West.
Ms Dunnet wants WAMIA and the State government to consult with industry after the election to address a number of concerns.