WITH technological advancements in recent years computer software has been developed to make it easier for livestock producers and buyers to access information and services in real time, as well as making saleyards more efficient.
Eastern States business Outcross is one of those companies that provides a range of services to the saleyard industry.
Outcross owner and director Tom Newsome visited Farm Weekly last week as he made his way to some of WA’s saleyards, promoting his software products.
Mr Newsome said 80 per cent of the business was saleyard-related and 20pc mining-related.
“Our main business is saleyard services but we also consult to mining companies and help them bring their mining land back into grazing land,” Mr Newsome said.
“It’s a system or process of rehab so they have got viable grazing at the end of it.”
Mr Newsome said Outcross could do a range of things for saleyards – “we design them, operate them, supply software to run them, as well as general management consulting”.
He said Outcross had about 28 saleyard clients across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
Recent projects have been completed for Shepparton, Charters Towers, Forbes, WVLX Mortlake, SELX Yass, Dubbo, Dalby, Horsham, Emerald and Moss Vale saleyards.
“We provide any of those services to those clients – some of it is consulting and some contracting and some providing technology software,” Mr Newsome said.
“We draft and pen about 70,000 cattle a year, at Dalby, Queensland and there are 22 saleyards that use our software systems.
“The rest is consulting work.
“We do everything from review of saleyard operations – so they’ll get us in and pay us to come and visit the yard and look at how they do things and make recommendations, through to master plans and then in designing yards from the ground up.”
Mr Newsome said Outcross aimed to “enhance the business of our clients which is saleyards and agents”.
“The biggest issue for saleyards is competition – they live and die by the number of guys on the rail competing for stock – so anything we can do to increase the market depth gives a good outcome for our clients and they are benefiting from our services.
“There are 15 privately-owned saleyards across Australia – the rest are owned by the councils.
“Some of those, mainly because of geographic location, have evolved into massive operations over the years and they are highly profitable – some councils want to keep those and some want to sell them.”
Mr Newcross went to the Muchea Livestock Centre (MLC) during his trip.
“The cost of the MLC was where they got the most criticism,” he said.
“It was somewhere about $60 million for the final bill.
“We built a yard in Yass, the year before last, for about a quarter of the price – which was the same size.
“The site was a big part of MLC as there were a lot of earthworks.
“There’s probably good reasons for it but being an outsider you think it’s a bit dear.”
Mr Newsome said the MLC was “a bit different to the yards that we are use to dealing with because in the Eastern States it is all post-weigh”.
“That’s very strong in the industry – although different people would like pre-weigh,’’ he said.
“We would like to do pre-weigh but we are restricted by industry requirements to continue to post-weigh cattle and that’s obviously to do with gut fill and curfew and such.
“We would like to go pre-weigh because you present more information to buyers, however, the buyers themselves – the guys on the rail – they are actually the biggest impediment to it.
“They are just trying to protect their niche at the end of the day.
“There’s good advantages in pre-weigh – you guys are lucky in a way that that is an industry norm – whereas we are sought of stuck with post-weigh.”
Mr Newsome said there was a moved towards consolidation of saleyards across the country.
He said with there was 129 saleyards in Australia and the move was “to get big or get out”.
“So there is significant consolidation going on,” he said.
“The big existing yards in the big regional centres are surviving and doing quite well.
“The regional centres, such as Mortlake, are plonked in the middle of four or five smaller yards that are struggling and it’ll kill them.”
Mr Newsome said the smaller yards in the Eastern States would die out because they weren’t “anywhere near compliant to OHS requirements” and they couldn’t compete with the big yards.
“Because some are getting bigger they will get more throughput and then they can utilise the services of guys like me who travel the countryside looking at livestock handling equipment and facilities,” he said.
“We use our knowledge in the design of these new yards from the ground up and there’s sort of a merging business in the industry where its traditionally that the little yards just move along and do their own thing.
“For livestock professionals like us it’s all about making the whole saleyards area more professional.”
Mr Newsome said there were exciting things happening in the industry with “online selling systems and cataloguing and providing that information before the buyers get there”, but the industry needed one representative body to help the industry move forward working with governments and creating standards across the country.
“There’s two different bodies at the moment – the Australian Livestock Markets Association (ALMA) – they originated in New South Wales but basically merged with Queensland, WA and South Australia –- most of those yards are in ALMA,” he said.
“The Victorians didn’t want to come in – they have the Livestock Saleyards Association of Victoria, and then they have changed their name to ALSA – Australian Livestock Saleyards Association.
“So they run their own show.
“It’s not good for our industry – we need one peak body, not two.
“I’m not saying who is right and who is wrong, they are probably both wrong, but we need better representation in terms of a single industry body.”