AFTER “unexpected” opposition the Western Australian Meat Industry Authority (WAMIA) has decided to delay its cattle sale date change at the Muchea Livestock Centre (MLC) until negotiations with agents can be finalised.
WAMIA chief executive Andrew Williams said as “a gesture of goodwill” the proposed change of the cattle sale day at the MLC from a Monday to a Wednesday from July 4, 2018, “will not proceed at this stage”.
“Discussions with key stakeholders are ongoing,” Mr Williams said.
He said WAMIA announced the change of sale day on the understanding that the change had the support of most stakeholders as indicated by consultation that commenced in October 2017.
Mr Williams said the change was needed to reduce the costs of labour at the centre on the Sunday when unloading the cattle was done.
The saving was estimated at about $500,000 per year.
“Unfortunately WAMIA was surprised at the objections of some key stakeholders and we are seeking to work with them to find a more acceptable solution that will reduce the costs of operating the MLC,” he said.
“In good faith WAMIA is not proceeding with the change of cattle sale day on July 4, 2018, while it further engages with key stakeholders to investigate options to reduce the cost of the MLC to users.”
Since the announcement of the sale date change in March there has been anger from small producers who work week days and feel that a change would make it impossible for them to supply the saleyard market.
There has also been frustration over the “lack of consultation” by users of the MLC.
There has also been speculation that improving the MLC books would enable it to fetch a better price from a private investor as part of a package deal with a future Boyanup saleyard.
The decision to change the sale date has caused livestock agents to seek legal advice, and Farm Weekly is expecting a reply from agents regarding the matter after they meet with WAMIA next week.
Farm Weekly understands that WAMIA postponed the meeting from last week after it was unable to produce all the documents requested by agents in time.
Rural agent and cattle producer Greg Neaves has spoken out to “give a voice to beef producers, processors, stock transporters and other major buyers that were very concerned about the proposed change being promoted by WAMIA”.
Mr Neaves said he had been heavily involved in the cattle industry for 45 years and it was important that everyone understood the ramifications of a change at MLC to the whole saleyard industry in WA.
“We all need to be very clear about how this major date change will impact on all the parties involved,” Mr Neaves said.
“All those beef producers who run between 50 to 250 cattle units in that 200 kilometre area surrounding Muchea, due to their Monday to Friday work commitments, haven’t got any chance of marketing their livestock in a Wednesday sale fixture.
“And there are lots of them.”
He said transporters would be seriously challenged because they would have to deliver all their cattle over a five-day period, instead of seven days, losing the Saturday/Sunday delivery window from the most distant, northern pastoral regions.
“They will be forced into travelling on more congested roads more often and trying to deliver cattle in and out of saleyards on the same day (Tuesday and Thursday) at opposite ends of the State (Boyanup and Muchea),” Mr Neaves said.
“The natural flow of cattle going north-south to processors and growers would be seriously disrupted and truck dual utilisation would be very low.”
Mr Neaves said the change would also impact local processors.
“At present livestock are purchased Monday, trucked and spelled on Tuesday, to be processed on Wednesday,” he said.
“If the odd big Muchea yarding comes along, and they often do, processors can make timely changes to make sure they don’t get held for too long.
“If we go to a Wednesday sale those sale cattle will be destined for processing on a Friday – that’s the same day they are handling those milky heavy veal calves plus others from the Thursday Mt Barker sale.
“The result being the northern cattle will be pushed back to Monday processing (held over the weekend) and in June/July when it’s very cold more costs will be incurred.”
Mr Neaves said with two sales to be held on a Wednesday (150 kilometres apart) there were lots of negatives because “when you run sales on the same day you split your buying support in half”.
“Less buyers less competition,” he said.
“That’s why at present there are five sales – one every working day.
“Also there are buyers who concentrate their purchases on the pastoral types.
“These guys have commitments in the northern parts of our State midweek and tend to go north after the Muchea sale.
“I can not see them coming back to attend a Wednesday fixture.
“If they do it will be at our cost.”
He said another issue was that there were not large numbers of local bred cattle offered at Muchea.
“Feedlot and weaner buyers will be attracted to the southern sales where higher numbers are yarded,” he said.
“This could cause sellers to take local types south to those sales seeking higher prices.”
Mr Neaves said the positives for a change were that there would be large savings to be had by reducing the weekend payroll costs.
“I agree, there are extra costs with staffing,” he said.
“But it is difficult to see how that would change much mid week.
“Casual labour is often more available on a Sunday, and not middle of the week.”
Mr Neaves said it appeared any savings that WAMIA were trying to achieve would be pushed up and down the sale yard supply chain, possibly reducing producer returns due to extra costs and causing numerous problems elsewhere.
Kalgrain cattle feedlotter Jamie Davies, Gingin, was also concerned about a change in the cattle sale as he sourced cattle from MLC every week.
“We support Muchea every week and we have never been asked if the change affected us,” Mr Davies said.
“If I can buy 200-300 head I won’t go south (to the other sale).
“With two sales on at the same time of the week we’ll have to pay commission to a contract buyer or only go to one of the two sales.
“It will impact on freight costs as well.”
Mr Davies said WAMIA needed to look after buyers as well as sellers.
“WAMIA don’t care about anyone but themselves, and there will be no compensation,” he said.
Mr Davies said his feedlot puts through 15,000-16,000 cattle a year, which go to Harvey Beef or to live export.
He said he buys the cattle at 12-16 months old and feeds them for 80-90 days depending on the market they are going to.