'IT'S A SHAMBLES' at Muchea

27 Nov, 2014 01:00 AM
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1
 
The only thing here better than Midland is the roof.

MUCHEA Livestock Centre has been described by members of the livestock industry as nothing short of a shambles.

Agents, buyers, farmers and transporters have confirmed Monday's sale of more than 2000 cattle saw an abundance of problems.

There were reports of computer issues, wrong card and weight information displayed, clerk information not matching up with pens, transit cattle being mixed in pens with the general sale cattle, cattle being missed during the sale, inexperienced staff, drafting problems and a long wait to weigh cattle and process the sale.

The State Government-owned facility, which opened in 2010, is run by the WA Meat Industry Authority (WAMIA), which is in a joint venture with Livestock Logistics WA (LLWA).

Mitchell's Transport owner John Mitchell, who is a regular at the Muchea trade sale, said he was not surprised by Monday's events.

Mr Mitchell said a lot of promises had been made to improve conditions at Muchea, but no action had taken place.

"WAMIA management is not doing their job, they are either not accountable or they deceive the (WAMIA) board," Mr Mitchell said.

"They run formal meetings and ignore resolutions with contempt for the stakeholders - they disregard formal process.

"When we were told we were going to get a state-of-the-art facility, we were promised a couple of key initiatives that would streamline and modernise the process against these types of things and it's now just littered with frustration and disappointment."

Transporters are not the only ones feeling frustrated.

Livestock Shipping Services (LSS) export manager Paul Keenan has also found the facility wanting, and hoped improvements would occur.

“It's a $54 million facility and we need the system to work for agents, buyers, producers and cartage operators.”

"I think with a change in management at Muchea we are looking at going forward, so those at the saleyards will listen to what the producers and industry want," Mr Keenan said.

"It needs to be fair for both parties.

"It's a $54 million facility and we need the system to work for agents, buyers, producers and cartage operators."

Mr Keenan said getting cattle out of the yards, during or after the sale, was a huge problem.

"As a live exporter, we want cattle moved to our depot as quickly and as stress free as possible, because we are under huge scrutiny for animal welfare," Mr Keenan said.

"Delays in getting our cattle weighed here (Muchea) puts extra stress on the animals. It hasn't been good for our business.

"We would like to see the system work smoothly, and I believe it can.

"The people running it just need to have an open mind to listen to transporters and others who use the yards and what they have to say.''

LSS weighs cattle at the saleyards six to seven days a week.

Although it is a "good facility", Mr Keenan said it faced on-going troubles, based on what he has heard from colleagues and from what he saw on Monday.

"We have been having issues with the private sale cattle that go through there as well," Mr Keenan said.

LSS purchases about 15,000 head privately a year that are moved through Muchea.

"Lately it has been going well, but on the odd occasion we have had cattle stay here for a while that haven't been weighed, and that is not fair for the producers," Mr Keenan said.

"There was a lot less cattle on Monday than the past few weeks, so it should've been running very smoothly."

Growers and agents have been scathing of repeated management issues at WA's premier livestock centre.

Reports of difficulties were made back in March, and problems resurfaced last month forcing WAMIA to take action.

“There was a lot less cattle on Monday than the past few weeks, so it should've been running very smoothly.”

The board has decided not to renew chief executive officer Renata Paliskis' contract at the end of the year, and is searching for a replacement.

It wants to review its operating model and possibly replace LLWA with another operator.

LLWA is also looking for a replacement manager.

Primaries of WA general manager Andrew Lindsay told Farm Weekly LLWA's performance had improved over the past three weeks, but problems returned this week.

"These issues are most strongly felt by our livestock administrator who has the job of resolving any anomalies on sale day," Mr Lindsay said.

Primaries Livestock administrator Hayley Goad said everything that could go wrong at Monday's sale, went wrong.

"The issues have been on-going since February," Ms Goad said.

"The last few sales have been running okay, but today (Monday) is a shambles.

"The clerks' sheets don't match up, cattle are in the wrong pens, every agent is having problems."

Ms Goad said an announcement was made during the sale that no cattle were to be moved out of their yard until permitted by LLWA.

She said some cattle had been sold under the wrong agent.

"The problem is with the computer system and the lack of experienced staff," Ms Goad said.

"Some cattle were being sold as Elders, but they were Primaries' cattle.

"It has been an on-going issue, but today (Monday) everyone is having problems."

When asked about the issues at Muchea by Farm Weekly, WAMIA chairman David Lock conceded it would take three to six months to improve operations at the centre.

Mr Lock acknowledged the broader issues at Muchea but said plans were underway to rectify them.

"My understanding is that on Monday cattle were put in the incorrect pens. So after four weeks of good performance, I think there were a whole lot of staff issues that have manifested into bad work practises again," Mr Lock said.

"There is no question that it is a busy place, and there will be occasional errors, but it sounded like there were more errors than there should have been, and more errors than there has been.

"We have more than one person responsible for running the place and therefore things fall through the cracks."

Mr Lock said WAMIA wanted to create a more seamless operation model.

He said WAMIA plans to change the pen numbers for the cattle sales in a week or two.

"We need a structure that makes sense,'' he said.

Mr Mitchell, who has been around the industry since the days of the old Midland saleyards, cannot believe the standard and culture of the Muchea yards.

"The only thing here better than Midland is the roof," Mr Mitchell said.

'"Muchea was meant to set the benchmark - it fails on so many levels.

"It's dangerous, and it's going unchecked.

“The only thing here better than Midland is the roof.”

Management have ignored the agreed position by industry that there is a severe risk of a very serious injury or a fatality to an operator post-sale.

"I have to manage a business, we move 500,000 cattle a year and I manage the risks and take it seriously, but I couldn't run a business like this.

"The issues here are at every level. Everyone has to wait around all day, the weighing takes too long, it is hard to get cattle out, buyers have to wait because the sale is not categorised, as we were promised.

"People won't listen, they don't want to and that's the culture here."

LLWA chairman Warren Robinson said staff had been doing a good job with the volume of cattle coming through.

"The issue was as simple as new staff putting cattle in the wrong pens," Mr Robinson said.

"It was an honest mistake due to the lack of experience of some of the staff members.

"But as far as I am aware, I did not see any error issues on Sunday with our IT program, and I am not aware of any IT problems."

Farm Weekly contacted Elders and Landmark for comment, however both agencies did not want to comment on the record about the issues.


Here is what industry representatives had to say;


MUCHEA Livestock Centre is a "first class shemozzle", according to Central Stockcare director Dean Ryan.

While Mr Ryan was not at the yards on Monday, he heard reports of the issues that were occurring.

He said having strong leadership was the only way to make improvements.

"It sounded like a first class shemozzle - but rather than throwing rocks at them, we need a solution," Mr Ryan said.

They were showing improvement for a while but it seems the wheels fell off.''

Mr Ryan said a bunch of hard working young staff was operating with little direction.

"Until they can find a good leader, or a contractor to lead them, they will continue to have problems,'' he said.

"You need a chief before the Indians will follow.

"But you can't just hire anyone. They need someone with experience, who has run a saleyard before, either here in WA or over east.

"You shouldn't criticise the young people working out there."

Mr Ryan said the use of and training in the IT software was also an issue.

He said the software which controls the whole sale needed to be be operational, and have staff trained to use it.

"If things are not resolved it will be a disaster," Mr Ryan said.

"You can't bypass that it is a great facility, it's a management issue."

MANY reasons have been offered as to why Muchea was in meltdown on Monday, however Westcoast Livestock manager Phil Petricevich believed one of the biggest problems was the large turnover of casual staff.

"It is an on-going issue and it appears that there have been more casual staff changes in the past few weeks," Mr Petricevich said.

"Whether it is causing all the problems I am not sure, but I think it is definitely contributing.

"There are always going to be problems if you don't have good, trained staff.

"Blame shouldn't be put on the casual staff, a lot of the issues come back to lack of training and no senior staff around to show them."

Mr Petricevich said Westcoast Livestock does its own drafting, which he believes eliminates a lot of the problems for them.

WARD Stock Transport owner Greg Ward, whose company is one of the cartage operators out of the Muchea Livestock Centre, acknowledged Monday's problems.

He said it was always difficult to get cattle out of the saleyards and he didn't see a resolution on the horizon.

"It doesn't matter what managerial system you put in place, it is what it is," Mr Ward said.

"You probably could change some things, but what's the point talking about that now?

"For starters they spent too much, they spent $54 million and never got enough for their money.

"You could spend another $20m here to try fix the problems to get the cattle out easier, but that's not going to happen.''

Mr Ward takes about 300 head from sales during busy periods, and said larger players would experience even bigger problems operating in the yards.

"Everyone had the opportunity before it was built to say something, so now I don't think we will have the opportunity to do anything about it,'' he said.

"It goes alright for what I have to do."

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READER COMMENTS

Kevin
27/11/2014 11:12:25 AM, on Farm Weekly

Online auctions are the way to go, the animals can remain on the farm until sold. You only need to transport the animals once. With today technology you can view the animals in real time. Seems to be alot of double handling (costs) invloved with the centre, which farmers could be saving on.

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